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The Hilltop’s NFL Mid-Season Evaluations

The National Football League (NFL) is nearing the midway point of the 2023 season, and as football fans reflect on the first half of the year, here are some evaluations from The Hilltop sports staff.

MVP candidate Jalen Hurts runs for the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo credit of All-Pro Reels Photography)

Jayden Armant, a senior journalism major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 

Right now, the Philadelphia Eagles look like the team to beat, picking up steam after a sluggish start to the season. Their passing defense is still questionable, and quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to clean up the turnovers. But at the moment, they look like the most complete team in the league and should be the favorite coming out of the National Football Conference (NFC).

The American Football Conference (AFC) is interesting this season, with no team truly pulling away from the rest of the competition. The Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs look good, but it still feels like they could be playing better. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ five-game win streak has been impressive, but it’s still hard to truly place high expectations on them. The favorite seems to be the Miami Dolphins, whose offensive firepower makes them one of the most exciting teams in the league.

Skylar Nelson, a junior journalism major from Baltimore, Maryland: 

The San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, and Jacksonville Jaguars have garnered attention as the teams to watch this season. The 49ers started as the NFC’s undisputed top team with their dominant defense, but things have shifted after a three-game losing streak. Hopefully, their bye week allows them to reconstruct their offense, but quarterback Brock Purdy is a question mark in crunch time. They recently acquired former Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young to add extra defensive pressure. When the 49ers return, they face a Jaguars team that has been commanding the AFC and surprising many fans during their win streak.

The Lions started the season well, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, but their dominance regressed after a crushing 6-38 loss to the Ravens. They bounced back with a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the playoff competition in the NFC. The Ravens are considered top contenders in the league alongside the Eagles. Lamar Jackson is dominating the game as a well-rounded quarterback and deserves to be in the Most Valuable Player (MVP) conversation. The Ravens are performing well with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and their defense leading the league in sacks. The Ravens are known to handle pressure well despite being plagued by injuries. However, they are definitely working to make a statement this season.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is a well-rounded team with all the critical pieces for a Super Bowl run. Jalen Hurts is an exceptional quarterback despite the teams’ struggles against the Commanders. It will be interesting to see how Philadelphia stacks up the rest of the season.

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Michayla Maxwell, senior broadcast journalism major from Atlanta, Georgia:

If I had to go against my home team, I would have to say the Ravens are doing great this season. Lamar Jackson has been performing exceptionally well with their new offensive coordinator and performs great under pressure. Despite injuries, their defense leads the NFL in sacks right now, which makes the team more well-rounded. 

With the Dolphins, Ravens, Jaguars, and Chiefs all being 6-2 going into week 9, the AFC could belong to anyone right now. However, with Buffalo and Pittsburgh sitting at a close second in their division, the Ravens and Dolphins will have to keep performing if they want to remain divisional leaders. Looking into the NFC, the Eagles statistically look the most dominant, but if you watch game footage it’s almost surprising to see that they’ve managed to remain 7-1. They’ve got a lot of things to clean up on both sides of the ball, especially if they want to beat the 49ers later in the season. 

Kyle Fisher, junior organizational communications major from Atlanta, Georgia:

The NFC contenders engaged in an arms race leading up to the trade deadline, and the effectiveness of those moves likely decides the season’s fate. The 49ers own an embarrassment of riches, but a rough three-week stretch urged the front office to trade for pass rusher Chase Young, who projects to cause nightmares for offenses alongside All-Pro defensive end Nick Bosa. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has continued rolling through its schedule. With the acquisition of future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones, paired with obtaining veteran ball hawk Kevin Byard at the deadline, the Eagles are in prime position to make another run at the Super Bowl and look to be the favorites.

With the AFC becoming a “quarterback conference” in recent years, the Chiefs, Ravens, and Bengals look the most dangerous. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are automatic contenders each year, Jackson has seemingly returned to MVP form backed by a talented defense, and although Joe Burrow’s Bengals are always late to the party, they appear to be finding their footing near the midway point. The quarterback who emerges as the most timely playmaker will likely decide who earns a trip to the Super Bowl.

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Branson Brooks, senior broadcast journalism major from Jacksonville, Florida:

Duval!!! The Jaguars are on a five-game win streak and look good going into their matchup against the newly equipped but struggling 49ers. This will truly be a test for Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, being that he will face a strong defensive front who just added former Commanders first-round pick, Chase Young. Hopefully, Lawrence can live up to expectations and keep the ball rolling.

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus 


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