Some more than others, but Pennsylvania football fans have plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of the new 2023-24 NFL season. The Philadelphia Eagles are legit contenders for another run at the Super Bowl, while the Pittsburgh Steelers will be ready to fight any team in the stacked AFC North division.
Unfortunately, the big in-state rivalry will not reignite this season, as the latest schedule revealed no head-to-head encounter between the Eagles and Steelers. Philadelphia 35-13 won the most recent one in October 2022.
The race for the playoffs should sure be interesting this time around. Here are our top reasons why these two Pennsylvanian teams are strong contenders for the postseason in 2023/24.
The Soaring Eagles Will Fly Again
Only the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, averaged more points per game than Philadelphia’s 29.1 in the previous term. Jalen Hurts was obviously the main catalyst for such an accomplishment, establishing himself as one of the prime MVP candidates (No. 4) ahead of the 2023 campaign.
Hurts is one of the most versatile quarterbacks in football. Last year, he threw for 22 touchdowns while registering only six interceptions, adding 760 rushing yards and as many as 13 scores on the ground.
The low number of INTs resulted from the team’s brilliant efforts at the line of scrimmage. Jalen was pressured on no more than 18% of his dropbacks.
Knowing Hurts still has an amazing receiving corps with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith as the leading wide receivers, with Quez Watkins battling Olamide Zacchaeus (a former Falcon) for the third slot, you just have to expect a lot from this offense. We must not forget tight end Dallas Goedert, who is also there to provide further depth.
The Eagles did lose their main running back as Miles Sanders made a Carolina Panthers move this summer after topping the team’s stats in rushing yards (1,269) and adding the team’s second-most 11 rushing TDs.
Nevertheless, Phila’s offensive unit is still among the deepest in football following the acquisitions of Seattle’s Rashaad Penny and Detroit’s D’Andre Swift.
Question Marks Around Transitioning Defense, DT Jalen Carter the Steal of the Draft?
Being among the best two-way teams in the league has earned Philadelphia the NFC title last year. Their defense ranked seventh in the nation with 19.8 points allowed per game. That being said, the stop unit has seen some changes in between the two seasons.
The fans are very enthusiastic about the acquisition of Jalen Carter, who could be the steal of the 2023 draft as the ninth pick. The former Georgia defensive linesman has not seen much action in the preseason but still managed to get the second-best PFF grade between rookies.
The eye test also backs him, and we cannot wait to see his impact in competitive affairs. The fact he is the second favorite for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award at +500 odds with BetRivers Sportsbook says enough.
If this defense can end the season among the top ten in the league, the Eagles can easily reach 12+ wins and defend their NFC crown. For those who fancy testing their luck, we like all sorts of Philadelphia futures, including the Super Bowl crown at +750, the NFC title at +325, and the NFC East title at -125.
Can Mike Tomlin Keep His Maiden Losing Season at Bay?
Mike Tomlin miraculously prevented his inaugural losing season last year by taking the Steelers to a 6-1 ATS record in the final seven games. As a consequence, Pittsburgh finished the campaign just above the .500 mark (9-8).
Their fans are now very enthusiastic, hoping to see the continuation of the strong form their team has shown in the second half of the previous campaign.
There are many reasons to back either side of the story, but we have to say that DraftKings Sportsbook trust the Steelers, pricing them at -145 odds to go above eight wins this time around. Let’s go with the positives first.
A Healthy Watt and a Bolstered Offensive Unit
The Steelers have a healthy T.J. Watt, who has immediately boosted their defensive line upon returning from a lengthy injury in the second half of last season. They also have a sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett who has shown glimpses of his talent last year with 18 big-time throws despite missing a significant amount of games.
Lastly, the additions of rookie tackle Broderick Jones, and veteran guard Isaac Seumalo should upgrade the ground game, and, who knows, we may no longer consider Pittsburgh an exclusively defensive outfit.
Speaking of defense, one does not have to be an expert to say its success greatly depends on the health of T.J. Watt. Pittsburgh has relied on its stop unit for a decade and will still be the team’s stronger segment. If Watt can stay healthy all season long, he is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender at +800 odds with BetRivers Sportsbook.
Tough Schedule, Potential Injuries, Inexperienced Roster…
We now come to the negative side of the story. First of all, even if Pittsburgh reaches nine wins and secures another positive campaign for Mike Tomlin, nine wins will hardly get them to the playoffs, even less so the stacked AFC North title.
Looking at the schedule, it is very difficult to expect Pittsburgh to massively surpass the expectations. All three of their division counterparts are poised to have strong campaigns, including the back-to-back division champions Bengals, Lamar Jackson and his improved Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns with a DPOY candidate in Myles Garrett.
On top of their AFC North rivals, the Steelers will host the likes of San Francisco, Jacksonville, and Tennessee this year. They will be catching points in four home outings in 2023.
While talented, this roster is still very young. The main stars are only in the league’s second or third seasons. The fans can be much more optimistic regarding the future years.
The 2023, sadly, comes a bit too soon for these Steelers, especially considering how tough the competition in their own division is. The best piece of advice for Pittsburgh fans is to skip backing their team in the future. If you have to, T.J. Watt is your man at +800 odds. Instead, sit back and enjoy the season, it will be one hell of a ride one way or another.