By Ethan Miller ‘23
We are basically halfway through the NFL regular season and at this point, and the contenders are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers look very strong along with the Packers, Saints, and Ravens not far behind. If the season ended today, these are the teams that would be in the playoffs.
- New England Patriots (8-1) – The defending Super Bowl Champions seem to be getting better and better with age. While one can argue that they have benefited from playing the Jets, Dolphins, and Redskins for 4 games so far this season, they have blown each of those teams out of the water when they played. As a result, the Patriots’ reign over the NFL seems to have no end in sight.
- Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – Someone has finally taken down the Patriots! Lamar Jackson looks like the real deal, as he has been the dynamic player that has fueled the Ravens for many of their wins. He has all but silenced the critics with his incredible dual-threat playmaking ability. The Ravens’ explosive offense is backed by a solid defense that recently added Marcus Peters, adding to a team that looks like they could compete for a Super Bowl berth in the AFC.
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) – The Chiefs have been good so far this season, but they have not yet lived up to the expectations. One or more of their star players have been injured in just about every game. The defense has been banged up so far, so when this team gets healthy, watch out. This team has the playmakers and stars to battle the Patriots, and they are my pick to unseat the Pats from their throne.
- Houston Texans (6-3) – Wild Card team “#2” is the Texans. Deshaun Watson has had a very impressive season behind an improved offensive line. The only concerning part of the team is their defense, ranking 20th in the NFL in total yards allowed (NextGen Stats). Depending on how they do to close the season out will decide whether they are the division winners or in the wildcard spot. Either way, I believe that they will be in the playoffs.
- Buffalo Bills (6-2) – After breaking the NFL’s longest postseason drought a 2 seasons ago, the Bills are poised to return to the postseason. The concerning fact about the Bills is that they have mostly beat bad teams and lost to the good ones. Even if this trend continues they should still make the playoffs. This year was not exactly planned to be a competitive year, and I believe that they are ahead of the curve.
- Indianapolis Colts (5-3) – As I touched on earlier in this article, I believe that the Ravens are slightly better than the Colts. That does not, however, mean that the Colts are not a good team. Jacoby Brissett has adeptly filled in for Andrew Luck following his surprise retirement. His injury is concerning, but he should be back soon and Brian Hoyer is a decent backup. The team is well rounded, and should easily make the playoffs if they continue playing as they are now.
- San Francisco 49ers (8-0) – The league’s best defense so far is San Francisco, and they are loaded with talent that should propel them for years to come. The years of stockpiling young draft talent have finally paid off, as Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas are dominating offensive lines each week. Jimmy Garoppolo is coming into his own at the right time, and with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, this offense can be really dangerous.
- New Orleans Saints (7-1) – The fact that the Saints are currently the #2 seed in the NFC is remarkable, seeing that starting QB Drew Brees missed 5 games this year with a hand injury. Teddy Bridgewater has saved the Saint season with his outstanding play as the backup, and the defense of the team has been efficient and effective. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are as dangerous as ever, and New Orleans should cruise to the playoffs.
- Green Bay Packers (7-2) – The Packers’ defense has been a pleasant surprise this season, but more importantly, Aaron Rodgers is back! The veteran QB is once again dominating the league, and the offense has been explosive all around. Aaron Jones has been running over opposing defenses, including a 4-touchdown stomping of the Cowboys in Week 5 (NFL.com). Once Davante Adams returns from his injury, watch out!
- Dallas Cowboys (5-3) – The NFC East is once again tight, as the Cowboys lead the Eagles by only a half-game in the division. Dak Prescott is lighting opposing defenses up, and Ezekiel Elliott is gashing teams’ front sevens. While one could argue that the ‘Boys have had an easy schedule, they have taken care of business for the most part. The Eagles are continuing to win, so the Cowboys will need to pick up the pace to maintain their division lead.
- Seattle Seahawks (7-2) – In any other division, the Seahawks would be leading, but since they are in the west with the undefeated 49ers, they are in second place and in the wildcard. Russell Wilson has enjoyed a resurgent season, thanks in large part to a revamped offensive line. Upcoming games between the Hawks and San Francisco will be ones to watch, as these two teams will be fighting for possibly the number one seed in the NFC.
- Minnesota Vikings (6-3) – After being called out by teammates for being too conservative, Kirk Cousins has been a different QB. Dalvin Cook is finally healthy, so he helps to lead a balanced offense. Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen are emerging as top targets for Kirk Cousins and are the main reasons behind his resurgence. This team should be dangerous when the playoffs roll around.
At the moment, these are the teams that would be in. However, things change quickly in the NFL, so a team on the outside looking in could end up in the playoffs come January, or vice versa.