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NFL 2016: Mid Season Report

NFL: JAN 03 Jaguars at Texans

The Jacksonville Jaguars had so much promise going into this season. They’ve been one of the most disappointing teams in 2016

By: Elias McMillan

 

Every team has played at least half of their schedule. So, it is now time for me to name my top 5 surprises and disappointments at the half way mark in this 2016 NFL Season. I’ll also make a revised Super Bowl pick at the end.

Top 5 Surprising Teams

  1. Dallas Cowboys (7-1) – Without Romo for the first part of the season and seeing how the team performed last season, I had the Cowboys winning just 8 games and not going to the playoffs in my preseason predictions. Now, it looks like things without Romo are going to be okay, the team already has 7 victories, and they are more than likely going to at least win the division and many a first round bye in the playoffs. I definitely didn’t see this coming. The plan to build a monster running game like what we saw in 2014 has worked with the selection of Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th overall pick. But the real surprise has been rookie QB Dak Prescott who has been able to do more than keep this team afloat while Romo recovers. I still think that the defense will be this teams undoing eventually but right now, they look like the class of the NFC.
  2. Oakland Raiders (7-2) – Many people believed that the Raiders would take that leap in 2016. I didn’t really believe that before the season but now I am witnessing it. QB David Carr is commanding a top-notch air attack. WR Amari Cooper is playing great but so is veteran WR Michael Crabtree. On defense, they have a tough front seven that can really get after the QB. They face a tough road ahead for the rest of the season but right now they are in position to maybe win their division.
  3. Denver Broncos (6-3) – After losing to Oakland last week, you might be surprised that I would put Denver on this list. But with their QB situation going into the season, I thought they would fall into a Super Bowl hangover. Instead, their defense is just as good as it was a season ago. Trevor Siemian has the offense getting by. Too bad that they lost starting RB CJ Anderson but their running game was a successful part to this season so far as well. I don’t know how the rest of the way will go but the AFC West race will be interesting.
  4. Atlanta Falcons (6-3) – With the way Carolina has played so far this season, that has opened the door for the Falcons to take control of the NFC South. Atlanta was already going to be amazing offensively with names like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and DeVonta Freeman. But their defense has improved enough where you can sense that this team could close out this division sooner than later.
  5. Miami Dolphins (4-4) – Honestly, I couldn’t figure out a fifth team to put in this slot. But I had Miami winning just 5 games before the season and they are already at 4. Miami is currently in second place in the AFC East and there is a good chance for them to stay there. They have a lot of young talent on the offensive side of the ball and they are getting the most finally out their defensive front four. They might be able to make a surprising run to the wild card.

 

Top 5 Disappointing Teams

  1. Carolina Panthers (3-5) – Things have gotten so bad in Carolina so quickly. A lot of talk about Cam Newton but the bottom line is that the defense is what has under performed greatly this season. Maybe it is from the decision to let Josh Norman go. But Carolina refused to get younger and better at key positions in the offseason and it is showing up currently each week. Carolina may be able to rebound and have a respectable record to end the season but their playoff chances look bleak.
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – Remember how Jacksonville had so much optimism before the season. So much for all of that. It looks like the same old Jags are here to stay for at least another season. With all of that young talent, this team can barely compete in a terrible AFC South division. Maybe QB Blake Bortles isn’t that good. Maybe the head coach and GM need to be fired. Either way, Jacksonville has too much talent to be sucking like have this season. I predict major changes coming in the offseason.
  3. New York Jets (3-6) – This year, the Jets season has been basically derailed because of the QB position. And I completely understand why they had to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick. They had great success with him last season. This season it has been the opposite. And it has gotten so bad on that side of the ball that not even their defense can save them. This team has some positives like Matt Forte and their defensive line. But the bad QB play, the injuries, and the aging vets can only carry this team so far. I thought at the start of the season that this team could at least win 8 games.
  4. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) – Arizona ws my Super Bwl pick at the beginning of the season. They have been a disappointment on both sides of the ball but mainly on defense. Carson Palmer has been shaky at times but Arizona still has a wealth of talent on offense. I thought that this defense would be a monster but they don’t make enough plays and have been a massive disappointment. Because they have a tie, it is still possible for them to rebound and get back into the playoff race.
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) – The Steelers were my Super Bowl team coming out of the AFC before the season. I think Pittsburgh could still bounce back and win their division but they have still been a disappointment so far in 2016. The losses against lesser opponents. The inconsistencies on offense. A complete no show from the pass rush. And they have also struggled due to injury. But like I said, there is still time for them to bounce back and win a string of games. But I just don’t see them as a Super Bowl contender like I thought they would be at the start of the season.

 

Mid Season Awards

MVP: Julio Jones (WR – Atlanta) – These things always go to the QB. Matt Ryan has been good but lets be real. Julio Jones is what makes the Atlanta Falcons offense go. Jones currently leads the league in receiving and he is going to continue to be a huge part of Atlanta’s success for the rest of the season. I was tempted to give this to Tom Brady but the Patriots went 3-1 without him. That kinda puts huge hole in his bid.

Offensive MVP: Ezekiel Elliott (RB – Dallas) – Ezekiel Elliott is going to continue to put up monster numbers this season behind that offensive line. That Dallas power rushing game is a huge reason for the team’s success in 2016. Elliott will probably go on to be the league’s leading rusher.

Defensive MVP: Cliff Avril (DE – Seattle) – Avril is among the league leaders in sacks and is leading Seattle’s defensive line to be one of the best units in the NFL. Seattle has been inconsistent at times this season but they’ve been able to still lean on that defense. Arvil and that defensive line is a big part of that.

My REVISED Pick for Super Bowl 51

In the AFC, I believe that the Patriots will be there once again. Despite not having a strong defense, they probably have the best shot out of anyone in the conference. I thought that the Patriots would maybe fall short of a Super Bowl berth much like last season but they are much ahead in front of everyone else in the AFC. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the defense to slow Tom Brady and the offense. Denver still has a good defense but they are not going to be able to run the ball like they did a season ago. Maybe Oakland can shock the world and compete with the Patriots. I don’t know. But the Pats area safe pick right now. In the NFC, I can tell you, as a fan of the team how the Cowboys season will end. First off, Tony Romo will be starting going into the post season. Also, Dallas will be bringing with them into the post season that same sorry defense. That defense will let them down in January but everyone will still blame Tony Romo. Same as there ever was. I think Seattle or Atlanta could give Dallas problems in January. Both teams have decent pass rushes. Atlanta has a dynamic offense but we can’t completely write off Russell Wilson either. Ultimately, I still believe that Seattle’s defense will be the most valuable unit in football once the playoffs begin. REVISED Super Bowl 51 Prediction: Seahawks over Patriots

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