It may be Week 10, but most of the NFL teams have only played 8 games, and are at the halfway point in the season. So it’s a good time to recap our preseason predictions and see where we hit the mark, and where we missed completely.
Let’s start with the NFC West.
As predicted, this is the strongest Division in football.
The Arizona Cardinals may not have the record to prove it, but they have been among the best NFL teams ATS (6-3). QB Kyler Murray and Head Coach Kliff Kingsburry are proving to be the offensive threats they projected to be. The Defense has room for improvement though, and All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson hasn’t looked like himself yet.
The reigning NFC West Champion L.A. Rams haven’t quite hit their stride yet, and have to solidify their O-Line. However, with the acquisition of CB Jalen Ramsey, they remain one of the best rosters in football when healthy, and will compete for the NFC crown again.
The Seahawks are doing pretty much exactly what they were projected to do. Some thought they were too young, or wouldn’t be able to replace WR Doug Baldwin, but they are doing exactly that with star rookie wideout D.K. Metcalf.
It’s the 49’ers in this Division I was WAY off on. Head Coach Kyle Shannahan has made me a believer, and is starting to resemble an even better coach than his Super Bowl winning father. QB Jimmy Garopollo has also shattered my expectations for his performance this season. In remarkable fashion, Jimmy G’s knee looks like it was never even operated on. The Defense, not to be outdone, has been lights out. However, they’ve had the benefit of an easy schedule with many lower-level QB’s to face on the path. While this team is the last of the undefeated, they should still fall short in the Playoffs to LA or New Orleans.
No one could have seen the Drew Brees thumb injury coming, and yet the Saints are still the team to beat in the NFC. They played exceptionally well without him, but the future hall of famer is back with enough time for the team to find it’s rhythm. After the disappointment of the last two postseasons, Sean Payton and crew finally break through and we get the Brees vs. Brady Bowl.
The Atlanta Falcons have been even worse than expected. Projected to finish 8-8, they will be lucky to reach 5-11. Head Coach Dan Quinn is losing the faith of a lot of people including myself. He seems lost in press conferences with the media, and his team seems to being slipping away from him. The loss of safety Keanu Neal for the season didn’t help, but the Defense has been among the league’s worst. Time to start thinking about next year’s Draft.
Carolina has been impressive. The way they have switched captains (from Cam Newton to Kyle Allen), and not missed a beat is tough to do in today’s NFL. Allen appears to be a fresh voice in the huddle, who competes at a high level. That’s not to say Newton isn’t competitive, but this kid Allen is tough and hungry for a career as a starter. He’ll have 8 games remaining this season to showcase his talent and fight for a Playoff spot. Unfortunately for Panther fans, the NFC is crowded at the top, and they have a tough schedule. Even though RB Christian McCaffery is having one of the best ever for a running back, Carolina may still fall just short of the Playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have slightly underperformed their projections. With a tough travel schedule, they have mustered out a few impressive wins (and close losses), with a few other disastrous defeats. QB Jameis Winston has still yet to cash in on all his hard work, and the organization’s faith in the QB has to be waning. The Bucs are just a bit of a below-average team this year, and we shouldn’t expect much from their second half.
Green Bay is the other team I completely whiffed on. Head Coach Matt LaFleur has gone from disrespected to highly touted, and Title Town has reason to be excited. Aaron Rodgers is playing at his very best, and seems to genuinely enjoy the roster around him. RB Aaron Jones has also reached the elite level in just his third year in the league. With the play calling suiting the team, and Defensive Coordinator Mike Petine’s Defense playing above expectations, the Packers have certainly surprised. It will be interesting to see how long Rodgers and the Offense can keep producing results. With such a low preseason rating, one can’t help but expect this team to either barely miss the Playoffs or be an early out.
The Minnesota Vikings have also outperformed my projection thus far. QB Kirk Cousins may have finally turned a corner not many of us thought he was capable of turning. His decision making has been great, and Vikings fans will hope he can actually find the same form in December. RB Dalvin Cook is playing like a Pro Bowler to say the least, and the veteran D is hungry for success. Much like Green Bay though, it’s hard to see the Vikes going anywhere once they make the Playoffs. The Division is weak.
More of the same for our swing-and-a-miss of a NFC North. The Bears are not winning as many games to this point than as projected. QB Mitchell Trubisky is officially a bust, and Head Coach Matt Nagy appears unfit to manage an NFL team. Nagy’s outburst at journalists in post game interviews highlight his inability to think clearly in high pressure situations. It’s a shame because Chicago’s roster is loaded with talent. Their Week 10 matchup against the Lions is a must win.
Detroit has only slightly out-paced expectations. With holes all over the Offense and Defense, this team has a few great talents who are frustrated by their teammates lack of ability each week. They’re just a couple years away still. The good news for the Lions, the coaching staff hasn’t completely lost the locker room, despite the front office trading promising safety Quandre Diggs to Seattle. Another positive note, rookie TE T.J. Hockenson looks to be every bit of the first-round Tight End they had hoped they drafted.
Everyone’s favorite, the Dallas Cowboys have actually slightly beaten their preseason ranking. Most of the credit should be given to the Wide Receiver corps. Amari Cooper has elevated himself to the best group of WR’s in the league. He’s playing like an All-Pro, and it’s contagious. Even old man Randall Cobb is giving opposing secondary’s issues. If the O-Line can keep producing results, and Rod Marinelli and the Defense can hold up their end of the bargain, Dallas should win the Division. Another team destined to fall to the Saints or Rams.
The Eagles won’t be far behind the Cowboys by season’s end. Which is about where they were projected before Week 1, they’re just taking longer to get there than expected. Victims of the injury bug, losing veteran WR Desean Jackson for the year due to an abdomen injury, will eventually cost them the Division. That level of talent at Wide Receiver is not easy to replace. Unfortunately for fans of Philly, it’s also looking like Frank Reich (Colts head coach), is the guy the Eagles should have paid following their Super Bowl victory in 2018. Current head coach Doug Pederson does not have the same excellent staff around him as he did then, and it shows on Sundays. It will continue to be painful watching this talented group come up short to teams they should beat.
The New York Football Giants haven’t quite put things together they way I anticipated. The team has suffered through numerous injuries at key positions, and can’t seem to find cohesion or consistency. Management has also done the team a huge disservice by “pulling the plug” on Eli Manning so soon. Why not let Daniel Jones continue to learn under Eli, and watch what it’s like to face adversity? Instead they decide to bench Eli after two losses without his top two wide receivers. The veteran could have been more adept at steering the faulty ship, and the talented offensive roster may have had more success to this point. While Daniel Jones may still live up to his BeatVegas Draft Grade of “A-“, faith in head coach Pat Shurmur is deteriorating.
For the Redskins, it’s like the late great Dennis Green famously said; “They are who we thought they were”. This horribly managed organization may be an even worse job for a head coach than Cleveland. After getting off to a dreadful start, they’ve only made things worse by firing Jay Gruden mid-season, and now supplanting capable QB Case Keenum, with the woefully prepared rookie Dwayne Haskins. Haskins ranks as the current worst QB in the NFL, and Washington made a huge mistake drafting him in the first round (in my opinion). Sorry Skins fans, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel.
The Denver Broncos are another poorly managed football team. John Elway has continued to prove inept at putting the right pieces together, and has already lost an aging Joe Flacco for the year to a neck injury. Flacco was supposed to be the guy to help steady the team and provide some consistency. Now, they’re back to square one with a young team led by backup QB Brandon Allen. Pro Bowl LB Vonn Miller has to be secretly hoping to land with a new team eventually. Outside of RB Philip Lindsay, and WR Courtland Sutton, Denver is a long way from being a Playoff team. Projected to go 8-8, they have fallen more towards the 5-11 range.
Kansas City has been victims of the injury bug. One of the NFL’s most talented rosters can’t seem to stay healthy. From QB Pat Mahomes, to WR Tyreek Hill, DT Justin Houston, and OL Eric Fisher, key players have been sidelined each and every week. With Mahomes on the mend, and expected back any week now, the Chiefs still have enough time to get things together, and start rolling. The upstart Raiders will give them a bit of competition, but in the end the Chiefs are simply too talented not to win this AFC West. If healthy, they will be one of the only AFC teams with a chance to beat the Patriots in the Playoffs.
The last year for the Raiders in Oakland has the Coliseum rocking. Not that it wasn’t always a good home field advantage, but Thursday night’s (final Primetime) game sounded like a Playoff game. Coach Gruden really must be awesome to play for. Everywhere he goes he wins over the hearts of the locker room and fan base. It’s truly remarkable watching him transform this young team into a contender. When every sign pointed to this being a rebuilding year, Gruden and the Silver and Black have been a major surprise. The Offensive Line play and RB Josh Jacobs have been even better than expected. Also QB Derek Carr seems to be improving by leaps and bounds. The future is bright in Oakland, errr I mean Vegas!
In Los Angeles, the Chargers (much like the Chiefs), have been decimated by injuries. It’s been a struggle to keep star OL Russell Okung on the field, and the team has also lost pro bowl C Mike Pouncey for the year. Without time to throw, Philip Rivers has been a complete mess. RB Melvin Gordon didn’t help things with his hold-out through the first four weeks either. Thursday night’s loss to the Raiders puts the Chargers in a deep hole (4-6), that they unfortunately shouldn’t be able to find their way out of this year. Preseason, they were supposed to compete for the Division and possibly AFC crown, but with nothing going their way, will now look towards the offseason and Draft in April.
The Tennessee Titans have performed at right about what I expected. Perennial bottom-dwellers, the Titans have switched to QB Ryan Tannehill (which can only help), and head coach Mike Vrabel is floundering for something that will spark this team. Vrabel may be better suited in an assistants role again eventually, and the front office has done little to help. With promising young talent at Wide Receiver and O-Line, Tennessee isn’t far off from having a good team, but the staff and management in place don’t seem to have the capability of pulling things together. The Titans should look to draft a QB in the first round of next April’s Draft.
For the Texans, it’s only somewhat of a different story. Houston has their franchise Quarterback in place, but the coaching staff around him could lead to an early out should they make the Playoffs. Head Coach Bill O’Brien is lucky to have Watson under center, because O’Brien is one of the main Achilles heels of the team. With DE J.J. Watt going down for the season with a pectoral injury, and a weak O-Line on the other side of the ball, the Texans just have a few too many holes still to make a realistic run to a championship this year. A secondary that has struggled to stay healthy doesn’t help either. But with one of the best (if not the best) Wide Receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, and one of the best QB’s with Watson, Houston is definitely headed in the right direction.
The main competition for the Division is of course the Indianapolis Colts. Even with the retirement of Andrew Luck, QB Jacoby Brissett has been able to lead his team to a 5-3 record thus far. Head Coach Frank Reich has proven to be one of the best head coach’s in football, and is the main reason my prediction for the Colts to still win the Division is still alive. There are simply too many high level talents on this roster for things to just fall apart with Luck’s absence. That combined with the excellent coaching, and Indy may win a game or two in December.
In Jacksonville, it’s been a complete debacle. Most of the issues have been out of their control, but the Jaguars will be looking forward to next year for a while. Newly acquired QB Nick Foles is finally returning soon, but it may be too little too late. “Sacksonville” has dug themselves too deep of a hole to to get out this year. They may only be 4-5, but with the Texans and Colts above them in the standings, it should be tough sledding the rest of the way. The loss of star CB Jalen Ramsey will also be tough to replace. When one of your best players doesn’t want to be there, it’s difficult to feel proud about being a Jaguar. Still, they are brimming with young talent, and Coughlin should be able to put a solid team around Foles next year.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, they lost Big Ben for the year, and are left with QB Mason Rudolph. Rudolph may be a likeable person with a competitive spirit, but he doesn’t appear to have anything close to an elite arm. And so, while the rest of the team around Rudolph (like the Colts), is very good, teams like this will still need a real QB if they have any hopes in the Playoffs. On the bright side, rookie LB Devin Bush looks to be everything as advertised and more. With Big Ben back for another year in 2020-21, the Steelers will be dangerous next season.
The Ravens are the beneficiaries of the Roethlisberger injury. With the Steelers no longer a threat, Baltimore should cruise to this Division Title. QB Lamar Jackson is playing like the Quarterback many of us knew he could be, and captains one of the only teams with a legitimate chance of upsetting the Patriots in the Playoffs. Although, the injury (season ending) to LB Pernell McFee is a major loss. It will be interesting to see how the Raven’s run-D holds up.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s been another year of futility. QB Andy Dalton had been pitiful again, and has been replaced by rookie Ryan Finley (equal to or only slightly worse than Dalton). Head Coach Zac Taylor could still be the right fit in Cincy, he just needs a QB. They would be best served to just tank two straight years, and draft Trevor Lawrence in 2021. Of course, QB isn’t the only hole on the roster for the Bengals. This team is at least 3-4 years away from competing at a high level. However, to their credit they’ve helped us cover a few games here and there, and are a Week 10 Free Pick of ours at +10 at home to Baltimore.
The Browns are who I thought they were. Well actually, they’ve won 1 more game than projected to this point. It wasn’t difficult for most to see that the group of personalities in that locker room wouldn’t mesh. It’s like GM John Dorsey is playing with Football Cards looking at the stats on the back as he acquires players. QB Baker Mayfield is definitely mired in a Sophomore Slump, and may never return to the level we saw in his rookie season. Not unless, they do an overhaul on the O-Line in the offseason, and give this kid time to throw. You can have all the talented WR’s you want, you still need enough time for them to run their routes. Sorry Browns, you guys stink to high heaven!
I’m with the majority of America, tired of all the Patriots winning. But like it or not, they’re still the best team in football. They may not have looked like it in week 9 against Baltimore, but TB12 and company are on the path to another Super Bowl. There’s really not much else to say about the Evil Empire, barring some catastrophic injury to Brady or Edelman, we all have to suffer watching them at the top again for at least this season.
The Buffalo Bills are on the right track, although I’m not sold yet on QB Josh Allen. He has a cannon for an arm, but you still have to be accurate, and come up big in pressure situations. The accuracy is hard to correct at this age, and even if he calms his nerves, doesn’t project to ever be a Super Bowl caliber Quarterback. Hopefully for his sake, he’s going through some growing pains. That being said, at least Buffalo is light-years ahead of the Jets and Dolphins in the Division. and will be nipping on the Patriots heels once Brady retires. Coach Sean McDermott is slowing winning me over, and the Bills may finally be headed in the right direction. This season they might barely miss out on a Wild Card berth.
The Jets are about where I expected, but they’ve also been hit with a ton of injuries at a lot of key positions. Everyone is piling on them now, but there are reasons to believe they can be good next season. No one mentions the huge loss of WR Quincy Enunwa. Enunwa went down right before the season started, and would have given WR Robby Anderson more breathing room. Instead, opposing Defenses are able to put most of their focus on stopping Anderson. RB LeVeon Bell hasn’t been completely healthy, and star TE Chris Herndon has been out entirely. Having QB Sam Darnold sit out a few weeks with Mono wasn’t exactly in the plans either. For whatever reason, the media puts the entire blame on Head Coach Adam Gase, who has had half a team to put on the field each week. Hang in there Jets fans.
And then there’s the Miami Dolphins. It wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to figure out preseason that the Dolphins are the worst team in football. Sure the Bengals have zero wins, while Miami has one. But trust me, the Dolphins are bottom of the power ratings. Which marks two years straight of us correctly predicting the worst team! Anyway, they are rebuilding the team like we’ve never seen before. It’s been a fire-sale of nearly everyone with any talent from the roster. If their plan is to also be horrible next season, and draft Trevor Lawrence in 2021, then it’s a great plan. If their plan is to draft Tua Tagovailoa, or Justin Herbert, it may not be worth it.
This concludes our midseason recap and outlook for the rest of the season. It’s looking like either the Brady vs Brees Bowl (finally), or a rematch of last year (Pats vs Rams). Get your Futures bets in!
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