A Whole Lotta Sports: Midseason Report

Mateo Lanzillotta

American Football Conference


AFC West

Looking at the AFC, there are several interesting divisions up to this point. Starting off with the AFC West (Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos), certain teams in this division (we’re looking at you, Las Vegas) have been making headlines left and right, but  the division is very close.

The Chargers are currently leading the division with a record of 5-3,  and although the Raiders match that record, and both the Chiefs and Broncos are only one win behind, they’re the strongest team in the division. Both their offense and defense are fairly good, and with their boom capability, I think they’ll will win.

The Broncos are an interesting team this year, with a 5-4 record, they may have a chance to fight for a wildcard spot in this years playoffs. With a defense allowing only 17 points per game, it will be interesting to see how this team fares as the season grows older. On the other hand, the Broncos’ wins have been against the Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Football Team, and Cowboys. Barring the Cowboys, these teams have a combined record of 9-24. Their win against the Cowboys didn’t convince me that this is a playoff-caliber team.

The Broncos can only beat bad teams, the Raiders are too full of issues in both the players and the administration to seriously compete anymore, and the Chiefs have been figured out by defenses across the league.

Prediction: Chargers

Sleeper Pick: Broncos


AFC East

The AFC East is a battle between Buffalo and New England. While the Bills look like favorites, they have had some very shaky games. Since the Jets and Dolphins are in the midst of two dismal seasons, that leaves the Patriots.

The Patriots are a stronger team than their 5-4 record suggests, behind an offense led by the former Alabama QB Mac Jones and his coach, Bill Belichick. This team will only get better, and so long as Jones is throwing a 68% completion rate, they will be able to fight for a wildcard spot.

The Bills of course should not be counted out so soon, as they have the number one defense in the league and a star-studded offense with wideout Stefon Diggs (588 receiving yards) and  Josh Allen (2,236 passing yards).

The Jets are facing a mid-season struggle, as their starting QB and first-round pick Zach Wilson is out for about a month. Wilson’s backup is hurt as well, leaving them with the third string QB Josh Johnson.

The Dolphins are also in a slump, Fin Nation will have been disappointed with the quality of play so far, the offense averaging a mere 17 points per game.

Prediction: Patriots

Sleeper Pick: Bills


AFC North

Moving on to the AFC North, the Ravens appear to have this division locked down, with Lamar Jackson spewing out MVP level performances like the one against the Colts in Week 5. There are two teams who might challenge Baltimore for that title however: the Browns and Bengals.

The situation in Cleveland is interesting, the team releasing franchise receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will prove beneficial to the Browns in the long run as it’ll free up QB Baker Mayfield to make plays without having to worry about feeding Odell. Baker throws a 64% completion rate without Beckham Jr. on the field versus the 60% he throws with him along with 17 thrown picks without him as opposed to the huge 29 picks with.

All that being said, I think the team with a bigger shot to be division champions is the Cincinnati Bengals. Though their offense is super young, their star players’ ages ranging from 21-26, it is a super talented core that can make big plays in an instant.

Ja’Marr Chase, the rookie receiver out of LSU has already made his mark on the league with 835 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. The brilliant story of QB Joe Burrow and Chase reconnecting after playing with each other in college is working out beautifully for the Bengals.

The Steelers, on another hand, are a completely fluke team. They’ve beaten some good teams, like theBills, Seahawks and Browns, but by small margins. The Seahawks game can also be ruled out as a regular game due to the fact that Geno Smith, the Seahawks’ backup was forced to start under center. This division looks solidly in the Ravens’ favor, but don’t be surprised if Cincinnati makes an appearance.

Prediction: Ravens

Sleeper Pick: Bengals



AFC South

Finishing off the AFC, the South (Titans, Colts, Jaguars, and Texans), is a hot mess. The division hosts the leagues worst and second worst offences, with the Texans and Jaguars having scored the least points of anyone so far.

Starting with the good, the Tennessee Titans were off to a hot start, until  an injury sidelined their franchise running back Derrick Henry  for ten weeks. Despite this, the Titans were still able to handle the Rams this past week. If that tells us anything, it’s that the Titans are still contenders for the AFC title.

The Colts are an intriguing team this year, albeit a disappointing one. Jonathan Taylor (821 rushing yards, currently second most in the league) is clearly a top 7 running back, and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has shown flashes of stardom. Carson Wentz has disappointed me thus far, and I think he’s what’s holding the Colts back from even competing for the division.

The Texans and Jaguars are both in full tank mode, whether its on purpose or not. In Houston, there is virtually no future as of now, and they will probably have to look to the draft for some hope.

The Jags have a future in the former Clemson man, QB Trevor Lawrence and in other key players likeD.J. Chark, Myles Jack and Travis Etienne. Head coach Urban Meyer will figure it out and I predict a much better year for them next year. This year however, the AFC South is a poverty division.

Prediction: Titans

Sleeper Pick: N/A


National Football Conference


NFC East

The NFC has its share of good stories, the first we’ll talk about is the infamous NFC East. It finally is dem boys. This division has pretty much always been the Cowboys’ to take, but random issues have led to other teams getting the title far too much in recent years.

With a 6-2 record this year, the Cowboys seem to have finally broken that slump Overall, Zeke has been pretty good this year, even rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. Backup running back Tony Pollard has provided adequate production from his end, making the Cowboys’ running back room scary for opposing defenses. The passing game speaks for itself, with Amari Cooper and second year player CeeDee Lamb have combined for 1164 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. Michael Gallup coming back from injury will only strengthen this receiving core. The defense is performing well, with a DPOY candidate in corner Trevon Diggs and a strong defensive line and linebacker depth chart. Look for big things from this group this year.

The Eagles and Giants are tied at a 3-6 record so far. For the Eagles, the QB situation is figured out, and the league will wait and see if Jalen Hurts can take it to the next level. Devonta Smith seems to be fitting in, and the team as a whole is in a much stronger position than they were last year.

The Giants have an uncertain future at the QB spot, but their receivers are actually pretty good. Evan Engram, the tight end, is always going to make big plays, and the defense has boom possibility. The  team obviously has superstars in skill players Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. The defense has been lackluster so far but will surely bounce back given the amount of talent it has.

Prediction: Cowboys

Sleeper Pick: N/A


NFC West

The NFC West is the strongest division in football this year. Both the Cardinals and Rams are legit Superbowl contenders, and the Seahawks would probably be included in that group had Russell Wilson not been injured. To start, the Cardinals are the most exciting team to watch this year. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins never fail to make crazy plays, and the passing game has only been elevated with the arrival of A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore. The defense has not performed great, but the offense has made up for it. This is a top five team in the league. Moving on to the Rams, this team is better than Arizona, though their record shows one less win. I think the Cards will win the division, but the Rams will go farther in the playoffs. The immediate connection of Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp was impossible to predict. The two have combined for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. These numbers are the highest in their respective statistics for receivers. The defense looked like a Pro-Bowl roster, and with the addition of veteran linebacker/edge rusher Von Miller from the Broncos, it only gets better. Teams will be unable to move against this defense. The recent news that ex-Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is signing with them should make the team better. Moving on to the Seahawks, its more of the same. Russell Wilson led teams always do well in the regular season and choke in the playoffs. Russ can’t finish. Star receiver D.K. Metcalf always gets covered when it really matters, opposite-side receiver Tyler Lockett’s production goes up and down inconsistently, and there is absolutely no run game in Seattle. The 49ers have a future set up in first-round pick Trey Lance, but it is clearly not their year. Expect better things in San Francisco in the 2022/23 season.

Prediction: Cardinals

Sleeper Pick: Rams





NFC North

The NFC North is a lock for Green Bay. The Lions have yet to win a game and the Vikings and Bears are a combined 6-11.

Starting with the Packers, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have led this team to a 7-2 record, including wins against the Cardinals and Bengals. Excluding a 38-3 loss in Week 2 against the Saints, the defense has held up, and with Aaron Jones and A-Rod balling out, the team looks strong. Despite this, I don’t think the Packers are capable of going far in the playoffs.

The second strongest team in the division is definitely the Vikings. Running back Dalvin Cook and receiver Justin Jefferson are playing pretty well, and Kirk Cousins is a top Fantasy QB. Do I think this team can fight the Packers to win the division? No. Kirk Cousins has never been able to actually win, and nothing’s changed this year. If the Vikings want to take their skilled players to the next level, they’ll need to find a new man to throw the ball.

Moving on to the Bears, Justin Fields is playing on the worse side of mediocre. With a touchdown-to-pick ratio of 1:2, he just doesn’t qualify for ROY discussions like he did in the pre-season. A lack of good receivers could be the answer to this, or it could just amount to the curse of Ohio State quarterbacks. This is just not Chicago’s year, and it might not be for a number of years to come.

The same can be said about the Detroit Lions. Averaging almost 17 points on offense and allowing almost 31 is laughable. There are so many issues with this franchise and almost no bright spots. It has been utter chaos for the worst team in the league.

Prediction: Packers

Sleeper Pick: Vikings


NFC South

Finishing off the NFC, we have the NFC South. The division hosting the reigning Superbowl champs also hosts some of the strangest stories of this year. Between the Panthers starting out 3-0 and Cordarrelle Patterson playing 3 positions, we have a lot to talk about.

Starting off once again with the good, we have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This team is just working perfectly. Though only 6-2, they’re visibly stronger than they were during last year’s regular season, which is scary considering they own last years Lombardi Trophy. Tom Brady looks like he’s back to his MVP days, the defense is playing well, and the receiving trio of Gronk, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans has been terrorizing opposition.

Moving on to the Saints, the 2021/22 season will prove to be wildly unsuccessful. They will win enough games miss a good draft pick but won’t make the playoffs. The QB situation was already shaky with Jamies Winston under center, but with Trevor Siemian its even worse. They have arguably the worst receiver core in the league, possibly worse than that of the Lions. The only bright spots are the defense and, as usual, star running back Alvin Kamara.

The Panthers, though sporting the worst record in the division, are a stronger team than the Falcons. After a brilliant start, their star play, Christian McCaffrey went down with an injury, starting a huge losing streak. Fast forward to now, their starting QB Sam Darnold is down with an injury, effectively ending the possibility of a winning season. Terrible play from wideout Robby Anderson and basically no NFL-caliber starting tight end has contributed to this as well. D.J. Moore and the defense can’t carry the team on their backs.

To end this division, we have the Atlanta Falcons. The headline news for this team has to be in wide receiver department. Calvin Ridley has “taken an indefinite break” from football. This is terrible news for the team. Cordarrelle Patterson is an interesting player, but he’s just not consistent enough. The team is in a terrible spot, and that probably won’t be fixed next year.

Prediction: Buccaneers

Sleeper Pick: N/A