Football

2021 NFL Mid Season Predictions

NFC West
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

It is sort of the new halfway point of the NFL Season, and that means it’s time for some NFL Mid Season Predictions!

Awards

League MVP

Matthew Stafford

Runners-Up: Tom Brady, Kyler Murray

Matthew Stafford currently sits in the top 3 of all major passing categories other than completion percentage. The ones ahead of him in percentage have least 16 pass attempts less than Stafford on the season. Stafford’s career has been revitalized coming to the Rams and there’s not hint of slowing down. His play and the infamous “storyline” will get him the award.

Brady and Murray were also considered, but Brady isn’t the new shiny toy anymore. And Murray burned bright early in the season, and that hype is hard to carry all the way to voting time.

Defensive Player of the Year

T.J. Watt

Runners-Up: Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald

It’s time for Watt to finally get his due. Watt is second to Myles Garrett in total sacks on the season (8.5 to 10.5) but in two less games. He’s also creating turnovers with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries to Garrett’s zero for each. The Pittsburgh Steelers are trending upward and have games against the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions in the next two weeks, while the Browns are hitting a tough stretch with multiple injuries.

Aaron Donald was also considered as is required by the Football Gods.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ja’Marr Chase

Runners-Up: Najee Harris, Kyle Pitts

Chase has taken the roof off of defenses this season, backing up why he was taken 5th overall. He’s currently third in the NFL in receiving yards, first in yards per catch (among qualified players), and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns. And that’s in the league, not among rookies. While the Cincinnati Bengals have a tough road ahead of them, expect Chase to keep his lead on the competition.

Don’t sleep on Harris or Pitts climbing as well. Harris is really starting to make noise in the ground game in addition to his early on pass-catching success. Closing in with touchdown will be key for him to narrow the gap for this award. Pitts is also gaining momentum for the Atlanta Falcons but they have such a tough run of opponents coming up.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Micah Parsons

Runners-Up: Paulson Adebo, Azeez Ojulari

Micah Parsons is currently second among rookies in tackles and fourth in sacks. The players ahead of him in sack totals are also rotational pass-rushers playing only about 50% of the snaps. Nick Bolton is in Parsons’s realm of snap count and is even ahead of him in tackles, but Parsons is on one of the league’s best defenses by DVOA and Bolton is…well…not. Parsons plays so many roles in this new and improved Cowboys defense, and has the production to match.

Paulson Adebo has also been a nice surprise for the New Orleans Saints. The third round pick is fourth among rookies in tackles (26) and tied for first in interceptions (2). His advanced coverage stats are about level with fellow rookie defensive back Asante Samuel Jr., but Adebo’s Saints team is one of the top defenses in the league.

Azeez Ojulari is here for his leading leading sacks among rookies with 5.5.

Playoffs

AFC

1. Buffalo Bills (13-4)

2. Baltimore Ravens (11-6)

3. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)

4. Tennessee Titans (10-7)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)

6. Kansas City Chiefs (9-8)

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8)

Just missed: New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals (8-9)

The AFC is such a tight race from the two through twelve seeds being separated by just 2.5 games. With the Chiefs barely squeaking a win past the New York Giants on Monday night, I highly considered leaving them off of this list. I am, however, a big believer in elite teams figuring it out. With a game against the Aaron Rodger-less Packers coming up expect some momentum to brew. Melvin Ingram III should also improve this defense with a pass rusher who can consistently win matchups.

Here are the Bengals next four games: Browns, Raiders, Steelers, Chargers. And their last three games are Ravens, Chiefs, Browns. With such a tough second half schedule coming off of a disappointing loss to the New York Jets, this young Bengals team has a really bumpy road ahead.

The Patriots have an easier schedule in the second half the year but so far they are just 1-4 at home. While teams finishing around .500 at home can certainly make the playoffs, with so many teams competing for these last spots it is imperative to win the games you are supposed to win.

And finally, yes I know Derrick Henry is out. But I refuse to believe in Carson Wentz and the Colts. Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown will carry the offense enough to hold off the Colts.

NFC

1. Los Angeles Rams (14-3)

2. Dallas Cowboys (13-4)

3. Green Bay Packers (12-5)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5)

5. Arizona Cardinals (13-4)

6. New Orleans Saints (10-7)

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-9)

Just Missed: San Fransisco 49ers (8-9) and Philadelphia Eagles (8-9)

I really wanted to have the Eagles sneaking in. But a dominant 44-6 win when your quarterback only throws the ball 14 times for 103 yards isn’t confidence-inspiring. The 49ers feel like a mess between injuries and their own QB situation, and ultimately it makes too much sense that Russell Wilson will miraculously show up and bring the Seahawks to the playoffs.

The Saints have a favorable schedule coming up and have been winning this year with their defense and taking care of the ball. They’ll continue doing that no matter who is in at QB.

I am extremely high on the Rams and think they’ll rise above the other great teams in the conference. The addition of Von Miller will make an impact, just not the one we all might think. Miller isn’t the most feared pass rusher in the game any longer but he’s still very good, and an indication of this team’s mindset: We’re. All. In. This team is hungry and ready to win now.

Super Bowl

Los Angeles Rams over Buffalo Bills

38-35

The Buffalo Bills are the class of the AFC any way you look at it. This high-octane offense improved their defense this offseason and is now a top rated team in both categories (and by a wide margin in the AFC). This Super Bowl matchup will be a battle of organizational philosophies. The Rams have traded for most of their top level players. The Bills have drafted their stars and supplemented with free agents. In the end I say the Rams take it in a back-and-forth shootout 38-35.

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