We are coming into Week 10 of the NFL season, which means every team has played at least 8 games. Half way home! At this point, we have a pretty good idea what each team is about, and what their Playoff chances look like. A lot of surprising teams, and seemingly even more disappointments. Exciting season nonetheless. Let’s take a look at the potential award winners, surprises, disappointments, along with division breakdowns. Here we go.
Most Valuable Player
There are about a half dozen Quarterbacks you could make an argument for, mostly your usual suspects. Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson. Basically what you’d expect. But my vote would go to Christian McCaffrey. He has 10 rushing TDs, another 3 receiving TDs, 42 receptions, and is averaging a whopping 155 yards from scrimmage. Best in the NFL. He is the single reason the Panthers are still in the hunt for the Playoffs.
Defensive Player of the Year
At this point in the season, there are really no players that jump out as Defensive Player of the Year. So I want to focus on 2 sets of players. In Green Bay, free agent acquisitions Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith (The Smith Brothers, no relation) have a combined 16.5 Sacks, 68 Tackles, 3 Passes Defended, 1 Interception, and 1 Forced Fumble. And there are a couple of actual brothers, Joey Bosa of the Chargers and Nick Bosa of the 49ers, who have a combined 15.5 Sacks, 67 Tackles, 1 Pass Defended, 1 Interception, 1 Forced Fumble, and 1 Fumble Recovery. Noteworthy performances by both “families”.
Rookie of the Year
There are several rookies making an impact this season already. Arizona Cardinal Kyler Murray has been solid with both his arm (2,229 yards) and his legs (313 yards), Jacksonville Jaguar Garnder Minshew has 2,285 yards and a 13-4 TD to INT ratio, and New York Giant Daniel Jones has shown signs of being a serviceable QB. There are a couple WRs making noise as well, Seattle Seahawk D.K. Metcalf and Washington Redskin Terry McLaurin are both averaging about 60 yards per game and have 5 TD a piece. On the defensive side of the ball, both Nick Bosa and Jacksonville Jaguar Josh Allen have 7 Sacks. But the front-runner has to be Oakland Raider RB Josh Jacobs, with 740 yards rushing and 6 TDs.
Coach of the Year
There are several Playoff teams with coaches that can be considered at this point. Sean McDermott has the Bills at 6-2, their best midseason record in who knows how long. Despite the loss of Andrew Luck, Frank Reich has led the Colts to a surprising 5-3 start. In the NFC, the current top 3 seeds have coaches having great seasons as well. Kyle Shanahan’s 49’ers are 8-0, the lone unbeaten team in the NFL. Sean Payton has led the Saints to a 7-1 start despite missing Drew Brees for 5 games. And after missing the Playoffs the last 2 seasons, rookie coach Matt LaFleur has the Packers at 7-2. But in my opinion, Mike Tomlin gets the nod at the halfway point. They lost Le’Veon Bell last season, Antonio Brown this past offseason, and Ben Roethlisberger’s season ended in Week 1. Yet he still has the Steelers at 4-4 and in playoff contention. Best coaching of his career.
Biggest Surprise Team
This one is a toss-up. The Buffalo Bills are 6-2, which already matches their win total from last season. QB Josh Allen is having a solid sophomore season, and rookie RB Devin Singletary has shown signs of greatness. They were a Playoff team just 2 years ago, so it shouldn’t be too surprising I guess. The Colts on the other hand...2 months ago, who thought they would be in contention? Jacoby Brissett has been a quality backup throughout his career. But a starter? With a 14-3 TD to INT ratio, he has been an excellent game manager, leading the Colts to a surprising 5-3 record. Currently good enough for a Wild Card spot, and only a ½ game out of 1st Place. I would also classify Brissett as the biggest surprise player of the season as well.
There are a couple teams that had high expectations but currently have .500 or worse records. The Chargers, Bears, and Falcons all come to mind. I want to say the Jets fall into this category as well, with the offseason additions of Le’Veon Bell, Demaryius Thomas, Jamison Crowder, and Ty Montgomery. But let’s be fair, who really thought they would be good? Not me. So the biggest disappointment has to be the Cleveland Browns. With a surprising 2018 season, Baker Mayfield coming into his 2nd season, a promising young RB in Nick Chubb, and the offseason acquisitions of Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry, they were the trendy pick for 2019. Well, they are 2-6. To their defense, they have had a brutal schedule, but they have looked awful at times. This team looks like they are on the verge of an implosion. On a similar note, I would consider Mayfield the most disappointing player this season as well. 7 TDs, 12 INTs. Luckily he’s really likeable. Wait, he’s not.
Onto the Division picks. In my NFL Predictions article I wrote before the season, I made predictions for each Division winner, along with the Wild Card spots. Like usual, I am batting about .500.
Prediction – Patriots, Jets, Bills, Dolphins (in order, top to bottom)
At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Dolphins to be the worst team in the NFL. Well, that is looking like a pretty solid pick, with a 1-7 record. Only the hapless Bengals have a worse record. On that note, the Jets are also turning in a pathetic season. They are somehow potentially worse than their 1-7 record indicates. The Bills (6-2) have been one of the surprise teams this season. Their offense has not been outstanding, but their defense has been, giving up about 16 points per game. They are currently sitting in a Wild Card spot. And on top of the Division, the Patriots are sitting at 8-1. How good are they though? Not sure about that. The combined record of teams they beat is just 18-48. Either way, they have the best record in the AFC, which is all that matters at this point.
Prediction – Steelers, Browns, Ravens, Bengals
Yeah, I got this Division pretty backwards. Aside from the Bengals, I had all of them wrong! As for those Bengals, they are an absolute dumpster fire. 0-8 record, nothing else I need to say. The Browns were one of the trendy picks this offseason, coming off an impressive 2nd half of 2018 and some big free agent additions. But they are currently sitting at 2-6 and it looks like an implosion is near. Could be fun. The Steelers, despite their 4-4 record, have actually played well as of late. Mason Rudolph (replacing the injured Ben Roethlisberger) has been serviceable, and Mike Tomlin may be having his best season as a coach. They still have an outside look at the Playoffs. The Ravens, specifically Lamar Jackson, have exceeded all expectations. With a 6-2 record and coming off a drubbing of the previously unbeaten Patriots, they are currently in the #2 seed in the AFC.
Prediction – Texans, Jaguars (WC), Colts, Titans
This may not be the best Division in the NFL, but it is the most competitive, with just 2 games separating all 4 teams. The Titans are in last place, but have a decent 4-5 record and a +3 point differential. Jacksonville has been very streaky so far (4-5), with either back-to-back wins or losses 4 times already. But Minshew Mania has made them more watchable than they’ve been in years…Nick Foles is back this week by the way. The Colts have been a very pleasant surprise this season, with Jacoby Brissett doing a fine job replacing the retired Andrew Luck. They are currently at 5-3, sitting in a Wild Card spot. The Texans are leading the Division with a 6-3 record, and although their defense has been inconsistent, Deshaun Watson has been playing at an MVP caliber.
Prediction – Chiefs, Chargers (WC), Broncos, Raiders
The Chiefs are the only team in the Division with a winning record (6-3), but dropped 3 of 4 in October. Once Mahomes returns though, I see them hitting their stride again and making a run at the #2 seed in the AFC. The Raiders have had a somewhat surprising start (4-4), despite the Antonio Brown debacle in the preseason. But rookie Josh Jacobs has been outstanding and Derek Carr is having another solid season. They have a favorable schedule the 2nd half, so I see them making a run at a Wild Card spot. Out in Los Angeles, the Chargers have to be one of the harder teams to figure out. Wins against the Packers, Bears, and Colts…and losses to the Lions, Broncos, Steelers, and Titans. They have the talent to make the Playoffs, but have been terribly inconsistent. One of the more disappointing teams this season. The Broncos started out 0-4, and despite winning 3 of the last 5, are sitting at 3-6. With a brutal schedule coming up (half of remaining opponents are likely Playoff teams), they won’t be able to make a run.
Prediction – Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants
The Redskins are 1-8, with a -111 point differential. Both worst in the NFC. Veteran Adrian Peterson is having somewhat of a throwback year, but aside from him, this team doesn’t have much else worth noting. Expect for a shot at the #1 draft pick. The Giants have the best RB in the League in Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones has shown some positive signs, but they are still sitting at 2-7, and have not been competitive in several games. Young team though, kind of expected this. The Eagles are 5-4, and despite being very streaky, do have some nice wins (Packers and Bills). If they can stay healthy, they are good enough to remain in the Playoff hunt. Note – Nick Foles is no longer available for the Playoffs. Keep that in mind. As for the Cowboys, it’s hard to get a feel for how good they are. They have beaten the bottom feeders, but struggled against the good teams (and the Jets!). But with the most potent offense in the NFL, and playing in a weak Division, hard to imagine they won’t make the Playoffs.
Prediction – Vikings, Packers (WC), Bears, Lions
Last season, the Bears won the Division, and were a double-doink away from winning a Playoff game. Expectations were high this season, but Mitchell Trubisky has taken a major step backwards. Couple that with Matt Nagy’s questionable play-calling, the Bears rank 29th in the NFL in total offense. Good enough for a 3-5 record. The Lions had a nice start to the season, but it could have / should have been much better. But they blew a huge lead to the Cardinals, and were victim of TWO horrendous Illegal Hands to the Face calls against Green Bay. If those go the other way, the Lions had a 4-1 start. Instead, they were 2-2-1, and have lost 2 of 3 since. 3-4-1 total. A lot of what could have beens. The Vikings have been a Jekyll and Hyde team this season. At times, they look unstoppable. And at times they, well, don’t. And it’s all hinged on the performance of Kirk Cousins. They are 6-3 and currently sitting in an NFC Wild Card spot, and will more than likely make it in. Then the true test…can Kirk Cousins win in the Playoffs? We will have a chance to find out. And on top of the NFC North, the rejuvenated Green Bay Packers (7-2). Rookie coach Matt LaFleur seems to be on the same page as Rodgers, and despite some rough outings, at times they look like one of the better offenses in the NFL. And their defense, well, it’s actually good. Been about 10 years (their last Super Bowl) since they have had a defense capable of winning a game. They are one of the more balanced teams in the NFL.
Prediction – Saints, Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers
Aside from the lowly Falcons, I actually had this Division picked right. Speaking of, what the hell has happened to the Falcons?! With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman, there is no reason this team should be 1-7. One of the biggest disappointments of the season. Despite being just 2-6, the Buccaneers actually aren’t that bad. 4 of their 6 losses are by a TD or less. They are not in contention this season, but might have a decent future. If I were to have told you before the season that Cam Newton would only play 2 games, would you have thought the Panthers would be just 1 game out of a Playoff spot at the halfway point? Well, they are. 2nd year QB Kyle Allen has played very well, and Christian McCaffrey may very well be the League MVP. That said, even with their 5-3 record, they have a brutal 2nd half schedule. Will be very hard to sneak into the Playoffs. On a similar note, if I told you before the season that Drew Brees would miss 5+ games early in the season, would you have believed they would be 7-1 right now? Brees is now back, but backup Teddy Bridgewater played wonderfully in his absence. They are looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL right now.
Prediction – Rams, Seahawks (WC), 49ers, Cardinals
This may be the best Division in the NFL right now. Their top 3 teams are a combined 20-5. The Cardinals have been very exciting, but are just 3-5-1. And every win has been against a team with a losing record, and every loss has been against a team with a winning record. Which seems about right for them. The defending NFC Champion Rams are 5-3, but are sitting at 3rd in their Division. Even with their loaded team, making a Playoff push will be very difficult. 6 of their remaining 8 games are against teams that will be fighting for a Playoff spot. The Seahawks are currently 7-2, but it’s a pretty suspect 7-2. They have only a +18 point differential, and have only played 3 teams that currently have a winning record (losing 2 of them). The 2nd half will be very telling for Seattle. And for the 49ers…has there ever been an 8-0 team that has been less talked about? They have looked great, but would you like to know the combined record of their opponents thus far? 22-43-1. Not great. Their schedule gets much tougher the 2nd half (Seahawks (x2), Packers, Ravens, Saints, and Rams), so we will get to see exactly how good this team is.
I think that about covers it. Now, tell me what you think!!!