2018 NFL Midseason Report: Who’s Contending and Who’s Pretending

Welcome to my 2018 NFL Midseason Report.  Today, I will show you my Power Rankings for the first half of the 2018 season and show you my revised season predictions.  Comment below with your midseason Super Bowl prediction and keep reading to find out mine.

Part I: Updated NFL Power Rankings (Posted to Instagram Earlier this Week)

Note: Jaguars should say 3-5, not 5-3; otherwise records are as of 11/7.

Before the season, I was not that confident in the Chiefs, Saints, or Rams.  But all three have lost just one game in the first nine weeks, so I couldn’t disregard that fact.  They all rank Top 4 here, alongside the Patriots, who are riding a 5-game win streak and have dominated offensively week after week since WR Josh Gordon joined the team.  I base these Power Rankings not just on performance so far, but ability to continue to thrive, the Pats clearly have that ability.

The Chargers, Panthers, Texans, and Vikings have also been off to strong starts.  The Texans started the season 0-3, but have been able to overcome the slow start and win six straight.  The Vikings’ record isn’t looking as good as we expected, but their early-season schedule was very difficult.  Things should be smooth sailing from here.  The Vikes really only had one disappointing loss, and that was to the Bills in one crazy game.  The Vikings have not let one embarrassing loss derail them.

In the middle of the pack, you’ll see teams like the Steelers (started slow but have picked up the pace), Bengals, Bears, and Redskins (who surprised early), and teams like the Packers, Eagles, Titans, Falcons, and Jaguars.  They have been off to shaky starts, but I expect them to rebound, especially Philly, who does not have that difficult of a schedule remaining.  The Eagles and Vikings, last year’s NFC Championship opponents, have struggled early thanks to a tough schedule, but should rebound from it.  I could even see them pulling upsets to meet in the NFC Championship again.

The Ravens, Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Broncos are on a down-trend and fall just below this middle group.  The Seahawks, Lions, and Cowboys have rode easy schedules to early success, so don’t expect much more from them.  I see the down-trending teams as far better than this group.  At the bottom, we have the teams that are likely out of contention: the Cardinals, Browns, Colts, Bills, Raiders, Giants, and 49ers.  These teams have really struggled early and it will be hard for them to rebound.  The Colts may be 3-5, but their wins came against the Raiders, Bills, and Redskins.  That’s not a very impressive resume.

Part II: Updated Season Predictions

AFC East

  1. new_england_patriots New England Patriots (13-3, 1st Seed in AFC)
  2. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (8-8)
  3. Jets-Logo New York Jets (5-11)
  4. Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills (3-13)

They may have started 1-2, but the Patriots have been dominant since Week 4’s match-up against Miami.  They should keep on rolling and finish with a 13-3 or 12-4 record, only losing 1-2 more games thanks to offensive dominance.  The Dolphins may have started strong, but they should level off now that QB Ryan Tannehill has been hurt for several weeks and their win streak is over.  This offense is good but they cannot compete with the top teams in the AFC.  QB Sam Darnold and the Jets should win a couple more games, but the injuries they’ve sustained will prevent them from making any kind of playoff run.  I don’t see the Bills improving much consdering the QB situation they are in.

AFC North

  1. pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1, 4th Seed in AFC)
  2. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
  3. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
  4. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns (3-12-1)

The Steelers should end up winning the division, but they won’t be the playoff powerhouse they usually are if RB Le’Veon Bell keeps holding out.  They may manage to make it this year, but could this be the beginning of the end of the Steelers?  The Bengals and Ravens have had decent seasons and are knocking on Pittsburgh’s door.  Meanwhile, the Browns are still not very good, but they’ve clearly improved from last season and could be on the rise in years to come.

AFC South

  1. hou-texans Houston Texans (12-4, 2nd Seed in AFC)
  2. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6, 6th Seed in AFC)
  3. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
  4. indianapolis-colts Indianapolis Colts (3-13)

The Texans may have started off slow, but they had a very tough early schedule, and the season only gets easier from here.  They should cruise into a Top 3 playoff spot.  The Jaguars struggled without RB Leonard Fournette, but I think Fournette’s return should make a difference as the Jags rebound and snag a Wild Card.  The Titans aren’t quite as good as they were in 2017, but should still compete for a playoff spot.  If I’m wrong about Jacksonville, the Titans may sneak in to the playoffs.  The Colts should not win many more games with one of the worst defenses in the league.  They’ve only beat one team above .500, and QB Andrew Luck may lead them to another victory or two, but no more than that.

AFC West

  1. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, 3rd Seed in AFC)
  2. San_Diego_Chargers Los Angeles Chargers (12-4, 5th Seed in AFC)
  3. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos (8-8)
  4. oakland-raiders Oakland Raiders (3-13)

The Chiefs have dominated offensively thanks to the breakout of QB Patrick Mahomes II.  Alex Smith left Mahomes with a strong offensive core surrounding him, so the Chiefs should keep rolling.  However, the Chiefs have been known for late season plummets and chokes after strong starts.  Something tells me their inconsistent defense is going to cost them late in the season.  The Chargers may catch up; they’ve only lost to Kansas City and the Rams so far, and it’s hard to beat the same team twice.  Denver has looked alright so far with Case Keenum at QB, and the improved offense and strong defense should lead them to a smooth sailing 2nd half.  However, I’ve lost hope in the Raiders at this point.  Jon Gruden is a good coach.  The Raiders just need some defensive talent and a better QB.  That won’t come before the end of 2018.

NFC East

  1. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles (10-6, 4th Seed in NFC)
  2. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins (6-10)
  3. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
  4. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants (4-12)

Look for QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles to dominate the second half.  The Golden Tate trade was a good move, and that will help them jump right back into contention, especially considering their easier 2nd half schedule.  They may face the Saints and Rams, but don’t have any other tough match-ups.  The Redskins, on the other hand, don’t have it so easy.  They’ll face the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans down the road.  The Cowboys will improve after the Amari Cooper trade, but I don’t see it being enough.  The Giants should win a few more games, as I expect QB Eli Manning to improve slightly in the 2nd half.  But they aren’t going anywhere in the NFC East.

NFC North

  1. min-vikings-logo2 Minnesota Vikings (11-4-1, 3rd Seed in NFC)
  2. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers (10-5-1, 5th Seed in NFC)
  3. chicago-bears-logo Chicago Bears (7-9)
  4. Related image Detroit Lions (5-11)

The Vikes had a tough schedule early on, but the Patriots are their only remaining opponent with a current record above .500.  Things should be smooth sailing from here, especially with RB Dalvin Cook back.  The Packers should also make the playoffs.  I cannot imagine a healthy Aaron Rodgers missing the playoffs, even with the lack of talent around him.  The Bears still face the Vikings twice and the Packers and Rams once each, so I could see them fall out of the playoff picture.  I don’t see the Lions winning many more games either after giving up WR Golden Tate.  They’re an okay team, but they need defensive help and they play in such a tough division.

NFC South

  1. nosaints New Orleans Saints (13-3, 1st Seed in NFC)
  2. carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers (10-6, 6th Seed in NFC)
  3. tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
  4. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons (8-8)

The Saints have been off to a strong start.  They added Eli Apple on defense, and they may have a lack of offensive depth, but Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas alone have led them to a strong season.  Carolina should put up a fight for the division as well.  Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey have dominated, and the defense has definitely improved despite giving up 52 points to the Steelers.  The Bucs might be out of contention, but they do look better than before.  They have a deep offense and a young, rising defense that should help them turn it around in the 2nd half.  In this tough division, the Falcons will fall behind.  They are dominant offensively but the defense has been painfully inconsistent.

NFC West

  1. Related image Los Angeles Rams (13-3, 2nd Seed in NFC)
  2. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
  3. az-cards Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
  4. sf-49ers San Francisco 49ers (5-11)

Until their loss in New Orleans, the Rams were undefeated.  So I’ll admit I was wrong about the Rams being overrated.  I was also vastly wrong about the Cardinals.  They clearly have potential, but QB Josh Rosen needs a couple years to develop.  Maybe he’ll have a second-year breakout like Jared Goff did.  The Seahawks have been alright so far, but they should also plummet due to a difficult upcoming schedule.  The Niners are likely also out of it now that QB Jimmy Garoppolo is done for the year.  But QB Nick Mullens should win them a few more games.

Playoff Predictions

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I could see a lot of upsets in these playoffs.  Look for the Eagles and Vikings to make runs despite rough starts.  In the AFC, I think the Pats will see the Chargers in the Championship game.  I think the Chiefs will be upset by Jacksonville in the first round.  I think it will be a Patriots-Vikings Super Bowl, with the Pats winning in the end.

That’s all for my NFL Midseason Report.  Stay tuned for more news soon.