Midseason what-we-knows and predictions

With the season halfway complete, I put on my statistician hat and my Zorro turban to talk about my predictions and the ‘what-we-know’s’ of the NFL season.

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The season is halfway over and above you see some of the stars that could headline Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles.

Maddox Greenberg, Staff Writer

With the 2021-22 NFL season at its halfway mark, some of my predictions from earlier stood corrected and others weren’t.  But I, just like everyone, can’t predict the future (especially if we are talking about the NFL season).  Looking at the NFL season halfway through its largest, most exciting season yet, I will try to predict how the rest of the NFL season will go and what we know so far from the past nine weeks.

 

Prediction: The AFC West and the AFC North will come down to the wire.

With the playoff picture changing week-after-week and leaders of the AFC changing hands, it is hard to choose the easy number 1 seed.  It is almost obvious the AFC South will be Tennessee’s again, and Buffalo/New England nearing as the AFC East champs.  However, the AFC West and AFC North divisions will come down to the wire.  All teams in both divisions are above .500 with a winning record, better than all other divisions in the NFL.  My prediction is that the AFC West will be the Chargers’; however, since Gruden’s resignation, the Raiders have had some strong wins vs. Broncos (who were 3-2, same as the Raiders) and vs. Eagles (hard to win in Philly knowing those fans can kill you).  But with WR Ruggs gone and same for CB Damon Arnette for a video showing him making death threats with a gun in his hand, and the Raiders’ loss to the now 3-6 Giants, Las Vegas may just make it.  Kansas City is trying, and Denver is still a pretender (even though on a two-game win streak, one was vs. Washington and the other was with Dallas, and in the late 4th quarter Denver allowed two touchdowns and two successful 2-point conversions).  The Ravens seem to not worry about its running-backs.  Pittsburgh still has its struggles, but I don’t see Pittsburgh as a playoff team.  Cleveland is turning into a dumpster fire of players on injury reserve.  Sure, they won 41-16 in Cincinnati without Odell on their roster, but Nick Chubb’s absence next week and all other key players like Jadeveon Clowney on IR, seems like Cleveland may just make it at 7 or 6th seed.  And Cincinnati is on a small losing streak.  The last few weeks in the NFL will be fun to watch between these two divisions, but I’m still sticking with Cincinnati to claim the AFC North.

 

What-We-Know: Meyers’ absence didn’t stop Jaguars.

After Urban Meyer’s infamous footage emerged, experts predicted Jacksonville and Urban Meyer will have problems and won’t win a game.  But they snapped their 20-game losing streak in London to Miami and won in a 9-6 victory against powerhouse Buffalo.  With two victories and our knowledge to expect anything can happen on a Sunday, Jacksonville could get more wins.  But they still won’t get Kayvon Thibodeaux because with the way Houston and Detroit are playing, seems like a no-win or a one-win team will get the projected number one overall pick from Oregon.

 

What-We-Know: Playoff teams beware.

Speaking of Jacksonville, after Week 9’s stunning five upsets, this just shows that playoff teams and fans can’t get cocky.  Jets took out two playoff-caliber teams in the Bengals and Titans, demonstrating that playoff teams need to be aware of these teams.   Other notable games between playoff teams versus trash teams coming up are Week 10- Ravens (6-2) at Dolphins (2-6), (Buccaneers (6-2) at Washington (2-6), Seahawks (3-5) at Packers (7-2); Week 11-Texans (1-8) at Titans (7-2); Week 14-Saints (5-3) at Jets (2-6); and Week 15-Cardinals (8-1) at Lions (0-8).  By the way, the Dolphins defeated the Ravens by 12 points, demonstrating why playoff teams should beware the trash teams.

 

Prediction: Texans will follow Jaguars’ footsteps.

After the Texans lost its 8th straight game to the Miami Dolphins, we all can agree that Houston is done for.  The absence of Deshaun Watson over his 22 sexual assault allegations and the tough schedule that Houston faces the remainder of the season could put them at either 1-16 or go on a 20+ losing streak.

 

What-We-Know: Packers need Rodgers.

Seeing the Packers play without Aaron Rodgers in what seems to be the first time in forever, we can decipher that Green Bay needs that Rodgers Rate.  After winning seven straight, Green Bay fell in a disappointing 13-7 loss in Kansas City.  Jordan Love couldn’t connect with Davante Adams nor with Aaron Jones, two of Rodgers’ top weapons.  When Aaron returns next week vs. Seattle, hopefully vaccinated, Green Bay may just get back on track.

 

Prediction: Patriots will be in the playoffs.

Not so much of a prediction but as a promise.  With our dominant three-game win streak against two godawful teams and the LA Chargers, New England finally has a winning record since Week 3, 2020.  Our opponents for the remainder of the season are a battered Browns offense, a Falcons team, a Henry-less Titans, a Carson Wentz-led Colts, Jacksonville, and finally Miami.  Without our games vs Buffalo, I predict win vs. Cleveland, Atlanta, loss vs. Tennessee, win vs. Colts, Jacksonville, and sunny (so-to-be-gloomy) Miami.  Mac-and-Cheese (Mac Jones) is finally clicking with his weapons and running backs.  Our defense is looking strong, especially with a Gilmore-less secondary led by J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills.

 

Prediction: Najee will win OROTY and Surtain will win DROTY.

Pretty solid.  The Steelers running back and Broncos cornerback are clear favorites.  Najee Harris (24th overall) has 150 running attempts gone for 541 yards and four touchdowns.  Patrick Surtain II (9th overall) has been keeping the NFL on notice with 29 tackles, 8 pass deflections and one interception.  Close picks could be Bengals wideout Ja’Marr Chase and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.

 

Finally…

 

Prediction: The Bills and Buccaneers will headline Superbowl 56.

The Bills have a killer offense led by MVP-candidate quarterback Josh Allen (not him, the other Allen. Not the Allen from Jacksonville who sacked, tackled, intercepted, and forcibly fumbled Bills’ Josh Allen last week) and a stellar defensive line and secondary.  The Buccaneers have the GOAT and MVP-candidate Tom Brady, and all of the 2021 Buccaneers Super Bowl Champions roster.  Adding Richard Sherman on a slightly battered Bucs secondary, this Bucs team is clear favorites to reach and win the Super Bowl. I predict the Bills will defeat the Chargers in the AFC Championship Game, while the Bucs will defeat the Rams in the NFC Championship Game.  Can’t wait until February!

 

What are your predictions?  Who do you want to see in the Super Bowl?  Who will win Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year?