Midseason Awards: Bold predictions for rest of season

It's time for another round of bold predictions, but this week's edition of fearless prognostications includes a macho helping of audaciousness and abandon. Instead of simply making seemingly reckless predictions about this week's games, the ATNFL crew is forecasting what will happen by the end of the regular season. Warning: these predictions are not for the faint of heart.

Patriots don't lose again

Is this bold? It might not be. I'll be more surprised if New England stumbles. They're teaching the rest of the league lessons about top-to-bottom organizational consistency. Brady appears to be growing younger and more powerful with every week. Outside distractions only fuel this team, leaving opponents to pay the price. The remaining schedule isn't a cakewalk, but the only true challengers are the Broncos, Eagles and maybe the Jets. Denver's defense provides a must-watch matchup, but the Patriots are so used to being targeted. Nothing fazes them. They're perfectly capable of running the table. --Marc Sessler

Todd Gurley will set rookie rushing record

Todd Gurley will break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing mark of 1,808 yards despite missing two games and barely playing in a third. He might not stop there. Gurley has rushed for 575 yards in his first five games since ACL surgery compared to the 420 Adrian Peterson accrued in the first five games of his 2012 MVP season -- returning from a reconstructive knee procedure of his own. It's natural to suspect Gurley will only get stronger as the season goes along, just as Peterson did. Five games into his career, it's obvious that Gurley is an old-school, franchise-altering back reminiscent of Earl Campbell and the "Luv Ya Blue" Houston Oilers. -- Chris Wesseling

Three NFC West teams will make playoffs

The Seahawks have struggled to close out games, but their defense is playing close to the level they have been throughout this Pete Carroll golden era. The Rams' defense might be more talented, and it's playing aggressive at every level. They are undoubtedly a top-five defense, and St. Louis boasts one of the best running backs in Todd Gurley. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have more offensive talent than any team and aren't going to blow their 6-2 start. The Vikings will fade after their schedule turns tough, the Falcons are punching above their weight and the NFC East will have one postseason representative. Add it all up and three NFC West teams will make the playoffs. Look for the Cardinals to win the division, and the Seahawks and Rams to get in as wild cards. -- Gregg Rosenthal

Raiders will make playoffs

This shouldn't even be that bold of a prediction. The Raiders, at 4-3, are currently the AFC's No. 5 seed. But when you consider that they haven't been to the playoffs since 2002 and haven't been over .500 this late in the season since 2011, you can see how the branch could be flimsy. Entering the season, most viewed the Raiders a season or two away from competing. Few saw Derek Carr making the incredible leap he has this season. Rookie wideout Amari Cooper has been studly and untacklable in the open field. Michael Crabtree has been reborn as a perfect second-fiddle to Cooper. The offensive line has been one of the best in the NFL for the balance of the season. One thing that leaps off the screen is how fast the Raiders are. They can out-athlete just about anyone on the offensive side of the football. Oakland has morphed into a wildly entertaining team to watch on a weekly basis and have enough playmakers -- and a tiebreaker over the Jets in hand -- to boost them to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. -- Kevin Patra

Falcons miss postseason

Four teams in NFL history have started 5-0 and went on to miss the playoffs. In 2015, the Falcons will join that depressing group. Their hot start was far from dominant upon closer inspection, and their only win in the past three weeks was a 10-7 yawner against the Titans. Their remaining schedule isn't particularly difficult (a road date against the ugly Niners on Sunday should take them to their bye week at 7-2), but the remaining schedule presents challenges: Colts, Vikings, at Bucs, at Panthers, at Jaguars, Panthers, Saints. The Falcons got plenty of breaks in the first half of the season. The law of averages dictates a balancing of the scales. 9-7 and out. -- Dan Hanzus

Seahawks storm back to claim NFC West

Seattle has a slightly more forgiving run to end their season, which leads us to believe that Pete Carroll's team won't finish the year anywhere near .500. Certain teams are built for December and even though the Seahawks has played ho-hum football for the first half of 2015, they will be ready to pounce down the stretch. We've seen the Seahawks in two straight Super Bowls and it's not hard to imagine them in a third, but before that happens, they need to take a stranglehold on the division. My bold prediction is that Seattle finishes with double-digit wins and takes the NFC West relatively easily. A pair of games against the Cardinals remain, not to mention dates with the 49ers, Ravens and Browns to help boost their win total. Can't we all just see Richard Sherman lecturing us at the end of December, reminding us all "I told you so?" Can't we still see Jimmy Graham developing into an uncontainable force once the offense has more time to gel? -- Conor Orr

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