Naturally before every season, I feel set up to try and predict what will happen during the year coming. However, after we have reached about a third of the way through the season, enough games have been played for everyone to have a vague idea of where this season is heading. At this stage, it is not clear which of my predictions are particularly right (they may look promising but not certain) but what I have got wrong seems more certain. This piece looks as what prediction I have got wrong, some happily, some disappointingly.
One quick note, I really hope that the Dolphins win over the lowly Jets isn’t the last time we see the great Ryan Fitzpatrick as a starter. The Dolphins (or rather Adam Schefter) announced that the rookie Tua Tagovailoa is starting. Fitzpatrick is endless fun to watch and had lead a below average Dolphins team to a 3-3 record. I hope he gets a starting job soon.
The Rams are “Good”
Whilst the loss to the division rival 49ers (still injury affected as well) did not look good. To add to this their loss against the Bills was going to be a blowout till an awful referee decision changed the momentum (Tyler Kroft catch that was ruled an interception). BUT they are 4-2 and Sean McVay has shown ways to enhance his offensive playbook, rushing around the rush now teams are using 6-man fronts to slow down the running game. Goff has returned to his 2018 form, even if that isn’t spectacular, it was enough to get him to the Superbowl that year. Donald isn’t alone on defence either, Johnson III has already amassed 46 tackles and fellow safety Taylor Rapp is making an impact everyday with big tackles. However, Donald is looking like defensive player of the year with 7.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. The Rams aren’t Superbowl challengers, but they ARE a Playoff team, certainly not the bottom dweller I predicted.
I predicted a 10-6 season; they’ll be lucky to reverse that. Zimmer’s defence is a likely they worse he’s ever had. Dantzler has been picked upon and Gladney is only just starting to pick the game up at the NFL level. Ngakoue is the only consistent rusher on the team and Kendricks is having to tackle everyone because no one else seems to want to. Cousins looks more like a backup than a starter and the injury to Dalvin Cook has showed how valuable he really is. Justin Jefferson is the single light in this dark sky and 1-5, every game from here on out is must win. Expect a loss next game against the Packers as well.
The Arizona Defence Isn’t Working for Isaiah Simmons
Bubba Baker is doing his best, proving his 4-year $59 million deal to be the right choice but the Cardinals seem lacklustre – especially in the front 7. Simmons is not an NFL starting LB yet, he won’t win defensive player of the year. It seems the lack of training has hit him hard. That means the defence has had to rely on Haason Reddick, who is good but not great. However, he did record 2 sacks most recently so there is promise. A game against the Seahawks this Sunday will prove whether this unit is truly up to the challenge, they are 4-2 so there is promise, but those 4 wins don’t look so impressive right now.
The Steelers and Titans are the Teams to Challenge the Chiefs in the AFC
I would have picked the Ravens and Broncos (due to what looked like a fearsome offense, expected them to do what the Raiders did) as the teams to take up that mantle. The Steelers defence has continued to improve with JJ Watt becoming a true defensive player of the year candidate and Bud Dupree running everywhere at 100mph and hitting the ball carrier at every opportunity. Cam Heyward is moving O-Lineman every which way he wants, and Fitzpatrick reverted to his intercepting ways last match against the Browns. On the offensive side, Big Ben has returned in almost full form and Chase Claypool is a mismatch nightmare, very few corners are large enough and quick enough to cover him. The receiving core is deadly and whilst James Conner may not be super-fast, he is elusive. This is a very good team and Pittsburgh may well find themselves the only 7-time Superbowl champion come the end of the year.
Then there’s the Titans. They are led by a head coach in Vrabel, Brian Flores (Miami) and Vrabel himself seem the only Belichick disciples to be great coaches and coaches that could have a hall of fame career. Vrabel knows the team he has, power. Opening up holes for the big bulldozer of Derrick Henry to run through and stiff-arm opponents out of the stadium. He ran for 212yds and 2 TDs against the Texans, effectively single-handedly winning the game in OT. Then there’s Tannehill. Since escaping the clutches of Adam Gase, he has thrived. He is opening his play, utilizing the bigbodied of Corey Davis, breakout tight end Jonnu Smith and the most undervalued receiver in the league of AJ Brown. This offense is going to eat up time, entice the LBs and Safeties forward before hitting seam routes and streaks to Smith or Brown, using Davis in the red zone. However, the defence also must stop the random 90+ yard runs by Derrick Henry – good luck. I had the team at 8-8. They should end around 12-4. Tannehill hasn’t regressed and Henry looks as good as ever, this offense isn’t slowing down, they might well go one further than last year.