NFL (Slightly Late) Midseason Review


Photo courtesy of Action Network

   As Week 13 of the NFL season wraps up, it’s time to look back on what has been a wild and unpredictable season. This year has been full of surprises, disappointments, and inconsistencies, with many teams looking like worldbeaters one week and completely dysfunctional the next. Many divisions are still up for grabs, and it’s anyone’s race to win the Lombardi Trophy.


   Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have been the team to beat this season, leading the league with a 1092 record heading into Week 13. When not injured, Kyler Murray played like an MVP this season, leading the offense to average nearly 400 yards per game. Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins headline a stout receiving core, giving Murray the offensive help he’s needed to thrive. In addition, the Cardinal’s defense has been stellar, ranking amongst the top five in the league for yards allowed, turnovers, and sacks.  If they can keep the red-hot momentum they’ve had this season, the Cardinals have a real chance of winning an NFC Conference title. 

   New England Patriots: Mac Jones and the Patriots have been one of the hottest teams in football during the 13 weeks. The Pats are riding a six game winning streak, with quality wins over the Chargers, Browns, and Titans. The offense has been firing on all cylinders, averaging just over 35 points per game during their six game run. Mac Jones is playing like the Rookie of the Year, throwing for 2,850 yards and 16 touchdowns. Additionally, the defense has come alive, wreaking havoc against opposing offenses. The defense, led by stars such as Matthew Judon and J.C. Jackson is fourth in the league in yards allowed and second in the league in turnovers forced. “We’ve been creating turnovers every week,” said Jackson after their win against the Titans. “We prepare for it. When it’s time to play, we execute and get it done,” he continued. The Pats have a tough schedule ahead of them, with games against the Bills, Colts, and surging Dolphins left on the docket. Jones and Coach Bill Belichik have their work cut out for them if they want to keep their winning streak alive.

   Cincinnati Bengals: Despite a stubble against the Chargers, the Bengals have exceeded all expectations, posting a strong 7-5 record through Week 13. Joe Burrow has returned stronger after his gruesome ACL injury, throwing for 3,135 yards and 23 touchdowns. Burrow’s solid play has been one of the main reasons for the team’s success, with a strong rushing season from Joe Mixon providing a good balance of an air and ground attack. Burrow’s former LSU teammate Jamarr Chase has proved to be a strong number one option, pulling in eight touchdowns and 958 receiving yards. Additionally, the Bengals defense has kept the team in close games. Ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson have been on fire this year, notching 18 sacks between them. Poor defensive play has been the downfall of Bengals teams past but that is not the case this year. “Different guys are stepping up and making big plays for us,” said Head Coach Zac Taylor after holding the Steelers offense to 10 points. With this quality of play, the Bengals have a real chance of breaking their 30 year long playoff drought. 


   Rookie Quarterbacks: With the exception of Mac Jones, the 2021 draft class has failed to produce a solid starting quarterback this season. Trevor Lawrence was touted as one of the top prospects of all time, compared to the likes of John Elway and Andrew Luck. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, Lawrence has been mediocre at best, with a lack of consistency and rhythm plaguing his starts. His stats reflect his mediocre play, throwing for eight touchdowns and nine interceptions through nine games. “I’m disappointed in myself. Frustrated,” said Lawrence after a loss to the Colts. “But I know how far we’ve come. You look back compared to the first couple weeks of the season, and it’s night and day of where we’re at,” he continued. Other first round picks such as Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields have also not seen quality production this season. Injuries, poor supporting casts, a lack of playing time have also plagued the young quarterbacks, leading to a combined 3-14 record (5-20) including Lawrence’s record) in games they’ve started. Despite this slow start, each quarterback still has a chance to grow into a franchise player with more development and playing time. 

   Washington Football Team’s Defense: Coming off of a shockingly strong 2020-2021 season, the Football Team looked to maintain the same domination that led to their success. Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young and star end Montez Sweat anchored a stout defensive line that was the heart and soul of last year’s unit. However, this year’s defense has been less than impressive, ranking 18th in total defense. The front seven, which many picked to be one of the best in the league, has only racked up 24 sacks. Some of this lack of production can be attributed to injuries. Both Sweat and Young have been placed on Injured Reserve, with Young out for the year with a torn ACL. In addition to poor front seven play, the secondary has only forced six interceptions so far this year. In order to keep up with the 29 total turnovers last year, the defense will have to step up their game in the second half of the season.

   AFC West: Despite all four teams starting off hot, the AFC West has fallen back down to earth. The Broncos shot off to a 3-0 record, dominating on both sides of the ball. However, a 23-7 loss to the Ravens kicked off a four game losing streak. Inconsistent quarterback play from Teddy Bridgewater, as well as a questionable defense, have led to a mediocre 6-6 record. The Raiders also started their 2021 campaign with a 3-0 record before everything came crashing down around them. Head Coach Jon Gruden resigned after emails were leaked of him using homophobic and misogynistic language over the course of many years. Just weeks after that, star receiver Henry Ruggs III was involved in a fatal drunk driving incident in Las Vegas, which cost him his NFL career and will probably lead to substantial jail time. The Raiders now sit at 6-6, with the team’s Super Bowl hopes all but gone. Beating the Browns in a shootout gave the Chargers a 4-1 record, with second year quarterback Justin Herbert receiving MVP buzz. The next week, the Chargers lost 34-6 to the Ravens, starting a 1-3 stretch that also included losses to the Patriots and Vikings. Not all hope is lost, however. First year Head Coach Brandon Staley has proven to be one of the best hires of the offseason, winning over the locker room almost instantly. “I really love doing this,” said Coach Staley in an interview with ESPN. “I feel like nine games in, I have a pretty good sense of who we are as a team, and where we are, where we need to go. That’s a good thing,” he continued. The Chargers also have a relatively easy schedule left, with games against the Giants, Texans, and Broncos all on the slate. In order to make the playoffs, the Chargers will have to win not only these games, but beat either the Chiefs or the Raiders to solidify an upper spot in the division. The Chiefs have been the only team in the division to start off slow, but come on strong in the last few weeks. After starting with a surprising 3-4 record, the Chiefs reverted to last season form, winning three straight games. Patrick Mahomes has started to look like his normal self, throwing for five touchdowns and over 400 yards in their most recent win against the Raiders. The defense has also gotten out of their slump, holding all four of their last opponents under 20 points. If the Chiefs keep up their momentum, anything short of an AFC Championship victory will be a disappointment.

Award Predictions

   MVP- Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers, despite his antics, has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league this year. His 64.9 QBR percentage puts him third in the league, and his 23-4 touchdowns to interceptions only supplement his case. In addition, he’s led the Packers to a 9-3 record, putting them in the 2nd seed for the NFC playoff race. 

   OPOY- Johnathan Taylor: Taylor has been the star the Colts needed this season, leading the league in touchdowns and rushing yards. Taylor’s breakout performance came against the Bills in Week 11, rushing for 185 yards and five total touchdowns. Already 281 yards ahead of the next closest running back, Taylor has the rushing title all but locked up.

   DPOY- TJ Watt: Watt leads the league in sacks, racking up 16 of them through 13 weeks. He also is tied for third in the league in forced fumbles, and has made his presence against opposing quarterbacks known. Watt will have to stave off Myles Garrett and Trevon Diggs, who have also made strong cases for DPOY.

   ROTY- Mac Jones: Jones has exceeded all expectations this season. After falling to the 15th pick in the draft, Jones has proven he’s an NFL-caliber quarterback, with great game management skills and fantastic leadership. Jones and the Patriots have a real shot at making a deep playoff run if he finishes the year strong. 

Super Bowl Prediction- Packers 38, Chiefs 27