2023 NFL Schedule: Teams With the Toughest and Easiest Starts to the Season

With the 2023 schedule released, we're diving through the NFL odds to see which teams are most likely to start the season with three straight wins or losses — including a fearsome Bengals team running it back.

Josh Inglis - Betting Analyst at Covers.com
Josh Inglis • Betting Analyst
May 16, 2023 • 05:01 ET • 5 min read
Ja'Marr Chase NFL
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The NFL schedule is out and the oddsmakers have crunched the numbers for which teams have the best chance to begin the season undefeated — and conversely, which teams might take some time to find their first victory. 

I’m sorting through the lookahead NFL odds to see which squads have the best chances of beginning the season 3-0 SU and 0-3 SU. Here are my three best choices along with their probability percentages.

NFL teams most likely to start 0-3

Arizona Cardinals (at WSH +5, NYG +4, DAL +6.5)

Probability of going 0-3: 27.98% 

There’s no surprise here with the Cardinals, who have the lowest regular-season win total at a sad 4.5 games despite having the 11th-easiest strength of schedule rated by 2022 win percentages. 

Arizona will have a new head coach and offensive coordinator to deal with while their No.20 defense (per EPA/play) from last year will also have a new DC. 

Former Cleveland Brown quarterback coach Drew Petzing will be in charge of the offense and report to defensive-minded head coach Jonathan Gannon, which doesn’t scream immediate improvements for an offense that finished 28th in EPA/play a season ago. 

Let’s also not forget, Kyler Murray is recovering from ACL surgery and is more than likely to miss a big chunk of the beginning of the year. It will be Colt McCoy navigating the early schedule, as the Cardinals are the only team that opened up as a 4-or-more-point dog in each of the opening three games.   

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at MIN +6, CHI +1.5, PHI +6)

Probability of going 0-3: 24.31% 

With one of the worst rushing attacks of 2022 (36.7% success rate), it’s going to be a long season for the Baker Mayfield/Kyle Trask Buccaneers who aren’t even home favorites vs. the Bears in Week 2. 

Mayfield was the least efficient quarterback in 2022, per RBSDM, and finished with the worst CPOE among 40 NFL signal-callers. 

The Tampa offense will have a new offensive coordinator in Dave Canales (Seattle’s QB coach in 2022) and the roster has had some turnover thanks to the salary cap, but when your QB battle in training camp is Mayfield vs. Trask, it’s going to be a rough season — especially early, where there is a possibility that Tampa heads into their Week 4 bye without a win.  

Tennessee Titans (at NO +3.5, LAC +3.5, at CLE +4.5)

Probability of going 0-3: 24.74% 

The Titans are one of a trio of teams that are underdogs by a field goal or more in the opening three games of the season. Making matters worse is that includes a pair of home games, but there might be a little light of optimism in a season Vegas is projecting the Titans to win below eight games. 

Ryan Tannehill is back under center and the only big change within the coaching circle is the promotion of Tim Kelly from passing coordinator to offensive coordinator. The two road games vs. the Saints and Browns could be a little closer than the current line is indicating, but oddsmakers are still projecting a rough start for the Titans out of the gates.

Looking at the glass half empty, if the organization trades Tannehill before the season and hands over the offense to second-round rookie Will Levis, early wins could be few and far between as the high-ceiling rookie adapts to the speed of the NFL game. 

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Honorable mentions: 

Las Vegas Raiders (at DEN +3.5, at BUF +7.5,  PIT -1.5) 0-3 probability: 20.39% - With an early game at altitude, a new QB, and Week 2 at Buffalo’s home opener, that's an 0-2 start waiting to happen.

L.A. Rams (at SEA +5.5, SF +4.5, and at CIN +7) 0-3 probability: 28.87% - Sean McVay said there will be no limitations on Matthew Stafford this season but that could just be eye-wash as the QB, as well as Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, are all coming back from injuries and this roster has been built with next to no draft capital. The Rams have moved significantly on their opening lines and are now the most likely to go 0-3.

Houston Texans (at BAL +8, IND -1, at JAX +7) 0-3 probability: 25.3% - The Texans are in full transformation mode as the DeMeco Ryans era will begin but will it mirror Robert Saleh’s move from The Bay to a head-coaching gig?

Indianapolis Colts ( at JAX +3.5, HOU +1, and at BAL +7) 0-3 probability: 21.81% - I love the move the Colts have made with the coaching staff by adding Shane Steichen but with a fresh HC, OC, and a new QB in Gardner Minshew, it could be ugly early — especially if they drop Week 2 vs. the Texans. 

2023 early-season NFL odds

NFL teams most likely to start 3-0

Philadelphia Eagles (at NE -3, MIN -5, at TB -6)

Probability of going 3-0: 34% 

The reigning NFC champs are just one of two teams that are favored by at least three points in the first three games. Nick Sirianni’s team will face two teams with new defensive coordinators in the Patriots (Jerod Mayo moves from linebacker coach to DC) and the Vikings (Brian Flores) while possibly getting Baker Mayfield and Tampa at home in Week 3 as a near-TD favorite. 

Because of their success in the short Sirianni era, the Eagles have lost their 2022 DC (Jonathan Gannon who is Arizona’s head coach), last year's linebacker coach in Nick Rallis (Arizona’s DC), and their OC Shane Steichen (Indianapolis' HC), but this might be the easiest three-game schedule of the 2023 season. 

Philadelphia will also have extra time to prep for their Week 3 game as they play the Vikings on Thursday night the week before. That also means Flores and the Vikings' defense will have less time to prep for the Eagles’ offense ahead of the Week 2 meeting. 

Cincinnati Bengals (at CLE -2.5, BAL -3.5, LAR -7)

Probability of going 3-0: 27.2% 

Two divisional games over the first two weeks and facing Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson is a tough task but I’m trusting the oddsmakers here, as only Kansas City and Philadelphia are favored by 2.5 points or more in each of their first three games to begin the season. 

Two home games certainly help, and the Bengals are just one of eight teams that will have their returning QB, HC, OC, and DC this season, meaning especially rare continuity.

The No. 28 pick of this year's draft, EDGE Myles Murphy, will help shore up Lou Anarumo’s defense that ranked 29th in sacks last season, and could be a force with a healthy Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. 

San Francisco 49ers (at PIT -1.5, at LAR -3, NYG -4.5)

Probability of going 3-0: 26.5% 

Starting the season with two games away from home isn’t ideal, but Week 1 on the road isn’t the worst thing in terms of preparation and the 49ers' quarterback situation could likely move these numbers as we get closer to the opening game.

Brock Purdy is expected to be ready for training camp, but there's a lot of QB depth on this roster with Trey Lance and Sam Darnold on the chart. And with QB-whisperer Kyle Shanahan pulling the strings, anything is possible with the play under center. 

The Niners will also be healthier than the last time we saw them as Christian McCaffrey should be good, and the defense will be back to full strength. 

Honorable mentions: 

Kansas City Chiefs (DET -6.5, at JAX -3, CHI -9.5) 3-0 probability: 35% - That Jacksonville game on the road scares me to back them to go 3-0, but they are still just one of two teams who are favored by three or more points in the first three games.

Buffalo Bills (at NYJ -1.5, LV -7.5, at WSH -4.5) 3-0 probability: 28.3% - Early bettors hit the Jets at +3 as soon as the Weeks 1 odds were open as Buffalo’s first game on the road might not be a cakewalk. The Bills follow that up with a short-week game vs. the Raiders thanks to Week 1's Monday night contest. 

Dallas Cowboys (at NYG -2.5, NYJ -1, at ARI -6.5) 3-0 probability: 23.8% - The Cowboys could go 3-0 and it wouldn’t surprise me but opening the season against both New York teams isn’t the easiest of schedules despite Dallas going 2-0 SU vs. the Giants last year including a game without Dak Prescott

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