Week 9 is upon us and, as crazy as this may sound, that means we are halfway through the 2022 NFL regular season. With the second half on the horizon, we'll now take a step back and look over what we saw through the first nine weeks and try to come up with some bold predictions for what may happen in the weeks to come. It's important to remember that these are bold predictions, so we're going out on a limb for some of these, but will make the case for why they are plausible.

Coming into the year, we conducted a similar experiment and had mixed results. We feel good about our predictions that Philadelphia will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC as well as Tua Tagovailoa silencing his doubters, but we'd certainly like a mulligan predicting that Russell Wilson was going to win MVP. 

Below, you'll find an unlikely Super Bowl champion, a surprise team rolling deep into the playoffs in the AFC and a young quarterback emerging as a true franchise centerpiece. 

10. Geno Smith gets MVP votes

Out of the many surprising things to come out of the first half of the 2022 season, the Seattle Seahawks' 5-3 record that has them in first place in the NFC West may be the most shocking of them all. That, in large part, is thanks to the superb play by Geno Smith. He has not only kept his offense afloat in the aftermath of the Russell Wilson trade, but it's become better in comparison to the final years of Wilson's tenure in Seattle. 

Smith leads the NFL with a completion percentage of 73% and is third in the league with a 107.2 passer rating entering Week 9. Those numbers are impressive on their own, but they vault into the eye-popping category when you consider how Smith has been operating in the Seahawks offense. He's not dinking and dunking his way down the field with high-percentage throws; he's attempting difficult passes and thriving. Smith is top three in passer rating on throws 15-plus yards down the field, throws outside the numbers and on passes when he's pressured. 

Geno Smith
SEA • QB • #7
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This run also doesn't feel like a fluke either just by the naked eye. And if Smith keeps this up, he'll have the Seahawks in a position to win the division and get at least some votes for MVP, which is hilarious considering his predecessor's inability to catch a single vote during his tenure.  

9. Odell Beckham Jr. signs with Cowboys

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the last big transaction still remaining is where Odell Beckham Jr. will ultimately end up. After suffering a torn ACL in the Super Bowl last year, it was going to take the veteran wideout some time to recover, so mid-November and December were circled as possible times for him to latch on with a new team. 

When he does put pen to paper on a contract, it'll be with the Dallas Cowboys. 

Throughout the year, the Rams and Bills have been the two favorites to land Beckham, but we'll go out on a limb to say the opportunity to put a star on the side of his helmet will be enticing for him. The Cowboys have also already shown us that they are in the market for a wide receiver as they were reportedly deep in discussion to acquire Brandin Cooks at the deadline, but ultimately couldn't get the money to work. 

To keep pace with Philadelphia and the rest of the playoff hopefuls, Jerry Jones will add Beckham to give Dallas' offense a boost in a similar fashion the wideout gave the Rams in the second half of last year. 

8. George Pickens makes late OROY run

George Pickens is currently 30/1 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, so you could make a case for this to be the boldest prediction of the bunch. With Chase Claypool traded to Chicago at the deadline, that opens up an additional 6.25 targets per game for any pass-catcher in Pittsburgh's offense to take. We'll predict that Pickens will be the main beneficiary of Claypool's absence and assert himself as arguably the best young receiver in his rookie class. 

Pickens has already shown a solid rapport with fellow rookie Kenny Pickett. Since Pickett became the starter in Week 5, Pickens has averaged 5.8 targets per game, and even that number is skewed a bit, thanks to a three-target game in Week 8 against Philadelphia (Claypool had six targets that week).

George Pickens
PIT • WR • #14
REC YDs338
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Not only will Pickens see an uptick in targets, but five of the Steelers' remaining nine opponents are currently ranked outside the top 15 in DVOA against the pass, meaning that he'll also have some favorable matchups on the horizon to coincide with more looks from his QB. 

7. Justin Fields becomes clear No. 1 QB from 2021 class

Justin Fields has already started to emerge over the last few weeks and it does seem like the Chicago coaching staff has finally unlocked something with their 2021 first-rounder. Fields is utilizing his legs more effectively, thanks to the Bears offense calling more designed runs. Now that he has that key piece to his game humming, the next step for Fields is to refine his passing ability. The Bears believe that's possible by adding more pieces around him, as evidenced by the club trading for Chase Claypool at the deadline, giving Fields another elite athlete to work with. 

Starting with that last-second loss to the Vikings in Week 5, Fields has a 97.6 passer rating over the last month and has been completing 64.1% of his passes. 

With more weapons at his disposal and the offensive play-callers crafting things around his skill set, Fields looks to be on the verge of going on a run that will put him at the forefront of the conversation of being the best quarterback from his draft class. It also helps that Fields will only be on the road three more times this season as six of Chicago's final nine games are at Soldier Field. 

6. Tom Brady leads Bucs to playoffs

Tom Brady Getty Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Despite still sitting as the betting favorite to win the NFC South, the Buccaneers have already been buried by some, which makes this prediction worthy of being bold in my eyes. So far, Tampa Bay hasn't given you much belief that it'll reach the postseason. Entering Week 9, the Bucs are two games under .500, rank 25th in the NFL in points per game and sit dead-last in rushing yards per game and yards per carry. It hasn't been pretty. 

All that said, we've come to learn that it's never wise to count out Tom Brady. Throughout the first half of the year, Brady had to balance football with marital issues. With the former couple announcing the finalization of their divorce last week, you would think that a heavy weight has been lifted for all parties involved. Does that mean Brady is immediately going to start playing better? Who knows? But it can't hurt, right? 

It's also worth pointing out that the Buccaneers' wide receiver room was banged up through the first half and are now healthy. If Brady and the offense can get back to where they were a year ago and couple it with a defense that is still a top-five unit in the NFL, Tampa Bay will go on a run that has them in the playoffs when the dust settles on the regular season. 

5. Rams finish last in NFC West

While there is some optimism with the Bucs, the same can't be said for the defending Super Bowl champs, who we predict will go from first to worst and finish last in the NFC West. At 3-4, they already sit in third in the division looking up to both the Seahawks and 49ers. Meanwhile, they enter Week 9 as an underdog, while the Arizona Cardinals -- the only team below them in the NFC West at 3-5 -- are currently a favorite, so we could see a shift in the standings as early as this week. 

The offense is averaging just 16.9 points per game this season, which is the fewest by a defending champion through seven games since the 1991 New York Giants. While their offense was able to carve up any unit a year ago, they've struggled mightily against some of the upper-echelon defenses in the league this year. Against top-10 scoring defenses this season, L.A. is 0-4 and has lost each game by 12 or more points. 

As we look at their remaining schedule, they have more games on the road than they do at home, which includes three of their final four games coming away from SoFi Stadium. Another way to look at that is the Rams will likely be an underdog the majority of the time in the second half. As an underdog this season already, the Rams are 0-3. 

And that's not even mentioning Cooper Kupp's ankle injury that could limit him. 

4. Ravens earn No. 1 seed in the AFC

Don't look now, but the Baltimore Ravens are in a position to go on a run. After beating the Buccaneers last Thursday to begin Week 8, they now sit at 5-3 on the season and in sole possession of first place in the AFC North. Not only is this team positioned to win its division, but the Ravens have a ceiling that stops with them sitting as the top seed in the entire AFC. 

Baltimore has the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL as each of their remaining opponents is currently either at or below .500 on the year. 

On top of that, they are currently in the midst of a soft cushion in their schedule, which allows them to get healthy. After playing the Bucs on "Thursday Night Football," they had their mini-bye extended, thanks to playing the Saints on "Monday Night Football" to end Week 9 and will then have their actual bye week in Week 10. So, that means between after the Bucs game and before they host the Panthers in Week 11, the Ravens will have played just one game over the span of 24 days. 

That is an absurd amount of time off in-season and is much needed for a Ravens squad that has the likes of Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman banged up currently. This stretch should allow them enough time to get healthy before they face an easy string of opponents to pile up wins and stun the Chiefs and Bills out of contention for the No. 1 seed in the conference. 

3. Eagles go 17-0 

For just the third time in NFL history, we'll have a team go undefeated in the regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles have been a juggernaut throughout the first half of the season and have shown no signs of slowing down. They are currently the No. 2-ranked team in DVOA, and Jalen Hurts has been able to gash opposing defenses and finds himself in the MVP conversation. When you look at their remaining schedule, it's hard to really pencil in a definitive loss, especially when you simply break it down to the quarterback matchups they'll face. 

Jalen Hurts
PHI • QB • #1
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Here's a quick rundown of the quarterbacks Philly will face the rest of the way:

With the exception of Prescott -- when the Eagles go into Dallas in Week 16 -- and possibly Rodgers, no quarterback is going to strike much fear into Philadelphia at this stage, and you could argue that it'll be favored in every game for the remainder of the season. 

2. Dolphins make AFC Championship run

While everyone seems to think we're destined for a Bills-Chiefs AFC Championship, the Dolphins are going to crash the party with a conference title run of their own. 

When healthy, Tua Tagovailoa has checked off essentially all of the boxes of being a quarterback the Dolphins can build around. The team is 5-0 when he plays a full game and their offense averages 26 points per game. Tagovailoa leads the NFL in yards per attempt and passer rating this season while ranking third in completion percentage. That elite level of play under center has Miami as a legit sleeper in the AFC, and it should only get better after the addition of pass-rusher Bradley Chubb at the deadline. 

The Dolphins already were able to stop opponents' ground game, ranking ninth in the NFL in DVOA against the run, but it's stopping the pass that has plagued them. They rank 29th in the NFL in DVOA. Chubb's ability to pressure the quarterback should help alleviate those issues in the secondary, and there's also the possibility that starting cornerback Byron Jones (PUP) finds his way back to the team at some point in the second half after undergoing offseason surgery on his lower leg.  

Pressuring the quarterback and having two game-breaking talents like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on offense gives Miami the ability to hang with any team in the playoffs and will result in a couple of big-time upsets en route to an AFC title game appearance. 

1. 49ers win Super Bowl LVII


The 49ers currently own the fourth-best odds to win the Super Bowl this season, so this isn't exactly the boldest of predictions, but there is definitely a tier drop after the Bills, Eagles and Chiefs, so we'll allow it. 

The addition of Christian McCaffrey has the ability to be a Super Bowl-winning move for San Francisco as it gives it another game-wrecker on the offensive side of the ball and should take more pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo as he can continue to simply game-manage and distribute to his wide array of skill position players. 

The combination of being able to run the football as well as any team in the NFL and owning a defense that is top 10 in the league against both the run and pass is as lethal as it can get when it comes to finding success in the postseason. 

Their biggest challenger will be taking down the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. Kyle Shanahan will cook up a game plan that dilutes Jalen Hurts' impact and bottles up their passing attack. Meanwhile, one of the ways you can move the ball on Philly is on the ground as they rank 22nd in the NFL in DVOA against the run. That plays right into Shanahan's hand and will be an area they'll look to exploit. 

Then, in the Super Bowl, they'll gash the dreams of the Buffalo Bills en route to their sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history.