An unpredictable NFL is an entertaining NFL and so far this season, there have been plenty of surprises. In fact, the average margin of victory in the league going into Week 8 is a touch under nine points.
This makes the season one of the most competitive installments of the NFL we have ever seen, something that bettors, bookmakers and pundits have to consider when they are weighing up their NFL odds and predictions to get the most out of their betting experience.
After seven rounds of action, there is only one unbeaten team – the Philadelphia Eagles – while 15 of the 32 teams in the NFL are in the 0.430 to 0.570 range. Teams that were expected to do well are struggling, while apparent no-hopers are thriving. Here are five of the big surprises so far:
Bucs and Packers falling short
If you had to name your top three Super Bowl contenders from the NFC before the season started, chances are you would have had either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Green Bay Packers – or both– in that list. Given that the Bucs have the all-time greatest quarterback in the NFL and the Packers feature his main rival, that is not surprising.
But neither team is performing anything like they were expected to and both have finished Week 7 with a 3-4 record. The Bucs are in a weaker division, so their plight is not as serious as Green Bay’s, but they may not be able to rely on the Falcons, Panthers and Saints remaining as bad for the rest of the season, and in their current state, they’d embarrass themselves in the playoffs.
Tom Brady’s off-field problems have been well documented and it is hard to ignore the drop-off in his performance. The Bucs have a shocking third-down and long record, and almost no running game to speak of, while team morale remains shaky after a terrible defeat to the Panthers.
Over in Green Bay, the situation is worse. Consecutive defeats to the Giants, Jets and Commanders have left the Packers way off the divisional pace set by the Vikings. The offensive line has been dreadful, putting pressure on Rodgers and making it harder for Matt LaFleur to implement more running plays, and without Davante Adams, there is a glaring weakness in the wide receiver group.
NFC East stronger than NFC South
The expectation pre-season was that the Bucs would be Super Bowl contenders and that the Panthers, with Baker Mayfield, could surprise a few people. Instead, all four teams have started with losing records, while in the NFC East, the Eagles and Giants have won six games apiece, the Cowboys are on five and even the Commanders are looking competitive at 3-4.
New York goes 11-3
New York has generally been a joke in the NFL for many years and not much more was expected this time as both the Jets and the Giants continued their interminable rebuilds. Yes, the Jets had snapped up some good young draft picks and had a solid defense, but both were expected to be mediocre in their respective divisions, with 0.500 considered out of their reach.
Instead, both are flying. The Giants are 6-1, with the second-best record in the NFL, although it is their misfortune to be in the NFC East with the Eagles. The Giants have arguably been a little fortunate in some of their results, and the injuries are starting to mount, which, together with the tough nature of their division means that there is still a lot of work to do.
The same can be said of the Jets, who are unlikely to catch the Bills over a 17-game season, and the loss of running back Breece Hall is a potentially huge blow. But their defense has been incredible from the start, and Zach Wilson, though still inconsistent, is trending in the right direction. Their win in Green Bay was memorable, and their resilience and tenacity has been a big feature. Neither the Giants nor the Jets will be expecting to go deep into the playoffs, but after both teams had combined for the joint worst record in the NFL from 2017 to 2023, there is a good chance that at least one of them will make the postseason this time round and New York football fans will have their pride back.
AFC West a stroll for Kansas
The Kansas City Chiefs are 5-2 and starting to hit top form, scoring 44 points on the 49ers last time, but predictions of a fierce battle for supremacy in the West have not materialized.
The Chargers are still in the hunt, despite their tendency to start slow in games, but the Broncos and Raiders have struggled for wins. The Raiders have lost a number of close games but their defensive resolution is a problem, as is their confidence, as new coaching staff attempt to get the best out of an impressive-looking roster. And in Denver, Russell Wilson is on course to be the season’s biggest disappointment, looking completely lost as the leader of the offense.
Nathaniel Hackett is taking most of the heat at the moment, and given Wilson’s $245m contract, the head coach will undoubtedly be the fall guy, but the West is looking way easier than anyone expected and the Chiefs are strolling to the divisional title at the moment.
Geno Smith tearing it up in Seattle
One factor that arguably places even more pressure on Russell Wilson is that his replacement, Geno Smith, is having a career renaissance in Seattle.
Smith had been a regular starter back in 2014 when he was with the Jets but no one was expecting much from him this year and the consensus was that Pete Carroll was at the beginning of an extensive rebuilding phase. Instead, Smith has been playing lights-out from the start, leading the NFL with a 73.4 completion figure, brushing off pressure and regularly throwing successful, deep passes.
Add a Seattle defense that also seems rejuvenated and good work from Kenneth Walker at running back, and the result is a Seahawks team that is currently 4-3, on top of a wide-open NFC West.