First-Half Looks At Each NFL Team
Tuesday, Nov 09, 2021
Now that every team in the NFL has played at least eight games, it's time to take stock of each one.Here are my thoughts and observations of the NFL teams. AFC East Buffalo: Even with that surprising loss to the Jaguars last week, I still say the Bills are the most complete team in football. I like my 30-1 ticket on Sean McDermott to be the Coach of the Year. New England: The Patriots aren't going to the Super Bowl. But Bill Belichick is doing one of his greatest coaching jobs. The Patriots are 5-4 despite having below .500 talent. New York Jets: Their defense has played with heart, but the Jets keep losing key defenders. The latest to go down is safety Marcus Maye. That's a huge loss. I see the Jets getting completely worn down as the season progresses. The Jets need to take the training wheels off Zach Wilson. Mike White showed how capable the Jets' offense is when they play loose. Miami: The Dolphins overachieved last season. This year they are one of the biggest underachievers. Just what is their identity? Oh wait, they don't have one. AFC NorthBaltimore: This is a team that knows how to win. Just not cover margins. Of the Ravens' first six victories, four have been by a combined 12 points, including one six-point victory in overtime. They are 1-5 against the spread (ATS) the six times they've been favored this season. Pittsburgh: Mike Tomlin quietly has done an outstanding job. T.J. Watt makes the Steelers' defense good, but it's far from great. The offense is mediocre with a work-in-progress offensive line and Ben Roethilisberger in his dotage. Cleveland: Just when you think you can trust Cleveland you can't. Don't expect much and then be surprised if anything good occurs is the recommended approach with the Browns. Good move by the Browns to part with Odell Beckham Jr. I will say, Beckham was open a lot and Baker Mayfield would miss him. Mayfield is a better commercial pitchman than NFL quarterback. I count 17 quarterbacks better than Mayfield. Cincinnati: Maybe it's because of Joe Burrow and his exciting group of wide receivers, but I find myself liking the Bengals more than in past seasons. Their mediocre play in the trenches, pedigree and coaching, though, likely will doom them to another year of missing the playoffs. AFC SouthTennessee: The Titans' beating the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams during the past four weeks is the most impressive streak of the year. Can't take that away from them. I'm not even sure, however, that they win the division even though they currently lead the Colts by three games. The Titans have been outgained per play, surrendered big passing games to Carson Wentz and Zach Wilson and no longer have Derrick Henry. Those are red flags.Indianapolis: Carson Wentz is having a nice bounce back season. Jonathan Taylor is living up to preseason predictions as a top-five running back. It wouldn't shock me to see the Colts launch a serious challenge to the Titans for the division. The Colts don't have that It factor, though. Making the playoffs is about their ceiling. Jacksonville: Urban Meyer survived not being the first coach fired. He's been a joke, however, as an NFL coach. Trevor Lawrence hasn't thrown multiple TD passes since Week 1. That's on Meyer. Wentz gets coached up. Lawrence gets coached down.Houston: To paraphrase the late Dennis Green: ''The Texans are who we thought they were.'' But don't crown their asses. They are at expansion team level. Much of their destruction was caused by Bill O'Brien, who should never be allowed to work in the NFL again for how he ruined this once competitive franchise. As for DeShaun Watson forget it. When 22 women accuse you of assault and sexual misconduct you're guilty. He needs to be punished before being allowed to play again. AFC WestLos Angeles Chargers: Hard team to get a handle on. Joey Bosa and Derwin James are great players. Yet the Chargers rank 23rd in scoring defense. Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen are among the best at their respective positions yet the Chargers are only 14th in scoring. The Chargers put up 47 points on the Browns, but just six points on the Ravens. I do find Brandon Staley a coaching upgrade on Anthony Lynn. It was a small bar for Staley. But special teams still hinder the Chargers. Las Vegas Raiders: Strong defensive improvement and a career year so far from Derek Carr have elevated the Raiders to a 5-3 mark. The fallout from Jon Gruden and tragedy caused by Henry Ruggs' recklessness and stupidity are going to be difficult to put in the past, though, even though both of them are off the team. Kansas City: Patrick Mahomes hasn't been playing like a God this season. I'd still take Mahomes over any other quarterback. But the Chiefs have committed an NFL-high 19 turnovers, which has made them the most disappointing team in the NFL at this juncture Denver: Despite their upset victory against the Cowboys, the Broncos aren't going anywhere. Too many key defensive injuries. Vic Fangio is an ace defensive coordinator overmatched as a head coach. I don't see the point of starting journeyman Teddy Bridgewater and giving Melvin Gordon so much work. Find out what Drew Lock can do and make Javon Williams their bellcow running back. NFC EastDallas: An explosive offense, an infusion of young defensive talent and much better defensive coaching courtesy of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn have elevated the Cowboys into a serious NFC contender. The gap has become very wide between Dallas and the rest of the NFC East Lilliputians. Philadelphia: Nick Sirianni could prove one and done. Jalen Hurts is a far better fantasy football QB than a real one. The Eagles are 0-4 SU, 1-3 ATS during their first four home games. New York Giants: The Giants are below average in every facet. They have a dazzling array of skill position talent surrounding Daniel Jones. Unfortunately much of it has been sidelined. Only once in their first nine games have the Giants managed to score more than 25 points in regulation. They have yet to reach the 30-point barrier. Washington: The defense has been missing in action all season. That was an unexpected bad development. But Washington was setting itself up for failure opening the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting QB. Backup Taylor Heinicke's limitations become more pronounced as the season grows longer. NFC NorthGreen Bay: An upper tier offense and improved defensive coaching make the Packers a serious Super Bowl contender. The Packers do have an Achilles' heel - special teams. It has been terrible for years. Their coverage and return teams remain as bad as ever. Minnesota: I'm embarrassed to admit that I pegged the Vikings to win the division. Instead Minnesota has regressed. The Vikings' offensive line still isn't good. Kirk Cousins hasn't shaken his deserved reputation as a glorified game manager and now the defense is down because of injuries to Danielle Hunter and Patrick Peterson. Mike Zimmer is on the hot seat. Chicago: Justin Fields is an exciting talent. However, he can't overcome his inexperience, nor the bad coaching he's getting. The Bears' defense is not the dominant unit it once was so the offense doesn't get bailed out. Detroit: Dan Campbell is a sympathetic character. Imagine having the worst wide receiving group in recent memory plus multiple injuries that have thinned out what already was a weak starting lineup. Detroit isn't bad enough, though, to go 0-17.NFC SouthTampa Bay: How remarkable is Tom Brady? He entered his bye week on pace to throw for 5,631 yards and 53 TD's. The Buccaneers have a stout run defense. Once the injuries in their secondary heal they will definitely be the team to beat again if they aren't already. New Orleans: They didn't seem to miss Drew Brees last season. They miss him this season. I don't see the Saints making a playoff run with a QB combination of Trevor Siemian/Taysom Hill throwing to below average wide receivers. Atlanta: The Falcons never fully recovered from blowing the Super Bowl to the Patriots. They are 22-34 the past four years, including 4-4 this season. Atlanta is in no-man's land. Not a bottom feeder, but not a playoff team either. Matt Ryan is 36. I don't see a quick fix working for them. Carolina: There's some outstanding young defensive talent on this team. It doesn't matter. Even if Christian McCaffrey is back to 100 percent, the Panthers aren't ever going to win this division until they find the right quarterback. Sam Darnold is injured and seeing ghosts again. He has a 4-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last six games. NFC WestArizona: The league's biggest surprise at 8-1. I don't see the Cardinals keeping this up with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins both banged-up. Los Angeles Rams: I like the Rams' all-in approach. Matthew Stafford finally is with the right team with the right coach. Cooper Kupp has been the league's best wide receiver so far. Aaron Donald is the No. 1 defensive lineman in the NFC if not all of football. Jalen Ramsey is in the argument for being the top cornerback. That's serious star power.Seattle: The Seahawks are poised to make a move with Russell Wilson back from his thumb injury. This is a team that never should be counted out. San Francisco: Kyle Shanahan is the most overrated coach in the league. The 49ers are 3-5 and have yet to play the Rams. San Francisco hasn't beaten an above .500 team. The 49ers' three victories occurred versus the Lions, Eagles and Bears whose combined record is 6-20. If they lose at home to the Rams on Monday it's time to begin the Trey Lance era.