We are approaching the halfway mark of the season, and we are starting to get a good sense of who the real playoff teams are. For the first time this year, as my playoff projections have remained the same. All the same teams as last week are in, and in the same seed as last week as well.
That does not mean that nothing changed from last week to this week. The NFL Trade Deadline saw to that. This year, the good teams made moves that made themselves better, and this is going to reflect in their standing in the AFC. Some teams saw their records get better due to trades they made. Others saw their records regress due to their moves not quite measuring up. So this week, the projections will come with a quick recap of what each team did to get better at the deadline.
Note: These are not power rankings. These are not picks based off any analytical data or insider knowledge. These are picks based off what I have seen during the season so far. I could be wrong, just like I could be right. Either way, I will be back again next week to offer an updated projection to cover any of my past mistakes.
Check out the projections from weeks past here:
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7
1 Seed: Buffalo Bills (15-2) AFC East Winner
Adding a great pass catching running back in Nyheim Hines, because we have all lamented the lack of weapons Josh Allen has. And safety Dean Marlowe adds secondary depth to a defense that leads the league in interceptions.
2 Seed: Kansas City Chiefs (15-2) AFC West Winner
Adding Kadarius Toney to the receiving corps gives Patrick Mahomes a target who can get open deep, something the Chiefs have been missing since Tyreek Hill’s departure this past offseason.
3 Seed: Tennessee Titans (12-5) AFC South Winner
No splashy moves for the Titans, just a few depth players and offensive line help that does not make for the sexy headlines we crave.
4 Seed: Baltimore Ravens (11-6) NFC North Winner
This was a sexy headline. The Ravens added linebacker Roquan Smith to a defense that was in no way good enough to be holding the jock strap of the Ravens offense.
5 Seed: Miami Dolphins (11-6)
An offense capable of going nuclear adds a change of pace running back in Jeff Wilson Jr. as Mike McDaniel slowly recreates the 2019 49ers as best he can. The real big move is adding a pass rushing dynamo like Bradley Chubb to a defense that badly needs to get more pressure on opposing QBs.
6 Seed: Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)
The Chargers made no trades, but getting Joey Bosa back healthy would be similar to a trade.
7 Seed: Cincinnati Bengals (9-8)
The Bengals also made no major moves. The good news is it’s not like they had an offensive line they needed to beef up or anything.
1 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) NFC East Winner
The Eagles have one of the easiest schedules the rest of the season, and added Robert Quinn to the pass rush in hopes of making that schedule even easier. The hope is that he is last year's version of Robert Quinn (18.5 sacks) and less so this year (one sack).
2 Seed: Minnesota Vikings (13-4) NFC North Winner
The Vikings added Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson in a deal that I love for that team. Hockenson should thrive in the Vikings offense and do a lot of damage to opposing defenses in the process.
3 Seed: San Francisco 49ers (11-6) NFC West Winner
Christian McCaffrey has completely revolutionized what was possible for the 49ers. For one, scoring lots of points is suddenly on the table.
4 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8) NFC South Winner
The Bucs seem stuck in limbo right now which is not a great place to be at the trade deadline and thus made no moves.
5 Seed: Dallas Cowboys (13-4)
The Cowboys have to worry about stopping Jalen Hurts and Saquan Barkley, as well as potentially CMC and Dalvin Cook in the playoffs. They are hoping that DT Johnathan Hankins can help a run defense that ranks 25th in the league in yards per game allowed.
6 Seed: New York Giants (11-6)
The Giants are electing to ride a soft schedule and big dreams to the playoffs, and not Kadarius Toney after sending him to the Chiefs for a third rounder and a sixth rounder in next year's draft.
7 Seed: Seattle Seahawks (10-7)
Pete Carroll is going to just Geno Smith his way to the playoffs after the Seahawks did nothing to improve a rush defense that will need to stop Kyler Murray and Christian McCaffrey among others if they want to make a real playoff run.
AFC WILD CARD ROUND
(2) Chiefs over (7) Bengals
The Bengals won’t be a real threat if they cannot keep Joe Burrow upright. Add in the Chiefs being on the other sideline, well, talk about starting at a deficit.
(3) Titans over (6) Chargers
If the Chargers are healthier than they are now, they could pull off the upset. But first they need to get healthy before we make such judgements.
(5) Dolphins over (4) Ravens
The Dolphins offense will only get better as the season goes on and I do not expect the Ravens defense to contain the vertical attack the Fins are capable of.
NFC WILD CARD ROUND
(2) Vikings over (7) Seahawks
I had the Vikings losing this game last week. Adding Hockenson is a great move for this team.
(3) 49ers over (6) Giants
Nick Bosa’s quads > Saquon Barkley's quads.
(5) Cowboys over (4) Bucs
The Bucs barely sneak in as winners of the NFLs worst division only to get routed at home by the Cowboys. Definitely worth coming back for if you are Tom Brady.
(1) Bills over (5) Dolphins
I am picking this as the leader for best game of the playoffs. There could be a lot of points, there could be a scarcity of points. There could be both and neither at the same time!
(2) Chiefs over (3) Titans
The Chiefs move the ball much faster than the Titans and that will matter.
(1) Eagles over (5) Cowboys
Winning in Philadelphia is hard in the playoffs, and the Cowboys will relearn that the hard way.
(3) 49ers over (2) Vikings
Kirk Cousins is not good enough to overcome the 49ers defense. Bosa eats all afternoon.
(1) Bills over (2) Chiefs
The Bills making their defense better, even marginally, will matter against the Chiefs. The Bills now lead 6-2 for this pick in my predictions this season.
(1) Eagles over (3) 49ers
The 49ers struggle against quarterbacks that can run. Jalen Hurts is a quarterback that can run.
(1) Bills over (1) Eagles
Win or lose, I’m not sure either city’s infrastructure will be able to handle the fallout.