Revisiting (and revising) NFL preseason predictions
At the beginning of the season, I wrote some previews of what I thought we would see in each division. It's time, now that we're through most the season, to revisit those predictions and revise some of them based on what the teams have shown this year.
I won't spend too much on this; just wanted to point out a few. TJ Hockenson has become the Lions' leading receiver this season and currently leads NFC tight ends in Pro Bowl voting, Justin Jefferson has become a reliable number two receiving option for the Vikings and may even eventaully challenge Adam Thielen for the No. 1 spot. Diontae Johnson is having a similarly productive season for Pittsburgh. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been the best rookie running back, and CeeDee Lamb seems destined for a great career in Dallas. The Panthers offense has been much better when they have Teddy Bridgewater. Jessie Bates has been PFF's top rated safety at times this year.
The Cowboys have a bad defense.
I didn't like the Cowboys' defensive line to start the year, and the roster cuts just gave them a worse group. While the defense isn't as bad against the pass, it's a nightmare against the run. Dallas has to put up a ton of points just to have a chance in most games. That's not a winning formula.
Giants offensive line is bad
I'd argue that the offensive line was part of the reason that Saquon Barkley got hurt. There were no holes for him (or any of their backs) to run through, and he was trying to do too much. The line play has slightly improved, but it's far from good.
Washington and Chicago lack offense
I didn't see a proven quarterback on either roster to start the season (not expecting Alex Smith to actually have to play), and both teams have had issues at the position. In Chicago, Allen Robinson and David Montgomery are the only offensive players that defenses need to stop. Some players make occasional plays, but that's not how an NFL offense should be. Washington has been helped by Alex Smith. He IS a proven quarterback who has won in the league. His game management playing style is perfect for what the team needs right now, but, like Chicago, there aren't enough weapons to scare defenses.
Neither Foles nor Trubisky was the answer.
To add to my previous point, the Bears' offense has looked pretty much the same with either quarterback, and that's a problem. "If you have multiple quarterbacks, you don't have a quarterback." Seems like the Bears will be going back to the drawing board.
The Lions have issues in the run game
Adrian Peterson had a good first couple of games but looks to have slowed down. He is best used as a goal line and short yardage back now. This may have been a schematic issue, so we'll see if it changes now that Matt Patricia is gone. D'Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson have looked good in spurts, so I'd like to see more of them the rest of the season. Of course, the offensive line needs some blame here too. There haven't been great lanes for the backs to go through.
Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers
As much as you can want the Packers to go downhill, they won't be going anywhere but up with Aaron Rodgers. The guy has tremendous football knowledge and has bee a terrific match with Matt Lafleur. Even without Pro Bowl caliber weapons, the Packers offense is on a roll and seems to be heading for another division crown. I thought they would have a down year, but they proved me wrong.
Vikings needed a No. 2 receiver
At the beginning of the season, no one knew who would emerge beside Adam Thielen in the passing game. The Vikings took a while to figure it out, but the offense has been much better since the emergence of rookie Justin Jefferson.
Cincinnati's strength is it's wide receivers
I wasn't expecting much out of AJ Green this year, but he has surpassed those low expectations. Tyler Boyd is steadily emerging as the team's WR1, and rookie Tee Higgins has had a strong season. The Bengals seem to play best when these guys have good games and should build their offense around the passing attack.
Roethlisberger looks good enough
It might not be an Earth-shattering year for Big Ben, but the questions about his shoulder health should be put to rest. He looks completely fine out there, even when the offense underperforms.
The Ravens offense isn't as good
This looked like it would be wrong with the way Baltimore started the season, but something told me teams would start to figure it out. Lamar Jackson pretty much confirmed that earlier this season. They are just a shell of last year's version and need to get back on track before it's too late.
Adam Gase has lost the Jets
They can say whatever they want publicly, but this team does not want to play for him. Like Patricia in Detroit, rumors have been swirling about personality clashes and locker room issues from the get-go. They might not win a game this season, and they should find a new coach.
Darnell Mooney seems like a good player
For all the faults in the Bears offensive personnel, they did find a solid undrafted player: WR Darnell Mooney out Tulane. Mooney is currently the team's second leading receiver in terms of yardage and is used about as much as Jimmy Graham and Anthony Miller.
Jamaal Williams is a productive RB2
I questioned what Green Bay had behind Aaron Jones, and Williams has displayed the ability to be a good backup option. Although he struggled to show as much in his first few seasons, Williams is averaging 4,2 yards per carry and become a threat as a receiver as well.
Baker Mayfield is starting to find his game
After a disastrous 2019 season, Mayfield's numbers this year are much more similar to the numbers he put up when he burst onto the scene as a rookie. Kevin Stefanski has to be given some credit for that development, and it provides a foundation for the Cleveland offense's potential.
Offenses struggle without stars
Top wide outs missed some games this season, and their absences were detrimental to their teams. Michael Thomas has missed a majority of the season for the Saints, and they struggled to find their identity without him. Kenny Golladay has had a similar impact in Detroit. He is by far the Lions' best receiver and deep threat, and they average about four more points per game when he's in the lineup.
Hayden Hurst is an NFL tight end
I questioned what Atlanta had at tight end after the departure of Austin Hooper. They had traded for Hurst, who had underperformed in Baltimore. After losing the starting spot to Mark Andrews in Baltimore, the change of scenery has been good for Hurst. He is having his best season yet and has become a reliable target for Matt Ryan.
Texans miss DeAndre Hopkins
They may have figure things out on offense a little bit, but it sure took a while. Regardless, Hopkins is a unique talent and gave Houston a leg up on most teams. He has thrived in Arizona, while the Texans have become short-handed at receiver.
The Colts need offensive playmakers
Michael Pittman has recently emerged as a good secondary option to T.Y. Hilton, but the offense still lacks explosiveness. They can ride the run game, but when they get down, they don't have the passing game to get back into games. Nonetheless, they are still in contention for the division. However, it would go a long way if they added some more weapons this offseason.
The Colts have a great defense
A big reason the Colts are in contention right now is their defense. It has become an elite unit and holds even some of the most prolific offenses at bay. They have done excellent work in developing their guys on that side of the ball.
Tennessee's passing game is much better than we ever thought
While it's still based around Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill has had a great season for the Titans. AJ Brown has become one of the league's top receivers, and Corey Davis appears to be shaking his bust label. Jonnu SMith is a fantastic complement at the tight end spot. Looks like the end of last season wasn't a fluke.
Nelson Agholor has been a big help to the Raiders
After being run out of Philadelphia because of inconsistent play and dropped passes, Agholor has become a key part of the Raiders' offense. He is currently the team's third leading receiver and leads them in touchdown catches.
Kansas City's defense has made it harder to beat
While the unit is current in the middle of the pack among all 32 teams, that's really all you need when you have that offense. They currently allow 10 points less than their own offense scores, which is a significant margin in the NFL. No wonder they're currently 10-1.
Young QBs are taking over
We saw it with Patrick Mahomes and Dashaun Watson, and now we're seeing it again. Young QBs are thriving. Justin Herbert has been spectacular for the Chargers, and Joe Burrow was doing great things in Cincinnati before his injury. Tua Tagovailoa has become the starter (when healthy) in Miami for a team that is fighting for a playoff spot. Denver's Drew Lock has had some solid play in his second season as well. Makes you wonder who's next.
Buffalo has taken the AFC East
Miami is still in the fight, but the Bills look like the most complete team in the division. Stefon Diggs has given Josh Allen a true No.1 receiver, and that has made the offense exponentially better. None of the other offensive players are stars at this point, but they work well together. The defense struggles against the run, but is an overall good unit. That's a great combination for a contender to have.
I predicted the Lions would go 9-7, which means they would have to win their remaining games. I thought the defense would be improved, but they still made the same mistakes with Matt Patricia at the helm. If Patricia was still coaching them, I'd say they finish 4-12, but a coaching change could spark something. 5-11 for now
I thought Belichick could make things work without Brady. It's still early, but that doesn't look like its happening. The Patriots just don't have a competitive roster right now.
I had the Cowboys going 9-7. I still think they could have gotten to 7-9 or 8-8 with Dak Prescott, but the offense is in shambles without him. They're a team that needs that offense to be great given the defense they have. While they have a decently easy schedule remaining, I don't have much faith. 5-11
Atlanta made an effort to improve their secondary, and I thought it could be enough. It hasn't been. Rookie AJ Terrell has probably been their best corner, but the team is 31st out of 32 teams in passing defense, only ahead of Seattle.