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    ESPN’s NFL Nation

We’ve finally reached the halfway mark of the NFL’s longest season, but instead of looking back, the NFL Power Rankings are looking forward and making bold predictions for what’s to come. We’re putting our reputations on the line and projecting the future with perfect accuracy with the aid of our NFL Nation writers (fingers crossed).

Do you want to know your team’s final record? For certain teams, we’ll tell you that farther down. (Take notice, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks fans.) From rookies like New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris to veterans like Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, we’ll tell you who to watch statistically. We’ll put ourselves out there by forecasting extended postseason runs (Buffalo Bills) or early season departures (San Francisco 49ers) (Kansas City Chiefs). We’ll even look at how hot-seat scenarios will unfold (worth reading if you support the Minnesota Vikings or Carolina Panthers). We’re taking a significant step forward and planning the next nine weeks and beyond.

The following is how we rate our Power Rankings: Our power panel, which includes over 80 writers, editors, and TV personalities, assesses how teams perform during the season.

9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 3 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 2 Preseason




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The Cardinals will finish 15-2, according to a bold second-half forecast.

Arizona is 8-1, but it still has two tough games remaining: one at Dallas and one at home against the Rams on Monday Night Football. The Cardinals’ next and last defeat will be one of them. They proved against the 49ers on Sunday that they don’t need their stars to win — and win big — putting the rest of the league on notice. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins will return from their ailments after a well-deserved midseason break, and the team will have a three-week bye. Arizona will be well-positioned for a strong finish to the season and into the playoffs. Josh Weinfuss (@JoshWeinfuss)


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Kevin Byard will have double-digit interceptions in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

With interceptions in each of their last six games, the Titans’ defense is on fire. In the last two games, Byard has two interceptions. He’s in the zone right now, as shown by the fact that he made in-play adjustments to get to the football on both of his most recent interceptions. Tennessee’s front four is putting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, causing them to throw poor passes and turnovers. The pressures, along with Byard’s ability to locate the ball and a plenty of chances — particularly against turnover-prone teams like the Dolphins, Texans, and Jaguars — will result in a slew of interceptions. — Davenport, Turron

2 Related


1st place previously1619581576_849_2021-mens-college-basketball-recruiting-class-rankings

The Packers will end with a top-five defense in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

In Sunday’s defeat to the Chiefs, coach Matt LaFleur stated the Packers’ defense showed “championship-level effort and championship-level execution.” This is a promising indicator that the Packers’ defense, which has failed them down in the last two NFC championship games, may finally prove to be an advantage rather than a problem. Demovsky, Rob


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WR Cooper Kupp will earn NFL Offensive Player of the Year, according to a bold second-half prediction.

With quarterback Matthew Stafford joining the Rams in the offseason, receivers were expected to have a good year, but few could have imagined that fifth-year receiver Cooper Kupp would lead the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns at this stage in the season. Kupp has established himself as Stafford’s go-to target, demonstrating not just his ability to get yards after the catch, but also his ability to go wide open for intermediate and deep completions. With his 11 receptions for 95 yards in Week 9, Kupp became just the fourth player in NFL history (and the first since Jerry Rice) to record 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in his team’s first nine games. Lindsey Thiry (Lindsey Thiry)


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Bucs will not lose again in the regular season and will finish no lower than second in the NFC, according to a bold second-half prediction.

The Bucs’ final ten opponents have a collective record of 30-42. Only two of the teams are ranked higher than. The New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills are both in the top 500, and they play each other at home. The 7-2 Los Angeles Rams and 8-1 Arizona Cardinals will meet again, and the Rams will also face the Green Bay Packers (7-2), Baltimore Ravens (6-2), and Seattle Seahawks (3-5), who will welcome back Russell Wilson. The Cardinals have a softer schedule than the Rams, but they still have to face the Seahawks twice and the Cowboys once (6-2). The Buccaneers have a chance to earn a first-round bye and a home field if they can stay healthy and cut down on penalties. Jenna Laine is a writer who lives in New York City.


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Lamar Jackson will throw for 5,000 yards and sprint for 1,000 yards in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Jackson is on pace for 4,694 passing yards and 1,275 running yards, so he’ll have to rely on the air to keep up. It will not be simple. Six of Jackson’s next nine games will be against teams with pass defenses in the top half of the league. The Ravens’ biggest playmakers, though, are tight end Mark Andrews and receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Rashod Bateman, who all feature in the passing game. So, when Jackson isn’t sprinting for yards, he’ll have to throw it down the stretch to defeat teams like the Rams and Packers. Jamison Hensley (Jamison Hensley)


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Dak Prescott will finish in the top three in MVP voting, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Let’s not get carried away with the Broncos’ performance. Prescott has thrown at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive games before to his off game. He was in the middle of his greatest season and led the NFL in completion %. There’s nothing stopping him from returning. He stated the last time he felt like this was in a 2018 shutout over Indianapolis, and in the two games after that he had five touchdown passes, no interceptions, and completed 68 percent of his throws. That season, he also won a playoff game. Prescott will have at least five more prime-time or premium games remaining to secure his place in the MVP race. Todd Archer is a writer.


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The Bills will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, according to a bold second-half prediction.

This would not have been considered a daring forecast only a few weeks ago. However, after witnessing the Bills’ offense struggle to get anything going against the Jaguars, some major doubts about Buffalo’s future have surfaced. Although there are many areas that need to be improved, this is still a strong football club that is one of the most complete in a tough AFC. The offensive line will improve as the season progresses, and there is still a half-season to go. The Bills have a chance to go hot down the stretch — three of their last four games are at home — and put everything together for a run. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.


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Chargers will improve their defense and reach the playoffs in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Justin Herbert, the Vikings’ quarterback, has had two setbacks this season, and I’m guessing he’s over them. Because his schedule is so well-planned, expect him to continue to confound the doubters. “He’s simply not human,” one seasoned observer said. After having two of his worst games as a pro against New England and Baltimore, Herbert completed 84.2 percent of his passes against Philadelphia (51 percent and 56 percent , respectively). He’s focused on making a run in the second half of the season, so a little defensive improvement will go a long way. Shelley Smith says:


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Myles Garrett will earn Defensive Player of the Year, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Garrett had been one of the most dominating players in the NFL for the previous several seasons until being derailed in November. Last season, it was due to COVID-19 infection. The helmet swing had resulted in a season-ending ban the previous season. Garrett, who leads the league with 12 sacks, will only get better as the season progresses, winning the NFL’s sack title and giving Cleveland its first-ever Defensive Player of the Year. Jake Trotter’s remark


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DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE, DE Marcus Davenport is about to have a big stretch.

Throughout his career, the Saints’ first-round choice in 2018 has battled injuries and uneven output. When healthy, though, Davenport has showed glimpses of dominance, most recently this summer. And he’s set to go on a tear in the second half of the season for a Saints club that will depend heavily on defense to stay in the postseason hunt. This season, Davenport has two sacks in four games. Over the next nine games, he’ll have at least six more. Triplett, Mike


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QB Mac Jones will throw 25 touchdown passes in the second half, according to a bold second-half forecast.

Jones has 10 touchdown passes in nine games, so he’ll have to step it up in the last eight. That implies he’ll need to score two points every game to meet his goal. Is it a risky move? Perhaps, particularly given how efficient the running game has been near the goal line. Jones, on the other hand, seems to have found a go-to target in Hunter Henry (five touchdowns in the previous six games), and the passing game should improve as the season develops. — Reiss, Mike


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The Chiefs will not reach the playoffs, according to a bold second-half prediction.

The Chiefs’ string of six consecutive playoff berths and five consecutive AFC West championships will come to an end. The final schedule, which includes all eight opponents with a current record of.500 or better, makes it unrealistic to believe that a club with an offense locked in a funk unlike any other in Patrick Mahomes’ career can realistically accomplish what it takes to make the playoffs. It would take a special Mahomes to turn things around and propel the Chiefs into the playoffs. Just don’t hold your breath. Adam Teicher’s remark


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RB Najee Harris will run for more over 1,000 yards in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

At the halfway point of the season, Harris has 541 rushing yards, but the run game has been steadily improving over the last few games to become a consistent threat. Harris said that he came into the season with objectives in mind, but that after a 1-3 start, his attention turned away from individual ambitions and toward winning by any means necessary. The Steelers understand that a balanced attack is crucial to their success, which means they must continue to give the ball to Harris. If he stays healthy, Harris will become the first Steelers rookie to get 1,000 yards in his first season since Franco Harris in 1972. Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.


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Rookie linebacker Jonathon Cooper will lead the Broncos in sacks this season, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Cooper has earned his first two career starts in the Broncos’ past two games after Bradley Chubb was placed on injured reserve in September and Von Miller was traded in November. In the Broncos’ win over the Cowboys on Sunday, the seventh-round pick had his first two career sacks. Cooper has already shown a developing repertoire of rush maneuvers and will pose a threat to opposing attacks for the remainder of the season. Miller was the last rookie to lead the club in sacks in 2011. Legwold, Jeff


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Tee Higgins will have 1,000 receiving yards in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Higgins had a poor start to the season due to a shoulder injury, but he is regaining his form from the end of 2020. The second-year player hasn’t completely understood all of his targets, but as opponents have begun to take away youngster Ja’Marr Chase, he has grown into a more important part of the offense. In the last eight games, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is likely to lean to Higgins more. Higgins should get the 569 receiving yards he needs to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. – Ben Little

NFL-2021-team-previews-Bold-predictions-breakout-candidates-biggestThis week’s essentials include: • Check out the full schedule » | Check out the standings » • Every team’s depth chart » • Injuries » | Transactions » • Rankings of the Football Power Index » Additional NFL coverage »


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DeSean Jackson, the wide receiver, will give a good spark in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Isn’t this something we’ve seen before? The Raiders bring in a flamboyant vet to help them advance, only to have it all fall apart. Marshawn Lynch did not so much wreck as disrupt the locker room chemistry; the roster and, well, the coaching staff could not handle it. On his way out of town, Antonio Brown took a wrecking ball to the entire thing, and it wrecked a season. Jackson, on the other hand, understands that this is his last stop and that he is only here for one reason: to keep defenses honest by being a vertical threat. The sooner he gets in touch with Derek Carr, the better. You wanted bold, right? Gutierrez, Paul


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Kyle Pitts, tight end, will exceed 1,100 receiving yards in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Pitts is on pace for 1,160 yards, which would break a 60-year-old NFL rookie record for receiving yards by a tight end. He’s improved as a pass-catcher as the season progressed, and if he remains healthy, he’ll not only break but also obliterate Hall of Famer Mike Ditka’s record. Michael Rothstein is a writer and producer.


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Jonathan Taylor, the running back, will lead the NFL in rushing in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Taylor is still 116 yards behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, but Henry may miss the remainder of the season due to a foot injury. In four of the last six games, Taylor has run for at least 107 yards, including 172 yards against the New York Jets in Week 9. Taylor showed improvement during his rookie season in 2020, running for 741 yards in the last five games. The Colts will most likely rely on him even more in the second half of the season as they strive to stay in postseason contention. Mike Wells’ remark


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The Vikings will have a coaching change in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Things can’t continue to be the same. After two consecutive defeats to the Chargers and Packers, the only feasible window for Vikings owners to part ways with Mike Zimmer, who has two years left on his contract, would be after two consecutive losses to the Chargers and Packers. A defeat against Minnesota’s division foe at home in Week 11 may be enough to persuade ownership to make a move. Zimmer could switch offensive playcallers and hand running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu’s duties to Klint Kubiak (the only other person on staff who has called plays, albeit at the college level) in a last-ditch effort to save his job, though this seems less likely than the former given the optics of Zimmer moving on from his sixth offensive coordinator since 2016. — Cronin, Courtney


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The Seahawks will end the regular season with nine victories, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Nine victories would equal for the fewest under Russell Wilson, but it would be a significant improvement over the Seahawks’ 0-5 start — and it could be enough to get them into the NFC’s last playoff slot. To finish 9-8, the Seahawks would have to go 6-3 the rest of the way. In at least five of the last nine games, they might be favorites: Washington, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, and Detroit. If they win all of them, they’ll have to win one of their harder games against Green Bay, the Rams, or one of two Arizona games. With Wilson allowed to return and Aaron Rodgers’ condition questionable, Sunday’s game in Green Bay appears much more winnable than it did two weeks ago. Brady Henderson’s quote


• The Denver Broncos’ defense sans Miller In the run scheme, hurts are more hazardous. Elliott Fry’s ups and downs in life • The Dolphins have earned the right to enjoy their victory. Takeaways from Week 9 of the NFL


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Deebo Samuel will reach 1,500 receiving yards in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Only one player in team history has ever had a season with 1,500 or more receiving yards: Jerry Rice, who accomplished it four times. Samuel, on the other hand, is on track to easily exceed that milestone, with 882 yards through eight games. Samuel has found a way to contribute in every game this season, despite a calf ailment that has hampered him lately, and with a 17th game on the docket, he should join Rice in an elite group that helps him claim his first Pro Bowl spot. Nick Wagoner is a writer.


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The Eagles will lead the league in running in the second half, according to a bold second-half projection.

Despite just a few touches by the running backs in the first quarter of the season, Philadelphia is now in fifth place with 1,229 rushing yards. Since then, Coach Nick Sirianni has modified his attacking strategy to a more ground-based assault. What’s the end result? Over the previous two weeks, the Eagles have rushed for 412 yards and six touchdowns. Granted, they were up against two terrible run defenses in the Lions and Chargers, but when you combine that with QB Jalen Hurts’ productivity as a rusher (494 yards, five touchdowns), you have a team capable of challenging the top-ranked Browns (1,442 rushing yards). Tim McManus, Ph.D.


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QB Sam Darnold will be benched in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Based on Darnold’s 10 interceptions in the previous six games, five of which have resulted in defeats, this doesn’t seem so much like a forecast as it does an inevitability. It isn’t only the errors. It’s also the offense’s lack of overall production, which has only scored one touchdown in the last three games. Darnold’s return to the bad judgments that led to the New York Jets trading him to Carolina and replacing him with youngster Zach Wilson looks to seal his fate. David Newton is an author.


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QB Justin Fields will throw for 300 yards or more in three games, according to a bold second-half projection.

The Bears, in fact, have one of the worst passing assaults in the league. Fields, on the other hand, seems to be on the verge of improving his throwing efficiency. Each week, the youngster improves and has a greater understanding of the offensive tools he possesses. Fields is expected to finish the season strong, even if the Bears fail to reach the playoffs. Dickerson, Jeff


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QB Daniel Jones doubles his touchdown passes in the second half, according to a bold second-half forecast.

With just eight touchdown passes after nine games, the Giants quarterback’s stats aren’t looking good. But it’s not like he’s a bad player. In fact, despite playing with an injury-plagued supporting cast, he’s been fairly good. Even if it’s in one fewer game, the touchdowns will arrive in the second half. Jones will throw 16 touchdown passes in the second half of the season, for a total of 24, thanks to a stronger cast of weapons and greater assistance. Jordan Raanan is a writer.


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Washington will end with a 5-12 record in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

After a 5-2 finish the previous season, there were higher hopes for Ron Rivera’s second season. Washington, on the other hand, will be fortunate to be favored in more than two games the remainder of the season, since it still has games against Tampa Bay, Seattle (most likely with Russell Wilson), Las Vegas, and two games against Dallas. Rivera’s teams have a habit of improving in the second half of the season, going 42-30 in the second half of his career. In addition, of the five occasions his teams finished the first half with a losing record, four of them finished the second half with a winning record. However, with poor quarterback performance, multiple injuries, and a challenging schedule, a turnaround will be very tough. ‘John Keim’


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Jamal Agnew will score a touchdown in five different ways in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Agnew has scores on a kickoff return, a field goal attempt, and as a reception. He’ll need a running score and a punt return touchdown to complete the set. Agnew is the Jaguars’ most dynamic player, and his offensive role is growing. He grabbed the ball on a jet sweep against Buffalo (he has three total carries thus season), and the Jaguars will attempt to utilize him imaginatively to jolt an offense that is scoring just 17.5 points per game. Mike DiRocco’s remark


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Michael Carter will exceed 1,300 yards from scrimmage in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

If Carter succeeds, he would become the first Jets running back to surpass 1,300 yards from scrimmage since Thomas Jones in 2007. He’s now running at a 1,256-yard clip. Carter’s position is expanding week by week, so there’s every reason to expect he’ll top 1,300 points — providing he remains healthy. Cimini, Rich


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WR Jaylen Waddle will become the second rookie in NFL history to catch 100 or more catches in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

Waddle’s catches and targets have been unaffected by the quarterback, with six or more targets in seven of Miami’s nine games this season. Although the yards haven’t been there, he is the Dolphins’ most dependable receiver and will continue to be in an offense that passes the ball at the fifth-highest rate in the league. On 156 targets, Waddle is on pace for 112 receptions for 992 yards. — Louis-Jacques Marcel


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The Texans will choose No. 2 in the NFL draft, according to a bold second-half prediction.

The Lions may be the only team in the NFL that is worse than the Texans, and although they are just a half-game behind Houston at the halfway point of the season, they do play in a more difficult division. Houston’s greatest chance to win a game after Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins is either against the New York Jets in Week 12 or in Jacksonville in Week 15. The Texans’ No. 3 selection from last year was traded to Miami in exchange for left tackle Laremy Tunsil in 2019. Sarah Barshop is a writer.


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The Lions will win a game in the second half, according to a bold second-half prediction.

The last time Detroit won a game was on December 6, 2020. Things have gotten worse since then, including the 2021 preseason, when the Lions lost all three games before going 0-8 in the regular season. It seems like history will repeat itself with another winless season, similar to the notorious 0-16 team from 2008, but I’m here to inform you that the Lions will win at least one game. The chances of this occurring are still remote, but I’m convinced they can at least get one in the second half of the season, either against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving or the Atlanta Falcons on December 26. Eric Woodyard’s remark