NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line – Where does your team stand through 8 weeks?

Time flies when you’re having fun, which must be why it is so crazy to think we are half way through another NFL season.  And that means it’s time to take a look at my five teams, my bottom teams, and the best of the rest through the first half of the NFL season.

5 Best Teams Through Week 8

  1. New England Patriots (7-0) – There’s just no stopping this team right now.  Not even in their worst game of the season against the New York Jets could they be stopped from putting up 30. The Superbowl Champs are in their opponents heads in every way possible and they’re taking advantage.  Not to mention Tom Brady is having one of his most efficient seasons at 38. They’ve got a massive three game lead in the AFC East, so unless something crazy happens, they’ll easily win their seventh straight division title.
  2. Denver Broncos (7-0) – That defense. It’s the reason they are where they are. Denver’s is number one in total defense, passing defense and fourth in run defense.  I’d say that’s pretty good. The run game showed up BIG time in week 8 to help take down the previously undefeated Packers at home.  Peyton Manning has had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season, but it hasn’t mattered. Most of their wins have been dicey, but they made it look easy in week 8 and showed just what this team can do.  If they can get more consistency out of the passing game, they will go very far this season.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) – For a team that has made the playoffs four years running, they’ve still got a lot to prove thanks to all of their first round exits.  They could finish 16-0 and still not be thought as favorites. Not here though. They’ve played smart, mistake free football all season, have an MVP candidate in Andy Dalton and a top flight defense.  They played their worst game in week 7, but as good teams do, they found a way to pull out another victory.
  4. Carolina Panthers (7-0) – I was skeptical of this team through four weeks because it’s hard to win every week when your offense can barely scrape together 200 yards of offense. But here they are, still undefeated and atop the NFC South. Their defense has been great all season, though it did allow Andrew Luck to force OT with a poor second half.  And with a top five run game, the passing game was able to work itself out and get better every week.  They’re not blowing teams out, but their wins tend to feel easy nonetheless. The second half will test them, as they haven’t faced the Falcons yet, but if they stay healthy, look for them to make it to the playoffs one way or another.
  5. Green Bay Packers (7-1) – It hasn’t been pretty offensively of late, and running into the Broncos defense didn’t help.  Aaron Rodgers had just 77 yards passing in their first loss of the season, and the run game didn’t do much better.  But they are still capable and have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way, with five games still left in their division.  The defense has been there all season, so you hope as a Packers fan their inability to stop the run game in the red zone week 8 was just an anomaly.  And you can’t be too worried about Aaron Rodgers, who has had many more great games than duds in his career.

Worst Teams Through Week 8

  1. San Francisco 49ers (2-6)Fans were calling for Colin Kaepernick to be benched, and it’s a fair call that’s rumored to be set in motion.  When your quarterback, whether they’re a mobile QB or not, rarely ever thinks pass first, that’s a problem.  And if you’re going to run as much as Kaepernick, you better move the chains more than the 49ers do. This run first mentality has also led to 28 sacks, second most in the league this season.  San Fran has struggled on both sides of the ball, sitting dead last in total offense and points per game, as well as bottom five in total defense.  They play in one of the best divisions in football, and they’ll be very lonely in the cellar for the rest of the year.
  2. Tennessee Titans (1-6) – Opening weekend was such a tease for Titans fans.  Marcus Mariota burst on the scene against the Bucaneers, putting up 50 easy.  Then it all went down hill from there.  Six sraight losses and theyve taken their bye already.  Mariota has missed the last two with injury.  The defense has had some pretty good games, but the offense is non-existent with no end in sight.
  3. Detroit Lions (1-7) – They’re just bad. Plain and simple. They were 11-5 last season and didn’t lose much in the off-season, so I thought they’d be back again this year.  But that hasn’t been the case, and they’re just lucky to not be win-less at this point.  Matthew Stafford has a terrible TD-INT ratio of 13-11, adding to seven lost fumbles by the team.  The run game has been non-existent all season.  The defense can’t stop anyone, and didn’t even stop the Bears well in their only win of the year.  Detroit is allowing the most points per game.  It’s all pretty bad for the Motor City right now.

Best of the Rest

  • Arizona Cardinals (6-2) – They did what they needed to do in the first half of the season, but now they face probably the hardest second half schedules in the league.  It helps that they’ve got a two game lead in the NFC West, and that they’ve remained relatively healthy.  But they’re going to need to stay focused for the full 60 minutes in every game, because the two times they haven’t they’ve lost.  Of their eight remaining opponents, you’ve got three teams that are currently playoff contenders, two games with the Seahawks or the Rams, who they’ve lost to already. They’re very well-balanced on both sides of the ball, sitting top five in total offense and total defense.
  • Minnesota Vikings (5-2) – I’m not sure how I feel about this team yet.  I thought they’d have a shot coming into the season at a playoff spot, and I was right .  But they haven’t had a hard schedule to this point, and every team they play the rest of the way is currently above .500 except the Bears in week 15.  They win close games, they win at home and are just a game behind the Packers in the North with both games left against them.  They truly control their destiny, but could also fall out of this very quickly if Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t figure things out in the passing game.
  • Atlanta Falcons (6-2) – Early on they were running all over opponents with a breakout start from Devonta Freeman.  They had a cake first half, but managed to lose two games to below .500 teams.  But that’s all slowed down.  Four straight nail-biters against the non-elite and you have question how far this team can actually go.  Two second half match-ups versus Carolina will tell a lot, and decide the division, but only if they continue to beat up on the teams they should.  Matt Ryan needs to find consistency in the passing game again.
  • New York Giants (4-4) – It’s amazing how many late game collapses this team has had through 8 weeks.  If you watched every minute of this team as I have, you know they should be no worse than 6-2, having only been out of 1 game (at Philly).  Their defense played well the first four weeks, but mismanagement led to their first two losses.  Eli Manning is having probably the best start to a season in year two of Ben McAdoo’s offense.  But the defense has been on a rapid decline since week 5 and are on pace to go down as maybe the worst defense of all time.  Injuries haven’t helped, but allowing 7 touchdown passes a week after allowing the Cowboys to run for 233 yards is just unacceptable.  If the defense can at least be average, this team should still capture the NFC East pretty easily, which is why I keep them in the best-of-the-rest category.  I know this defense can get better with some health, and they’ll get another body back in Jason Pierre-Paul.
  • Oakland Raiders (4-3) – No this isn’t a mistake. The Black and Silver have already won more games than they did in 2014, and as many as they did in 2013.  They currently boast the second ranked run defense in the league, and Charles Woodson looks like he’s 29 again, leading the league with five interceptions.  Amari Cooper is proving why he was a top draft pick and Derek Carr continues to improve week-to-week. They’re not turning the ball over, as Carr has a 5-1 TD to INT ratio.  Oakland finds themselves in second place in the AFC West, in a fight for a while card and are a lot more consistent than the teams below them, so they could stay there.  We’ll learn a lot about this young team in the second half, with four games left in the division, and three against other playoff contenders.
  • New York Jets (4-3) Two straight losses for a team that looked like they’d keep pressure on the Pats all season.  The defense has allowed 60 points the last two weeks after allowing 75 total the first six weeks.  Add to that an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick and nagging issues for Chris Ivory and things might seem bleak.  However, the Jets schedule is favorable, with their eight of their nine final ,opponents currently at .500 or below, with a home game against the Patriots in week 16 as their biggest test. So take advantage the next seven and there’s still hope for not only a wild card but if the Pats falter at all, the division.

Best Chance to Rebound

  • New Orleans Saints (4-4) – The offense is rounding into shape nicely, but as mentioned withe the Giants, their defense is very bad.  Drew Brees had faith in this young group after their 0-3 start, and that faith is paying off.  An NFL record tying 7 touchdowns in week 8 shows Brees still has the arm and drive to lead this team.  They’ve got a lot of work with the Falcons and Panthers both ahead of them, but with so many under .500 teams in the NFC, they can absolutely grab a wild card spot if they can continue to improve and get better on defense.
  • Seattle Seahawks (4-4) – The defense continues to be a step below what they’ve been the past two seasons, but they’re making the plays when they need to. The offense has been shaky, and nearly lost to the Cowboys in week 8.  But they know how to win and as the NFC champs to years running, you can’t count them out until yet.
  • St Louis Rams (4-3) – This is a strange team. They’re 3-0 in their division, a division that boasts two playoff teams from a year ago. But sometimes young teams are inconsistent, and St. Louis is definitely that. They seem to play up or down to that day’s opponent.  1-3 against the rest of the league, with two of those coming to the Redskins and a Roethlisberger-less Steelers team.  But the run game has been explosive with the addition of rookie Todd Gurley, helping kill clock and lessen the possibility for mistakes in the air.  Add a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest points through 8 weeks, and you can see why this team can make some noise now.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) – Much like the Seahawks, this team knows how to get into the playoffs.  They started out slow, and lost their best offensive weapon in Jamaal Charles, but they’ve looked a lot better the last two weeks, and the wild card battle in the AFC is wide open. Five of their final eight are against below .500 teams, and the three that aren’t, are the teams ahead of them in the West.  They can move up quickly if Alex Smith can continue to spread the wealth in the pass game and avoid the late turnovers that have plagued him.
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NFL: Where Does Your Team Stands Through Four Weeks?

Hard to believe but we’ve reached the quarter pole of the NFL season.

Let’s take a look at my top five teams, my bottom five teams, and the best of the rest through four weeks of play.

5 Best Teams Through Week 4

  1. New England Patriots (3-0) – Coming off a Superbowl Championship, an off-season of turmoil and high expectations has done nothing to trip up this team.  Every phase of their team is playing well, including a big performance in the run game in week 3, something that tends to be a step behind for New England’s pass first offense.  Tom Brady became the fourth member of the 400 TD club thanks to another fast start from Rob Gronkowski.  And not to mention a great start by their defense. We’ll see if having their bye week so early does anything to slow them down, but for now, the reigning Champs are still the favorite to make it out of the AFC.
  2. Green Bay Packers (4-0) – Aaron Rodgers is really good, having not thrown an interception yet this season. Their defense has been really good. Eddie Lacy is healthy.  James Jones is thriving back where it all started.  Even when they don’t play their A game, which happened in week 4, they still easily win.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (4-0) – Don’t look now, but they’re finally putting it together.  After a disappointing 2014 season that saw the run game falter, Devonta Freeman has added a much needed (and unstoppable) dimension to an impressive passing game.  Julio Jones is back and better than ever.  The defense is allowing three points less a game than they did a year ago, but are still allowing too many yards per game. But they’ve limited turnovers, the defense is holding when needed and Atlanta is simply outscoring people with ease.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-0) – Another year, another good start for the Bengals who already have a nice two game lead in the AFC North.  AJ Green continues to be a monster, Andy Dalton has limited the turnovers big time, and the run game is showing up.  Add to that a defense allowing less than 20 points a game, and you get an undefeated team through week 4.
  5. Carolina Panthers (4-0) – So I never saw this coming after last season, and after losing their best wide-receiver. While the offense hasn’t been crazy impressive (ranking in the bottom 10 in yards per game), this team is running on an aggressive defense which leads the league with eight interceptions.

5 Worst Teams Through Week 4

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3):It’s been a rough start to the NFL career of Jameis Winston.  Tied for the most interceptions in the league through four games, the rookie also has the worst completion percentage of any starter.  Not to mention he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns for an offense only scoring 18 a game. Their defense isn’t doing them any favors, allowing the third most points in the league.
  2. Miami Dolphins (1-3) – Miami is the most disappointing team on this list.  After an 8-8 2014 and a lot of money spent revamping the defense this off-season, they’re allowing nearly 400 yards of total offense a game.  They’ve only forced three turnovers in their first four games.  And the offense hasn’t been able to bail them out, scoring just over 16 a game and a QB completing barely 56 percent of his passes.
  3. Chicago Bears (1-3) – The league’s worst defense points wise, and a bottom five offense is a very bad combination. Jay Cutler threw a bad pick late that allowed the Raiders to kick a go-ahead field goal with just over two minutes to play. But he was able to lead the Bears back down the field for a game-winning field goal to avoid the 0-4 start.
  4. San Francisco 49ers (1-3) – I am not surprised by this team.  They lost so many key pieces in the off-season, and that’s after not being very good last year.  Colin Kaepernick might be the worst QB in the league right now.  His first instinct is to run, and he’s not even doing that as well as he probably could.  Their week one win was an anomaly, scoring just 20 points; easily making them the lowest scoring team in the NFL.  And in a division where the Rams have defeated the Cardinals and Seahawks already, it’s going to be hard to avoid the cellar in the NFC West.
  5. Detroit Lions (0-4) – The good news, they held the defending champs to 13 points thanks to good pressure on Russell Wilson. The bad news, they lost again, couldn’t get anything going on offense and did I mention that they lost again?  This is an awful team on the road going back with Matt Stafford, so going into Seattle was always going to be tough.  They had a chance to win in week one, and couldn’t.  They had a chance in week four, but a fumble by Calvin Johnson on the goal line (a great play and maybe questionable one by Kam Chancellor who forced it) stopped at least a game-tying field goal attempt with under two minutes to play.

Best of the Rest

  • Arizona Cardinals (3-1) – So week four was confusing.  I know the Rams defense can beat anyone if they stay focused, but this wasn’t a game that I felt like the Cardinals got shutdown.  They shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and not being able to stop the run.  Even the best of teams are allowed a letdown, though you usually don’t want it at home.  But this team has the potential to come out of the NFC thanks to a resurgent Larry Fitzgerald, an aggressive defense and a healthy Carson Palmer.
  • Denver Broncos (4-0) –In the past, Peyton Manning led teams tended to blow out their opponents, or at the very least, they didn’t just get by an opponent.  You only have to win by one, and the Broncos are living by that mantra early. Week 3 was their only win by more than a score, so there’s no breathing easy.  But maybe this is a good thing.  Manning doesn’t have to do it all by himself (though two picks isn’t great).  The run game picked up last week, and that’s a much needed dimension for this team. But they’re finding ways to win, getting some luck and that’s all you can ask for in this league.
  • New York Jets (3-1)  After a week 3 loss, the Jets offense picked back up in London against the Dolphins in a big way. Chris Ivory, a player who is severely underrated in this league, showed he was healthy and ready to carry this team. Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to get comfortable in this offense.  A big concern is the number of penalties in week 4, but the defense has been a bright spot and with how bad Miami is, and how up and down Buffalo is, there is no reason why this team can’t take New England down to the wire for the division.
  • New York Giants (2-2) – Imagine if this team hadn’t shot itself in the foot the first two weeks? They’ve held double digit leads heading into the fourth quarter in every game.  Eli Manning threw his first pick of the season late, a rare non-mental mistake on the young season.  The running game did a great job to run clock and move the chains in week 4 against a good run defense in Buffalo.  And after a few bad weeks defending the pass, they’ve settled down, started creating turnovers and is getting off the field on third-down.  In a weak NFC East, they look like they’re the best team, and if Victor Cruz returns, they’ll be the healthiest.