NFL Midseason Playoff Race
by: Caleb Posner
Through 9 weeks of the NFL season, the playoff picture is starting to become much clearer. Teams like the Rams, Saints, and Patriots who were favored early on to make a deep run this year have been playing like it. Until last week’s defeat to the Saints, the Rams were the hottest team in the NFL. They were undefeated (now 8-1) and have two potential MVP candidates in Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. Their star studded roster has come together really well and I believe they will continue to play high level football en route to the playoffs. The Saints are also on fire having gone undefeated since their close week 1 loss to the Buccaneers. They handed the Rams their first loss of the season, and their offense looks unstoppable with Drew Brees having only 1 interception on the season. These two teams look poised to battle it out for the NFC crown. On the AFC side, the only team really expected to be a front runner that has played like it is the Patriots. As always, Tom Brady continues to not disappoint as he leads the Patriots to the top of the AFC East. The team isn’t as strong as previous years, but Brady sure isn’t showing that. These three teams have been the no surprise front runners to win it all this year.
There have been some major shockers this year, though, that could make the NFL playoffs. The Houston Texans have won 6 straight games after starting 0-3. Deshaun Watson is playing good football, and their defense has stayed healthy which has been a huge issue for them in the past. If those two things continue, look for the Texans to be a possible dark horse candidate at playing for the Lombardi trophy. Elsewhere in the AFC, the Chiefs were expected to be a good team, but not this good. Patrick Mahomes is playing MVP caliber football leading the league in Passing Yards and Touchdowns. With him leading the team, the Chiefs offense has been dominant and looks almost as unstoppable as the Saints and Rams. Watch out for the Chiefs (if they can finally not choke in the playoffs) to be the biggest competitor to the Patriots in the AFC. In the NFC, there have also been some big surprises. The Chicago Bears, coming off a 5-11 season, completely redid the roster in the offseason, finishing this redesign with the acquisition of Khalil Mack right before the start of the season. Their defense has lived up to the “Monsters of the Midway” name, and their offense has shown flashes of greatness. The Bears could be in position to win the NFC North this year. On the flip side, the Eagles have been a negative surprise this year. Most expected the Eagles to come back and be as amazing as last year, if not more. Instead, they have underwhelmed with a record of 4-4 and a position of second place to the 5-3 Redskins. As long as Carson Wentz can return to his pre-injury form (which he looks on track to do), though, you can’t count the Eagles out. Look for the teams mentioned above to try and play spoiler to the Saints, Rams, and Patriots as the rest of the NFL season plays out.