October 31, 2018

NFL Mid-season Standings and Team-by-Team Review

The end of SPORTOBER marks the mid-way point of the NFL Season. Take a look to see where your team stands with only 9 weeks remaining in the 2018 regular season.


American Football Conference

National Football Conference

AFC

New England Patriots (6-2) – After starting the seasons (1-2), the media began to panic like usual and ask whether “The Patriots are done?” and “Did Father Time finally get Tom Brady?” The Patriots did what they always do – remain calm – go on a roll. Since the (1-2) start the Patriots have won 5 in a row and looked like their dominant selves. They even added the troubled Josh Gordon who had just returned to Cleveland after being out of football for three years, and have made him look good. The Patriots have a firm hold on their division and will make their 10th consecutive Playoff appearance and 15th overall Playoff appearance in the Brady-Belichick era.

Miami Dolphins (4-4) – After starting the season (3-0), the Miami Dolphins were the buzz of the NFL heading into their Week 4 matchup against the New England Patriots who were (1-2) at the time. The Dolphins lost that game by a score of 38-7 and have been on a downward slope since. Their Week 5 game against the Cincinnati Bengals wasn’t much better as they lost the game and their starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In Tannehill’s absence, backup journeyman Brock Osweiler stepped in to lead the Dolphins to a (1-2) record which included a surprising victory against the Chicago Bears. The Dolphins have a manageable road ahead with only 3 teams on their schedule above .500. Don’t be surprised if you see them making a push for the last AFC Wild Card spot.

New York Jets (3-5) – At the midway point of the season, at (3-5) the Jets are right where many expected them to be. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold who was the 3rd overall pick in last year’s draft, has shown some flashes that have Jets fans thinking they found their guy for the next 10 years. With 3 wins already this season Darnold leads his 2018 NFL Draft Classmates, Baker Mayfield (2-3), Josh Rosen (1-4) and Josh Allen (2-3) in wins. With a tough schedule ahead which includes the 1st place New England Patriots twice, the Playoffs are pretty much out of the question for the Jets this year.

Buffalo Bills (2-6) – There is a lot going on with this team. We saw them score 3 points in their season opener in Baltimore, they then went on to dominate the Vikings (4-3), and then got SHUTOUT against the Packers (3-3) and only scored 5 points against the Indianapolis Colts who at (3-5) are nothing special themselves. With Rookie quarterback Josh Allen sidelined with an injury, this is a tough team to watch. SO much so that veteran cornerback Vontae Davis – up and retired mid-way through the team’s 31-20 loss to the Chargers. He literally packed his bag and left during half time. Playoffs for this team? Definitely not.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) – In a messy division, the Pittsburgh Steelers have managed to claw their way to the top. Although they don’t look like Steelers teams of the past, they still find ways to win games. As a Week 9 battle approaches with division rival Baltimore, All-Pro running back Le’veon Bell has still not reported to the team’s facility as he continues his holdout. Luckily for Pittsburgh, second year running back James Conner, has far exceeded expectations and carried the load for the Steelers. He currently ranks 3rd in the league with 599 rushing yards and 2nd in touchdowns with 9. This division is a toss-up, but expect Pittsburgh to pull it out or at least secure a Wild Card Spot.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) – The Bengals have been in close games all year outside of their 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) in Week 7.  Quarterback Andy Dalton has been taking care of the ball and leading his team down the field in the final minutes of games to win. His Week 4 performance in Atlanta and Week 8 performance against Tampa Bay have been exceptional. In 2nd place in their division, the Bengals have a very good chance at making the playoffs if they can stay disciplined throughout the remainder of the season.

Baltimore Ravens (4-4) – After starting the season (3-1), The Baltimore Ravens were being discussed as one of the league’s top teams. The defense was absolutely dominant, almost reminiscent of the 2000, and ’06 Ravens. Then, the second quarter of the season came along with an overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns (2-5-1), a last second loss to the New Orleans Saints (6-1) due to a missed extra point by All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker who until that point was a perfect 222/222 and finally an embarrassing loss to the Carolina Panthers (5-2) in Week 8. Although the Raven’s defense is ranked first in every major statistical category, the offense and special teams will have to do more in the second half of the season if the Ravens will have a chance to make the playoffs. And for Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco, no playoffs means no jobs.

Cleveland Browns (2-5-1) – This is not your dad’s Cleveland Browns. After drafting Baker Mayfield #1 overall and being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks this offseason, there was a new buzz around the Browns. They have played in 3 overtime games already this year, including their season opening tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their first win had to wait until their Week 3 Thursday Night matchup with Sam Darnold and the New York Jets (3-5), a game when Baker Mayfield stepped in to lead his team to their first victory in 635 days. The Browns then won again in a sloppy overtime against the Baltimore Ravens (4-4) in Week 5. Although fans were pleasantly surprised, and somewhat pleased with two wins and the play of Baker Mayfield, ownership was not. After their Week 8 loss to the Steelers (4-2-1) Head Coach Hue Jackson and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley were both fired. Although the Browns will not make the Playoffs this year, they have already matched their win totals from the past two seasons… combined.

Houston Texans (5-3) – The Houston Texans have been one of the pleasant surprises of this year’s NFL Season. After starting the season (0-3) with losses to the New England Patriots (6-2), Tennessee Titans (3-4) and New York Giants (1-7) the Texans have been on a roll winning five in a row. Quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive end JJ Watt have both come back from season ending injuries in 2017 to lead their team to first place. Deandre Hopkins has also inserted himself into the conversation of best wide receiver in the league. The Texans have only one team remaining on their schedule with a +.500 record, they are two games ahead in their division, and the Titans are trending in the wrong direction. The Texans are likely to make the playoffs baring any injuries.

Tennessee Titans (3-4) – Under the leadership of first year Head Coach Mike Vrabel, a Bill Belichick disciple, the Tennessee Titans have taken every gamble to get ahead, unfortunately for the Titans, those gambles have not paid off and the team finds itself one game below .500 at the midway point of the season. After starting the season (3-1) the Titans dropped three in a row, two of which were by just one point. With four of their final nine games coming against teams above .500, the Titans chances of making the playoffs look slim, but if the first half of the season is any indication, they will most likely be in every game.

Indianapolis Colts (3-5) – The 2018 season probably is not what the Indianapolis Colts expected. With a “healthy” Andrew Luck back under center after missing the entire 2017 season, the former Pro Bowler and #1 overall pick has yet to look like his former self. The Colts have a full load of division games in the second half of the seasons, and it looks very unlikely that they will make a playoff push.

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) – After an AFC Championship appearance last year that was led by a young, active defense and solid quarterback play by Blake Bortles; the Jacksonville Jaguars were hoping to build off of last season’s success. They instead have become this season’s most disappointing team. After starting the season (3-1), the Jaguars have lost four in a row. Throughout the season, there has been locker room turmoil surrounding the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, and although some criticism may be warranted, the fact that it is playing out in a public setting is bad news for the Jaguars. To compound things further, during the team’s Week 8 trip to London to face the Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) four Jacksonville players were arrested 4:00am Saturday morning the day before a game following an altercation at a club. Although things haven’t looked good, with only three teams left on their schedule with a record above .500, the Jaguars can get their season back on track if quarterback Blake Bortles can start taking care of the ball, and if the defense can return to its 2017 form. Playoffs? Very unlikely.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) – The Kansas City Chiefs have been the most exiting team in the NFL this year. In his first year as the starter, Patrick Mahomes is tearing up the entire league. He is the league’s passing leader in terms of both passing yards 2,526 and passing touchdowns 26. He has also created several highlight type plays with the help of his teammate Kareem Hunt who is fourth in rushing yards with 592 yards and 9th in touchdowns with 5. Wide receiver Tyreke Hill aka the Cheetah is also a big reason as to why the Chiefs have been doing well. Through 8 weeks, Hill has been this year’s most electrifying player alongside the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley III. Hill currently has the second most touchdowns of any receiver with 7, and the fourth most receiving yards with 705 yards.

Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) – The Los Angeles Chargers have been playing great football in the first half of the season. A pleasant surprise for a team that has been known to struggle early before turning it on late. The Chargers are quietly one of this season’s top teams. They have flown under the radar for the first half of the season with a (5-2) record, only losing to the league’s top 2 teams the (8-0) Los Angeles Rams and the (7-1) Kansas City Chiefs. If the Chargers continue playing the way they are, a Division title is not out of the question. However, it is more likely that their playoff fate will be decided during their Week 16 Prime Time match up with the Baltimore Ravens.

Denver Broncos (3-5) – The season hasn’t gone the way the Denver Broncos thought it would. After acquiring quarterback Case Keenum who led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game last year, General Manager John Elway thought he solved his team’s quarterback woes, unfortunately for Broncos fans that hasn’t been the case. After starting the seasons (2-0) the Broncos have only managed to beat the struggling Arizona Cardinals. The team has been very inconsistent all year and has no real identity. Their once feared defense is now a middle of pack unit that gives up 23.3 points per game which ranks 14th in the league. With an ageing secondary, big salaries and spotty quarterback play it looks like the Denver Broncos will enter a rebuilding phase soon. They are not a 2018 playoff contender.

Oakland Raiders (1-6) – The Oakland Raiders might be the biggest mess in the NFL this year.  With the hiring of Coach Jon Gruden expectations were high coming into this season, fans were excited with the return on their former coach turned popular T.V. analyst. It didn’t take long though for fans to start questioning the Super Bowl winning coach (Super Bowl XXXVII (37). Gruden traded away the team’s best player and quite possibly the best defensive player in the entire league, Khalil Mack, before even winning a game. Since then, the Raiders have gone on to have an abysmal start to the season while their fans watch Khalil Mack lead the Chicago Bears to first place in the NFC North. Gruden wasn’t done with Mack though, after their Week 6 trip to London, Gruden traded away another top 5 first round pick, Amari Cooper. While these trades have allowed Gruden and the Raiders to stockpile 1st round picks in the next two drafts, this season will be a hard one to stomach for fans who won’t see the benefits once the team moves to Las Vegas.

NFC

Washington Redskins (5-2) – After placing the Franchise Tag on Quarterback Kirk Cousins twice, the Washington Redskins finally decided to move on and find a better deal. Former #1 overall pick Quarterback Alex Smith has proven to be that better deal as he’s lead the team to a (5-2) record at only a fraction of the cost of Cousins: 

Smith’s Redskins Contract:

4 year, $94,000,000 contract with the Washington Redskins, including a $27,000,000 signing bonus, $71,000,000 guaranteed

Cousins Vikings Contract:

3 year, $84,000,000 contract with the Minnesota Vikings, including a $3,000,000 signing bonus, $84,000,000 guaranteed

The Redskins have also added All-Pro and Future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson who ranks 5th in the league with 587 rushing yards and 6th in rushing yards per game with 83.9 yards. Peterson hasn’t showed any sign of slowing down as he continues to impose his will on defenders and dominant the game with his violent running style. The Redskins offense as a whole looks like it is coming together well at the midway point of the season to go alongside their 5th ranked defense. With a one game lead over their division rival the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, and both matchups remaining on the schedule, the Redskins control their Playoff chances.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) – The Super Bowl Hangover is real. At (4-4) the Eagles have struggled to build off of last season, or even off of this season as they have yet to won 2 consecutive games. In their Week 3 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Caron Wentz returned from the season ending injury he suffered in Week 14 of last season to lead his team to a 20 – 16 victory against the Colts. Eight games into this season Wentz has thrown for 13 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions (6 games played), the Eagles running game has fallen to 17th in league after the injury to running back Jay Ajay, and their defense has been pedestrian at best. It will be a tough road ahead for the Eagles, but if they can beat the Redskins in their two remaining games they could make it to the Playoffs.

Dallas Cowboys (3-4) – Seven games into the 2018 seasons the Dallas Cowboys have been nothing special. With the loss of his top two targets from last year, Jason Witten (Retirement) and Dez Bryant (Free Agency), quarterback Dak Prescott has struggled, ranking in the bottom half of the league in passing yards and touchdowns. The running game has been somewhat effective with running back Ezekiel Elliot’s 619 rushing yards (2nd in the league), but his inability to find the end-zone has become the theme of the season with the offense ranking 27th in points scored. To spark the offense, the Cowboys traded for former first round wide receiver Amari Cooper during their bye-week hoping he could give them a spark. The Cowboys are third in their division and have 4 division games remaining on their schedule, 2 of them coming against the division leading Redskins. If the Cowboys do not make the Playoffs this year (which looks likely) watch for a quick exist from Head Coach Jason Garrett – maybe even before the season is over.

New York Giants (1-7) – The New York Giants are the worst football team in the NFL.  After singing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a record $95 million contract that made him the highest paid WR of all-time, expectations were high for him and the team. The Giants have instead been able to do nothing right throughout the season which has quickly turned into a fire sale as they have begun unloading their contracts hinting at a rebuilding process. The season has been painful for Giants fans but even more so and in literal way for quarterback Eli Manning who seems to be playing out his final days as a Giant in a brutal way. HOWEVER, there has been 1 bright spot for the Giants this seasons, #2 overall pick rookie running back Saquon Barkley has proven to be everything they thought he would be and way way more. Barkley ranks in the top ten in both rushing yards 519, and touchdowns 5, he also ranks 4th in receptions with 58 catches and 1st in yards after catch (YAC). Barkley has been very impressive so far this season, and everything points to him having a long successful career in the NFL.

Los Angeles Rams (8-0) – The Los Angeles Rams have far and away established themselves as the best team in the NFC, and possibly the best team in the league. Second year Head Coach Sean McVay who has taken the league by storm with the help of quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley III have turned the Rams into the league’s top offense.  Quarterback Jared Goff ranks 3rd in both yards 2,425, and touchdowns 17, and running back Todd Gurley III ranks 1st in both rushing yards 800 and rushing touchdowns 11. The Rams have been tested several times already this season, and have continued to rise to the occasion. The second half of their schedule is tough with five of the eight games coming against playoff contenders. While an undefeated season looks unlikely, a division championship and #1 seed in the NFC are within grasp.

Seattle Seahawks (4-3) – After starting the season (0-2) the Seattle Seahawks have rebounded nicely winning four of five games, three of which were on the road including Week 6 in London.  The Seahawks flew under the radar the first half of the season but they have everyone’s attention now. Although the division looks to be out of reach because of the dominant Rams, the Seahawks will face the Vikings (4-3-1), Panthers (5-2), who both sit in the #2 spots of their divisions. If do the Seahawks want a shot at a Wild Card spot they will have to beat at least one of those teams.

Arizona Cardinals (2-6) – Following the 2017 NFL season, the Cardinals lost both their Head Coach Bruce Arians and starting quarterback Carson Palmer to retirement. Entering a rebuilding phase, the team selected quarterback Josh Rosen out of UCLA with the 10th overall pick in 2018 NFL Draft. Rosen made his first career start in Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks and won his first game the following week against the 49ers. The jury is still out on Rosen as to whether or not he’ll be the guy for the next 10 years. Cardinals fans will to wait and see if General Manager Steve Keim can put the right pieces around him.

San Francisco 49ers (1-7) – The San Francisco 49ers are the NFL’s unluckiest team. The 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 9 of the 2017 season from the New England Patriots. Garoppolo started the final five games of the season for the 49ers and lead them to a (5-0) record and exciting off-season. At the beginning of the 2018 season, the 49ers were looked at as a potential contender with Garoppolo at the helm but when he suffered a torn ACL in their Week 3 loss to Kansas City, their hopes for a successful season went down the drain.

Chicago Bears (4-3) – The Chicago Bears are one of this year’s worst to first teams – meaning that they finished last year in last place in their division and are currently in first place in the division.  The Bears have been playing classic Chicago Bears football led by Khalil Mack and the rest of the #4 ranked defense. The Chicago Defense more specifically, Mack has single handedly won games for the team. Already this season Mack has 20 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception and 1 touchdown.

Second year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who ranks 10th in the league with 15 touchdown passes (6 of which came in Week 3 thumping of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has been playing good football as well. Although the Bears seem to be clicking, and as of right now are in 1st place, this is one of the most competitive divisions in football and no one is really out of it yet. The young Bears will have to keep playing their best football if they want to stay on top.

Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1) - Following their legendary (13-3) season in which they made it all the way to the NFC Championship game and had the opportunity to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, the Vikings looked to build on their success by signing the most coveted free agent - quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins has played up to expectations ranking 2nd in passing yards with 2,521 and 6th for passing touchdowns with 16 and he has only turned the ball over 4 times. Even with those impressive numbers from Cousins, the Vikings have already matched their loss total from last year in just the first half of the season. Outside of their no-show against the Buffalo Bills, the Vikings have won the games they were favored in and lost the ones that determine whether they are a good team or not. The Vikings are currently sitting in second place; they have the Packers on their heels, the conference is strong this year and they have been unable to win big games – the Playoffs are unlikely for this team.

Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) – The Green Bay Packers finished the 2017 season with a (7-9) record and missed the Playoffs. They look to be on a similar path this year with an average offense, average defense and average record. The Packers had an opportunity to change the course of their season during their Week 8 matchup with the undefeated Rams – they failed. They will have another shot in Week 9 as they face the (6-2) New England Patriots in Prime Time. It’s tough to bet against the Packers because any team with Aaron Rodgers has a chance to win. However, if the Packers lose it may be time to rethink that. Also if it weren’t obvious enough – Head Coach Mike McCarthy is on the hot seat, missing the Playoffs two years in a row will most likely cost him his job.

Detroit Lions (3-4) – Under the leadership of first year Head Coach Matt Patricia the Detroit Lions have struggled through the first half of the season. So far, the only thing worth noting about this team is that they were able to beat Patricia’s former team, the Patriots, in Week 3. Playoffs are out of the cards for this team, and unless they add some pieces in the off-season, they could quickly find themselves in re-build mode.

New Orleans Saints (6-1) – The New Orleans Saints have established themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL. After starting the seasons (0-1) with a shocking loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints have rolled through the league and won six in a row. The 6-game winning streak included a 43-19 win on a Monday night against the Washington Redskins in which future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees became the NFL’s All Time Leading Passer as he surpassed Peyton Manning’s 71,940 career yards. Second year running back Alvin Kamara ranks 3rd in the league with 7 rushing touchdowns, and third year wide receiver Michael Thomas ranks 10th in receiving yards with 669 yards.

Carolina Panthers (5-2) – The Carolina Panthers are off to a great start this season with convincing wins over the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3), Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) and Baltimore Ravens (4-4). Cam Newton’s stats seem mundane this season but his on field performance is to the contrary. The second half of the Panthers schedule features three teams above .500 and four division games, two of which come against the division leading Saints. If the Panthers want to win the division they’ll have to beat the Saints at least one of those games – if that doesn’t happen, still expect the Panthers to secure a Wild Card spot.

Atlanta Falcons (3-4) – Although they are loaded with weapons on the offensive side of the ball, the Atlanta Falcons have been the most underwhelming team in the NFL. Although quarterback Matt Ryan ranks in the top ten in; passing yards (5th) 2,335, passer rating (5th) 115.2, and touchdowns (9th) 15 and only has 2 interceptions the Falcons cannot put together a complete game. Maybe its because of a defense that has given up the 3rd most yards per game averaging 419.4 and the 7th most points 212, regardless, the Falcons need to figure it out.  Perhaps the most shocking stat for the Atlanta Falcons this season is that All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones has 0 touchdown catches through seven games. With 812 receiving yards (2nd in the NFL) Jones is still dominating, if the Falcons can start getting him in the end-zone maybe they will turn their season around. In this division which may be the most competitive in the league this season the Playoffs don’t seem likely for the Falcons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) – Even though they sit at (3-4) the Bucs have been the most fun team in the NFL this year led by veteran backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, aka “FitzMagic.” “FitzMagic” led the team to a (2-2) start in the absence of Jameis Winston (suspension) with wins over their division rival New Orleans Saints (6-1), and defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles (4-4). After struggling in their Week 4 loss to the Chicago Bears (4-3) Head Coach Dirk Koetter inserted Winston back into the starting lineup and FitzMagic was over. After a 34-29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (3-4) in Week 6, a 26-23 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) in Week 7 and during their Week 8 34-16 halftime deficit to the Cincinnati Bengals Coach Koetter decided to re-insert FitzMagic into the lineup. Fitzpatrick went on to throw for 2 touchdowns and led a comeback that fell just short, but he earned the starting job for Week 9 and possibly the future. It looks like the Bucs have officially moved on from former first rounder and first overall pick Jameis Winston; expect them to be in the quarterback market this coming off-season.  No Playoffs for the Buccaneers this year.