We’re roughly halfway through an NFL season unlike any we’ve seen before amid the coronavirus pandemic. Every team has now played at least eight games, so it is time to take stock of the first half and look at what lies ahead as the playoffs near.
How do we describe the first half? What are the biggest questions remaining to be answered? What will each team’s record be at season’s end? NFL Nation answers the questions for all 32 teams.
First half in two words: New Bills. After three seasons of coach Sean McDermott’s teams flourishing on defense and floundering on offense, the Bills boast an explosive offense capable of moving the ball at will. And they’ve had to, because Buffalo’s defense has taken a drastic step back from its 2018 and 2019 form — although there have been signs of life over recent weeks.
Biggest question left to answer: Can this team consistently click on all cylinders? The Bills have yet to turn in a game in which all sides of the ball play at a high level, despite showing the ability to do so. At its best, Buffalo is a contender in the AFC — it’s just a question of whether (or how often) we will see this team play complementary football for four quarters.
Which is the toughest game left? Week 14 against Pittsburgh. The Steelers look like the best team in the NFL, and as of Week 9 are the last remaining unbeaten team. Their defense — specifically the pass rush — will test Buffalo’s offensive line, which is currently hobbling its way through the season. But a victory for the Bills could have a big impact on playoff seeding in the AFC.
Final record prediction: 12-4. Sticking with my preseason prediction, the Bills are talented enough to win enough games to seal a playoff spot and rest their starters in Week 17 for the second consecutive season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
First half in two words: Trust Flores. The Dolphins are good again, and at least a year earlier than many predicted after their dramatic rebuild. Coach Brian Flores has guided this team from an 0-7 start in 2019 to 10-7 over its past 17 games. An October quarterback change from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Tua Tagovailoa looked curious on the surface, but like almost everything Flores has touched with the Dolphins, it has worked out. With a top-five scoring defense and an exciting young QB, there’s more optimism around the Dolphins now than there has been in more than a decade.
Biggest question left to answer: Can Miami make the playoffs without a reliable running game? The Dolphins have the 28th-best rushing attack (97.1 yards per game) in the NFL, which is a combination of poor run blocking by a young offensive line and ineffective rushing by a committee of players. The hope is lead back Myles Gaskin’s return from a knee injury later this month coupled with more reps for the offensive line will turn into improvement. But it’s unrealistic to expect the Dolphins will go from bad to good here in the second half of the…