Midseason NFL Update
November 14, 2020
By midseason analysts, fans and wanna be analysts (me) have seen the ups and downs for each team and become confident in their playoff predictions. As of Week 9 there is only one undefeated team left: the Pittsburgh Steelers. Disregarding the pitiful NFC East, the divisions have been competitive with teams adding new players during the offseason. These player rivalries have the chance to play each other twice.
During this offseason the NFL added two games on the postseason schedule, one team in the AFC conference and one team in the NFC conference, making the postseason scheduled to have 14 games instead of 12. Previously, each conference awarded the top two teams with a bye-week in the first round of the playoffs, but this year looks a little different. The NFL has decided to only award the top team in each conference with a bye-week, making the playoffs a little more exciting and less predictable (in my opinion). Due to the rearranging of the number of games and only two teams in the league getting a bye-week, there will be six Wild Card games. More games equal more opportunities for teams, but it also equals lots n’ lots of money. In fact, according to ESPN, the bye-week teams “will receive postseason pay for that weekend” so at least some of the money rolling in goes to the players. To give you an idea of what a six game Wild Card bracket will look like: #2 seed plays #7 seed, #3 seed plays #6 seed, and #4 seed plays #5 seed.
AFC Division Standings ↓ ↓ ↓ *AS OF WEEK 9*
|AFC East||Record||Division Record|
|New England Patriots||3-5||2-1|
|New York Jets||0-9||0-4|
The AFC has the undefeated team and the team that has yet to win, the rest fall in between. The AFC East was bound to be led by the Bills this season with Tom Brady heading to Tampa, the Dolphins testing the quarterback waters, and the atrocious Jets (fire Adam Gase). Not only are the Bills leading their division but they’re looking like a well put together team. Josh Allen has thrown for almost 2,200 yards, 16 touchdowns and a 67.1% completion rate. Allen ranks third in the AFC based on yardage and much of that is going straight to Stefon Diggs. Diggs rank second among all wide receivers in the NFL coming in with a total of 695 yards and 54 receptions. Even though he’s only scored three touchdowns, he’s clearly established himself as one of the top wide receivers this season. Buffalo’s running game has yet to explode this season, Devin Singletary and Josh Allen combine for an average of 76.5 yards per game. As for the defense, safety Jordan Poyer is ranked as fourth among the league overall in solo tackles with a whopping 53 solo tackles and 16 assisted tackles. Tremaine Edmunds (linebacker) showed off his skills with 11 total tackles, one sack and one pass deflection in the win over Seattle. There’s no question that the Bills will make the playoff brackets but it’s improbable that they’ll secure the bye-week.
Looking at the Dolphins record, they are tied with three other teams in their conference for third place, but the win over the Cardinals was definitely a confidence boost for the rookie quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Five out of the eight games left to play are winnable, considering they’ll take on the Chargers, Bengals, and Patriots at home (and still have yet to play the Jets). So, don’t count the Dolphins out just yet.
|AFC North||Record||Division Record|
Behold, the Pittsburgh Steelers with their first ever 8-0 start in franchise history. Both sides of the ball have played outstanding and the Steel Curtain is not to be taken lightly. The pass rush defense that the Steelers have been showing week in and week out has been the best in the league, combining for a total of 30 sacks. The top Steelers sack leaders include, linebacker T.J Watt with 6.5 sacks, linebacker Bud Dupree with 6 sacks and defensive end Stephon Tuitt with 6 sacks. Not only has their pass rush been phenomenal, the secondary defense has put up some big numbers too. The Steelers D has 10 interceptions and cornerback Marlon Humphrey has 4 forced fumbles, leading the league as of Week 9. Big Ben has had it “easy” with wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and rookie Chase Claypool. Claypool leads his team in receiving yards (444) and touchdowns (5) and has been a deep threat all over the field. Adding tight end Eric Ebron shows to be paying off, especially with Vance McDonald in Covid-19 protocol. Another thing to add to the Steelers long list of strengths: their kicker, Chris Boswell. Boswell’s field goal stats are perfect, 11 for 11, as well as 24-27 for extra point kicks. In total he has racked up 57 points for the Steelers offense, which compared to other teams isn’t much, but that tells you how well the Steelers do in the Red Zone.
Even though Baltimore trails behind Pittsburgh I think it’s safe to say that they’re set up to secure a Wild Card spot. The run game is versatile with Lamar Jackson leading his team in rushing yards and running back Gus Edwards is right behind him. The offense is averaging 28.4 points per game (Steelers only average one more point than them) and the team is ranked first overall for rush yards per game, averaging a whopping 170.1 yards. Due their success in running the ball, pass yards per game rank 31st overall. As for the defense, the team is ranked sixth overall, accumulating 24 sacks and four interceptions. Calais Campbell has been a huge addition for the Ravens, with 6 pass deflections and 4 sacks. Cornerback Marcus Peters is letting Marlon Humphrey know that he’s not the only standout cornerback in the NFC North. Peters had 6 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles.
|AFC South||Record||Division Record|
First off, I want to congratulate the Bengals on beating the Titans. Okay, now onto the stuff you’re here for: Derrick Henry. There’s no doubt that Henry is one of the best runningbacks in the game right now, my only complaint is his lack of receiving yards. I know that he’s a runningback for reason but he currently only has 81 receiving yards, but hey I think he makes up with his 843 yards on the ground. Ryan Tannehill has thrown for 19 touchdowns with only three interceptions, and his QB rating is 109.4 As for Tannehill’s receiving weapons, A.J Brown has 6 touchdowns so far, compared to his 8 touchdowns last season, and is not far off from being able to achieve his second straight 1,000+ yard reception season. Tight end Jonnu Smith has been explosive compared to his last three seasons. Smith had 8 touchdowns in his entire NFL career and already has 6 for this season. Although Smith doesn’t have big yardage numbers he’s a great Red Zone threat for Tannehill and Henry. Defensively, the Titans have been decent, their pass rush defense isn’t very strong, they rank 29th in sacks (10), but 7th in interceptions (8). No surprise here, Malcolm Butler has been the defensive leader racking up 10 pass breakups and two interceptions while covering some of the best receivers in the league.
Phillip Rivers has meshed well, personality wise, with the Indianapolis offense and the reunion with Frank Reich displays just that. Rivers hasn’t exactly played outstanding, hence the 10 touchdown to 7 interception ratio, but he does have a 67.9 completion rating. The receiving core is steady but no one has outstanding stats. The running game is statistically is average, but runningbacks Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor have explosive speed and power despite being 5’9 and 5’10. On the other hand, the Indianapolis defense has shown that they’re not to be dismissed. They rank first overall in interceptions (11) and three out of those eleven have been a pick-6. The top secondary defenders to watch out for are cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore II, who have combined for 16 pass breakups, 4 interceptions and 50 total tackles. Defensive tackles Denico Autry and DeForest Buckner has combined for 7.5 sacks and 54 tackles, leading their team defensively too. Personally, if the Colts secure a Wild Card spot I don’t think they’ll go very far in the playoffs due to their lack of explosive offense weapons, but hey they might surprise me!
*UPDATE* Colts’ defense looks pretty killer in Thursday night’s game against the Titans and Rivers had been getting the rid of the ball super fast in the pocket. Less deep balls and more slot plays, but regardless they’re moving the chains.
|AFC West||Record||Division Record|
|Kansas City Chiefs||8-1||2-1|
|Las Vegas Raiders||5-3||2-0|
|Los Angeles Chargers||2-6||0-3|
The Chiefs are the Chiefs. Of course, Patrick Mahomes continues to amaze viewers each week and Tyreek Hill continues to make outstanding catches for a total of 650 yards and 9 touchdowns. Mahomes has thrown for over 2,600 yards and despite numerous attempts he still has maintained a 115.9 QB rating. The Clyde Edwards-Helaire, rookie out of LSU, has already racked up 586 rushing yards, he only has three total touchdowns but in a second you’ll see why. Why does Edwards-Helaire only have two rushing touchdowns? The answer is All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce leads his team in receiving yards (769) and has 6 touchdowns. Overall, the team is on their way to another Super Bowl. They rank second in points per game (31.8) and seventh in points scored against them (183), the only low ranking that stands out is time of possession but if you have Mahomes as a QB I don’t think you’re too worried about him not being able to make plays in time. The defense has been led by sack leader Chris Jones (5.5) and the infamous safety, Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. Frank Clark, defensive end, has continued to get after the run game with 15 solo tackles and he’s also the only other pass rusher, besides Jones, who has two or more sacks, Clark has 4. The reigning Super Bowl LIV champions look well on their way to another Super Bowl appearance, but the Steelers are giving them a run for their money.
The Las Vegas Raiders have been substantially better than I anticipated this season. Derek Carr has thrown for a little over 2,000 yards with a ratio of 16 touchdowns to two interceptions and QB rating of 110. Tight end, Darren Waller has been Carr’s number one target with a total of 50 receptions for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Josh Jacobs reminds me of Nick Chubb and a little bit of Saquon Barkley too, the man literally carries players on his back while continuing to gain yards. Even though it’s only his second year in the NFL, Jacobs ranks third in overall yards (588) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (6). The Raiders’ defense doesn’t match up to their offense but, nonetheless they aren’t too bad. Maxx Crosby, defensive end, is the only pass rusher with more than 1.5 sacks, he has 5. Trayvon Mullen, cornerback, has 7 pass breakups and 25 solo tackles. The other secondary defensive player that stands out is safety Lamarcus Joyner, he has 41 total tackles and two pass breakups. I honestly want to see the Raiders secure a Wild Card spot and I think they have the potential to do so, their schedule consists of the Falcons and the New York Jets, which are definitely winnable games.