With all NFL teams now through eight games, we’ve reached the halfway point of the season. It has been a strange first half, with teams like the Rams and Eagles enjoying breakout seasons while preseason Super Bowl favorites are struggling to win a game. (Seriously, what is going on with the Giants?)
The landscape of the league has changed since the preseason, so here are updated predictions for all eight division winners.
The AFC East has been one of the most surprising divisions of the season. Rather than the Jets and Dolphins competing for draft picks, both are somehow hovering around .500. The Dolphins sit at 4-4 with the Jets at 4-5, just two and 2.5 games behind the Patriots, respectively, while the Bills are right behind New England at 5-3 and outperforming their expectations as well. The Patriots have been shaky after a preseason filled with predictions of an undefeated season, but despite the surprising competence of this division, we all know how the second half of the season will go. The pick: Patriots.
The Steelers have a 2.5-game lead on the Ravens, and Baltimore has been extremely inconsistent all year. The Bengals’ three wins have come against the Browns, Colts and Bills. After Pittsburgh beats the Colts this weekend, the Steelers will be up three games and will have a 1-0 record against every team in the division. Losing that three-game lead with seven weeks left will take a serious collapse. The pick: Steelers.
With Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck out for the season, this division will be won by the 5-3 Jaguars or 5-3 Titans, which may come down to their Week 17 matchup. In uncommon opponents the rest of the way, the Jaguars will take on the Chargers, Browns and Seahawks while the Titans have to play the Bengals, Steelers and Rams. Tennessee has the head-to-head advantage from winning the first matchup on the road, but I like Jacksonville to win this toss-up division. The pick: Jaguars.
The Chiefs have come back to earth recently with three losses in the past four weeks. However, they’re still 2.5 games ahead of the Raiders with probable wins against the Giants, Dolphins and Jets still to come. Kansas City is the only team in the division with a .500 record, as well as the only team to have a positive point differential. The pick: Chiefs.
The Eagles have dominated the 0-8 49ers and Brock Osweiler-led Broncos the past two weeks, so now everybody is dubbing Philadelphia as Super Bowl favorites. The overreaction to the Eagles is way too strong, but they are undoubtedly a good team and will easily win the NFC East. The Cowboys are likely losing their best player for six weeks and the Redskins have already lost twice to the Eagles. The pick: Eagles.
Coming off a bye week, the Vikings are quietly tied for the second-best record in the league and will get Teddy Bridgewater back very soon. Minnesota faces a tough remaining schedule, with just two of eight games against teams currently under .500. The Lions may be two games back, but they play six of their last eight games against below .500 teams. Detroit already defeated the Vikings on the road, so I like the Lions to make the comeback and come away with the division title. The pick: Lions.
Possibly the best division in the league, the NFC South could conceivably be won by the Saints, Panthers or Falcons. New Orleans has won six straight and has played the third-most difficult schedule in the league over the first half of the season, building a 0.5-game lead over Carolina and two-game lead over Atlanta. The Saints beat the Panthers on the road earlier this year, and I believe in their surprising defense enough to pick them to win in my toughest decision. The pick: Saints.
The Rams are legitimate contenders, leading the Seahawks by one game despite losing a home game to Seattle. In Russell Wilson’s career, he has a .638 winning percentage in the first half of the season. That jumps up to .775 for games 9-16. The Seahawks are experienced in winning games at the end of the season, and that will be enough to overcome the slim deficit to the Rams. However, I do think Los Angeles has a chance to win a wild-card game in Detroit or New Orleans. The pick: Seahawks.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.