Sports: NFL Midseason Review, Projections
by Lucas Garrison
It’s been a crazy eight weeks in the 2018 NFL season, with a new rise of dominant teams as well as several disappointments. Here’s my favorites and sleepers for the rest of the year in each division.
Favorite: Pittsburgh Steelers
- As predicted by many, the Steelers were able to bounce back from their slow start. The absence of star running back Le’Veon Bell has not affected them in any shape or form on the field. Second year back James Conner has been a pleasant surprise for the franchise. Throughout the first 8 weeks of the season, Conner has 743 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell last year through the first 8 weeks had just 5 rushing touchdowns and 607 rushing yards. The Steelers are just going to get better as the season goes on with the recent additions of Morgan Burnett, Ramon Foster, and a healthy Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers however, have one big question hanging over their heads, which is what are they going to do when Le’Veon Bell returns? It seems wrong to limit Conner’s workload after such a great start to the season. As long as they are able to keep their attitudes in check, the Steelers have a legitimate chance at returning to the promised land.
Sleeper: Baltimore Ravens
- The Ravens have been good, not great this year, but are looking like they are able to contend in almost every game they play. The draft selection of rookie QB Lamar Jackson continues to light a fire under veteran signal caller Joe Flacco, who continues to impress with 2,259 passing yds and 12 touchdowns. Not only has Flacco been good, but they continue to run several plays where they line up Flacco and Lamar Jackson in the back field simultaneously to confuse defenses on who will receive the ball, and it’s worked. Plus, the Ravens got a steal at the trade deadline in all-purpose running back Ty Montgomery, who will add solid depth to both their rushing attack and their receiving core.
Favorite: Houston Texans
- The Houston Texans are coming off their fifth straight win and sit at 5-3 now after a lackluster 0-3 start. Deshaun Watson is beginning to look like his rookie self again, and the Houston defensive line still proves to be a headache for offensive lines with 21 sacks on the year. The Texans however, have suffered another season-ending injury, this team to productive receiver Will Fuller. Fuller was on route to have a 1000+ yard receiving season, already posting 503 yards through the first eight weeks and averaging 15.72 yards per catch while catching four touchdowns. However, with the trade deadline just passing, the Texans added veteran WR Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos. In exchange, the Broncos received a 2019 fourth round pick and a 2019 seventh round pick from the Texans. The Texans hope to have struck gold and would like to see Demaryius Thomas return to his old self for their stretch run.
Sleeper: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
- The Titans sit at 3-4, while the Jags and Colts sit at 3-5. As predicted, this division is so competitive for its mediocrity. The Jags are coming off a year in which they had made it to the AFC Championship and are now looking to somehow save their season. However, they have been without star running back Leonard Fournette for most of the season now. Plus, the Jags are without any receivers, so MAYBE letting go of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns wasn’t the smartest decision. Not only are they lacking in the receiving game, but they just traded away defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2019 3rd round pick and a 2020 fifth round pick. The Titans are all kinds of a mess after some early big wins, but this team still has potential to turn their season around. The Colts are best described by Colin Cowherd in that “If you give Andrew Luck a decent O-line and a strong running game he’ll succeed.” That is exactly what the Colts have done, especially with the emergence of Marlon Mack. Andrew Luck has greatly benefitted from this. As long as this team stays healthy, they can potentially make a strong playoff run and contend in the AFC South.
Favorite: New England Patriots
- Same as before, it’s Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, so nothing more needs to be said. Sony Michel is the real deal. Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon are reliable targets for Tom Brady. The Patriots are taking this putrid division with ease.
Sleeper: No one… okay maybe the Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have put on a pretty good show this year, sitting at 4-4. However, with starting QB Ryan Tannehill out and the loss of big-play receiver Albert Wilson, this team won’t be going far. It’s nice to think maybe the Pats will be knocked off, but it won’t happen.
Favorite: Kansas City Chiefs
- My oh my, Patrick Mahomes is just an absolute beast. This man can sling the ball down the field with ease. So far this season, he has 2,526 passing yds and 26 touchdowns. Now, Mahomes in my opinion can break the single season passing touchdown record, which is 55 (Peyton Manning). Mahomes also has the help of the fearsome foursome, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce. Hill has 705 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Sammy Watkins 453 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. Kareem Hunt has 592 rushing yards with 5 TDs. Finally, Travis Kelce is arguably the best tight end in the NFL has 642 receiving yards and 4 TDs. This team continues to impress and Andy Reid looks to have struck gold with this line up. Their defense is absolute TRASH, but it’s okay when the offense puts up 40 points a game. The question does remain: are these the new Kansas City Chiefs, or will the pattern of choking resume in the playoffs this year?
Sleeper: Los Angeles Chargers
- The Chargers sit at 5-2 and continue to amaze. Many people counted them out right away, especially with the absences of CB Jason Verrett, TE Hunter Henry and DE Joey Bosa. Bosa is expected to make his season debut this week against the Seahawks. Bosa will just add another weapon to this already stacked defensive pass rush. The Chargers are the real deal no matter what people say, and they have another shot to get revenge against the Chiefs later this year. The Chargers are my sleeper pick to make it to the Super Bowl out of the AFC.
Favorite: Green Bay Packers
- The Packers have been up-and-down all year, currently sitting at 3-3-1. However, this team has showed that they can compete with anyone. They impressed in week 8 against a tough Los Angeles Rams squad, hanging in the game for four quarters. The Packers did lose in the end, 29-27. However the Packers two rookie cornerbacks, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson showed incredible upside against a top-ranked Rams passing offense. Plus, Aaron Rodgers still looked absolutely amazing. If Ty Montgomery doesn’t fumble on the kick return, people are looking at the Packers as legitimate Super Bowl contenders on the back of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers traded away RB Ty Montgomery and S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix at the deadline, raising a lot of questions on what the Packers are trying to accomplish with these trades. However, it should be very interesting to see how the Packers finish the season.
Sleeper: Chicago Bears
- The Bears are continuing to impress and will look to continue their successful season to the playoffs. The Bears just seem to be the comeback story of the NFL this year. With the additions of Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson, and Taylor Gabriel, both sides of the ball have been much improved. Gabriel and Robinson have proved to be favorite targets of Mitch Trubisky. Not only that, but he has two strong running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to rely on. The defense continues to shut down offenses as they are led by Khalil Mack. The Bears are very strong and can finish very high this season.
Favorite: New Orleans Saints
- The Saints are the real deal. Let’s start off with the offense. They are so strong they have arguably two top 15 RBs in the league as well as a top five wide receiver in Michael Thomas. Oh, they also still have Drew Brees. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are absolute beasts. Defenses should be absolutely afraid of them plus star receiver and Brees’ favorite target, Michael Thomas. Thomas once again this year is proving again that he is a top five WR in the NFL
Sleeper: Carolina Panthers
- The Panthers are having an amazing year. They are led by star QB Cam Newton, who is arguably having his most efficient and consistent season. However, it will be interesting to see how they will play and matchup against stronger teams. This team is lacking star power at the receiver position as well. Their best WR is Devin Funchess, who has been good but isn’t a premier option. The Panthers will finish second in the division and will be a strong wild card team in January nonetheless.
Favorite: Philadelphia Eagles
- Yes, the Eagles are not living up to the expectation of a defending Super Bowl Champion team. They currently sit at 4-4, but have the talent and quarterback play to finish 12-4. This team started the season without number one receiver Alshon Jeffery, and now have lost RB Jay Ajayi for the year. However, they have added WR Golden Tate at the trade deadline, which is huge for this team. The Eagles now can line up Tate, Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz together, which is huge. The Eagles will need to get on a run, but have the ability to win the NFC Least with ease.
Sleeper: Dallas Cowboys
- The Cowboys have to be in the talks as a sleeper just because of how dynamic they can be on offense. Ezekiel Elliot is proving yet again that he is one of the best running backs in the league. If Dak Prescott can return to his rookie self, this team can make the playoffs, especially since they have added WR Amari Cooper via trade. If the Cooper trade pans out in favor of the Cowboys, then they can make a very strong finish to the year and can contend for the NFC East Crown.
Favorite: Los Angeles Rams
- Obviously, the Rams are the favorite for this division and should be the favorite to win the Super Bowl as well. They are the Golden State Warriors of football, recently adding DE Dante Fowler Jr. to their already stacked defensive line. I mean come on, their D-line is made up of all past first round picks. Plus, their offense is insane. Todd Gurley is looking like the best RB in the league this year by a large margin. Jared Goff is tossing around the ball with ease and he has the weapons that allow him to do this in Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. The Rams can win this division with ease and can go all the way to the Super Bowl this year.
Sleeper: No One – This division is horrible
It’s been another crazy start to the season in the National Football League. Football fans alike are in store for an amazing finish come January and February time.