We’ve officially hit the midpoint of the longest season in NFL history, but instead of looking back and what’s been done, the NFL Power Rankings are looking ahead and making strong predictions for what’s to come. With help from our NFL Nation writers, we’re laying our reputations on the line and forecasting the future with impeccable accuracy (fingers crossed).
Want to know what your team’s final record will be? We’ll tell you that for some teams below (Arizona Cardinals fans and Seattle Seahawks fans, take note). We’ll tell you players to watch from a statistical standpoint, from rookies such as New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris to veterans such as Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp. We’ll put ourselves out there in predicting long playoff runs (Buffalo Bills) or premature season exits (Kansas City Chiefs). We even dive into how hot-seat situations will play out (worth reading if you support the Minnesota Vikings or Carolina Panthers). We’re taking a big step and laying out the final nine weeks and beyond.
How we rank our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.
Previous ranking: 2
Bold second-half prediction: The Cardinals will finish 15-2.
Arizona is already 8-1 but has two challenging games left: one at Dallas and one at home against the Rams on Monday Night Football. It’s one of those that will be their next and last loss. The Cardinals showed Sunday against the 49ers that they don’t need their stars to win — and win big, at that — which puts the rest of the league on notice. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins will return from their injuries with a solid mid-season rest and the bye comes in three weeks. So, Arizona will be primed for a huge run down the stretch and into the playoffs. — Josh Weinfuss
Previous ranking: 8
Bold second-half prediction: Kevin Byard will reach double-digit interceptions.
The Titans’ defense is on fire, having recorded interceptions in each of their past six games. Byard has interceptions in each of the last two games. He is in the zone right now, as shown by how both of his most recent interceptions came through him being able to make in-play adjustments to get to the football. Tennessee’s front four is getting plenty of pressure on quarterbacks, forcing them to make bad throws that lead to interceptions. Pairing the pressures with Byard’s natural ability to find the football along with plenty of opportunities — especially in games against turnover prone teams such as the Dolphins, Texans and Jaguars — will result in a lot of interceptions. — Turron Davenport
Previous ranking: 1
Bold second-half prediction: The Packers finish with a top-5 defense.
Coach Matt LaFleur said the Packers’ defense played with “championship-level effort and championship-level execution,” in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. This is a positive sign indicating that the defense that has let the Packers down in the last two NFC title games will finally prove to be an asset instead of a liability. — Rob Demovsky
Previous ranking: 3
Bold second-half prediction: WR Cooper Kupp will win NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Rams receivers were bound for a big season with the offseason addition of quarterback Matthew Stafford, but few could have predicted that fifth-year receiver Cooper Kupp would lead the NFL with 1,019 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns at this point of the season. Kupp is Stafford’s go-to target and has not only continued to prove that he can tack on yards after the catch, but that he has the ability to get wide-open for intermediate and deep completions. With Kupp’s Week 9 performance, which included 11 catches for 95 yards, he became only the fourth player in NFL history — the first since Jerry Rice — to tally 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in his team’s first nine games of a season. — Lindsey Thiry
Previous ranking: 4
Bold second-half prediction: The Bucs won’t lose again in the regular season and will finish no lower than second in the NFC.
The Bucs’ opponents for their remaining 10 games are a combined 30-42. Only two of those teams are above .500 — the New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills — and they get both at home. The 7-2 Los Angeles Rams and 8-1 Arizona Cardinals still have to play each other again, and the Rams still have to play the Green Bay Packers (7-2), the Baltimore Ravens (6-2) and the Seattle Seahawks (3-5), who are getting Russell Wilson back. The Cardinals have a much easier path than LA, but still have to play the Seahawks twice and the Dallas Cowboys (6-2). The path to get to a first-round bye and home field is there for the Buccaneers’ taking, if they can get healthy and cut down on penalties. — Jenna Laine
Previous ranking: 7
Bold second-half prediction: Lamar Jackson will pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.
Jackson is on pace for 4,694 passing yards and 1,275 yards rushing, so he will have to pick it up through the air. It won’t be easy, either. Six of Jackson’s final nine games will come against teams who rank in the top half of the league in pass defense. But the Ravens’ best playmakers are in the passing game with tight end Mark Andrews and receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Rashod Bateman. So when Jackson isn’t scrambling for yards, he’ll need to throw it to beat the likes of the Rams and Packers down the stretch. — Jamison Hensley
Ryan Clark and Dan Orlovsky want Lamar Jackson to get the credit he deserves as an MVP candidate.
Previous ranking: 5
Bold second-half prediction: Dak Prescott will finish in the top 3 in MVP voting.
Let’s not get carried away with what happened against the Broncos. Leading up to Prescott’s off game, he had thrown at least three touchdown passes in four straight games. He led the NFL in completion percentage and was in the midst of his best season. There’s nothing to say he can’t get back there. He said the last game he felt this way was a 2018 shutout at Indianapolis, and in the following two games he had five touchdown passes and no interceptions and completed 68% of his passes. He also won a playoff game that season. With at least five more prime time or premium games left, Prescott will have the chance to cement his spot in the MVP chase. — Todd Archer
Previous ranking: 6
Bold second-half prediction: The Bills will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
A few weeks ago, this wouldn’t have qualified as a bold prediction. But after watching the Bills’ offense fail to get much of anything going against the Jaguars, some serious question marks about Buffalo going forward have emerged. The list of areas to correct is long, but this is still a good football team that is one of the most complete teams in a competitive AFC. The offensive line will get healthier, and there is still half a season to improve. The Bills have the potential to get hot down the stretch — three of the final four games of the season are at home — and put all of the pieces together for a run. — Alaina Getzenberg
Previous ranking: 12
Bold second-half prediction: The Chargers will get their defense sorted out and make the playoffs.
Quarterback Justin Herbert had his two hiccups this season and I’m guessing he’s done with those. The schedule lays out pretty well, so look for him to continue to defy non-believers. Said one veteran observer, “He’s just not human.” Herbert completed 84.2% of his passes against Philadelphia after having two of his worst outings as a pro vs. New England and Baltimore (51 and 56% respectively). He’s determined and poised to make a run this second half of the season, so a little defensive improvement will do wonders. — Shelley Smith
Previous ranking: 16
Bold second-half prediction: Myles Garrett will win the defensive player of the year.
Garrett has been among the NFL’s most dominant players these last few seasons, only to be derailed in November. Last season it was from contracting COVID-19. The season before, it was the helmet swing resulting in a season-ending suspension. This time around, Garrett — who leads the league with 12 sacks — will only surge down the stretch and finish as the NFL’s sack champion — giving Cleveland its first ever defensive player of the year. — Jake Trotter
Dan Orlovsky details what he saw from Baker Mayfield without Odell Beckham Jr. on the field.
Previous ranking: 10
Bold second-half prediction: DE Marcus Davenport will finally have a breakout stretch.
The Saints’ first-round pick in 2018 has battled injuries and inconsistent production throughout his career. But Davenport has shown flashes of dominant potential when healthy — especially this summer. And he is poised to finally go on a tear over the second half of this season for a Saints team that will rely heavily on their defense to keep their playoff hopes alive. Davenport has two sacks in four games this year. He will have at least six more over the final nine games. — Mike Triplett
Previous ranking: 13
Bold second-half prediction: QB Mac Jones will have 25 touchdown passes.
Jones has 10 TD passes through nine games, so he’ll need to pick up the pace in the final eight games. That basically means he will need to average two per game to hit the mark. Is that a leap of faith? Perhaps, especially when considering how effective the running game has been close to the goal line. But Jones seems to have found a go-to target in Hunter Henry — five TDs in last six games — and the passing game should continue to grow as the season progresses. — Mike Reiss
Previous ranking: 15
Bold second-half prediction: The Chiefs will not make the playoffs.
The Chiefs’ streak will end at six straight postseason appearances and five consecutive AFC West titles. The finishing schedule, which features all eight opponents with a current record of .500 or better, is too difficult to think that a team with an offense stuck in a slump like no other in Patrick Mahomes‘ career can realistically do what it takes to get to the playoffs. It would be like Mahomes to suddenly turn things around and lift the Chiefs into the postseason. Just don’t count on it. — Adam Teicher
Ryan Clark and Dan Orlovsky agree that Patrick Mahomes needs to play football in a different way.
Previous ranking: 14
Bold second-half prediction: RB Najee Harris will exceed 1,000 rushing yards.
Harris has tallied 541 rushing yards at the midway point of this season, but the run game has been steadily building to a consistent threat during the last several games. Harris said he came into the season with benchmarks he wanted to hit, but after the 1-3 start to the season, his focus shifted away from the individual goals and on to winning by whatever means necessary. The Steelers know a balanced offense is the key to success, and that means continuing the feed the ball to Harris. If he can stay healthy, Harris will become the first Steelers rookie since Franco Harris in 1972 to top 1,000 yards in his debut season. — Brooke Pryor
Previous ranking: 18
Bold second-half prediction: Rookie LB Jonathon Cooper will lead the Broncos in sacks this season.
When Bradley Chubb went on injured reserve in September and Von Miller was traded on Nov. 1, opportunity met preparation for Cooper, who has made his first two career starts in the Broncos’ last two games. The seventh-round pick had his first two career sacks in the Broncos’ win over the Cowboys this past Sunday. Cooper has shown an already growing résumé of rush moves and will be a problem for opposing offenses the rest of the way. The last rookie to lead the team in sacks? Miller, in 2011. — Jeff Legwold
Previous ranking: 9
Bold second-half prediction: WR Tee Higgins will get 1,000 receiving yards.
Higgins had a slow start to the season after dealing with a shoulder injury but is starting to show the form he had at the end of 2020. The second-year player hasn’t been able to fully grasp all of his targets, but he has developed into a more crucial piece of the offense as defenses have started to take away rookie Ja’Marr Chase. Look for Bengals QB Joe Burrow to turn to Higgins more often in the final eight games. That should give Higgins the 569 receiving yards he needs to cross the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. — Ben Baby
Previous ranking: 11
Bold second-half prediction: WR DeSean Jackson will provide a positive spark.
We’ve seen this before, right? The Raiders bring in a flashy vet to take them to the next step, only to watch it all wash out. Marshawn Lynch did not ruin the locker room chemistry so much as alter it; the roster and, well, coaching staff could not handle it. Antonio Brown just took a wrecking ball to the whole thing on his way out of town and it ruined a season. Jackson, though, realizes this is his last stop and is needed for one real and specific purpose: to be a vertical threat to keep defenses honest. And the sooner he connects with Derek Carr, the better. Hey, you wanted bold. — Paul Gutierrez
Previous ranking: 25
Bold second-half prediction: TE Kyle Pitts will top 1,100 receiving yards.
Pitts is on pace for 1,160 yards, which would set a rookie record for receiving yards as a tight end — snapping a 60-year-old NFL mark. He has taken big steps as a pass catcher as the season has gone on and not only should he break Hall of Famer Mike Ditka’s mark if he stays healthy, he should shatter it. — Michael Rothstein
Previous ranking: 22
Bold second-half prediction: RB Jonathan Taylor will lead NFL in rushing.
Taylor still trails Tennessee’s Derrick Henry by 116 yards, but Henry might miss the rest of the season due to a foot injury. Taylor has rushed for at least 107 yards in four of the past six games, including 172 yards against the New York Jets in Week 9. Taylor proved he got stronger as his rookie season progressed in 2020, rushing for 741 yards over the final five games. The Colts will likely lean on him even more as they try to remain in playoff contention in the second half of the season. — Mike Wells
Previous ranking: 19
Bold second-half prediction: The Vikings will have a coaching change.
Things can’t stay the same. The only realistic window for Vikings owners to move on from Mike Zimmer, who has two years remaining on his contract, would come after two back-to-back losses to the Chargers and Packers. A loss to Minnesota’s division rival at home in Week 11 to further emphasize their inferiority in the NFC North could be what pushes ownership to make a change. In a last-ditch effort to right the ship and save his job, Zimmer could change offensive playcallers and hand Klint Kubiak’s duties to running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu (the only other person on staff who has called plays, albeit at the college level) — though this move feels less likely than the former given the optics of Zimmer moving on from his sixth offensive coordinator since 2016. — Courtney Cronin
Previous ranking: 21
Bold second-half prediction: The Seahawks will finish the regular season with nine wins.
Nine wins would tie for fewest under Russell Wilson, but it would mark an impressive turnaround from the Seahawks’ 2-5 start — and it could be enough to squeeze into the NFC’s final playoff spot. At 3-5, the Seahawks would need to go 6-3 the rest of the way to finish 9-8. They could be favored in at least five of those nine remaining games: Washington, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and Detroit. If they win all those, they’d then have to win one of their tougher matchups: Green Bay, the Rams or either of two games vs. Arizona. Sunday’s game at Green Bay looks much more winnable than it did two weeks ago with Wilson cleared to return and Aaron Rodgers’ status uncertain. — Brady Henderson
Previous ranking: 17
Bold second-half prediction: WR Deebo Samuel surpasses 1,500 receiving yards.
Only one player in franchise history — Jerry Rice, who did it four times — has ever posted 1,500-plus receiving yards in a season. But Samuel is on pace to easily surpass that mark, sitting at 882 yards through eight games. Even though a calf injury has slowed him some recently, Samuel has found a way to produce in every game this season, and with a 17th game on the schedule, he should join Rice in an exclusive club that helps him land his first Pro Bowl berth. — Nick Wagoner
Previous ranking: 24
Bold second-half prediction: The Eagles will lead the league in rushing.
Philadelphia currently ranks fifth with 1,229 rushing yards despite minimal carries by the running backs over the first quarter of the season or so. Coach Nick Sirianni has since shifted his offensive approach to more of a ground-based attack. The result? The Eagles have rumbled for 412 rush yards with six touchdowns over the last two weeks. Granted, that was against a pair of bad run defenses in the Lions and Chargers, but combine the newfound commitment to the run with quarterback Jalen Hurts‘ production as a rusher (494 yards, five TDs) and you have a group capable of challenging the top-ranked Browns (1,442 rushing yards). — Tim McManus
Previous ranking: 20
Bold second-half prediction: QB Sam Darnold will get benched.
This doesn’t feel as much like a prediction as it does an inevitability based on Darnold throwing 10 interceptions in the last six games, five resulting in losses. It’s not just the mistakes. It’s the lack of overall productivity by the offense that has one touchdown in the past three games. Darnold getting back to making the poor decisions that prompted the New York Jets to trade him to Carolina and move forward with rookie Zach Wilson just seems to cement his destiny. — David Newton
Previous ranking: 23
Bold second-half prediction: QB Justin Fields will pass for 300-plus yards in three games.
Fact, the Bears have one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL. However, I suspect Fields is about to begin throwing the ball with greater efficiency. The rookie is steadily improving each week, and is getting a better feel for the weapons he has on offense. Look for Fields to end the year on a high note, even if the Bears struggle to make the playoffs. — Jeff Dickerson
Previous ranking: 26
Bold second-half prediction: QB Daniel Jones doubles his number of TD passes.
The numbers don’t look great for the Giants quarterback, with just eight touchdown passes through nine games. But it’s not like he is playing poor. In fact, he has been pretty solid despite playing with a injury-ravaged supporting cast. The touchdowns will come in the second half, even if it’s in one less game. Jones will throw 16 touchdown passes in the second half of the season to finish with 24, in part because he will have a healthier cast of weapons and more help. — Jordan Raanan
Previous ranking: 27
Bold second-half prediction: Washington will finish with a 5-12 record.
That record will qualify as a huge disappointment after a 5-2 finish last season led to bigger expectations in Ron Rivera’s second season. But they will be lucky to even be favored in more than two games the rest of this season — they still play Tampa Bay, Seattle (with Russell Wilson most likely), Las Vegas and two vs. Dallas. Rivera’s teams typically improve in the second half of the season — 42-30 in his career in a full second half. Also, of the five times his teams were under .500 in the first half they posted a winning record in the second half four times. However, with lackluster quarterback play combined with numerous injuries and a difficult schedule, a turnaround will be exceptionally difficult. — John Keim
Previous ranking: 29
Bold second-half prediction: Jamal Agnew will score a TD five different ways.
Agnew already has scored touchdowns on a kickoff return, a missed field goal and as a receiver. He will have to add a rushing touchdown and a punt return touchdown. Agnew is the most explosive player the Jaguars have and his role on offense is increasing. He got the ball on a jet sweep against Buffalo (he has three total carries so far) and the Jaguars will use him creatively to try and spark an offense that’s averaging just 17.5 points per game. — Mike DiRocco
Previous ranking: 28
Bold second-half prediction: RB Michael Carter will top 1,300 yards from scrimmage.
If Carter does it, the rookie will become the first Jets running back since Thomas Jones (2007) to crack 1,300 yards from scrimmage. Right now, he is on a 1,256-yard pace. His role is gradually growing by the week, so there’s every reason to believe Carter can exceed 1,300 — assuming he stays healthy. — Rich Cimini
Previous ranking: 30
Bold second-half prediction: WR Jaylen Waddle will become the second rookie in NFL history to catch 100-plus passes.
Waddle’s production in terms of receptions and targets has proven to be quarterback-proof, logging six or more targets in seven of Miami’s nine games this season. The yards haven’t been there, but he is the Dolphins’ most reliable receiver and will continue to be used as such in an offense that throws the ball at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. Waddle is on pace for 112 catches for 992 yards on 156 targets. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Previous ranking: 31
Bold second-half prediction: The Texans will be picking No. 2 in the NFL draft.
The Lions may be the only team worse in the NFL than the Texans, and although they’re only a half game worse than Houston at the midway point of the season, they do play in a tougher division. After losing to the Dolphins on Sunday, Houston’s best bet to win a game likely comes against the New York Jets in Week 12 or in Jacksonville in Week 15. The Texans’ No. 3 pick last year went to Miami as part of the 2019 trade for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. — Sarah Barshop
Previous ranking: 32
Bold second-half prediction: The Lions will win a game.
The last time Detroit experienced a victory was Dec. 6, 2020. Since then, things have gone downhill — which even includes the 2021 preseason, when they dropped all three contests before starting 0-8 in the regular season. It seems as if history may repeat itself with another winless season, like the infamous 0-16 squad from 2008, but I’m here to tell you that the Lions will win a game. Now, the chance of this happening is still very slim, but I’m confident that they can at least get one on the back end of the year — possibly against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving or the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 26. — Eric Woodyard