NFL Midseason Update
NFL Midseason Update: All the surprise teams that no one saw coming. What’s wrong with Brady and Rodgers? Can the Eagles go undefeated? And are the Jets back?
Credit: The Ringer
As I predicted in my post-draft NFC Power Rankings, the Minnesota Vikings are one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season. Minnesota sits atop the NFC North at 7-1 with a 4.5 game lead ahead of the Packers, who are stuck with an egocentric, ayahuasca-obsessed hippy of a quarterback in Aaron Fraudgers.
In fact, in that same article mentioned above – by the way, what an insightful article that was, right? In case you missed the first hyperlink, click here to go check it out – I opened my breakdown of the Packers with the comment “Green Bay is a disaster,” predicting Aaron Rodgers’ downfall without his co-star and security blanket, Davante Adams.
Anyways, gloating aside, back to the Vikings. Minnesota’s talented wideout Justin Jefferson has turned himself into arguably the best wide receiver in the league. It seems every time I turn on the television, Jefferson is either hitting the griddy or getting sturdy in the endzone because he scored another touchdown. Minnesota’s defense has drastically improved from last season, with talented pass-rushers like Za’Darious Smith and Danielle Hunter and ball-hawks like Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson, they have wreaked havoc on every offense but one.
Credit: Minnesota Vikings
You see, as impressive as Minnesota has been, they were outshined through the first nine weeks by a team who plays in a city that resembles little to no shine: the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia, led by head coach Nick Sirianni, once the laughingstock of the league for his botany analogies, has caught the NFL by storm with a dominant run game and high-flying defense. However, the undisputed leader of the team, gym rat, and overarching reason for Philadelphia’s success, has been Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts has turned himself into an MVP candidate, not only in the gym where he is often seen squatting more than his offensive lineman, but on the field where he has led the birds to an 8-0 record.
Philadelphia, one of the more active teams this offseason, also added guys like AJ Brown, James Bradberry, CJ Gardner-Johnson, and Jordan Davis who have all impacted the team in season-changing ways. The Eagles have one of the easiest schedules to close the season, though, and aside from games against the Titans and Cowboys, have a great chance to go 17-0 if the ball continues to bounce their way.
Credit: Sporting News
After being labeled the NFC “Least” last season, the NFC East has made a name for itself this year with the Eagles at 8-0, the Cowboys 6-2, and the Giants 6-2. While New York has yet to show the level of dominance that Philadelphia and Dallas have shown week-in and week-out, I think a nickname change to the NFC “Beast” might be necessary if all three teams sneak into the playoffs this year.
For the other surprises of the league, both good and bad, let’s begin in the NFC South with the 2021 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. The Bucs lead the South with a lousy 4-5 record, and Tom Brady, who finally lost a ring to someone other than the Manning’s and Nick Foles this year, has been “in his feels” on and off the field. Frustrated during what seems to be every game this season, Brady has turned to tantrum (and tablet) throwing on the sidelines. Brady has no problem with “voicing his opinion" when the big boys up-front miss a blocking assignment, especially when Tampa drops games to awful teams like the Steelers and Panthers. If the Bucs want to make a run this year, someone needs to steer this ship in the right direction and that begins with the guy who holds seven rings to his name (used to be eight but Gisele said its football or me). Insert Brady walkout meme here.
Credit: Sports Illustrated
Anyway, enough of the aging old heads in the North and South, let’s talk about the young teams who have surprised even their own fans this season. The New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks are both 6-3. You heard me right. Quarterbacked by Zach Wilson and Geno Smith, the Jets and Seahawks have won games for every reason but their quarterbacks.
New York drafted three franchise-altering players this year, CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson, and RB Breece Hall. Gardner, 6’3”, 201lbs, has played himself into a book-in corner through the first nine games, while the guy he lines-up against during practice, former Ohio State Buckeye Garrett Wilson, 6’0”, 192 lbs, has already earned his respect as a #1 receiver with two games over 100 receiving yards and a third with 92.
Unfortunately for Jets fans, RB Breece Hall is out for the year with a torn achilles after rushing for 463 yards with 4 touchdowns. Hall also played a significant role in New York’s passing attack, posting a 100-yard receiving game in week 5 against Miami and a receiving touchdown in week 2 against Cleveland. The Jets recently traded for former Jaguars RB James Robinson to pair with RB Michael Carter, but they will miss Hall’s duality in the backfield.
Similarly, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have also relied heavily on a rookie running back. Drafted out of Michigan State University where he once ran for 5 touchdowns against archrival Michigan, RB Kenneth Walker III has continued to dominate in the NFL. Walker has rushed for 570 yards and 7 touchdowns through eight games this season, posting 167 of his 570 rush yards against the Chargers in week 7.
Furthermore, with talented wideouts like DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Seattle’s passing attack cannot be slept-on. QB Geno Smith will not lead this team to a Super Bowl, and Seattle fans understand that, but if he continues to protect the football, lean-on the run-game, and feed his two beats on the outside, the Seahawks could win the NFC West, one of the many depleted divisions in an atypical NFL year.
To conclude, if the first half of the 2022-2023 season is in fact just a microcosm of what is to come, it may be time to say goodbye to the Aaron Rodgers’, Russell Wilson’s, Matt Ryan’s, and Tom Brady’s of the NFL. The youth – the Josh Allen’s, Patrick Mahomes’, Lamar Jackson’s, and Jalen Hurts’ of the league—have seized their moments and earned their titles as the new faces of the NFL, and that is ok.
The NFL is in good hands.