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Playoff contenders and draft pick defenders

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Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series on the NFL standings.

As we are just past the halfway point of the National Football League season, it is time to provide a mid-season analysis and see which teams are looking like playoff contenders and which are fighting for the first pick in the NFL draft.

First, we begin with the American Football Conference and how things are matching up in that conference.

In the AFC East, competition is hot as every team is sitting over .500. Currently leading the division are the Miami Dolphins who are sitting at 7-3. With the controversy behind quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his injuries in the rearview mirror, the Dolphins have its eyes set on the Super Bowl. The New York Jets are in second place with a 6-3 record and are the team no one would have anticipated to be where it is today. After losing Offensive Rookie of the Year contender Breece Hall in late October, the Jets proved it deserved recognition after handing Buffalo its second division loss of the season. The Buffalo Bills were an easy choice for many to be in the Super Bowl, but after sitting at 6-3 with injuries racking up, it can leave many wondering if that fire they started the season with is dimming. Last, but certainly not least with Head Coach Bill Belichick at the helm is the New England Patriots sitting at 5-4. The Patriots’ biggest concern has been the quarterback controversy, but it still has them looking like it could make a playoff run.

In the AFC North, we have the Baltimore Ravens sitting atop its division with potential free agent Lamar Jackson leading his team to victories week after week with a 6-3 record. At second place, we have the Cincinnati Bengals sitting at 5-4. After making the Super Bowl last year, it came into the season with a rocky start, but things are starting to click again for the Bengals. Next up, we have both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers sitting at 3-6. The Browns are just a couple of weeks away from quarterback Deshaun Watson being able to return from his suspension. However, the Steelers and Head Coach Mike Tomlin are looking like they could face its first losing record since he became head coach in 2007.

Next, we have the AFC South where the Tennessee Titans are leading the division at 6-3. A big part of its success, which should not come as a surprise, is running back Derrick Henry as he continues to prove why “King Henry” is a suitable nickname. Next, we have the Indianapolis Colts sitting at 4-5, but some are left wondering if new Head Coach Jeff Saturday will spark some life into the team that has been facing struggles. In third place, we have the Jacksonville Jaguars sitting at 3-7 and in last place we have the Houston Texans sitting at 1-7 with the worst record in the NFL.

Last in the AFC Conference, we have the AFC West. At the top of the division, we have the Kansas City Chiefs sitting in first place at 7-2. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes continues to prove that even without longtime receiver Tyreek Hill, he and his offense can maintain that fire. In second, we have the Los Angeles Chargers at 5-4. The Chargers have a lot of potential but the number of injuries it has sustained since week one seems to be affecting the team’s win probability. In third place we have the Denver Broncos at 3-6, who are proving to be one of the toughest teams to watch in the NFL right now as it cannot find a rhythm to save its life, proving that quarterback Russell Wilson was not the answer it needed. In last place, we have the Las Vegas Raiders at 2-7, who are proving to struggle severely in the second half after blowing multiple first half leads this season.

Up next, we have the National Football Conference.

To kick off the NFC, we have the NFC East. What has been a notoriously bad division for many years has become one of the toughest divisions in the NFL with every team being at .500 or above. On top of the NFC right now are the Philadelphia Eagles at 8-1, who just recently suffered its first loss against the Washington Commanders. Many are left wondering if this loss will shake the Eagles’ confidence and affect the remainder of its season. In second, we have the New York Giants at 7-2, who are the most shocking team out of the division, but its success is in large part to running back Saquon Barkley. In third place, we have the Dallas Cowboys at 6-3. It will be interesting to see what Dallas does to comeback and inspire hope after its shocking loss to the struggling Packers. In last place, the Washington Commanders sit at 5-5 as the team is finding its footing with quarterback Taylor Heinicke taking the starting spot from Carson Wentz.

In the NFC North things have been shaken up with the Minnesota Vikings sitting atop a struggling division at 8-1. The Vikings have found its rhythm in quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson as they continue to have big games every week. The Packers follow at 4-6, quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ worst career start since joining the league. The Detroit Lions sit at 3-6 and the Chicago Bears sit at 3-7, while quarterback Justin Fields is playing phenomenal football, it hasn’t been enough to win more games.

In the NFC South, we have a tight race with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sitting at 5-5 with quarterback Tom Brady trying to turn his season around. Following the Bucs are the Atlanta Falcons at 4-6, it is the team’s inconsistency from week to week that has the Falcons’ struggling. Tied for third place are the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints at 3-7, both teams seemingly struggling with its quarterbacks.

Last, but certainly not least, is the NFC West. Currently the Seattle Seahawks sit on top of the division at 6-4 with quarterback Geno Smith helping lead his team to victories after a tough start to the season. Close behind are the San Francisco 49ers at 5-4. The 49ers made a midseason trade for star running back Christian McCaffrey and are getting healthier week after week. The main threat the 49ers bring is that it has a strong offense with stars like McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, but it also has a strong defense in stars like Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga. In third place sits the Arizona Cardinals at 4-6 as it is starting to find a rhythm again after the return of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Shockingly, in last place are Super Bowl Champions the Los Angeles Rams at 3-6 after not being able to find a rhythm on either side of the ball after losing star players like Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr. And Andrew Whitworth in the offseason.

It will be interesting to see which teams turn around its seasons and make a deep playoff run with the constant upsets we have seen week to week. My Super Bowl prediction right now stands with the Bills and 49ers taking the stage Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Emily Autumn Velasquez is the editor-in-chief and may be reached at [email protected]; @byemilyautumn on Instagram; @emilyautumn20 on Twitter. 

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About the Contributor
Emily Autumn Velasquez
Emily Autumn Velasquez, Editor-in-chief
Emily Autumn Velasquez is the Editor in Chief for the Prospector. She is a senior, majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in rhetoric writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is also a freelance photographer/videographer with hopes of continuing a career in sports journalism when she graduates in December.
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Playoff contenders and draft pick defenders