NFL Midseason Predictions 2020: Playoff Picks, Super Bowl Champ, Award Winners

The MMQB’s writers and editors revisit their preseason playoff and award predictions, and take another shot at picking who will play for it all in Tampa in February.
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With nine weeks in the books, and every team now having played at least eight games, we are declaring this the midpoint of the season here at The MMQB. We’ve reconvened the same group who went on record in our preseason predictions to make midseason picks below, and you can also check out our midseason power rankings poll.

Below we have playoff seeding, Super Bowl predictions, award winners and top storylines from eight of our writers. Keep in mind the award winners are what we expect at the end of the season, not who we’d pick for the first half of the year.

mmqb-midseason-predictions

Albert Breer

AFC
1. Chiefs
2. Titans
3. Steelers
4. Bills
5. Ravens
6. Colts
7. Dolphins

NFC

1. Saints
2. Packers
3. Seahawks
4. Eagles
5. Rams
6. Bucs
7. Cardinals

Super Bowl LV: Ravens over Saints

Award winners:
MVP: Russell Wilson
OPOY: Alvin Kamara
DPOY: Aaron Donald
OROY: Joe Burrow
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Alex Smith
Coach: Brian Flores

I’m sticking with the Ravens to win the whole thing and the Saints to win the NFC, and that’s largely because I see them like I saw the Chiefs last year. Both have been consistent winners, and haven’t gotten as much attention this year, but are quietly improving and becoming more complete as the season goes along. New Orleans used the absence of Mike Thomas to get more diverse offensively, and now Thomas is back. On the other side of the ball, a young crew of pass-rushers is growing up around Cam Jordan. And Baltimore is better defensively than it was last year, and is learning a different way to play offense. Add a pair of top-five or so head coaches to the mix and you’ve got my Super Bowl LV matchup.

Top storyline for the second half:

I’m interested to see where the COVID-19 effect is felt as cold and flu season arrives—and how teams might handle losing their quarterback, a or key offensive lineman or a corner. Things aren’t going to get easier from here, especially with the NFL tightening the vice on its protocols in order to get through the season and into the playoffs.

Jenny Vrentas

AFC
1. Steelers
2. Chiefs
3. Titans
4. Dolphins
5. Ravens
6. Bills
7. Raiders

NFC
1. Seahawks
2. Packers
3. Saints
4. Eagles
5. Buccaneers
6. Cardinals
7. Rams

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Seahawks

Award winners:
MVP: Russell Wilson
OPOY: Alvin Kamara
DPOY: T.J. Watt
OROY: Justin Herbert
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Alex Smith
Coach: Mike Tomlin

The theme of my midseason awards picks is sticking with my preseason picks that look smart—Mike Tomlin! Miami!—and ignoring the ones that look really, really dumb. No need to dwell here. I picked the Steelers to win the AFC North in the preseason, betting on the return of Ben Roethlisberger plus the soldering of the excellent defensive pieces Pittsburgh has been accumulating, but I certainly would not have forecast 8–0. This year's Steelers are what your friends would call ugly sexy, but the fact that they keep finding ways to win is why I'm giving Tomlin the edge in the Coach of the Year category. However, Brian Flores is a very, very strong 1B choice, and as you'll note, I have the Dolphins winning the AFC East. Might as well double down. As for my Super Bowl pick, there's nothing in the first nine weeks of the season to convince me that the Chiefs over the Seahawks is implausible, so I'm riding that selection out, too. If that's the case, the scoring record for the Super Bowl—a wild 75 combined points—just might be on notice.

Top storyline for the second half:

An AFC East that's up for grabs! After 11 straight years of the NFL's most boring division race, this year's might be one of the most exciting. The 7–2 Bills still have to play the Cardinals and the Steelers, while the 5–3 Dolphins have the Chiefs on their remaining schedule. This one could very well come down to the Week 17 finale in balmy Orchard Park, N.Y.

ben-roethlisberger-pittsburgh-steelers-last-unbeaten-team

Conor Orr

AFC
1. Steelers
2. Chiefs
3. Bills
4. Titans
5. Ravens
6. Dolphins
7. Browns

NFC
1. Seahawks
2. Saints
3. Packers
4. Eagles
5. Buccaneers
6. Cardinals
7. Rams

Super Bowl LV: Steelers over Seahawks

Award winners:
• MVP: Russell Wilson
• OPOY: Dalvin Cook
• DPOY: Myles Garrett
• OROY: Justin Herbert
• DROY: Chase Young
• Comeback: Alex Smith
• Coach: Mike Tomlin

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I picked the Steelers to go 13–3 and the 49ers to miss the playoffs in my all 256-game preseason predictions exercise. I talk a lot less about how I picked the Jets and Falcons to be formidable and the Bills to miss the playoffs at 7–9, but who is counting? Over the second half of the season, I imagine Russell Wilson will sprint back out ahead of the pack and reclaim his place as the pace leader for MVP. I also would imagine D.K. Metcalf garnering serious Offensive Player of the Year consideration if he continues to play this well. Mike Tomlin was my Coach of the Year candidate from Day One and I’m sticking with it, though Brian Flores and Kevin Stefanski will also pose a serious and well-deserved challenges, especially if Miami and Cleveland both end up in the playoffs.

Top storyline for the second half:

The storyline I am most interested in over the second half is how good the Miami Dolphins can become in this short window of time. Tua Tagovailoa’s ability to keep pace with Kyler Murray last week was encouraging, as is Flores’s defense absolutely hitting stride at the perfect time.

Greg Bishop

AFC
1. Chiefs
2. Steelers
3. Bills
4. Colts
5. Ravens
6. Titans
7. Dolphins

NFC
1. Saints
2. Seahawks
3. Packers
4. Eagles
5. Buccaneers
6. Rams
7. Cardinals

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Buccaneers

Award winners:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Patrick Mahomes
DPOY: Aaron Donald
OROY: Joe Burrow
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Alex Smith
Coach: Brian Flores

I’m not changing now. Not even after Sunday, when the Saints mollywhopped Tom Brady and the Bucs, and the Steelers improved to 8–0. My Super Bowl picks from August remain the same—and for largely the same reasons.

The Steelers might have the best record in football, but the Chiefs have the single best player and the best overall team. There are always close playoff games in January—Kansas City knows that as well as anyone; see: three comebacks triumphs in 2019—and I’d take Mahomes over anyone else in the field in just those kinds of games.

The NFC is trickier for sure, but I’m staying with the Bucs, the team I picked a few months back to much mockery on Twitter. Here’s the thing: All the NFC contenders have flaws; obvious ones. The Saints have had some rough defensive outings. The Seahawks’ defense is just rough. The Packers tend to have a bad offensive performance at the worst time, like last January against the 49ers. I don’t think the Rams, Cardinals or Eagles (my other NFC picks) can seriously contend. That leaves Brady and the Bucs. Sunday night aside, the Bucs have often looked like the most complete team in football. Other than against Brees, their defense has looked formidable. Tampa has a bunch of offensive skill guys who keep defensive coordinators up late. They should get healthier as the season rolls to a close. I like their chances best in a conference where I could see any of four teams going to the Super Bowl to lose to the Chiefs.

Either way, I believe Kansas City will win, starting another NFL dynasty just as the last one (New England) comes to an end. Should a second consecutive title come, as I predicted here, against Brady, it will only enhance the story line. I’m here for all the story lines.

Top storyline for the second half:

I’m super interested in Buffalo down the stretch. Are the Bills the team they appeared to be against the Seahawks? If so, I like Buffalo to challenge for the AFC. But I wonder if the Bills are that team, or the team we saw muddle through the last month. The Titans strike me as the team with the most variance left that’s in the playoff hunt. I could see a total collapse in Tennessee, or a run to rival last season’s playoff march. I watch that team, and I just don’t know. The Browns strike me as the team with the best record that’s not getting a ton of love. I wonder if Cleveland will force its way into these kinds of conversations.

tyrann-mathieu-patrick-mahomes

Michael Rosenberg

AFC
1. Steelers
2. Chiefs
3. Bills
4. Titans
5. Ravens
6. Dolphins
7. Browns

NFC
1. Packers
2. Seahawks
3. Saints
4. Eagles
5. Rams
6. Cardinals
7. Vikings

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Packers

Award winners:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Patrick Mahomes
DPOY: Myles Garrett
OROY: Tua Tagavailoa
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Alex Smith
Coach: Brian Flores

For some reason, I don't feel quite so bullish on the Cowboys anymore. Some team will surely get hot and earn a surprise playoffs berth, and I went with the 3–5 Vikings based on talent and the fact they have two games against one of the teams in front of them: Chicago. I am sticking with my Super Bowl champ, Kansas City, because the Chiefs are the answer to the very simple question: Which team would you least like to face in January or February?

Top storyline for the second half:

Sorry, but: Can the NFL finish the season—and if so, is that what we would call a success? I hope COVID-19 does not wreck the league, but more importantly, that it does not destroy the life of anybody in the league.

packers-celebrate-week-2-aaron-rodgers-aaron-jones

Andrew Brandt

AFC
1. Chiefs
2. Steelers
3. Titans
4. Bills
5. Ravens
6. Raiders
7. Colts

NFC
1. Packers
2. Saints
3. Seahawks
4. Eagles
5. Buccaneers
6. Rams
7. Cardinals

Super Bowl LV: Packers over Titans

Award winners:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Dalvin Cook
DPOY: Aaron Donald
OROY: Joe Burrow
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Teddy Bridgewater
Coach: Brian Flores

I understand and fully disclose my Packer bias, and I hear all the narratives about the Packers not surrounding Aaron Rodgers with the same weapons as other quarterbacks, but knowing all that, I like their chances even more than I did at the start of the season. They have the best QB/WR/RB combo in the game (Rodgers/Davante Adams/Aaron Jones) and I'm not sure it's close. They are tied for the best record in the conference and have done so with games missed by Adams, Jones and their best lineman, David Bahktiari. Their defense is not elite but neither are the defenses of the other top teams in the NFC.

As for the AFC, I am also staying with my preseason pick and going against the common narratives (Chiefs, Steelers) to pick the Titans. They won't be the conference's top seed, and I may be the only one picking them—then and now—but I like their chances in the cold and nasty weather of January in Kansas City, Pittsburgh or Buffalo. They are opportunistic and well-coached and they will ride Derrick Henry with any kind of lead late in games.

My award picks are mostly chalk, unless picking Rodgers over Mahomes is a surprise to anyone. As for Comeback Player of the Year, I understand many will choose Alex Smith for the arduous feat of coming back at all, but Teddy Bridgewater, to me, is a revelation. I raised my eyebrows when the Panthers gave him $63 million over three years—the same amount Mahomes is making over the same period—but he has been worth it and more. And, like Smith, he has come back from a gruesome injury that had serious complications.

Top storyline for the second half:

There is only one storyline to watch the rest of the season: whether we will have a rest of the season. As I wrote here this week regarding playing through a pandemic, now comes the hard part. The byes will have gone away, the weather is turning and the virus is surging. The NFL, aware of this, is showing less "abundance of caution" as it is not postponing games as it did earlier in the season. I will be watching to what degree the business of football takes precedence over an abundance of caution.

Patrick Mahomes leads a Chiefs huddle

Gary Gramling

AFC
1. Chiefs
2. Steelers
3. Bills
4. Colts
5. Ravens
6. Dolphins
7. Titans

NFC
1. Saints
2. Packers
3. Seahawks
4. Eagles
5. Buccaneers
6. Rams
7. Vikings

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Buccaneers

Award winners:
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
OPOY: Dalvin Cook
DPOY: T.J. Watt
OROY: Joe Burrow
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Jason Verrett
Coach: Brian Flores

I'm clinging to the smallest shred of hope that my Colts-Eagles dark horse Super bowl becomes a reality—and I think both teams will play in January—but the prospect of either, let alone both, winning multiple playoff road games is slim. I do think the Bucs will have things figured out offensively by the end of the season, which is why I have them coming up short in the division but earning the right to lose to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. I'd love to stick with my Rams as NFC West champions pick, but I think the second-half schedule is a little too steep for them to make up a game on Seattle. So while I'll insist the Rams are still the best team in that division, I'll put them in a Wild-Card spot like the coward I am. Other than that, my playoff predictions are pretty boring, except for the Vikings taking advantage of a soft second-half schedule and riding the heroics of Dalvin Cook to a postseason rematch with the Packers in Lambeau. (Who will win that matchup? Somebody.)

As for awards, I don't know why we're twisting ourselves in knots to give MVP to someone other than Patrick Mahomes, or Defensive Rookie of the Year to someone other than Chase Young. Joe Burrow edges Justin Herbert for OROY based on Burrow's inferior supporting cast, Cook edges Alvin Kamara for OPOY, and I will twist myself in knots to give T.J. Watt DPOY over Aaron Donald. Jason Verrett gets Comeback over Alex Smith, because I like the fact that Verrett didn't just rise like a phoenix from the ashes, but has become one of the best players in the league at his position. And give Matt Rhule an honorable mention in the Coach of the Year race, but Brian Flores gets the big trophy.

Top storyline for the second half:

I only want to watch Josh Allen. I've never seen a quarterback who presents such a wide range of possibilities on a play-to-play basis—he might put a pass rusher in a chokehold while flinging a 70-yard laser into a receiver's hands, or he might run around in circles until he's 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage and then try to lateral it to the mascot. That said, he's made incredible progress this year and I'm curious to see what the second half of the season brings, because whatever it is it won't be dull.

Mitch Goldich

AFC
1. Steelers
2. Chiefs
3. Titans
4. Bills
5. Ravens
6. Dolphins
7. Browns

NFC
1. Packers
2. Seahawks
3. Saints
4. Eagles
5. Buccaneers
6. Rams
7. Cardinals

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs over Packers

Award winners:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
OPOY: Patrick Mahomes
DPOY: Aaron Donald
OROY: Justin Herbert
DROY: Chase Young
Comeback: Alex Smith
Coach: Mike Tomlin

I normally hate flip-flopping, but I will switch from my preseason pick of Chiefs over Seahawks to Chiefs over Packers. (Don’t worry, I’ll brag about being right if we get either outcome.) But either way, I can’t imagine myself picking anyone to beat the Chiefs. Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the others around them are simply too good right now. If they can successfully defend their title, they’ll complete one of the best three-year runs the league has ever seen, looping in Mahomes’s MVP year in 2018 with two Super Bowl wins to follow. I still like the Seahawks, but share the concerns about their defense that others have as well. Honestly, I could imagine any of those NFC teams getting hot and making a run. The field is wide open. I hope we get the Chiefs’ offense against the Steelers’ defense in the AFC championship game and some exciting chaos in the NFC.

Top storyline for the second half:

I’m interested to see what new teams can crash the playoff party and possibly advance. The Browns and Bucs could snap the league’s longest playoff droughts (though Tom Brady makes the Bucs not quite feel like a “new” face. The Bills, Dolphins and Raiders have made the playoffs more recently, but not won a game in ages. The Cardinals are brand new since they’ve had any success. It’s been fun watching some legendary quarterbacks sustain success over the last decade-plus, but some new blood will make things fun too.

That said, I’m on the record as being very much against playoff expansion. I think the format the league used from 2002 to 2019 was literally perfect, but then they went and changed it on me. If some scuffling, boring team down to its unexciting backup quarterback sneaks in as a seven seed, I won’t be happy. But if that happens, and they manage to win a boring, sloppy game to bounce some two seed we were excited to see in the divisional round, then perhaps I will feel some perverse sense of delight—this year only—as I gleefully tell everyone I was right. (Even as some people will then continue to tell me I was wrong.)