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Around the NFL: Midseason review for 2020

Looking back at the first nine weeks of the NFL season.

Carolina Panthers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Nine weeks in the books, eight more to go. It’s hard to believe the 2020 NFL regular season is more than halfway over. It seems like just a few weeks ago the season kicked off.

As we reach a little past the halfway point of the season, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest surprises and disappointments of the first half, and also get you ready for the remaining eight weeks.

Most Surprising Team

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills

For the first time in over a decade, the Buffalo Bills came into the season as AFC East favorites. Following Tom Brady’s departure, Buffalo looked primed to take over the top spot, held for years by the New England Patriots. The Bills were expected to have a good year, but their 7-2 start has them looking better than many expected. Buffalo has been led by their quarterback, Josh Allen. The former first-round pick has played well enough to put himself in the MVP race, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Pro Football Focus has Allen graded as the fifth-best passer in all of football, and has Buffalo’s offense ranked fifth in the league as well. Last Sunday Allen out-dueled Russell Wilson, despite being sacked seven times. Although their defense has been a bit of a disappointment, no one expected Allen and the Bills’ offense to look this good.

Most Disappointing Team

NFL: Houston Texans-Minicamp Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans

You could make an argument for a lot of teams here, including the Dallas Cowboys, but the Texans take the cake. Coming into the season, Houston was considered by some as the odds on favorite to win the AFC South. Despite trading away DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason, Houston still had MVP candidate Deshaun Watson at quarterback, and some formidable weapons on the outside.

So far, Houston has looked nothing like the team they did last season. The Texans fired their head coach, Bill O’Brien, after an 0-4 start, and their defense has given up the fourth most points per game in football. Both of the Texans’ two wins have come against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are probably the second-worst team in football. Watson is still having a solid year, but he’s been sacked 24 times, and they have the second-worst rushing offense in the league.

First Half MVP

Carolina Panthers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes is the best player in football, period. The third-year quarterback is having another remarkable season. Mahomes is second in the league in passing yards (2,687) and passing touchdowns (25), and has thrown just one interception. PFF ranks Mahomes as the fourth-best quarterback in football, but the three ahead of him have thrown a combined 17 more interceptions.

Mahomes is becoming the Lebron James of football, and it’s hard to argue anyone else at this spot. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have both had outstanding seasons, but with an 8-1 record and the stats he has recorded, Mahomes is the clear first half MVP.

Fool’s Gold Team

Miami Dolphins v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals

I’m just not buying the Cardinals 5-3 start. Yes, Arizona has the number one ranked offense, in terms of yards, in all of football. Look how far that got the Cowboys last season. Kyler Murray has been good, posting a quarterback rating around 100. His new target, DeAndre Hopkins, has a 82.2 catch percentage and is fourth in the league in receiving yards.

The offense has been flashy, but Arizona’s defense has not looked good against better competition. The Arizona defense has given up 26 or more points in all three of their loses. In the three games they gave up less than 16, they played the Football Team, Jets, and Cowboys. Those three teams also account for three of their five wins. The combined record of all three is 4-22.

Under the new format Arizona may still make the playoffs, but don’t look for them to make any real run in the postseason.

Team Who’s Better Than Their Record Shows

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings

A little over a month ago, it seemed as if the Minnesota Vikings were dead. They had gotten off to a 1-5 start, and both the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers seemed to be running away with the division. Flash forward to today, and Minnesota is just 3-5, but they beat the Packers just two weeks ago, and Chicago has fallen to 5-4.

The Vikings offense has really impressed this season. Led by the league’s leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, Minnesota has scored 26 or more points in all but two games. Cook is by far the highest graded running back in football, according to PFF. They also have the Vikings graded as the third best overall offense, and Minnesota has the highest rushing and receiving grades in football.

The Vikings next four opponents are the Bears, Cowboys, Panthers, and Jaguars. There’s a good chance Minnesota can go at least 3-1 in those four games, putting themselves at 6-6 and right back in the playoff hunt. Look for the Vikings to take a step forward in the second half of the season.

Three Second Half Predictions

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Ravens Win The AFC North

The Pittsburgh Steelers luck finally runs out. Baltimore wins the rematch on Thanksgiving, and goes on to win the division.

Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Rams Miss The Playoffs

The Rams have to face the Seahawks and Cardinals twice, and the Buccaneers and 49ers down the stretch. They’ll lose three or four of these games, resulting in them missing the postseason.

Carolina Panthers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Chiefs Repeat

At this moment, there’s nobody on the level of the Kansas City Chiefs. They motor through the postseason, in route to winning their second straight Super Bowl.