This NFL season has been crazy. There have been upsets that are unheard of. Teams have made shocking last-minute comebacks, and almost every game is competitive. Roger Goodell finally got his way there, almost every team is somewhere in the middle except the few dominant teams and the few terrible teams. After such a crazy season, who will win it all? Will the Pats do it two years in a row, or will a dark horse contender come from behind to win it?
Part I: Pats 1st Half Review and 2nd Half Outlook
The Pats were starting to scare me early in the season. First, they blew it on Opening Night. Then, they just didn’t look the same in Weeks 2 and 3 and blew it in Week 4. They were 2-2 and almost went 1-3. Even in wins against the Bucs and Jets, they didn’t look quite the same. The defense was horrific early in the season.
But somewhere between their 6th and 7th games, something clicked with the defense. They began to apply more pressure to the passer and the running back each week. Even without Stephon Gilmore, the secondary was really containing their opponents, and even got 3 interceptions between Weeks 6 and 8.
The Pats go into the bye with a 6-2 record, and they remind me of the 2014 team that won Super Bowl XLIX. They have been playing strong complementary football lately, as they’re famous for. I could see them as the #1 seed, but they have to beat the Bills and Dolphins, and they can’t let the AFC West trip them up. They are still my favorites to win it all, but it won’t be easy by any means.
Part II: Revised Season and Playoff Predictions
- New England Patriots 12-4
- Buffalo Bills 10-6
- Miami Dolphins 6-10
- New York Jets 3-13
Right now, this division is very tight. But the results of the trade deadline will cause a split. The Pats will continue in the same direction they’re headed right now. Their defense has continued to improve, and their offense has been on top of things. The Bills will continue to chase the Patriots.
The acquisition of Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin will boost the offense, and the defense will continue to thrive. However, the Dolphins and Jets will fall out of it. What are the Dolphins doing? They traded away their star RB! They will fall apart without him. The Jets will fall to the bottom as their anemic offense burns out.
- Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
- Baltimore Ravens 9-7
- Cincinnati Bengals 5-11
- Cleveland Browns 0-16
Unfortunately for Browns fans, the losing streak could continue. They may be getting Josh Gordon back, but they have failed to produce offense and establish a starting QB. Their defense has also struggled. The Bengals will also continue to have problems, their defense has been strong but the offense will struggle without TE Tyler Eifert and WR John Ross. The Ravens have a great defense as well, but QB Joe Flacco hasn’t developed a passing rhythm lately. That means the Steelers will run away with the division. They could be going places after the breakout of Juju Smith-Schuster.
- Tennessee Titans 12-4
- Jacksonville Jaguars 12-4
- Houston Texans 7-9
- Indianapolis Colts 4-12
The Titans and Jaguars will continue to battle it out for the division. The Jags have a great defense and their offense has been carried by RB Leonard Fournette. The Titans have a dominant offense that will lead them to success and a strong young D. The Texans and Colts will fall out of it, as the Texans’ isn’t enough to carry them with the defense depleted, and Indy will fail to win many games with QB Andrew Luck on IR.
- Kansas City Chiefs 12-4
- Oakland Raiders 9-7
- Los Angeles Chargers 7-9
- Denver Broncos 6-10
The Chiefs have been unbelievable this season, and expect that to continue. Their offense can make plays sufficiently, and the defense is dominant at times. I also think the Raiders and Chargers will be in the running for a playoff spot. LA is finally starting to rebound from some tough times, and the Raiders just need to get the offense going at full speed. On the other hand, the Broncos are headed downhill as they struggle to produce offensively.
- Philadelphia Eagles 12-4
- Dallas Cowboys 10-6
- Washington Redskins 7-9
- New York Giants 2-14
The Giants are out of it at this point. They are depleted at receiver, QB Eli Manning is struggling and they have no run game. The Eagles should win this division with ease through offensive dominance and a strong defensive showing. The Cowboys also have a chance if RB Ezekiel Elliott keeps playing. They struggle severely on defense though. The Redskins are in a similar situation, but their offense isn’t nearly as good as Dallas’. Dallas also has a strong O-line to protect the offense. This division is a battle of strong offenses, the Eagles should be heavy favorites.
The Packers are without their star QB, and that’s a huge setback. That opens up the NFC North. The Lions are decent. Decent defense, and a strong offense that just hasn’t gotten it together lately. The Vikings are the new favorites. Even without RB Dalvin Cook, they have several capable receivers and a strong RB in Latavius Murray. The Bears will also look better but will remain in last with Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota all off to strong starts.
- Atlanta Falcons 10-6
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6
- New Orleans Saints 9-7
- Carolina Panthers 8-8
This division doesn’t look so great right now, but I still consider it one of the best divisions in the league. Everyone in this division is projected as .500 or above. I think the Falcons will win it, as the Saints begin to slow down and the Panthers fall apart without WR Kelvin Benjamin. The Buccaneers will also be back in it. I expect them to rebound both offensively and defensively. Those efforts will grab them a wild card.
With QB Carson Palmer done for the year, the Cardinals are out of it and this is officially a 2-team battle. The Seahawks have played great defensively, but the offense has struggled. The Rams offense has kicked into gear but they need to establish a strong secondary. Who will be atop the NFC West? I think the Rams are the stronger team here as they have a front seven that’s almost as strong as Seattle’s.
I still have the Pats winning it all in this exciting season that has continued to surprise us. The Eagles won’t make it very easy though. They have continued to put up a lot of points week to week and could be a difficult challenge for Matt Patricia’s defense. The Chiefs will also cause them problems, similar to those presented on Opening Night. However, the Pats offense will have more of a rhythm than it did in Week 1 and the defense will look much better, giving the Pats the victory this time around.
The Rams will be tough for the Eagles to beat, especially in LA. I have the Rams beating Philly in LA in the regular season, but in the playoffs, Philly’s offense will just be too dominant to be stopped, even by the Rams D, and it will take another great offense to beat them out, which is why I have the Pats, not the Eagles, winning Super Bowl LII. In the NFC, it’s hard for me to say any teams besides LA and the Eagles have a chance. The Packers would if QB Aaron Rodgers came back for the playoffs, but backup QB Brett Hundley has to grab them the playoff spot first.
The Vikings have a great defense and improving offensive attack, but they’re not good enough to challenge the better teams in the NFC. Every team in the NFC South has too big a weakness somewhere on their team to challenge. For Carolina, it’s receiving weapons. Atlanta lacks protection for QB Matt Ryan. Tampa Bay and New Orleans lack consistency. The Seahawks would also contend if they scored more points per game. They are carried by an unbelievable defense, but in order to win playoff games, the offense needs to step it up.
In the AFC, the Steelers, Jaguars, and Titans may seem like contenders, but the Pats and Chiefs are by far the two best teams in the AFC. Right now, there are no noticeable holes for either of them. The Steelers may be good in the regular season, but they’ll go one and done in the playoffs if they can’t mentally prepare, which has caused them problems already this season. The Titans and Jaguars’ young defenses will not be able to handle the dominant offenses of the Pats and Chiefs. So you can count those three teams out. Even the Bills or Raiders might be in it if it weren’t for the big gap between the Pats and Chiefs and everyone else in the AFC.
That’s all for my midseason report. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.