As the NFL moves into Week 9, the season half way point, we recap where every team ranks in relation to the rest of the league and discuss the key stories surrounding their respective seasons.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)
Putting the team on his back!
In a game where the Chiefs were heavily favored to win, Andy Reid and company decided to throw the ball 47 times versus a total of 20 rushes against the winless New York Jets. This was even despite holding on to a double-digit lead throughout the majority of the game. This was clearly an opportunity to get Patrick Mahomes back on track after just throwing a total of 49 times the last two games combined. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs playing like this in meaningful games, but this damn sure is a reminder to the rest of the league that Pat Mahomes is dangerous as ever and shouldn’t be taken lightly moving forward.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0)
In one of the more anticipated matchups of the year, the Pittsburgh Steelers rallied from a 10-point hole to beat the Baltimore Ravens and remain undefeated. This was a huge statement game on multiple levels. Not only did the Steelers essentially gain a two-game lead against their rival Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North standings. But it also stays ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs, maintaining the #1 AFC seed. However, with this being a COVID-19 season, its yet to be seen if homefield advantage has as much effect as it normally would. But it’s safe to say that teams would rather play any meaningful playoff games in their home facilities. The Steelers hoped to keep the train rolling next week versus the lowly Dallas Cowboys, a team they should obliterate given their current state.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
Caught looking ahead.
In a game where the Buccaneers were heavily favored, they opted to make things a bit interesting on Monday Night by letting the game hang in the balance close to the very end. However, eventually, order was restored late in the game when Tom Brady found Mike Evans in the back of the endzone to take a 22-17 in the 4th quarter. The Buccaneers did require a last-ditch effort on defense to prevent the late-game surge by Danny Dimes and the Giants to hold on to the victory, winning 25-23. This overall performance can be chalked up to the normal ebbs and flows in a 16 games season. Still, some of it has to be attributed to the anticipation of this week’s match with the New Orleans Saints. A huge divisional rematch from Week 1 of the season has bit more hype behind it with the debut of newly acquired WR Antonio Brown. This, by far, will be the season’s most anticipated game of the year. Get ya popcorn ready!
4. Seattle Seahawks (6-1)
After starting the first 6 games by allowing the most yards through six games in NFL history, the Seahawks defense finally showed up against divisional foe San Francisco 49ers, defeating them 37-27. The improved defensive showing along with MVP candidate Russel Wilson throwing another 4 touchdowns proves to be a lethal combination. And with defensive stars Jamal Adams, Shaquill Griffin, and Benson Mayowa all set to return in the near future this team is set to make a deep run in the playoffs.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
In Lamar We Trust?
Lamar tried to give the game away in the first position of the game last week versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he responded with a big boy drive in the very next possession by evening the score. By halftime, the Ravens were up 17-7, a very comfortable lead. But as injuries continue to pile up, specifically two Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens all-pro left tackle Lamar got careless, giving the ball up 3 times in the second half. Performances like this, one has to begin to question Lamar Jackson’s ability to handle the big-game pressure. Time after time, it seems like he’s coming up on the short end of the stick in big games. Now, this is still early in his career and he can right those wrongs, but he’s going to have to do it sooner than later if the Ravens plan to reach their Super Bowl goals.
6. New Orleans Saint (5-2)
The Moment of Truth.
The Saints are still finding ways to put wins together. Their latest coming in a 26-23 victory versus the Chicago Bears in overtime. However, this just adds to the collections of mediocre wins they’re compiling. But to the Saints credit, they have been finding ways to win games without All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. It is yet to be seen if he will be available this week for their most crucial games of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All hands need to be on deck if the Saints plan on holding off Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to maintain their stranglehold on the NFC South. Sunday night in Tampa Bay could be very well the last Drew Brees Tom Brady matchups, so get your popcorn ready.
7. Green Bay Packers (5-2)
After the very disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings, many people called for the Packers to give Aaron Rodgers some additional help. The trade deadline has passed, and the Packers opted to stay pat and not make any outside additions. This is somewhat perplexing because they have apparent holes specifically on a defensive end after allowing another running back to have a career day versus them. If you recall, they allow Alvin Kamara to go for 197 scrimmage yards with 2 TD’s in a narrow week 3 victory. And just this past week, they let Dalvin Cook go for 200 scrimmage yards and 4 TDs. They clearly have a defensive issue stopping elite backs and unfortunately looks far too familiar with Packer teams, where Rodgers does magical things, but the defense just doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
8. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
New team, Who dis?
Don’t look now, but old man Rivers has the Colts looking like the greatest show on turf. Okay, now, that may be an exaggeration a bit. Still, with their latest 41-21 victory over the Detroit Lions, we do have to start taking them a little more seriously. Outside of Rivers going vintage Philip Rivers throwing 3 TDs, their engine’s real cog has been their defense. Currently ranked 2nd in yards allowed per game and 3rd in total takeaways across the entire NFL. If Rivers and the offense can continue to put points up on the board and their defense continues to be suffocating. In that case, they have a legit shot at shocking the world. However, their next 4 games (Ravens, Titans, Packers, and Titans again) could be a gauntlet that spends their season out of control.
9. Tennessee Titans (5-2)
The Tennessee Titans are trending in the wrong direction. After being undefeated, the team has now lost two straight, subsequently losing all their early season momentum. The team clearly had hangover effects from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ brutal defeat and got caught sleepwalking against rookie sensation Joe Borrow and the Cincinnati Bengals losing 20-31. This week they have the Chicago Bears, which should be a solid get-back right game. But, if they fail to dominate that game, there should be a cause for concern for the Tennessee Titans outlook moving forward.
10. San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
More insult to injury.
As mentioned last week, the 49ers are dealing with an unprecedented number of injuries to their team. And to make matters worst, they lost All-Pro tight end George Kittle, for the season with a broken ankle. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is now out for a couple weeks with a sprained ankle. These latest injuries also came in a loss to divisional foe the Seattle Seahawks putting them in the NFC West’s last place. And to further muddy the situation, they now have a few players on the COVID-19 reserve list who will no eligible to play versus the Packers on Thursday night. Lining up a roster full of reserves and backup players is not ideal for their winning prospect. This is yet another team that needs to start planning for next season because their situations may be too much to overcome.
11. Arizona Cardinals (5-2)
Flip the switch.
The Arizona Cardinals, who were on a bye last week, are still riding the high after beating the Seattle Seahawks in a thriller the week before. The issue with this team has been consistency and stacking success. So how they respond this week versus a sneakily competitive Miami Dolphins team will be telling. Especially after the Dolphins beat up on the Rams last week. It will be solely Kyler Murray’s shoulders to keep this cardinals team red hot. Sidenote, this may be the shortest combined height of two starting QBs facing off against each other in NFL history.
12. Buffalo Bills (6-2)
Luke Warm Buffalo Wings.
If you asked Buffalo at the start of the season would they take a 6-2 record after 8 games, the unanimous answer would be resounding yes! However, despite winning their last two games, they don’t look as hot as they did after starting the season 4-0. What seems so different with them is how they are moving the ball. There has been a fundamental change in philosophy midseason. The Bills were the league’s 8th best rushing offense in 2019, averaging 128.4 yards per game. Fast forward to this year, that number dropped to just 97 yards per game entering Sunday’s game versus the Patriots, the 4th lowest in the league. After rushing for 190 yards against the Pats this past week, it looks like their getting back to their old ways bypassing their early high-flying passing attack opting for the more slow grind Buffalo was accustomed to.
13. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
The extra hour of sleep didn’t help.
The typical 1 o’clock P.M. eastern kickoff for a west coast team proved to be too much for the Rams. Even with the extra hour of sleep, thanks to daylight savings, the Rams got off to a slow start and ended up in a 28-10 deficit by halftime. Ultimately, they battled back but could not overcome the horrible play of QB Jared Goff who had 4 total turnovers (2 INTs and 2 fumbles). A lot of credit has to be given to the Brain Flores led Dolphins team, but this is yet another example of Goff looking like the reason the Rams will fall short of their Super Bowl dreams. It’s widely accepted that head coach Sean McVay is an offensive genius but is he smart enough to overcome the Goff shortcomings when it really counts? He and Goff will get a chance to prove just that in a huge divisional matchup with the streaking Seattle Seahawks this week.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (4-3)
Things are going to get easier …
After beating the Cleveland Browns 16 to 6 in the brutal elements of the Cleveland, OH weather, things will get a little easier for the Raiders. Playing the hardest schedule in the NFL thus far, they now have the 25th hardest schedule remaining, only facing three opponents with above .500 records being the Chiefs, Dolphins, and Colts. This could help them improve ome early trends the Raiders developed at the start of the season. Entering the game versus the Browns, they ranked 31st in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 32.8 points per game. 31st in takeaways with just three and 29th and sacks with only 7. Versus the Browns, they righted some of those wrongs by not allowing a touchdown. Actually, they received their first fumble recovery this season. Playing these future below .500 teams, like the Chargers this week, the Raiders look to continue to stack their defensive is success and maintain an arms reach of AFC West leader Kansas City Chiefs
15. Cleveland Browns (5-3)
The roller coaster of the Cleveland Browns season continued with another disappointing loss at home to the Las Vegas Raiders 16-6. One game removed from throwing 5 TDs and nearly 300 yards, Bakers Mayfield crashed back to earth, completing 12 of 25 pass attempts for just 122 yards. Granted, the elements were not idle for throwing the ball with wind gust up to 40 mph. But this is not the type of performance the Cleveland Browns want to see from their “franchise” QB on a week to week basis. Baker and the Browns need to find some level of consistency if they plan on keeping up with their big brothers of the division (Ravens and Steelers) or they will once again be the laughing stock of Northeast Ohio.
16. Miami Dolphins (4-3)
Welcome to the NFL!
It was the long-awaited debut of rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa and how does his first NFL possession as a starter end? With a strip fumble by none other than All-Pro Aaron Donald. As mentioned last week, we expected that the Rams to give him fits, and they did. Still, the Dolphins defense / special teams were able to win this game by virtually scoring 3 TDs themselves. This will be the formula for the Dolphins with Tua until he finds his footing. Playing smart, fundamental, and conservative football is how you protect a young quarterback. The question remains if we will ever see an unleashed Tua due to his recent injury history. At some point, the Dolphins will have to take the training wheels off the young man. Maybe it could come this week in the battle of the short QBs versus the Arizona Cardinals.
17. New England Patriots (2-5)
Dropped the ball, literally.
The fire was already was getting hot for Cam Newton with his poor play over the last few weeks, but with a 3rd straight loss, things just got a bit more intense. In the middle of a late 4th quarter drive, to either tie or take the lead with 31 seconds remaining against the Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton scrambled out the pocket and literally coughed up the ball. His late-game fumble cost the Patriots a chance at a win. To make matters worse, his play over the past few weeks hasn’t been horrible since coming back from COVID-19. We have to suspect the Patriots are going to quietly just tank the remainder of the season. With the poor start to the season and already having the highest number of players (8) out of any team to opt-out from the season due to COVID-19, it looks like a lost cause.
18. Chicago Bears (5-3)
A few weeks ago, we warned folks to not believe in the then 5-1 and Chicago Bears. After a gut-wrenching loss in overtime to the Saints, the Bears are now looking for answers. Nick Foles replaced Mitchell Trubrisky at QB after the team started 2-0 to spark the offensive production. But in fact, Foles has performed below league average in all major quarterback metrics (completion %, TD%, INT%, and passer rating) since stepping in. In theory, the change made sense when you look at Foles’ track record, as he is more prone to throwing the ball downfield more than Trubisky, who is notoriously known for opting to check down to dump off passes. But what head coach Matt Nagy envisioned is not quite happening due to Foles’ inability to find the time to make plays. The play of the offensive line has just been flat out poor and hasn’t allowed Foles to work the offense as designed. Entering week 9, the Bears have allowed 20 sacks (9th most in the NFL), allowed pressure on 28.8% of (20th in the NFL) and ranks 21st in pass block win rate at 55%. Considering the poor play up front, the Bears could opt to switch back to the more mobile Trubisky and hope his legs can buy the offense more time for plays to develop. Things could get even more complicated when a pissed off Titans team come into town this week.
19. Minnesota Vikings (2-5)
Dalvin Cook, ladies, and gentlemen. This man singlehandedly beat the Green Bay Packers in a surprising upset. 33 Touches, 230 yards, and 4 TDs later had the Packers literally asking themselves, ‘what had happened?’. Despite the heroics of Dalvin and the Vikings find themselves only at 2-5. While it’s not entirely out the question for the Vikings to make a playoff run, it, however, is essentially unlikely at this point. Their best bet will be to ride the Cook train, but he’s proven not to be the most durable running back. And given the recent history of Cooks injuries, the Vikings should seriously consider taking their foot off the gas.
20. Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
Can a win actually be a bad thing?
The Atlanta Falcons found a way to not lose another lead last week versus the Carolina Panthers. But in reality, the team should be considering not winning games too many more games moving forward. Keep winning games and they could find themselves in a situation where their draft stock is too high or in the middle of the pack. Which could then put themselves in a position where finding the dynamic player they need to change their franchise is just out of reach. Essentially running the same team back next year would not be much of a success. So there is an incentive for them to relax a bit. But hey, they get paid to win ball games.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)
Not pretty but effective.
Any day you beat the Cowboys in Philadelphia is a great day. That is what the Eagles managed to do Sunday night despite the ugliness of it all. On a bye this week, the Eagles need to do some serious soul searching. Even though they sit atop the NFC East, they have looked like crap even whenever they played. However, if any team can find the right formula for success when needed, it’s this Philadelphia Eagles team, who still has key pieces from their Super Bowl run a few years ago. But unfortunately for them, Saint Nick (Foles) will not be walking through their doors during their bye, so Carson Wentz needs to figure it out quickly!
22. Denver Broncos (3-4)
In what could be a quarterback duel for the next decade, the Denver Broncos got the validation they needed from young QB Drew Lock. Down 24-3 in the third quarter, they decided to rally and won the game on the very last play, thanks to the play one Drew Lock. He showed flashes of why GM / President John Elway handpicked Lock to be their franchise QB. Going 14 of 18 for 155 yards and 3 TDs in the 4th quarter alone is how you start building credibility amongst your team. So will Lock lock in and build on this late-game success? It’s yet to be seen but facing the Atlanta Falcons this week, who are known to give up leads, maybe the perfect opportunity to strike again.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5)
Atlanta Falcons of the West?
The Los Angles Charger just can’t finish. Just like the Altana Falcons, they are gaining a reputation as choke artists. This just past Sunday, the Chargers lost to the Denver Broncos after blowing a 21-point lead. This unfortunate late-game collapse was just the latest example, 4th to be exact, of the Chargers blowing a lead. First of which came when they blew an 11-point lead to the Chiefs in week 2, with the 2nd and 3rd occasions occurring when they lost 17-points leads to the Buccaneers and Saints week 4 and 5, respectively. Late game collapses like this, you begin to focus the blame on the coaching, and as a result, coach Anthony Lynn has been put in the hot seat. How they respond to this latest loss is yet to be seen, but losing a game to divisional foe Las Vegas Raiders at home is not the response Lynn needs for his job security.
24. Houston Texans (1-6)
Deal or no deal.
In what was supposed to be a very active bye week for the Houston Texans, it turned out to be a very noneventful week. There were tons of rumors that the Texans would be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, but the team made no subsequent moves to sell any assets in the hopes of gaining some draft stock. Their bye week couldn’t come at a more appropriate time after starting the season 1-6. Coming out the bye, we expect them to have better days ahead with some winnable games in their near future, but again, like other teams in their situation, this will be more of an evaluation period versus fighting for the playoffs.
25. Carolina Panthers (3-5)
CMC where art thou?
Another day without Christian McCaffery and another loss. This latest loss came from the Atlanta Falcons’ hands, who attempted to give up another late lead but closed out the Panthers on the final drive when Bridgewater threw a desperation interception. But to be frank, this team isn’t going to have too much success without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffery. But the good news for the Panthers is that there is growing optimism that he will be able to rejoin the team this week. But the bad news is that they are on the road versus the defending Super Bowl champs and Pat Mahomes. Good luck!
26. Detroit Lions (3-4)
It’s so cold in the D.
If fools gold was a football team, it would be the Detroit Lions. After getting smacked by the Colts 41-21, the Lions are back to reality. The honest truth is that they are “Just Another Team,” aka JAT. They will be stuck in the fringes until they find a way to be more dynamic. Without a dynamic, game-changing player and or coach, this team will be hovering around .500 for the foreseeable future. Oh, and to make matters worst, their best player and most consistent (and honestly most inconsistent player) Matthew Stafford just hit the COVID-19 reserve list due to contact tracing protocol rules. He has an opportunity to play this weekend versus the Minnesota Vikings if he continues to post negative tests for the remainder of the week. Still, without him, the Lions have no hope.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1)
The Son that was Promised!
The kid Joe Borrow, an Ohio native, is starting to look like the prodigal son that was promised to Bengals fans. No, but in all honesty, it’s extremely hard to get excited about a 2-5-1 season. Still, week after week, Joe Burrow continues to show that he not only belongs but is a budding superstar in this league. The latest breakout moment came when he lead the Bengals to a 31-20 upset victory over the Titans. Additionally, at this rate, Joe is on pace to break the NFL rookie record for passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. However, Burrow and the Bengals have a tall task this week if they want to keep his record-breaking pace on track facing off against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.
28. Washington Football Team (2-5)
Still in the Hunt.
The Washington Football Team was on bye this past week, which proved to be a good thing for their long-term prospects partly because they avoided adding to their loss column. That was important because they only have the 3-4-1 Eagles in front of them for 1st place in the NFC East. With the Redskins already holding the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Eagles after beating them in the season opener, keeping pace with them will be critical if they hope for a playoff birth this season. Also, with head coach Rivera finishing his battle with cancer last week, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an inspired effort from his team coming out the bye. It also helps their cause by facing the New York Football Giants this week.
29. Dallas Cowboys (2-6)
All Tricks No Treats.
Coming into a pivotal NFC East matchup starting their 3rd string quarterback, the Cowboys tried to pull out all the tricks but to no prevail. It was a desperate attempt to try to muster up some type of offense. From attempting multiple reverses to running the wildcat, the Cowboys failed at all attempts. A lot of the blame has to fall on head coach Mike McCarthy who was hired to be an offensive-minded head coach. In fact, the Cowboys have now gone two consecutive games without scoring a touchdown. And if things couldn’t get worse for the Cowboys, they certainly didn’t like the news that second-string quarterback Andy Dalton will miss this week’s game due to contracting the COVID-19 virus. And to help their cause, they get to play the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. We expect this game to get very ugly fairly quickly.
30. New York Giants (1-7)
In what was supposed to be a blowout, the New York football Giants loss a somewhat close game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-23. The Giants actually came within a two-point conversion of tying the game in the game’s final seconds. However, they failed to convert a pass in what was considered a blatant pass interference call. This game them their 7th and most demoralizing loss of this season. After the game, people quickly pointed the finger at Daniel Jones again, who recorded two more turnovers in this game. This brings his total turnover count in his early career to 35 in 20 career starts. A pace that is only matched by former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf. A name that you do not necessarily want to associate with your career. The Giants head coach Joe Judge needs to find ways to bottle some of the beautiful throws that Danny can make and eliminate the bonehead mistakes if he’s going to be their guy long term.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Officially on to the next!
During the bye week last week, it appears the Jacksonville Jaguars have given up on Gardner Minshew and are benching him in favor of rookie sixth-round pick Jake Luton. The Jaguars are citing a thumb injury that is limiting Gardner Minshew but let’s be honest this is the point in their season where they’re evaluating what they have to determine who they need to get in the offseason. We do not expect too much from young Luten and can only expect more losing out of Jacksonville moving forward.
32. New York Jets (0-8)
665 days and counting…
Adam Gase is still head coach for the winless New York Jets. 664 days too long…
Parris Shannon writes about Sports and Pop Culture for Black With No Chaser with the occasional think piece sprinkled in his repertoire. He currently resides in Washington, D.C but comes from Philadelphia, PA by way of Atlanta, GA so can probably catch him saying “jawn” and “shawty” in the same sentence.