As the 2023 NFL season reaches its halfway point, teams from around the league have, at one point, taken a good hard look at themselves these past few weeks. Some teams, most recently Las Vegas, are formulating the best way to rebuild after dismal outings, while the more fortunate teams are looking to tighten those remaining loose bolts and keep riding high.
All of the current division leaders in the AFC are examples of the latter. Kansas City, Miami, Baltimore, and Jacksonville each stand at 6-2. Despite their successes, each team has also shown that are not invincible. Here is each division leader’s most important task to stay on top.
AFC Divisions Leaders: More Work to Be Done
Kansas City Chiefs: Learn from Mistakes
The defending Super Bowl champions came into last week’s game against the Denver Broncos winning 16 straight over their division rivals. But they had an uncharacteristically bad day at the office, losing 24-9, all the while unable to score a single touchdown. The Kansas City Chiefs will have much to learn from this outing, especially with a tougher opponent waiting for them.
As the Chiefs travel to Frankfurt, Germany to take on the Miami Dolphins, it is best for them to analyze what went wrong in their last game and how to avoid replicating costly miscues this Sunday. Plus, head Coach, Andy Reid, will have to put together an effective game plan in slowing down a Miami offense that loves to play at breakneck speed.
Miami Dolphins: Expand the Options & Block the Noise
Alongside the Chiefs, the Dolphins will inaugurate the first NFL game to be played in Frankfurt, Germany. To combat one of the best passing defenses in the league (Kansas City), Miami will need to get their other weapons more involved, like Raheem Mostert, Jaylen Waddle, Zach Wilson, and Braxton Berrios. The Chiefs are very familiar with Tyreke Hill, which is more the reason why Miami should look to expand their repertoire.
For the Dolphins, the second thing they need to do is block the outside noise. Many critics will point out the fact that both of their L’s came from facing good teams, while their six W’s came from facing bad ones. Dolphins head coach, Mike McDaniel, and company will need to set the distractions aside, so they can focus on Kansas City and their playoff mission.
Baltimore Ravens: Protect Lamar Jackson
The Baltimore Ravens currently hold a one-game lead over the AFC North. In a division where every team is 4-3 or better, it’s easier said than done. Anyone can see how dangerous the Ravens are when quarterback, Lamar Jackson, is healthy and under center. Jackson is boasting a career-best pass completion percentage (70.2) and is on track to exceed another personal best; passing yards in a season.
But if Baltimore wants to stay ahead of their division, the offensive line will have to continue handling their business and keep Jackson comfortable in the pocket. The Ravens are 51-18 with #8 around for a reason. Baltimore will host a 5-2 Seattle Seahawks squad, whose defense has significantly improved since last season. Every game counts for Jackson and company, especially with the rest of the AFC North hot on their tail.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Take Advantage of the Bye
Most experts have anticipated the Jacksonville Jaguars to dominate the AFC South, but not many could have foreseen this team starting 6-2 in 2023. It goes without saying that head coach, Doug Pederson, saved the Jaguars from descending into obscurity. Not to mention that this team has won five games in a row, including wins over Buffalo, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. But there is still work to be done as their playoff bid progresses.
Jacksonville is the only team on this list going into a bye-week in week nine. This will be a great opportunity to address areas of improvement moving forward, as well as nursing injuries before going back to work. Jacksonville’s next opponent is the San Francisco 49ers on November 12th. A win over a playoff-caliber squad could make Jacksonville an even bigger problem for any team that has the Jaguars on their schedule.