The 2017 NFL season has had its fair share of surprises. The Eagles look like the best team in the league while Carson Wentz is a top MVP candidate, the Falcons are struggling to establish the same dominance they had last year, and Deshaun Watson after initially being benched to the start of the season looks like the real deal. With the season being halfway done, I am going to give who I think we will be seeing in January and who we will not.

AFC East

Winner- Patriots (6-2)

I am sure this comes as a shocker to most. But I am going out on a limb and saying that a Bill Belichick team will win the AFC East.

In all seriousness, the Patriots are back after their early struggles. People were worried in the beginning after starting 2-2, but Tom Brady and Co. have won four straight and it looks like there is no way they don't win their division yet again.

However, this Patriots team has flaws. They have the worst pass defense in the league, and both of their losses came from quarterbacks being able to take advantage of that. They have been winning of recent, but not by much. This is a Patriots team that looks much more vulnerable than in years past. They have been in too many close games for me to think they are still the best team in the league, and I would not be surprised if we do not see them in the Super Bowl come February.

AFC North

Winner- Steelers (6-2)

When you have a hall of fame quarterback, one of the best running backs, and one of the best wide receivers in the game, it is hard not to succeed. The Steelers overcame a slow start and two bad losses to stand at 6-2 halfway through the season. After the past three weeks, during which they beat the then-undefeated Chiefs and took down the Lions in Detroit on Sunday night, they have looked as good as any team in the league.

One reason for this is a new and improved defense. The Steelers defense has only allowed 20+ twice this season, and that was to an ugly game versus the Bears, and a disastrous game against the Jaguars where Big Ben was picked off five times. Even against the Chiefs and Lions, the Steelers defense held their own impressively.

Everyone knew they had the offensive firepower of a contender, but their defense has been impressing just as much. Watch out for Pittsburgh.

AFC South

Winner- Texans (3-4)

The league's worst division made some big steps this year. The Jaguars may have the best defense in the league and Leonard Fournette looks like a star, Marcus Mariota and the Titans look solid, and Deshaun Watson has given Houston the quarterback they have been looking for. In my opinion, this division is a race between the Texans and Jaguars. I am still not sold on the Titans on either side of the ball, as they are solid on both but don't appear to have what you need in a playoff team.

I say the Texans win the South because they are more balanced offensively.

Their defense may not be as good as Jacksonville's but it is still one of the better ones in the league. Offensively, Lamar Miller can do enough on offense where you have to respect him, and Deshaun Watson can get the ball to both of Houston's deadly wide receivers: DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Blake Bortles still has a long way to go before I start believing in him, and he does not have the same talented receiving corps that Watson has. It should be a close race between them, but Houston comes out on top.

AFC West

Winner- Chiefs (6-2)

The NFL's hottest team has cooled off a bit, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous. Alex Smith is playing like a true MVP candidate, and Kareem Hunt is on track to be a finalist for rookie of the year.

Their defense is injured and not as dominant as in years past, but the West is still theirs to lose.

A large part of this comes from the struggles of the other teams in their conference. Denver started out well, but are 3-5 along with Raiders and Chargers. The Chiefs look great and would win in most of the divisions this season, but unless some other team in the West gets on a roll, the Chiefs should win their division easily.

Wild Card 1

Team- Buffalo Bills (5-2)

The Bills have had a quick start to the season. They are a good team and have had some impressive wins. They have a very good defense, LeSean McCoy is a great running back, and Tyrod Taylor is a good quarterback. Their receiving core has not been great, but adding Kelvin Benjamin is a game changer.

In addition, they have a weak schedule ahead of them. The Bills are already 5-2 and have the dolphins twice, the Jets again, and the Colts coming up. In my opinion, they are the most balanced team in the East, and I think they are more than capable of splitting with the Patriots, but it takes a whole lot to win a division that has Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in it.

(Tiki and Tierney: Adam Archuleta Talks Kelvin Benjamin trade - via CBS Sports)


Team- Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)

As I stated earlier, the Jaguars have a dominant defense. It may very well be the best in the league. With the pick of Leonard Fournette, this is a team that is capable of making it to the postseason. Right now, the Jaguars are tied for first in the South at 4-3.

It is still not a very strong division, but it is going to be a very close race between Jacksonville and Houston. The Jaguars have a Super Bowl defense, and a great running back, but they have one of the worst starting QBs in the NFL and either need to see some big development in Bortles soon, or they need to make a move to get someone new before teams can really respect them as the contender they have the potential to be.

NFC East

Winner- Eagles (7-1)

At 7-1 the Eagles boast the best record in the NFL. They have a dominant defensive front, and Carson Wentz is making a very strong case for MVP. As far as the argument for the best team in the league, the Eagles make a strong case. Their secondary has been a little weak, but Ronald Darby should be coming back any week now, making it a respectable secondary.

However, two major blows to their offense and defense could be the difference of a Super Bowl contender, and just a playoff team. Left Tackle Jason Peters and Middle Linebacker Jordan Hicks both are out for the season. Peters has been and is still one of the best left tackle's in the game, even at the age of 35. A torn ACL and MCL could be career ending at this point. Jordan Hicks is still young and is quite injury prone, but that doesn't change the amount of talent that the Eagles lost with him going down.

We will really get to see just how good the Eagles are when they play the Cowboys twice, Seahawks, and Rams throughout the rest of the season. It will also be interesting to see the new addition, Jay Ajayi play and see what he can bring to the Eagles.

Their run game had been subpar, but with the new acquisition, the Eagles are saying they are trying to win, and now. Adding Ajayi, and the Cowboys losing Elliot for the next six games gives the Eagles a much easier path to the division title.

NFC North

Winner- Vikings (6-2)

The Vikings are a good team, do not get me wrong. But their 6-2 and a clear path to the playoffs has everything to do with Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers is still healthy, I'm not sure if I think they would make a wild-card spot. Without Rodgers, and the Lions cooling off fast, the North seems to be theirs to take. Case Keenum has impressed everyone. It is hard to believe that he was a third-string QB not too long ago with the way he has been playing.

Even after Dalvin Cook went down with a season-ending injury, the Vikings kept rolling. It is impressive what they have been doing, and it is the North is theirs to lose. I just want to give everyone a sobering reminder that the Vikings went off to a fast start last year, and just when everyone thought they were a lock to make the playoffs, they just imploded. But I don't think that this is the case this year. Mainly, because they won't have trouble competing against a Brett Hundley-led Packers, but not even the Lions look as good too. The Vikings have a good offense and a very good defense. This is a playoff team, for real this year.

NFC South

Winner- Saints (5-2)

The Saints had a slow start to the season.

Their defense looked atrocious and their offense appeared to lose a bit of firepower. It seemed that it might be time for the Saints to start rebuilding, but they seemed to flick the switch, and are now one of the hottest teams in football. This has risen from Drew Brees finding his stride, the emergence of Alvin Kamara, and the defense finding itself an identity behind shutdown rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Suddenly the Saints seem the team to beat in the South.

They obviously won't win out and will slow down a little, but I believe this team can contend. Never count out a Drew Brees team. In addition, the Panthers and the Falcons have not shown any signs of consistency and I think that is what is going to give the Saints a division title and playoff berth.

NFC West

Winner- Seahawks (5-2)

Do the Seahawks have arguably the worst offensive line in the league? Yes. Do they have a run game that has struggled to be effective? Yes. But do they still find ways to win? Yes. The Seahawks are again a very good team, and one that should find themselves in the postseason come January. Yet, as every other team in the league, they have flaws. Serious flaws. They cannot run the ball, or give Russell Wilson adequate time in the pocket. Their schedule is only going to get more difficult and they have only had one win against a team above 500. With the acquisition of Duane Brown, it shows the Seahawks are keen on filling the holes they have on their roster, and Brown should have an instant impact. A big reason why I picked the Seahawks to win the division because I just do not know how good the Rams offense is yet. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are a team everyone knows is going to be in the playoffs. They'll win the division but the Rams will give them a run for their money. I do not expect this team will go far.

First Wild Card

Team- Rams (5-2)

Jared Goff has proved haters wrong as his Sophomore season has been nothing but impressive. He has led the Rams to a 5-2 start after the team finished a measly 4-12 last year. Todd Gurley has bounced back, and their defense looks very solid. I think they are better than the Seahawks, but they are not as established and there are going to be games where you see Goff still learning and developing. I believe it will come down to a tiebreaker in the standings where Seattle wins. They can do more damage in the playoffs in my mind, but this is still a young team in a new program. It is very difficult to dethrone the Seahawks, and the Rams are coming close to being that team, but in my mind, they are one year away from capturing the division title.

Wild Card 2

Team- Cowboys (4-3)

As an Eagles fan, it kills me to admit when the Cowboys are good and to compliment them, but they really are a team that can beat anyone. Dak Prescott is already one of the better quarterbacks in the league, their offensive line continues to be dominant, and their pass rush has been very effective. Star running back Ezekiel Elliot just got his ban reinstated and will miss the next six games which is a big blow to the team, but I still think they are going to run the ball well. Losing Zeke is the reason I do not have them as my number one wild card because the ban comes at a very tough time in the Cowboys schedule. Their next three games come against the Chiefs, Falcons, and Eagles, and the loss of a starting running back could prove to be crucial. But even without him, they are still a good team and will gain some momentum once he gets back. Even without Elliot for six games, this is still a playoff team.