Record viewing numbers, Taylor Swift and a dynasty: the season where the NFL reached new heights

With its bright lights, big names and halftime shows, the Super Bowl has always been the biggest sporting ticket in the US.

But even by Super Bowl’s standards, this year’s edition was a whole different ball game.

Between the storylines on the field to those off it – yes, Taylor Swift and her group of celebrity friends in the stands – more people than ever tuned into watch in Super Bowl LVIII.

Roughly 123.4 million average viewers tuned into watch the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers – the most-watched US television broadcast since the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

Even for a sport which has dominated the US sporting market for years, the 2023 season showed the NFL reaching new heights.

A new audience

The NFL has always looked for ways to connect with new audiences, whether it be through social media campaigns, player participation programs or tailoring game coverage towards younger people.

However, no one at the NFL could have predicted the gift that kept on giving this season – the influx of ‘Swifties.’

Taylor Swift’s orbit into the NFL universe brought with it a new group of spectators: those fans of hers who might not have had any interest in the sport.

Her relationship with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was one of the main talking points of Super Bowl LVIII – her journey from Japan, her arrival in Allegiant Stadium, her entourage, cutaways to her in the stands and her celebrating on the field afterwards also received extensive coverage – whether people liked it or not.

And the viewing figures for the Super Bowl show how, combined with exciting postseason matchups this year, Swift’s sudden involvement around the Chiefs has elevated the NFL to new heights – which, is of course, is the name of Kelce and his brother Jason’s hit podcast.

Swift, Ice Spice, Blake Lively and others were in attendance for Super Bowl LVIII. - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Swift, Ice Spice, Blake Lively and others were in attendance for Super Bowl LVIII. - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

A dynasty is born

Amid all the talk of “Swifties,” there is also the conversation of a new dynasty in the NFL.

From the New England Patriots’ run in the 2000s all the way back to the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s, sustained success from an individual team has come to define eras. And the 2023 season saw the cementing of the Kansas City dynasty.

The Super Bowl LVIII victory over the 49ers was their third title in five years as they became the first team since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 to win back-to-back titles.

A barometer of a team’s sustained success can often be seen in the reaction of opposition fans to their winning.

The Patriots began as an up-and-coming underdog before later transitioning into a widely disliked team most fans were rooting against thanks to their winning ways.

And this season was the first time the Chiefs have had to deal with that pushback from the wider NFL fanbase, with many despairing at yet another Kansas City Super Bowl victory.

Just check the replies to any post on social media about their celebrations and you’ll see fans bemoaning the Chiefs lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy yet again.

They will aim to go for a historic three-peat in the 2024 season, but the legacies of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, head coach Andy Reid and Kelce have been written into NFL lore already.

Andy Reid (middle) celebrates with his coaches after winning Super Bowl LVIII. - Julio Cortez/AP
Andy Reid (middle) celebrates with his coaches after winning Super Bowl LVIII. - Julio Cortez/AP

End of an era

While the Chiefs dynasty is just beginning, 2023 saw the last vestiges of another one in Massachusetts.

Last season was the final campaign for Bill Belichick as the head coach of the New England Patriots after a trophy-laden stint with the team.

The six-time Super Bowl-winner and the Patriots parted ways after 24 seasons in January, bringing to an end one of the greatest head coaching runs in NFL history.

Belichick compiled a 266-121 regular season record – and 30-12 in the postseason – during his time in Foxborough. He won six Super Bowls in nine appearances.

Belichick has 333 total victories (both regular and postseason) – the second most all-time behind Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula’s 347.

The 71-year-old also has 178 total losses (both regular and postseason) which is tied for most all-time with Hall of Fame head coach Tom Landry.

Belichick hasn’t suggested he will be retiring from the NFL – in fact, he interviewed twice for the Atlanta Falcons head coaching position which has since been filled.

So the question remains: where will we see Belichick prowl the touchline next?

Belichick looks on during the Patriots' game against the Indianapolis Colts at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Comeback stories

Although Joe Flacco won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award for his late-season stint with the Cleveland Browns, there was another life-affirming story which this NFL season will be remembered for.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin completed a remarkable recovery having suffered a cardiac arrest in January last year, returning to NFL action later in 2023.

Hamlin collapsed in January 2023 after making a tackle and taking a shot to the head and chest area. Medical professionals performed CPR when he lost his pulse and he needed to be revived through resuscitation and defibrillation. He was on a ventilator for days and spent more than a week in a Cincinnati hospital.

It was later determined that Hamlin’s cardiac arrest was caused by commotio cordis, which can occur when severe trauma to the chest disrupts the heart’s electrical charge and causes dangerous fibrillations (or abnormal heartbeats).

Hamlin was fully cleared to resume football activities in April. By August, he was a full participant in preseason games and performed well – making three tackles in limited playing time, including a fourth-down tackle to force a turnover on downs, in the team’s first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The 25-year-old Hamlin played in Buffalo’s three preseason games but was on the inactive list for the Bills’ first three games of the season.

He made his first appearance of the NFL campaign in the Bills’ Week 4 clash against the Miami Dolphins, participating in the opening kickoff.

Hamlin only played in five games all season for the Bills, but the mere fact he was able to make it back to the field shows extraordinary resilience and character.

Hamlin during the first half of the Bills' game against the Dallas Cowboys. - Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP
Hamlin during the first half of the Bills' game against the Dallas Cowboys. - Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP

Banishing of demons

The Detroit Lions have known all forms of pain the NFL has to offer. From draft busts to the first ever team in league history to go winless through a 16-game season, their fans have been through the wringer.

But this season has been a wiping of the slate for those beleaguered supporters.

The Lions were one of the best teams in the NFL this season, reaching the NFC Championship Game where they narrowly lost to the 49ers.

Although they fell one step short of reaching their first ever Super Bowl, the charisma of head coach Dan Campbell coupled with their young talent has Detroit’s passionate fanbase buying in yet again.

What’s more, the age-old phrase the team’s fans have used to describe Detroit’s recent ails – ‘SOL’ or same old Lions – seems to have been banished for now.


In contrast to the Lions’ success, there were other teams whose years ended in disappointment.

Chief amongst those were the New York Jets who, after signing quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the offseason, had high hopes.

But a season-ending Achilles injury suffered by Rodgers just four plays into his debut all but ended those aspirations, with the team suffering from disasterous quarterback play in his wake as they missed the playoffs.

Rodgers has confirmed he will return to East Rutherford for a second season as he looks to bring success to the beaten-down franchise, but the Jets will be under even more pressure to go far with Rodgers being 40 years old and head coach Robert Saleh facing increasing scrutiny.

Elsewhere, there were many more franchises whose year ended in disappointment, anger or dismay. But their fans can always rely and reflect on the eternal sports maxim: ‘There’s always next year.’

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