The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and some teams that likely anticipated moving on from players are instead in the market to add them. Amid a strange season, we've seen a handful of teams that were expected to struggle instead flip the script and get out to hot starts. It might still feel like the beginning of the season, but we're approaching the halfway point, and those franchises might already have done enough to position themselves as likely playoff teams come January.
With that in mind, their trade deadline calculus also changes. These teams might rightfully see themselves as aggressive at the deadline, either to shore up a hole caused by injury or improve on a weakness that the league's better rosters will be capable of exploiting. What might have been a developmental or rebuilding year is now a competing year, and that's going to fuel moves that might not have made sense before the season.
Let's take four teams that unexpectedly have winning records after Week 7 and break down what their situations look ahead of the deadline. I'll use ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) to detail their chances of making it to the postseason, advanced metrics to get a sense of how they're really playing independent of their record, and their cap and roster situations to figure out what sort of moves they might want to make (or avoid) before the deadline on Tuesday.
I'll begin in the AFC East, where one team already appears to have revealed its strategy.
New York Jets (5-2)
Chances to make the playoffs: 66.9%
Preseason chances to make playoffs: 22.3%
Remaining strength-of-schedule ranking: No. 15
Let's start with the Jets, who have already signaled that they'll be looking to add more to their roster as they try to make it back to the postseason. With rookie running back Breece Hall sidelined for the season after tearing his left ACL on Sunday, the Jets quickly responded by sending a conditional sixth-round pick to the Jaguars for James Robinson. The selection would become a fifth-rounder if Robinson gains at least 260 rushing yards over the remainder of the season.
I'm typically inclined to argue that teams playing in versions of the Gary Kubiak/Mike Shanahan offense -- as the Jets do under coordinator Mike LaFleur -- should go after running backs available on the waiver wire or in street free agency. But given that the Jets are giving up only a late-round pick here, I don't think there's any reason to be too upset with this deal. Robinson was the lead back for the Jaguars to start the season, which was shocking for a player who was just nine months past tearing his left Achilles. The third-year player had been ceding touches to Travis Etienne Jr. in recent weeks, though, and he didn't touch the ball once across 12 snaps in Jacksonville's loss to the Giants on Sunday.
While he's not much more than a checkdown and screen option in the passing game, Robinson has been a solid runner in each of his pro campaigns. His efficiency metrics have been down across the board in 2022, which shouldn't be a surprise given the quick return from the Achilles injury, but he has been slightly above-average given his blocking by the NFL Next Gen Stats rushing yards over expectation (RYOE) model. Robinson should figure in as a rotational back alongside Michael Carter, who offers more as a receiver.
What's interesting about this deal in the context of how the Jets perceive themselves is that they're targeting a player whose role is mostly to help them compete in 2022. Hall will be back in 2023, and while J.K. Dobbins' return to injured reserve is a reminder that ACL recoveries aren't as predictable as they might seem, it seems likely that the second-rounder will be the featured runner for the Jets next season.