We are coming up to the halfway point of the NFL season, and there is a ton to talk about out. The rookie duo in Dallas, the Vikings defense, the continued dominance of the Patriots and the stellar starts for star players like Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
Without further ado, let’s get to the writer’s opinions on some of the hot topics permeating the NFL right now.
Is the Vikings defense great enough to carry the Minnesota Vikings to a deep playoff run?
Jon Schlosser: Yes. The loss of Peterson and Bridgewater hurt, but this wasn’t an offensive powerhouse last year either. They ranked 29th in total offense, behind a Colts team that was starting QBs they had just signed off the street. They made the playoffs largely because of their defense then, which ranked fifth in points allowed per game — one spot behind a Broncos’ defense that won the Super Bowl. And that Vikings’ defense is better this year than it was last year.
Justin Ruoff: Absolutely. If you look at the Vikings makeup on defense, they resemble last year’s Super Bowl winning Denver team. The Broncos rode a strong defense that had an uncanny ability to create turnovers all the way to a championship and the Vikings have all the tools to do the same thing.
Jeff Risdon: Vikings defense can win one playoff round for them, but will need offensive help to do more than that.
Billy Nayden: Yes, we just watched the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl purely with defensive talent. The Vikes can definitely win 10 games and make the playoffs with this group.
What team that is below .500 but will make the playoffs?
Jon Schlosser: The 3-4 Colts. The AFC South is weak. The Colts should have beat the division leading Texans and they know it. They were the only AFC South team to win last week. They also have the best QB in the division by miles. If they can just protect him a little better and play a small amount of defense, they’ll scrape into the playoffs.
Justin Ruoff: The safe bet here is the Indianapolis Colts who currently sit at 3-4. Although they are not the best team below .500 in football, they are the best team in the worst division in football.
The bottom line is that the AFC South is putrid. The Texans currently lead the division, but they are a mess. The Jaguars and Titans have both shown promise, but they are still a few years away from contending. That being said, the winner of this division may very well end up at 8-8 or even worse. So the Colts will have the easiest road ahead of them.
Jeff Risdon: I think the Bengals can do it because the AFC is a mess, they’re getting Tyler Eifert back and both Baltimore and Pittsburgh are injury-riddled.
Billy Nayden: The San Diego Chargers have the best shot. They’ve been the unluckiest team in the NFL and have a chance to sweep Denver on short rest.
Who is better Von Miller or Aaron Donald?
Jon Schlosser: Miller. That’s not to take anything away from Donald, who is tremendous. But Miller has proven that he steps up in the biggest moments and can literally win games for you, creating points. Donald doesn’t do that.
Justin Ruoff: Ultimately you couldn’t go wrong with either player if you were starting a franchise, but if I had to choose, I would go with Donald. The bottom line is that Donald is the most dominant player in the NFL. He was the highest rated player in football last year by Pro Football Focus and that trend has continued in 2016 after a fantastic start to the year.
Jeff Risdon: Von Miller’s impact on the opposing pass protection is more important than what Donald does inside. Plus he finishes better when he gets the chance, at least this year.
Billy Nayden: Aaron Donald because he makes a bigger impact against the run. Both guys are the best in the game as pass rushers.
When the Dallas Cowboys face the Philadelphia Eagles, who will play better: Dak Prescott or Carson Wentz?
Jon Schlosser: Prescott. Wentz has been very good and may end up being the better NFL QB ten years from now, but what Prescott is doing as a rookie is just nuts. He leads Wentz in every category but TDs. Even there, he only trails by one and is just getting better, coming off of his first three-touchdown game. Plus, he’s been doing it without Dez Bryant, who is expected to play against Philly.
Justin Ruoff: Prescott is going to play much better because there’s a ton of pressure this week on him to play well. With Tony Romo getting close to returning, the Cowboys will have a decision to make in the near future about who is going to play the rest of the year at quarterback. Prescott knows that this decision is coming, and he’ll do everything he can to make it as hard as possible.
Jeff Risdon: Dak Prescott, but Wentz would outplay Tony Romo.
Billy Nayden: Dak, but only because he has more offensive weapons and the best offensive line in football.