NFL Midseason Report: Modified Predictions, Pats Thoughts So Far
8 weeks are through, 9 weeks are left. The Pats are on a bye, and it’s a great time to reflect on the season so far for the Pats. It’s been a pretty crazy first half around the league too, and I think the second half will be just as crazy. I have modified standings and playoff predictions. How have the Patriots done and what can that tell people about their second half performance? How will the Patriots finish? How will Dion Lewis do when he gets back? Which teams are for real and which teams are flukes? Who will win Super Bowl LI? I have answers to all those questions plus more.
So, the Patriots overall, have had in impressive first half. We probably would be undefeated if it wasn’t for Roger Goodell suspending Brady again. Give it up already Goodell. It’s been two years. Jacoby Brissett just wasn’t quite the answer. Jimmy Garoppolo did show promise, however. Garoppolo looked like a developing Tom Brady through the first two games of the season. He helped the Pats beat the Cardinals, with no Brady or Gronk. Then he scored several touchdowns against the Dolphins before his injury.
The win in Week 3 with Jacoby Brissett occurred simply because Brock Osweiler struggles under pressure, and the rest of the offense was in great shape. The Bills came to New England ready to take advantage of their QB struggles. The pressure wasn’t as significant for the Bills, and the defense let Tyrod Taylor run. Taylor isn’t a great QB for passing, but he can run, and it showed when they beat the Pats without their best receiver. Brissett failed to play clutch football when forced to pass. Brissett’s like a Tyrod Taylor who’s even more run heavy. Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy beat the Pats. The Pats don’t have a running back like that, one that can win them games alone.
Since Brady’s returned though, the Pats have looked to be a clutch team that can grab wins when they need them. They get wins because they’re pumped up and motivated. When Brady’s feeling like that, he’s dominant. The win over the Browns was easy, with RG3, McCown and Corey Coleman out. Oh, and Josh Gordon, who was originally going to return in Week 5 but had to go to a rehab center. He may never play football again.
But then came the Bengals, a reunion with Brandon LaFell. Brady really showed he knew how to play clutch in that one. The Bengals may have been without Tyler Eifert, but the Patriots were losing that game, and they came back. They did the same thing against Blount’s former team, the Steelers. Without Big Ben, the Steelers were in trouble from the beginning, but against both of those good teams, even though they were weakened by injuries, the Pats played like they could beat any team. If they play like this when they face Pittsburgh in the playoffs, which may or may not happen, they’ll be on their way to Super Bowl LI. They also got their revenge on the Bills in Buffalo, even though McCoy and Watkins were out and Charles Clay and Mike Gillislee got hurt and were out for part of the game before returning later. Robert Woods wasn’t 100% either.
Based on this, I think the Patriots could dominate the second half. I don’t think they’ll lose more than 1 or 2 more games. Besides the Broncos and Seahawks, no team that we play for the rest of the season has a winning record. The Patriots have been pretty good lately health wise, and Dion Lewis won’t be in full swing when he gets back, but he will make an impact, fill in when Blount and/or James White aren’t getting it done. They have 2 Gronks practically, some reliable receivers, and defense that should stop most of the offenses they face. The two teams they face with a winning record are defense heavy teams. That will work in their favor. I don’t think they should have a problem winning the division and grabbing a high playoff seed. From there, home field advantage could play a big role. Okay, you’ve heard my thoughts on the Pats. Now, I have my modified standings for the entire league.
- New England Patriots 14-2
- Buffalo Bills 8-8
- New York Jets 7-9
- Miami Dolphins 6-10
Like I said, the Pats aren’t losing many more games, and they shouldn’t have a problem winning their division and getting a high playoff seed. I think the Bills will continue to have some games that work with Tyrod Taylor’s offensive scheme, and some that don’t, causing them to lose. These are the kind of teams Rex Ryan crafts. 8-8 teams that get trapped in the middle, don’t get a good draft pick, and don’t get a playoff spot. That’s the worst position you can be in in the long run. The Jets have a serious QB issue, but they have a decent offensive craft, and the defense hasn’t quite run out of steam. With one of the toughest schedules, it will be hard, but honestly I think the tough part of their schedule is done. They’re through with practically every good team except the Pats. The rest of their 2nd half schedule is actually reasonable. If they play it right, make that easy. The Dolphins have an easier schedule, but they have more tough games in the 2nd half, and they only have 4 more home games in 9 games total, and 2 of them are tough match-ups against the Pats and Cardinals.
- Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6
- Cincinnati Bengals 8-7-1
- Baltimore Ravens 8-8
- Cleveland Browns 0-16
I don’t see how the Browns are going to win another game. Their winnable games have already passed. They could’ve beaten the Chargers, but they’ve been at least watchable. The Bengals could be better with Tyler Eifert back, and beat the Browns of course. But they’re 3-4-1, and the Steelers and Ravens are going to keep the competition tight. The Steelers offense is ruthless when healthy. They aren’t going to be as dominant as some people anticipated after what’s happened, but they should still grab the division title and sneak into playoff contention at the last minute once again. The Ravens also look promising, but look, the schedule remains tough in the 2nd half, and so does the AFC competition. Even if they do go on a hot streak, it might not be enough to get them into the playoffs, based on their current record.
- Houston Texans 10-6
- Tennessee Titans 7-9
- Jacksonville Jaguars 4-12
- Indianapolis Colts 4-12
This division has definitely been affected by the lack of competition the last two years. The division winners are finishing at records like 9-7, 8-8. It’s really anybody’s division right now. The Texans are currently leading, but their record doesn’t show the almost blown games they’ve been in. They’ve had some really close calls, J.J. Watt is now out for the year, and the offense can score, but doesn’t have clutch abilities and needs some chemistry. This team needs to work together to win games. They are stronger as a team. The schedule in the 2nd half could be easy or impossible depending on how Houston plays it. The Titans are a sleeper team. Their offense is finally clicking, despite defensive struggles. If the Texans collapse, they could take the division. The Colts are just getting washed up a bit. All their offensive players are struggling, Andrew Luck can’t find his dominance, and the defense isn’t doing much about it. For the Jags, they were anticipated as a comeback team. Boy, were the analysts wrong. The defense is on and off, and the offense wasn’t finding its groove. Maybe a new offensive coordinator will change things. Unless the Texans collapse, it’s hard for much to change in this division before the playoffs.
- Kansas City Chiefs 13-3
- Oakland Raiders 12-4
- Denver Broncos 11-5
- San Diego Chargers 6-10
This is the best, toughest division I’ve seen in a while. Even the 4th place Chargers have a small chance and have shown promise. All three of the top teams are good enough to stay in it until the end. I will be shocked if there aren’t two wild cards from this division. This division has some of the biggest competitions in the NFL. When two of these top three teams play each other, it’s always the match-up of the week. The question is, who will win? Well, the Broncos are falling, and the Chiefs have dealt with injuries for most of the season, but will get players back in the 2nd half. The Raiders do play Denver twice, but I think especially with C.J. Anderson out for the season, the Broncos’ offense is going to begin to take some damage. The Raiders could outscore them at home if their defense doesn’t lose track of Denver’s offense. The Broncos have 4 more combined games against the Chiefs and Raiders, 2 at home. The Chiefs should win the division, with both Oakland and Denver snagging wild cards.
- Dallas Cowboys 11-5
- Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
- New York Giants 10-6
- Washington Redskins 8-7-1
This division is actually good and competitive. The only reason I have the Redskins in last is because Dak Prescott is leading the Cowboys to glory with the help of a great coach, Jason Garrett and great receiving weapons. Carson Wentz is revamping the Eagles offense too with the help of his head coach Doug Pederson. If it wasn’t for Prescott and Wentz, the Giants would be a 10-6 or 9-7 division winner in the playoffs. These two QBs are making the NFC East great. The competition is on in this division. The Cowboys should win it because of their clutch performance but the Giants and Eagles will fight for playoff spots, and there will be some opportunities for other teams to try and move up in the standings.
- Minnesota Vikings 11-5
- Green Bay Packers 11-5
- Detroit Lions 9-7
- Chicago Bears 3-13
The Bears are falling apart. Their running back corps are collapsing like I predicted, Jay Cutler is not a reliable QB, Alshon Jeffery is likely done in Chicago after the season, and Kevin White is on IR, again. The Lions would make the playoffs if it wasn’t for the tough competition in the division. Their offense is really good, but the defense can’t compete with the Vikings and Packers. I did have the Lions making the playoffs before, but that’s before I knew how good Minnesota’s defense would do and before I knew there was tough competition in the NFC East. I had the Cardinals, who are already lessening their playoff chances, and Detroit. The current situation leaves the Vikings and Packers to battle it out. The Packers offense is great, and so is the Vikings defense. Having home field advantage in their final duel in Week 16 will help Green Bay take the lead, but I think some upsets in Week 17 involving the Lions will tie things up, and the Vikings will win due to tiebreakers. The Lions may be out of the playoffs, but you can’t count them out when it comes to upsets.
- Atlanta Falcons 10-6
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8
- Carolina Panthers 6-10
- New Orleans Saints 5-11
Despite the better records, this division is nearly as bad as in 2014. The only reason they were good last year was a magical season from the Panthers. In reality, the Panthers are mediocre at best, and they may have run out of steam lately, but the 2nd half will show them as a mediocre team with high upside, but very streaky. They have very strong areas and very weak areas. This team is unbalanced. Now originally I said the Bucs had the best chance of dethroning the Panthers, and they’ll be alright, but I was wrong about the Falcons. They posed as a sleeper team early on, and their off season craft is actually working out. I think they’ll take an easy division, and they may not be able to compete in the playoffs that long, but they will be a team to watch for in the future. The Saints have shown some promise on offense, but especially because the defensive attack is weak, I don’t think they have as much upside as these other teams.
- Seattle Seahawks 10-5-1
- Arizona Cardinals 8-7-1
- Los Angeles Rams 4-12
- San Francisco 49ers 3-13
Okay, first of all, I think slowly but surely, this division is weakening too. The Cardinals already pretty much blew it and need a miracle to make the playoffs. The 49ers need some offensive targets, and whatever happened to Colin Kaepernick being great? At least he’s the starter again now. The Rams won’t be going anywhere until they find a new quarterback, and get some better targets to throw to. The defense is promising, but this is another offense costing games. The Seahawks aren’t quite themselves on offense either, but they’ve began to get in a groove where they’re at least producing some points. The defense is also drastically better than the Rams and 49ers defense. All the defenses in this division are good, but the Seahawks have the best defense in the division, and that matters in a defense heavy division.
Okay, now that we’ve gone through the updated standings, it’s time to reveal my midseason playoff bracket.
As you can see, I didn’t make many changes in the AFC. I’m sticking with my predictions unless there’s something I have blatantly wrong, which happened several times as usual. One big thing I got wrong is the Broncos. I still have them in 3rd place, but at this rate, both wild cards are likely coming from the AFC West. In the NFC, I can defend myself for all the changes. The competition is down in the NFC. The Cowboys and Vikings have already taken such a big lead in the conference that I don’t think they’ll give up the top two seeds. The Seahawks and Falcons aren’t far behind by record, but they are logically. The lack of competition is making it tough for the dominant teams to be dethroned. The Seahawks and Falcons have plenty of problems, their schedules so far have just worked in their favor to get them wins. The Seahawks are slightly better due to some promising action, though. The league is getting tougher to interpret.
The Packers should still grab a wild card though, and the Eagles have looked impressive, and they’re convincing me. This season, some teams in my opinion have really seemed to click, others have been a little messed up, and some aren’t affected by this. Roger Goodell probably would be happy, if it wasn’t the Patriots that was one of the clicking teams. That’s even more noticeable for them, because they were already a super team.
But in the end, I think the teams that are typically good will show up advancing on this bracket. That’s why my predictions for the playoffs aren’t as different as everything else. But there are some teams that have just completely reassured me or completely lost my trust. That’s where a modified Super Bowl prediction comes in.
The Final Pick
Personally, I’ve found the Cowboys offense very impressive. Whoever’s at QB for Dallas, they will mean business in the playoffs. I think what they needed was a somewhat healthier year, and another top 10 RB. That’s what they got. But right now, with how the NFC competition is, the Patriots aren’t losing. Yes, the lack of competition will show up again, and decide the Cowboys’ fate, or whoever gets to the Super Bowl for the NFC. It may show even more if the Texans were the AFC representative, because they would actually be at home. But I think the Patriots in the Super Bowl, when it comes to predicting the future, just feels like the right prediction. I think their team this year, like I said is just clicking, and the Patriots, already a super team, will lead themselves to a Super Bowl win.
What do you think of my predictions? Comment your thoughts!