The Championship, as ever, is an example of sporting parity.
One game from the halfway point, and just seven points separate third and 13th.
Hull are only one place and one point above the relegation zone, but they are just nine points off the playoff spots.
Burnley and Sheffield United have built something of a buffer for themselves at the top of the table and both are odds-on for promotion as of 13th December.
The league resumed last weekend after a month-long hiatus due to the World Cup in Qatar, and these are the outright markets.
Winner: Sheffield United
Sheffield United are only three points off the summit, and have a five-point cushion to third.
A lot can change over 24 matches, but there is no denying Burnley and the Blades are in a strong position to earn automatic promotion.
Burnley have played some great football in the first half of the season. Sheffield United have, too, and both recorded wins to nil in their first matches back from the break.
Statistically, it is Sheffield United who have the advantage through 22 matches apiece with a league-best expected goal difference per 90 of +0.61.
A combination of unsustainable finishing from Burnley and a talented Sheffield United squad makes this a good price on the Yorkshire club to finish top of the pile.
The season didn’t begin how Middlesbrough would have hoped. They had 10 points from 11 matches under Chris Wilder.
The improvement wasn’t drastic under caretaker Leo Percovich, but he got them on track, and Michael Carrick has continued that progress.
Boro have lost once in eight league matches, winning five. They returned to action with a last-gasp win over Luton, and possess a squad with more than enough quality to go on a run into 2023.
This good spell has moved them to just four points behind sixth.
Only Sheffield United have a better expected goal difference per 90, and no team has conceded fewer expected goals. Boro should be in the promotion mix within a few weeks.
To Finish Bottom Half: Blackburn
Blackburn are third, but only one team outside the bottom six has lost as many matches.
They are the only team in the top seven with a negative goal difference. Rotherham in 18th, Blackpool in 23rd and Hull in 21st are the only sides with a worse expected goal difference per 90.
To say this pace seems unsustainable is an understatement.
It is also worth noting that the Riversiders had a late-season slump in 2021-22, going on a run of one win in nine matches between 5th March and 18th April.
There are already signs of Blackburn’s strong start coming to an end with three defeats in four matches, including a 4-1 loss to Preston last time out.
Luton in 13th are only six points behind Blackburn and that gap could close quickly.
Blackpool are only two points from safety, but their draw against Birmingham upon their return to Championship action was their first point since October.
Their defence is giving up higher quality shots than all but one other Championship side.
This is a team trending in the wrong direction. Just two teams average less possession than Blackpool, and they have not proven to be adept at absorbing pressure.
On six occasions, the Tangerines have conceded three or more goals in a match this season.
It is fair to wonder if this Blackpool squad has sufficient quality to put enough points on the board to extend their Championship stay.
Golden Boot: Chuba Akpom
There is a 10-way tie on nine goals in the Golden Boot race.
Chuba Akpom scored his ninth in Middlesbrough’s win over Luton at the weekend, and should be considered in this market.
Just seven players are averaging more shots than Akpom. Only four have clocked more expected goals. His price here is influenced by the fact he doesn’t have a prolific goal-scoring record, having never reached double digits in a league campaign.
Still, Akpom is a penalty taker for Boro and should get plenty of goal scoring opportunities in a team creating this many chances.
Top Six Finish: Watford
Watford have won just once in four league matches, but that could make it a good time to back them for a top six spot. The Hornets are fifth at the moment even after a poor run and their underlying statistics are strong at both ends of the pitch.
An argument can be made that Watford have the division’s strongest squad.
Look for that quality to shine through in the second half of the season as they aim to return to the Premier League for 2023-24.
All odds are subject to change