Halfway into the NFL season, there have already been plenty of ups, downs, and surprises. Just ask me how eventful this year has been as a Jets fan. Yet among the headlines that emerged through the first eight weeks, I paid close attention to some of the predictions I previously made for both the AFC and NFC. While the jury is still out for these predictions, that doesn't mean they aren't worth assessing at the season's midpoint. Here are my grades for the preseason predictions I made back in August.
1. Justin Herbert Will Win MVP: B
Herbert's enjoying another strong season so far. In his fourth year with the Los Angeles Chargers, he's thrown for 1,800 along with 13 touchdowns, while only turning the ball over four times. His ability to make perfectly accurate throws while also providing off-script plays has been on display multiple times, like in this sequence against the Tennessee Titans.
Unfortunately wins are a factor in the MVP race, and some of Herbert's performances like the one against Tennessee, came in a losing effort. The Chargers are currently 3-4 and it also hasn't helped that a fractured finger has somewhat hindered a few of Herbert's most recent outings. He did rebound with a three touchdown outing on Sunday Night against the Bears. To get in the MVP race, he'll need to have similar performances.
2. The Jaguars Will Make The AFC Championship Game: A-
After a 1-2 start, the Jacksonville Jaguars have picked up from where they left off last year winning their last five games. The most impressive part about their winning streak, is that Trevor Lawrence is even not the main reason why.
Lawrence's numbers are still solid this year, but it's the strong running of Travis Etienne and a slowly emerging defense that are the catalysts for Jacksonville's 6-2 record. Etienne is currently third in rushing with 583 rushing yards, and has also shown improvement as a receiver where he's only 50 yards from exceeding last year's total of 316 receiving yards.
Their defense has been able to repeat last year's formula of generating takeaways as they lead the league in that category. Darius Williams and Andre Cisco each have three interceptions and Josh Allen (the defensive end) already has nine sacks. These players have played a key role in holding opponents to under 20 points a game.
3. Sauce Gardner Will Win Defensive Player of the Year: D
This grade has nothing to do with Gardner's performance so far. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year is proving that his rookie season was no fluke. As of now, Gardner has allowed just 19 catches for 155 yards. He's a big reason why the Jets' defense has kept the team in the playoff hunt despite losing Aaron Rodgers to a torn ACL on their opening offensive possession.
The reason why I'm giving this prediction a D is because interceptions are a big factor in cornerbacks winning Defensive Player of the Year. Gardner has only been thrown at just 25 times. Having played six games that's on pace for 66 times this season. While Gardner has still had some opportunities such as a potential pick six that he dropped against Dallas in week two, it's impossible for anyone to record multiple picks if they're hardly targeted.
1. Micah Parsons Will Finish With 20 Sacks: C+
Make no mistake, Micah Parsons is still having another great season. He's often in the backfield every game and if Parsons isn't making plays, chances are he's creating opportunities for other players. He won Defensive Player of the Month for September, and his play has only continued to be praised from other players such as future hall of famer Aaron Donald. "I've watched him play fast," Donald said. "He does a good job of just playing relentlessly, playing fast, and always finding a way to be around the ball."
Parsons has also registered six sacks in seven games which is really good by all means.
But with the regular season being halfway over, Parsons still has a lot of work to do in order to finish with 20 sacks. It's not impossible, given Parsons is such a dominant force but he'll need to have either a full sack in almost every game, or a few outings with multiple sacks.
2. The Lions Will Break Their Winless Playoff Streak: A
This is looking like my most realistic prediction so far. All that hype surrounding the Detroit Lions before this year has come to fruition through the first eight weeks. Their 6-2 start is the best since 2011 and while that team had Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, this team is much better.
Like the 2011 team, they also boost a potent QB-WR duo in Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown, but this year's team has a much better run game led by David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. Their defense is also a lot better thanks to Aiden Hutchson's strong sophomore campaign and an improved secondary that's allowed far less passing yards compared to last year.
What's particularly impressive, is the Lions are no longer a dark horse to make the playoffs and they're still finding ways to win. This postgame speech from head coach Dan Campbell after upsetting the defending champion Chiefs on opening night should tell you everything you need to know about where this team's confidence level is at.
3. Justin Fields Will Throw Over 4,000 Yards
With the Bears investing a lot into building around Justin Fields heading into 2023, expectations were high for Fields to solidify himself as the Chicago Bears' franchise quarterback. But this year has been a rough one for the most part.
Fields hasn't done much to prove his case. He tends to stare down receivers even if they aren't open which causes his progressions to take longer. Even when Fields does see an open man downfield, he's sometimes hesitant to throw to them.
Although Fields' last two full games did show improvement, that was halted by an injury early in their week six loss against the Vikings. At 1,201 yards through six games, Fields needs a number of 300 plus yard outings to exceed 4,000 yards and many more winning performances to prove he can still be the quarterback of the future.