The NFL regular season is well over the halfway point. Certain teams are starting to emerge as Super Bowl contenders while others are struggling just to maintain a starting quarterback. With the NFL season getting closer to the playoffs, I thought I would revisit my preseason preview to see how some of my predictions have fared.
I picked the Houston Texans to win the AFC South because I (still) don’t believe in the Colts or Titans quarterbacks. DeShaun Watson’s Texans are proving me right so far, although by the time this article is published, the Colts and the Texans will have squared off on Thursday Night Football. I still see this division as average with no Super Bowl contenders, as has been the case for the past seven or eight years without Peyton Manning on the Colts. The Jacksonville Jaguars do not pose a threat to anyone in the division. They currently sit at the bottom of the division.
I still pick the Texans to win the AFC South despite their big loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Watson’s play-making abilities and Bill O’Brien’s experience in the division will propel the Texans into the playoffs.
New England is going to win the division and be either the one or the two seed in the playoffs. That’s a given. But what about the Buffalo Bills? They are currently 7–3 and in the playoff picture. I don’t believe in Buffalo based off the teams that they’ve played and beaten, but their defense is undeniably good. The Bills have to play the Cowboys, Steelers, Ravens, and Patriots in the upcoming weeks, so that 7–3 record could change dramatically, but I think if Buffalo wins at least one of those games, they could sneak into the playoffs.
I also claimed that the Jets had a good chance to go over .500. Well, .500 is ambitious at this point, but the 3–7 Jets are on a winning streak. For the rest of the season, their schedule is weak. Given a better coach and some additions on the offensive line, I genuinely think the Jets could be a good football team. Jamal Adams is a top-10 player in the NFL. Although the Jets won’t make the playoffs, they need to capitalize on their talent in the future.
Baltimore Ravens, man. They look fantastic. I stick with my prediction that the Ravens will win the division with Lamar Jackson starting to look like the runaway MVP over halfway through the season.
If you recall, I correctly stated that the Cleveland Browns, despite all their talent, would not live up to the preseason hype. They are STILL the Browns, which means until they get a coach and a quarterback that can prove they are contenders, I won’t buy them. They should be a good team, but head coach Freddie Kitchens somehow still has his job, and Baker Mayfield doesn’t look great. They need help on the O-line, but the team as a whole has looked incompetent at times against real competition.
Look for the Steelers to keep pushing toward the playoffs. Mike Tomlin is excellent at finding a way into the playoff picture without a great team or a solid quarterback. On the bottom of the division is the Cincinnati Bengals: the worst team in football. Oof.
Earlier this week, the Kansas City Chiefs eked out a close win over the Los Angeles Chargers, showing me that the Chiefs can win even when their high-powered offense doesn’t have it. I still think the Chiefs will win the division. Although the Oakland Raiders are quietly 6–4 and in the playoff picture, the Chiefs play the Raiders in Kansas City after their upcoming bye week. Andy Reid is famously good coming off the bye, and I think this game will springboard the Chiefs into another AFC West title. But I have to admit, I did not see the Raiders as real competitors this year. Jon Gruden’s squad proved me wrong; they’ve looked good.
Meanwhile, the Chargers and Broncos have problems at the quarterback position and don’t seem like they will put up much of a fight for a playoff spot.
I stand by my take that the New Orleans Saints do not have much competition in the NFC South this year. Yes, the Saints lost embarrassingly to the Atlanta Falcons, but that is what we in the business like to call a trap game. I like the Saints a lot. I love how they were winning games against teams like the Dallas Cowboys without Drew Brees. That shows the rest of the league that the Saints are more than just their quarterback, but have the making of a great postseason team. We’ll be seeing the Saints in the NFC Championship game.
Both the Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled so far this year. Bucs’ QB Jameis Winston has thrown 18 interceptions in 10 games this season. That is bad. The Bucs do not have a shot at the playoffs, but what about the Falcons? I predicted that the now 3–7 Falcons should go over .500, so they won’t make the playoffs. However, they’ve won their last two games, and I think Dan Quinn’s team will win some games and make a late season push.
Lastly, I don’t know what to make of the Carolina Panthers. I don’t buy interim QB Kyle Allen, but Christain McCaffery is fantastic. They’re .500 right now, and I think they’ll win a few more games, but just miss the playoffs.
The New York Giants and the Washington Redskins are nowhere near competitors in this division, as I predicted. They both need exorcisms, not just autopsies.
The division title is between the 5–5 Philadelphia Eagles and the 6–4 Dallas Cowboys. I still like the Eagles to snatch the division title for one reason: scheduling. The Cowboys have a significantly more difficult schedule the rest of the reason, having to play the Patriots, Bills, Rams, and Eagles. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has the Giants twice, the Dolphins, and the Redskins. We’ll see you in the playoffs, Philly.
I was wrong about the Chicago Bears. They are only 4–6 but watching them is painful. Head coach Matt Nagy is leading his team in the wrong direction, and despite having a stellar defense, the team will continue as a real competitor.
Instead, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings have emerged as two very good football teams, both sure to be in the playoffs. Both teams are solid on both sides of the ball, but I like Aaron Rodgers much more than Kirk Cousins. It comes down to talent and experience, and when it’s freezing and snowing in Wisconsin in late December and early January, Aaron Rodgers has those things over Cousins.
So far, I’ve been wrong about the NFC West. I picked the L.A. Rams to win, and they have not proven themselves. Compared to the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams look weak, even at 6–4. The 49ers have been fantastic this season. Their only loss is to the Seahawks in a crazy primetime game. Both these teams will likely make the playoffs, but I like the 49ers to win the division because they are hot and that defense is electric. However, an important note for the future: Russell Wilson has been amazing, and he could do some crazy things in the playoffs.
The Arizona Cardinals are not very good, but need to build around Kyler Murray. They could become contenders in the next few years.