Before the season started I put out an article with my predictions for the 2018 NFL Season. In it, I also put up a disclaimer that a good chunk of them are most likely going to be incorrect. It’s just way too difficult to predict what teams and players will progress, regress, or be hit hard with the injury bug (i.e. Philadelphia and San Francisco just to name a couple).
Because of that, I’ve decided to give myself a second chance at predicting how this season will play out. To be honest though, I still expect a lot of these to be wrong yet again. But hey, it’s always a fun exercise right?
So without further ado, here are, once again, my (wrong and irrelevant) 2018 NFL Predictions, mid-season edition!
New York Giants
As sloppy and injury-ridden as they’ve been, I’m still picking the Eagles to finish first in the NFC East. Carson Wentz is still a top tier quarterback in this league and is playing better than he was last year (Yes, he really is. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re looking at). The big key is going to be the team’s overall health. They’ve been hit with key injuries almost every week. If they can remain relatively healthy from here on out and in turn get some guys back that have been hurt, they still have enough talent to win the division. Acquiring Golden Tate from the Lions is also a very impactful move because it addresses 2 areas that the offense has been lacking in: YAC and explosive plays downfield. Tate will be used primarily in the short and intermediate areas of the field where he excels and is able to create yards for himself. This also frees up Nelson Agholor, who has seen his average depth of target and yards per reception go down this season because he’s been used near the line of scrimmage a lot more. He can now be used more in the intermediate and deep levels of the field and be someone who will stretch the field for the offense. Don’t get so caught up in “who is going to play the slot and who is going to play the outside now? Tate and Agholor are both slot receivers.” Agholor will be aligned on the outside in most cases while Tate will be aligned in the slot, but they’re both interchangeable and moveable. Expect Doug Pederson to move them around on several instances in different formations. The alignments matter, but not as much as the routes each of them is running.
Tate was used by Detroit quite similarly to how Philadelphia has used Agholor thus far this season. Jet sweep is a great example. Detroit loves to motion Tate into match-ups; but that’s what Philly does with Nelly a lot. V. curious to see how they use both. pic.twitter.com/keOfPpXfhK
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) October 30, 2018
Doesn’t get much cleaner than this
*Deadleg release (h/t @BradKelly17) w/ physicality through stem
*Eyes back and up, selling fade route
*Hard stop and explosion to sideline to maintain leverage
*Anticipation of tackle and quickness/body control to evade pic.twitter.com/ushvKUZQWl
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) October 30, 2018
The Redskins have been able to sustain a ground-based offense despite the loss of Derrius Guice thanks to the contributions of Adrian Peterson. The future Hall-of-Famer has shown that he can still play at a high level behind that stout offensive line. Their run defense has been stellar as well, and the acquisition of HaHa Clinton-Dix will help sure up their secondary. However, I still have doubts about Peterson being able to sustain this type of success late into the regular season. And forgive me for not having much confidence in Alex Smith either.
The Cowboys, desperate for a wide receiver, just traded a 1st round pick for Amari Cooper. While very talented, Cooper has been inconsistent throughout his career. It’s possible he’ll be rejuvenated and motived with a change of scenery, but it also won’t matter if Dak Prescott doesn’t have the field vision to get the ball to him. What does give the Cowboys a chance though is their defense. They’ve been impressive at all 3 levels of the field so far. That, along with their power running game led by Zeke Elliott, is why you can’t count them out of the division race just yet.
The Giants… well… they’re the only NFC East team that’s pretty much not in the running. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again; the Giants should have drafted a quarterback in this year’s draft. They went “all in” on Eli Manning for this year by drafting Saquon Barkley, and not even halfway through the season they’re already in sell mode. Giants fans will counter by saying they can draft a quarterback in 2019, but if you ask any college football analyst/scout/fan the upcoming QB class doesn’t look impressive at all.
Green Bay Packers
My prediction for the NFC North is going to stay as is.
I like the talent on the Vikings a lot, but I don’t believe their offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is maximizing that talent.
For the Packers, rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander has been as good as I expected him to be so far. I’m just not sure if they’ll be able to overtake the Vikings. I do wonder if rookie Josh Jackson will see more playing time now with HaHa Clinton-Dix being traded away.
Khalil Mack is playing hurt and isn’t the same pass rushing force he was in the beginning of the season. It might take him another few weeks until he’s healthy enough again, and that’s not good at all for this Bears team looking to make a run.
The Lions are still as unreliable as ever, but I will admit that I was wrong about Kerryon Johnson. He’s much more explosive than I thought and has been arguably one of the best rookies in the league. He needs to get the ball more.
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints offense is no joke, and it’s helped them get out to a 6-1 record. They’ve got a few tough games ahead, beginning with a showdown with the Rams this Sunday. We’ll see just how good they are very soon.
The Panthers by all means have a legitimate shot at this division. They’ve got weapons all over the field on offense, especially with guys like DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel starting to make plays. Oh and Greg Olsen is back and healthy too.
The team that falls here is the Falcons. I had originally picked them to win the division, but a rough start to the season has put them in an early-season hole that they might not be able to climb out of. Losing Devonta Freeman was significant but I’m a believer in both Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith.
I never would have given Jameis Winston his starting job back, and now he might have lost it for good. His carelessness with the football is mind-boggling at times. You can’t win games playing like that.
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
A lot of people questioned whether the Rams would be able to put all of their newly acquired talent together, and the team has answered with a resounding “YES”. Sean McVay is a genius, Todd Gurley is unstoppable, and Jared Goff has proven himself to be one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and not just a product of the system. Oh and they just traded for Dante Fowler. They’re the best team in football.
I didn’t see it coming, but the Seahawks have become a run-first football team, and they’re doing it very well. It just sucks that their 2018 1st round pick Rashaad Penny has been useless so far. The team could have benefited even more from not drafting a running back there.
When it comes down to the Cardinals finishing over the 49ers, it’s for one reason: the Cardinals have their franchise quarterback healthy and playing, and the 49ers don’t. It’s really that simple. Once the Cardinals are able to get better talent around Rosen, he’s going to be a very good quarterback in this league. And I still believe in the 49ers’ future too. Kyle Shanahan deserves better than what he’s been dealt with.
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Just like with the NFC North, my predictions for the AFC East stay the same.
It seems as though everyone has been waiting for Josh Gordon to have his breakout game as a Patriot. Tom Brady seems to have more and more confidence throwing to him each week. And the emergence of Sony Michel, even though he’s currently hurt, as their lead back has definitely quieted talks about them being “done”.
The Dolphins are another team that have had their share of injuries so far. Once rumored to be on the trade block, DeVante Parker is staying in Miami with Albert Wilson done for the season. Of course, if Brock Osweiller has to remain the starter for them for a while, it won’t matter who the receivers are. Kenyan Drake needs the ball more too, by the way. I have nothing but respect for Frank Gore, but there are yards left of the field when Drake isn’t in there.
The Jets have to be very encouraged by what they’ve seen out of Sam Darnold early in his career. It hasn’t all been pretty, but I definitely have liked what I’ve seen so far. I’m sure glad the Giants decided not to take him. I would just like to see him be better with the deep ball, especially with a weapon like Robby Anderson at his disposal.
In my previous predictions article I said that the Bills could end up with the worst record in the league this season. Well, they don’t right now because their defense has been impressive, but that offense is just so bad.
James Conner has been absolutely phenomenal as the Steelers’ new lead running back with Le’Veon Bell holding out. What amazes me is that, just like Bell did, Conner has transformed himself from a pure power back in college to more of a well-rounded runner with great physicality and good agility and receiving ability.
I’ve always been a fan of John Brown, and to see him rejuvenate his career in Baltimore is great to see. Flacco has good weapons to throw to this year, and the Ravens just added another one in Ty Montgomery.
Two young players that are having breakout seasons for the Bengals: Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd. With a good offensive line in front of him, Mixon is showing the running ability that had him so hyped up in the draft. And Tyler Boyd is an amazing compliment to AJ Green. He’s a great route runner.
Hue Jackson: fired. Todd Haley: fired. One good thing that remains for the Browns though is Baker Mayfield. Someone please just get him a good head coach and offensive coordinator to help his development.
This division is the one that I least expected to turn out the way it has.
After a 0-3 start to their season, the Texans have ripped off 5 straight wins to take the top spot. Watson is starting to get his groove back, and team has addressed the loss of Will Fuller by trading for Demaryius Thomas. They’re turning out to be the team that many thought they’d be.
I love seeing Andrew Luck back and playing well, and the team he’s got has shown enough promise to where I think they do have a legitimate shot and taking second place over the Jaguars. Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines make up a very explosive running back tandem.
I know it’s not just his fault… trust me, I know they’ve had some bad luck with injuries as well… but when unfortunate things like that happen, that’s when the good teams lean on their franchise quarterback. Well, the Jaguars can’t do that with Blake Bortles. And it’s not like he’s played any better when his offensive line was healthy. They desperately need Leonard Fournette back.
I was very wrong about Marcus Mariota, and it’s a shame. I thought he’d be much better than he has been. Maybe the new system just isn’t clicking with him. But he’s not the only one that’s been disappointing. The coaches need to make better use of their running backs Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry. They should be the focal point of that offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers
Patrick Mahomes is the MVP of the league so far (it’s such a close race with Todd Gurley, but you know the voters give the nod to the quarterback over the running back unfortunately). He’s the real deal. Also, to anyone that was leaving Kareem Hunt out of the discussion of Top 5 running backs in the league, I sure hope you’re including him now.
If it wasn’t for Todd Gurley being as good as he is, there would be more talk about Melvin Gordon being in the running for MVP. He’s another guy who people thought wasn’t that good, which I never understood. He’s so versatile and knows how to find the end zone.
It’s amazing how so many people expected Royce Freeman to be the lead running back for the Broncos, but in the end the best guy in their RB corps has been undrafted free agent Philip Lindsay (Freeman has played well too though). Despite his diminutive height, Lindsay has been so good because he has great vision, versatility, and he plays much bigger than his size would have you assume.
I’m surprised the Raiders didn’t make any more trades at the trade deadline after sending Amari Cooper to the Cowboys for a 1st round pick. Gruden is pretty much cleaning house in preparation of getting his own guys onto the roster. I’m expecting an active offseason for them.
NFC Playoff Seeding
Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers (Wild Card)
Green Bay Packers (Wild Card)
AFC Playoff Seeding
Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers (Wild Card)
Baltimore Ravens (Wild Card)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley
He’s doing it on his own. The Giants’ offensive line is still bad, but Barkley is still finding ways to make plays on a consistent basis. There’s really no other offensive rookie on his level right now. I’d have Philip Lindsay and Kerryon Johnson as the next guys up after Barkley.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Derwin James
There are a few others I considered here too, like linebacker Darius Leonard and cornerback Donte Jackson. Also, I’m not going to count out my top ranked cornerback from the draft, Jaire Alexander, just yet. But as long as he stays healthy, I think this award is James’ to lose. He’s been an absolute playmaker for the Chargers all season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Todd Gurley
I mean, who else would it be? You can make a case for Thielen I guess, but in the end I’m still going with Todd Gurley.
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald
I want to put Khalil Mack on here, but he’s still dealing with an ankle injury and will be for a little while still. JJ Watt is also someone worth noting. But even after his slow start, Donald has been on an absolute tear, showing his usual dominance from the interior.
Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck
Tough one between Luck and JJ Watt, but considering the fact that some people were saying Luck’s career could be over, seeing him perform at this level again is amazing to see. I can’t say he’s fully back to playing at the level he once was, but eventually he will be.
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
I want to say Todd Gurley so badly. My personal preference would probably be Gurley. But if I’m going to predict who the voters are going to be voting for in a close race between Gurley and Mahomes, I have to say that they’ll give the nod to the quarterback. Both of them are deserving of it though.
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay
The kid genius gets the award for the 2nd year in a row. It’ll be between him and Andy Reid.