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Friday, November 26, 2021

The NFL’s midseason check-in

A midseason report on the NFL’s best teams, MVP race and storylines

By GABRIEL CARABALLO — sports@theaggie.org

The first half of the 2021-2022 NFL season has been eventful to say the least. With the addition of an extra game, this season was bound to be the longest and most unpredictable NFL season yet. However, it is now the midway point and time to take a look at the best teams, best players and narratives around the league.

Currently sitting atop the NFC divisions are the Dallas Cowboys (7-2) in the NFC East, the Arizona Cardinals (8-2) in the NFC West, the Green Bay Packers (8-2) in the NFC North and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) in the NFC South. Each of these teams obtained respectable mid-season records, exemplifying the competition for this year’s playoffs spots. Who will come out of the NFC? Could it be the defending champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the up and coming Arizona Cardinals who have remained the best team in football until this point?

The Cowboys statistically have the best offense in the league with a total yard average of 433 per game, while the Cardinals sit in the top 10 in offense and top five in defense. Surprisingly, the Packers have a spot as one of the top three in defenses in the league.  

Moving on to the top teams in the AFC divisions the Bills (6-3) in the AFC East, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) retaking the AFC West lead, the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) in the AFC North, and the Tennessee Titans (8-2) in the AFC South. The AFC teams have a tighter race to the playoffs with little room for error. For each of these teams every game matters. The Titans, Bills, Ravens and Chargers are all in the hunt for a playoff berth. Each of these teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today. While, the Raiders, Bengals and Colts are three teams fighting to get in. 

Going off of records alone, the two projected Super Bowl teams would be the Packers and the Titans. However, the Vegas odds show the Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers both favored in their respective conferences at +600. If we’re going based on team stats, there are only two teams that are both top eight in offense and defense: the Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then reported by ESPN, the top four favorites are the Bills, Cowboys, Packers and Titans. However these teams would be nothing without the players, who have played outstanding for the most part, but also with some hiccups along the way. 

A notable mid-season signing came by the way of the Los Angeles Rams, who are not new to big acquisitions. Odell Beckham Jr., previously on the Cleveland Browns, was let go Monday, Nov. 8. Just a few days later on Nov. 11, he was signed by the Los Angeles Rams whose current record is 7-2. They sit a game right behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West. This signing could catapult them from being a contender to being a favorite, as their explosive offense added another weapon

In other player news, Week Eight of the NFL season saw an unprecedented spectacle. Four starting quarterbacks, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, Zach Wilson of the New York Jets, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Jameis Winston of the New Orleans Saints, were all injured, leaving the starting quarterback position to arguably the most important position in football — the back-up quarterback. These four back-up quarterbacks, two of which had their first career starts, Cooper Rush, Mike White, Geno Smith and Trevor Siemien took over when their teams needed them the most. Rush and White being the first time starters. Each won their respective games, with a total of nine touchdowns thrown and only three interceptions between all of them. Mike White’s 37 completions and 400+ yard performance even landed him a Hall of Fame memorial. He had a game worthy of an MVP caliber player. 

Lastly, the NFL MVP race remains as tight as it has been halfway through the season in recent years. According to ESPN, there are three top contenders all being quarterbacks. First being Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who has 2,650 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes, five interceptions, with a completion percentage of 67.3%. His odds are +350. Second is Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, with 2,555 total yards, 20 total touchdowns by five interceptions and a completion percentage of 65.5%. Josh Allen’s odds to win are +400. Third is Kyler Murray, posing 2,423 total yards, with 20 total touchdowns by seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 72.7%. Kyler’s odds are +500. Each of these players has made a case for MVP this early, only time will tell if they can keep it up. Unfortunately, Derrick Henry, who was a close runner up, was injured and crushed his chances for MVP, leaving only the three quarterbacks in the race.   

The 2021-2022 NFL season is off to a great start, and there is more competition for the playoffs and MVP race than ever, especially due to the extra game. As usual, no one will know which team and players come out on top until the end. This NFL season has been engineered to be the most unpredictable season to date, and as teams embark throughout the second half, the road to LA looks like it will give a few surprises.

Written by: Gabriel Caraballo –– sports@theaggie.org

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