In this thread I want to have a quick look back at my Week 1 predictions for the season and see how much things have changed in the NFL from the pre-season feelings I had. I know I have gotten some Divisions completely wrong, but there have been some predictably good teams too.
Below I will have a few thoughts on my Predictions from back in Week 1 and also what I feel is going to happen going forward.
AFC East- one of the more predictable selections I made back in Week 1 was the New England Patriots winning the Division.
They look very much on course to do that, although the Buffalo Bills have been stronger than I imagined and should make the PlayOffs from here.
Without a doubt the biggest disappointments are the New York Jets who handed the Miami Dolphins their first win of the 2019 season in Week 9.
AFC North- about the only thing I got right in this Division is that the Cincinnati Bengals would be struggling mightily and they look on course for the Number 1 Pick in the 2020 Draft.
My top two selections in this Division were the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, but the struggles of Freddie Kitchens and Baker Mayfield have hurt the former and the latter lost Ben Roethlisberger to injury for the season very early in the year.
At this moment it is Baltimore Ravens who look like they are going to go on and win the AFC North and their win over New England in Week 9 will have given the team plenty of confidence.
AFC South- my pick was Jacksonville Jaguars in this Division, but ultimately they have not really shown the consistency to kick on. Things might have been different if Nick Foles was not injured in Week 1 which has meant he has missed the last nine weeks, but the Jaguars are 2 games behind the Houston Texans in the South.
That does mean they still have a chance to turn things around before the regular season comes to a close, and the Division as competitive as I thought it might be at the start of the 2019 campaign.
I did say the Colts would be better than expected even in the wake of Andrew Luck's retirement, but they have been stronger than I could have imagined. The Houston Texans are fortunate to have a star like Deshaun Watson at Quarter Back and the Tennessee Titans play tough no matter who they face any given Sunday.
There is a big game coming up between the Colts and Texans which may decide the outcome of this Division, but both teams may also feel they can put enough wins together to at least earn a Wild Card spot too. The Jaguars could be the dark horse if Foles comes back in Week 11 and can find the magic that he used to take the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl success.
Overall the Division looks as difficult to call now as it was before Week 1.
AFC West- the Kansas City Chiefs were my choice to win the West and nothing has happened so far this season to move away from that.
Patrick Mahomes looks to have avoided a big injury and he should return either in Week 10 or Week 11 and guide the Chiefs to the Division title.
The big disappointment have to be the Los Angeles Chargers who continue to play sixteen road games with fans yet to really show their love for the second team to arrive in Los Angeles. The Wild Card spot is still potentially open to them, but I do think the Chargers will need to go 6-1 in their last seven games to have a chance and there will be some big questions to answer in the off-season.
Denver have been poor, but the Oakland Raiders have surprised and at 4-4 they are primed for a strong ending which may take them into the Wild Card spots in Jon Gruden's second season as Head Coach. The game in Week 10 against the Chargers looks pivotal to both team's seasons.
NFC East- back in September I said the NFC East would come down to a straight battle between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles and both teams are leading the way as expected.
However I did think both could earn Wild Card spots, but that is looking increasingly unlikely barring both having at least six more wins to reach 11-5 at a minimum. The Week 16 game between the Eagles and Cowboys looks like deciding the Division.
The New York Giants did move to Daniel Jones at Quarter Back fairly quickly in the season once it became clear that Eli Manning's time was over. They will be stronger for this next season, while the Washington Redskins continue to be run as poorly as they have been for a decade.
NFC North- I thought the Green Bay Packers would bounce back and earn a Wild Card spot this season and they look firmly on course to do that out of the tough NFC North.
They are currently fighting it out for the Division title with the Minnesota Vikings, but both of those teams will believe they can earn a Wild Card spot at the worst.
I mentioned the Vikings would challenge, but I also felt the Chicago Bears would slip. However I meant in terms of the record, not in general, and picking them as the likely NFC North Champions looks like it has gone extremely wrong.
Mitchell Trubisky has struggled and the Bears have some big questions to answer in the off-season about the Quarter Back and the Head Coach.
NFC South- I picked the New Orleans Saints to come out of the NFC South as Division winners and they are 2 games clear of the Carolina Panthers going into Week 10.
Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons have been more disappointing than I would have imagined, while I figured the Carolina Panthers could at least push the Saints.
However I did say they would need Cam Newton to be healthy- instead Newton has only played two games in 2019 and the Panthers have pushed forward with Kyle Allen.
The New Orleans Saints should win the Division from here, but the Panthers have some big games which will determine whether they can push for a Wild Card spot. The first of those comes this week against the Green Bay Packers.
NFC West- easily my worst prediction of the pre-season was thinking the San Francisco 49ers Defensive unit was a question mark for the team.
Instead the Defense has been the foundation from which the 49ers have built their successes as the only unbeaten team in the NFL going into Week 10.
Even then they are only 2 games ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and 3 games ahead of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West in a Division race which could go right down to the wire. I thought the Rams were the best team in the West, but Offensive Line problems have hurt them and they might be the odd one out in the Division and the Wild Card race.
Seattle have been reliant on Russell Wilson, but the Quarter Back has taken the challenge on board and led the team to a 7-2 record.
At this time the 49ers will be hard to peg back, especially if they beat Seattle on Monday Night Football, but I would not be surprised to see at least one Wild Card team coming out of this Division whether that is the Seahawks or the Rams.
My Super Bowl Pick back in September was the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams will have their chances of making the PlayOffs, but the New England Patriots look the team to beat in the AFC while the Baltimore Ravens might match up pretty well with the Chiefs too.
In the NFC I have the New Orleans Saints as the best team in the Conference, while the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and maybe even the Dallas Cowboys look stronger than the Eagles.
The Week 10 Picks will be added to this thread, although I do not have a selection from the Thursday Night Football game this week.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears Pick: This is the first of two meetings between these two NFC North Divisional rivals that are going to be played in November, but both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions have been suffering through disappointing seasons. Out of the two teams there is no doubt that the Bears have been a real letdown as far as their fans are concerned and the team that won the NFC North last season are at 3-5 and almost certainly going to miss the PlayOffs.
The fans are already pretty upset and things could really sour for both Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Nagy on Sunday if the Bears are downed by the Lions. The Bears have lost four games in a row to leave only memories of the 3-1 start to the 2019 season, but the Detroit Lions are not having much more success as they have lost four of their last five games to fall to 3-5-1 for the season themselves.
Something is going to have to give on Sunday in Week 10 because the Bears have been horrible Offensively and the Lions have been very poor Defensively. Those two units will face one another while the teams will believe their strengths are going up against each other on the other side of the ball.
Matthew Stafford has been playing well at Quarter Back and he has some talented Receivers which are aiding him from a statistical point of view rather than in terms of a result. The Quarter Back won't be pleased by his own performances if they are not resulting in a win, but I do think Stafford can have some success in this one against a Bears Defensive unit that have not been playing at the level they were producing in 2018.
It won't help that Stafford won't have much of a running game to lean on and he won't want to be in third and long spots against a Bears team that can still put together a pass rush that will be able to rattle the Quarter Back. That is the best way for the Bears to try and stall some drives and at least give their team a chance of getting back to winning ways and perhaps relieve some of the pressure that their own Quarter Back and Head Coach are beginning to feel.
I am not convinced Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Nagy are on the same page anyway, but they have to join together and help Chicago get back on the right track even at this stage of the season. All of the Offensive problems begin with a lack of a serious running game as Chicago have failed to match the production of last season, but there is a chance for the Bears to get on track agains the Detroit Defensive Line which is weaker than most.
Mitchell Trubisky has to be urged to at least make some moves on the ground too, but I would also want to set him up with some easy passing to try and rebuild a confidence that has to be at a very low point. There are already suggestions that the Bears are going to be moving on from a Quarter Back they selected high in the Draft in 2017 and ahead of the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson and for many fans it is a case of what might have been with the Bears lacking a Quarter Back at a time when everything else looks to be in place.
He has looked very short of confidence with some terrible throws being part of the problem rather than the play-calling. This is a game in which Trubisky has to show better considering how banged up the Lions are Defensively and he does have the likes of Allen Robinson who can make plays for him from Receiver.
The public are finding it hard to believe in the Bears and the Detroit Lions have become a seriously backed underdog without this spread being moved. I have to agree with those who are clearly backing the under-fire Bears here and I do think they can cover despite the poor run of form.
It is like people have forgotten how badly Detroit have been playing and the Bears are still the superior team even with Mitchell Trubisky showing himself to perhaps not be the franchise Quarter Back the Bears thought they were Drafting. The favourite is 3-0-1 against the spread in the last four in this Divisional series and the Bears are 3-1-1 against the spread in the last five at home against the Lions.
Chicago can make enough plays through their Defensive unit to at least get into a position to win this game and I hate to say I am trusting Mitchell Trubisky to have one of his better games of the season.
Los Angeles Rams @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: For most teams losing their star Quarter Back at the very start of a season in which the star Wide Receiver and one of the best Running Backs in the NFL had departed the team would have been a death knell for the campaign. At 1-4 following an Overtime loss to rivals Baltimore Ravens that seemed to be where the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 year was heading, but they have turned things around with three wins in a row and could be challenging for a Wild Card spot if not the AFC North Divisional title in the weeks ahead.
They can't afford to drop any momentum as we hit Week 10 and Pittsburgh don't have a lot of room for error considering they already have four losses on the season. Their opponent in Week 10 might not play in the same Conference, but this is a huge game for the Los Angeles Rams too who are playing in the loaded NFC West where they trail both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
Coming out of their Bye Week at 5-3 would be a decent enough position for most teams, but the Rams will understand their situation. Even a Wild Card battle looks like it will go down to the wire in this Conference with some very good teams scattered throughout the four Divisions and it does mean both teams have a lot on the line in this one.
It will be interesting to see what Sean McVay has been working on during the Bye Week as he looks to put his team in a position to win a tough road game this week. The Rams have not been as eye-catching Offensively as they were in 2018 and some of the problems have begun up front where the Rams have struggled to run the ball with any kind of consistency.
Todd Gurley has shown flashes of the obvious talent he has, but he has not been consistent like the other top Running Backs in the NFL and that has been part of the reason the Los Angeles Rams have struggled to impose the run on teams. It hasn't been all about Gurley though with the Offensive Line having issues opening holes too and now they have to face the Pittsburgh Defensive Line which is performing to the standards this team have come to expect.
There have been improvements in the Secondary which is going to be important for the Steelers this week, while the Defensive Line have also produced a massive pass rush. That might not be the best news for Jared Goff who can struggle when he feels the pressure of the pass rush around him and much is going to be determined by how much protection he gets from his Offensive Line.
Even if Goff is given a lot of time, which I doubt without the Rams running the ball better than they have in 2019, I do think the Steelers have doubled down on their Defensive effort and that is where they have been able to turn their season around. This Los Angeles team were given rave reviews for the Offensive output in the first half of the 2018 season, but they have not been as strong this season as teams have begun to have a better read of what they are seeing and the Steelers should have success in at least stalling some drives.
At the end of the day the game will likely be decided by Mason Rudolph who has been a little erratic in relief of Ben Roethlisberger. That has made the Steelers a little one-dimensional in what they are trying to do Offensively, although teams have had a few issues in slowing them down with the Offensive Line setting the tone for the rest of the team.
They have been able to open some big holes for James Connor and Benny Snell, but both Running Backs are missing again this week which means the Steelers will have to be a little creative with their Offensive play-calling. It won't be a case of just handing the ball off and controlling the clock and field position because the Rams Defensive Line have proven to be very strong with Aaron Donald leading the way in helping hold teams to 3.1 yards per carry.
There has to be a way to get JuJu Smith-Schuster better involved in the Offense, although we are not likely to see that this week with Jalen Ramsey shadowing him. Instead Mason Rudolph is gong to have to find other options to keep the chains moving even though he has not really looked like a long-term solution to Roethlisberger at Quarter Back.
It is some week when you are backing both Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, but I do like the Steelers here with the start as the home underdog. The Steelers have played well against teams with winning records and they have gone 12-1 against the spread in their last thirteen games as the underdog against a team with a winning record too.
I have to respect how well the Rams have played coming out of a Bye Week under Sean McVay and you would worry if they are able to score points very quickly and force Pittsburgh to change their entire Offensive approach. However the Rams have had their issues with teams who can play Defense as well as the Steelers have shown they can and I expect that will give the home team a chance to keep this one competitive.
Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers Pick: Two teams with winning records in the NFC will be looking to earn a big win in Week 10 which could have tie-breaking repercussions in the race for the PlayOffs. The Green Bay Packers remain on top of the NFC North at 7-2 and will still have ambitions of a Bye in the Wild Card Round of the post-season, but they need to bounce back from an embarrassing performance when losing in Los Angeles to the Chargers in Week 9.
They remained a game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings who were beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Packers have insisted the focus of this week is to bounce back and show their true colours this week.
The visitors to Green Bay are the Carolina Panthers who have won five of their last six games to move to 5-3 and all without Cam Newton. The long-term Quarter Back for the Panthers might have played his last snap for this team having been placed on the Injured Reserve list for the remainder of the season and with suggestions the Panthers will be looking to move on at the end of 2019.
Cam Newton will be worrying about getting healthy and so far Kyle Allen has shown he is able to manage the Offensive system to give his team the chance to win. No one will be confusing Allen with a top starting Quarter Back and I would not be surprised if he is not the long-term plan in Carolina even if they move on from Newton, but Allen has done enough to keep his job and continue doing what he has been.
The main focus has been leaning on Christian McCaffrey and teams have struggled to slow down the all-purpose Running Back even though he is clearly the biggest threat on the team. He might not be the biggest or the most physical, but McCaffrey has shown himself to be incredibly tough and the Panthers have continued churning out big gains on the ground which is going to be the game plan considering how much Green Bay have had problems in slowing down ground attacks.
This has been a season long struggle for Green Bay who have allowed 4.7 yards per carry over the course of 2019. Anyone who has played Madden before will know the best game plan for Carolina will be feeding McCaffrey as much as possible and try and slow down the pass rush before using Kyle Allen in play-action to hit the Packers down the field.
There have been one or two holes in the Green Bay Secondary which have been attacked by Quarter Backs, but the pass rush is a strength for the Packers and the Carolina Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection. If they have penalties or are forced into third and long situations it is going to be very difficult for Carolina to convert with the Smith pass rush of Preston and Za'Darius both capable of getting into the backfield and causing havoc.
Carolina have shown an improvement Defensively themselves with some major plays being made to turn the momentum within games. However it can't be ignored that they have been out-gained in terms of yardage in four straight games and that is only partly down to the Offensive struggles.
We have seen teams being able to establish the run against the Panthers Defensive Line and I do think the Packers will be looking to get back to basics Offensively after they did have their problems in Week 9. Aaron Rodgers is a top Quarter Back, but the play-calling should call for more runs for Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams and they should have one of their better outings despite the issues Green Bay have had establishing the run.
Establishing the run is going to be an important part of the day for Green Bay because the Offensive Line is not protecting Rodgers as they would like and the Carolina pass rush has been living in the opponent's backfield. Getting in the face of the Quarter Back can lead to mistakes being made and the Packers have to be aware that they don't really want to get behind the chains in this one if they are going to return to winning ways.
Any time you have someone like Aaron Rodgers at Quarter Back it can be easy to fall in love with throwing the ball around, but Matt LaFleur has to show his power as the Head Coach. If he can get the ball moving on the ground to open things up for Rodgers then I do feel the Green Bay Packers will have too much for Carolina and they can not only win, but also cover the spread too.
Carolina do have a good record in recent runnings of this series, but they are perhaps overachieving in recent weeks and not playing as well as the results may suggest. They are also facing Aaron Rodgers off a loss which is a position in which the future Hall of Fame Quarter Back has thrived, while the Packers have been strong at home all season.
The Packers should put it all on the line to head into their Bye Week with a 8-2 record and control of the NFC North and I think they win this one by a Touchdown at least.
Minnesota Vikings @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: This is the kind of Sunday Night Football game you can really get behind as two teams with winning records meet with the game potentially being all important when it comes to deciding Wild Card places later in the year. The Minnesota Vikings were dropped to 6-3 in Week 9 as they blew the chance to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs missing Patrick Mahomes, while the Dallas Cowboys continued their dominance of their NFC East rivals by beating the New York Giants on Monday Night Football to move to 5-3.
That has left the Cowboys half a game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles, but they can make it a full game with a win on Sunday while the Eagles are on a Bye Week. It was good Dallas in action in Week 9 as they comfortably beat the Giants on the road, but this is a team that has been the only one to fail to beat the New York Jets and they have find better consistency if they are going to return to the PlayOffs.
Consistency will be key in case the NFC East battle goes down to the wire as it will mean remaining in contention for a Wild Card place at the least and this feels like a big game with that in mind.
It is going to be a smash-mouth kind of Football game and I do have to say I enjoy seeing teams wanting to punch each other in the face before dominating on the field. This is going to involve a lot of rushing attempts on both sides of the field and no one will be surprised to hear that in a game that has both Ezekiel Elliot and Dalvin Cook playing.
Elliot has been getting better week after week for the Cowboys and the Offensive Line looks to be getting healthier too which is music to the ears of the Running Back. In recent games Minnesota's Defensive Line have struggled to contain the run with some huge yards being churned out by opponents to the tune of 5.8 yards per carry in their last three games and Elliot is capable of picking up where those teams have left off.
The whole philosophy of the Cowboys is to run the ball and open things up down the field for the likes of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup and I do think they are going to be successful here. Having Elliot establish the run should mean the team are in front of the chains and so the Vikings pass rush could be blunted somewhat, while the Minnesota Secondary is not playing to the standards that Mike Zimmer would have set for this team and I like the Cowboys moving the chains with success in this game.
Any team that has Dalvin Cook will feel they can match the production Elliot has for the Cowboys, but I am not so convinced about what the Vikings will be able to do with the ball. I am anticipating some quality runs from Cook, but I am not sure it will be with the same consistency I am expecting from the home team because the Dallas Defensive Line have stepped up their play.
They are restricting teams to 4.2 yards per carry for the season, but the Cowboys have been stronger in the last three games with just 90 yards per game allowed on the ground. They had a good job containing Saquon Barkley for the most part and I do think Cook might have a slightly more effective game when he is catching the ball coming out of the backfield.
I think the Vikings will need that just to make sure Kirk Cousins is not overthinking things as he can tend to do in these Prime Time games. For too long the narrative is that Cousins will blow up on national television and he has to show that is behind him, but Adam Thielen is expected to miss out and the Cowboys Secondary is under-rated as they are ably supported by a very good Dallas pass rush.
Kirk Cousins could make some solid plays, but I think there may be quite a few short passes to try and open things up for the run and I really like Dallas being able to control the clock and eventually pull away for the win.
I have to respect the record Mike Zimmer has in games after a loss, while he will be firing his team up as the underdog. However Minnesota are 3-12 against the spread in their last fifteen games playing against a team with a winning record, which underlines the point about Cousins perhaps not stepping up his game as he should be.
Dallas being on a short week is a bit of a concern too, but the favourite is 9-2 against the spread in the last eleven in this series and I like the Cowboys to win and cover.
MY PICKS: Chicago Bears - 2.5 Points @ 1.86 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns - 2.5 Points @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)