Though I may be a little tardy on my midseason takeaways, they are still valid, and will still sting those who have gotten off to a poor start. Without further adieu, here are the biggest winners, and most importantly losers, from the first half or so of the NFL season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Though they may have lost to the dreaded Cowboys to drop to 5-3, they are still one of the preeminent teams in the League, especially in the NFC. Alex Smith is posting a career year, Kareem Hunt has found tremendous rookie success, and that douche bag Travis Kelce continues to be one of the best all around tight ends in the NFL (much to my disliking). Oh, and they have that Chiefs defense. Definitely a great start for the future AFC West champs.
This is an easy one. With Deshaun Watson (who will be mentioned later, mind you) out for the season, Carson Wentz leads the NFL in passing touchdowns, and has showcased a little bit of Houdini lately (though frankly I think he overdoes it). Getting the 25 year-old Jay Ajayi for a fourth round pick was awesome, and Brent Celek should help cover up the temporary loss of outstanding vertical threat Zach Ertz. The offensive line seems to be a little bit banged up, but who cares when you’re 8-1.
Los Angeles Rams
As much as it pains me to validate the success of a Los Angeles sports franchise (at least the Dodgers lost), the Rams seem to have flipped the switch from last place Midwest suckers to first place Hollywood stars. Jared Goff has undergone a major transformation (see SI’s article that I can’t find right now), and Aaron Donald finally ended his stupid holdout to bolster the d (though they really only need to hold teams to less than 40 a game). The Lams have a shot to win a somewhat weak NFC West.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees has always been Drew Brees, but we haven’t seen this level of Cajun defense since Bountygate. When Delvin Breaux went out, I thought they were screwed, but buoyed by Kenny Vaccaro and Cameron Jordan, this Saints d is really stepping it up. The Panthers are close in the standings, but I expect an easy NFC South win for N’Orleans.
Teddy Bridgewater; out. Sam Bradford; out. Case Keenum; stud. Even with budding rookie back Dalvin Cook out, the Vikings are just finding ways man. The Purple People Eaters are back in full force, and strong play by role players has kept this team atop what has turned out to be one of the weakest divisions in the NFL this year. Now that they have a new kicker, they could make a deep playoff run…
Yes, I know there is a -53% chance that anybody besides the Patriots will win that division, but everyone else is playing pretty well. The Dolphins and the Jets were poised to have throwaway seasons, but they’ve managed to stay around .500. And the Bills...they finally managed to figure out Rex Ryan was the problem, not everything else.
AFC South (except now minus the Texans)
This was shaping up to be a great division (save for the Colts), with the Jags assembling the most feared defense in the League, the Titans playing just as I predicted they would, and Deshaun Watson saving Houston. Now, the Jags and Titans continue to thrive, but with Watson done for the season, the Texans are definitely in the loser category.
The other half of the AFC South
Andrew Luck’s career in Indy is looking like Peyton Manning’s...it’s just about 10 years too soon. Jacoby Brissett has once and for all answered the question on his ability to start in the NFL, and their running game continues to be one of the worst all-time (despite having Frank Gore). As for the Texans...that World Series celebration sure didn’t last long, as they will have to wait another year for their savior to become full-fledged. Sorry guys.
San Francisco 49ers
They haven’t won a single game.
They also haven’t won a single game, tied with last season as their best record over the previous decade.
New York Giants
Their offensive line is so bad they’ve managed to make Eli look wimpier than he already is. Combine that with a Colts-like running game and a defense that’s missing a few fingers, and you have the Nets of football (or the Knicks, or the Mets). And to add insult to injury, they don’t even play in New York!
Green Bay Packers
Aaron. Discount Double check. Rodgers.
Kyle Shanahan is hurting more than one team right now...Other than that, I’m not really sure why the NFC Champs are struggling. They have all the same pieces, play in the same division...Maybe they’ll win eight in a row again (though that would have them losing in the second round of the playoffs).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They have been bestowed upon with the magnificent Hard Knocks curse. Yes, Houston had it last year and made it to the playoffs, but they proceeded to lose 30-0. Jameis Winston’s inconsistency is finally shining through, and the rest of the offense is stuck in a funk because of it. After all, he did show on the dreaded show he was the unquestioned leader…
Everyone but the Chiefs kind of sucks this year, which is especially surprising for the Raiders and Broncos. Trevor Siemian gets an article in Sports Illustrated, then proceeds to get benched. Marshawn Lynch returns only to play at a frankly garbage level (plus their o-line sucks and their defense is atrocious as usual). Then there’s the Chargers...they’re playing more like a team that just moved to LA (stupid Rams). A lot of people saw dark horse potential in them, but then they watched them play, and, well…
Another team I’m not sure about. They’re pretty talented, yet Marvin Lewis can’t control the team, they had a disappointing season last year, they drafted another thug, and they’ve slowly been losing key veterans over the years. But we all know the real reason the Bengals will never go far; their quarterback is a GINGER.