As I half-assed promised earlier in the week, here are my AFC mid-season report cards.
-New York Jets (5-3):
Say what you want about the Jets, they are still boring to watch. They added a slew of talent (what do Mangini and Tannenbaum care, if they don’t go all in, they are out of here anyway. Screw the salary cap) in the offseason including, Calvin Pace, Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins and…and…who am I forgetting? I feel like I’m forgetting someone. Anyway, considering the cost of their new additions, you’d think they’d be better than 5-3. Imagine if they didn’t blow it against the Raiders two weeks ago.
While the Jets are technically “atop” the division, they still haven’t been as good as they should be.
New England Patriots:
Everyone left the Patriots for dead after Tom Brady’s knee was turned into clam chowder in week one. Matt Cassel isn’t a great QB, but the team has found ways to win. Maybe they are on to something with their six-running-back theory. The Patriots have hung tough in what has become a muddy division, and they may actually make the playoffs. With the lack of juggernauts in the NFL, they have just as good a chance as making the playoffs as anyone else.
Buffalo Bills (5-3):
What happened to the Bills the last two weeks? After jumping out to a 5-1 record, they took a big steamer when facing division opponents. The Bills are largely to blame for the thick, heavy slop that is the AFC East. I’d be concerned about their running game at this point, as Marshawn Lynch hasn’t had much room to run. And now, stud safety Donte Witner will be lost for at least a week, but maybe a little more with a separated shoulder. The Bills lost more than just the game on Sunday. Ouch.
The Bills are young and will need to get their stuff together. The division is awfully winnable.
Miami Dolphins (4-4):
4-4?! This is a team that won a single game last year because a veteran kicker with an accurate leg missed a field goal. The Dolphins were brutal last season. So I give new head coach Tony Sparano and Co. credit for getting to four wins after just eight games. And, get this, they have inspired a league-wide trend: The Wildcat formation! That’s right, the direct snap to the running back has been sweeping across the NFL. Good stuff.
It appears that the culture is changing in Miami and that they are no longer an easy win.
-Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2):
The Steelers are a very tough team despite having a shaky offensive line. Big Ben’s shoulder should be fine provided that he doesn’t continue to get mauled. And the defense…wow. They are just downright nasty.
This has to be considered and elite team in the NFL, probably the third best.
Baltimore Ravens (5-3):
The Ravens entered the season with a banged up running back, a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback and a questionable offensive line. Has it mattered? Not really. Joe Flacco has exceeded expectations so far and has done a great job for a rookie. The Ravens are riding a three-game win streak and are right in the thick of the playoff race. Do I think they will make the playoffs? No. But so what, they are doing a great job considering their expectations for this year.
Cleveland Browns (3-5):
The Browns were 10-6 last year and looked poised to take the jump to the next level. This just in: they haven’t. They have benched QB Derek Anderson in favor of Brady Quinn. Kellen Winslow has been banged up (surprise), and Braylon Edwards can’t catch a cold. 3-5 is terrible and all the good will from last year has evaporated. Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage should dust off the resumes.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-8):
Wow. What a big sack of garbage the Bengals are. Carson Palmer might be done for the year. The defense is putrid. The team is a collection of bad apples. They have no idea how to win. What else?
Tennessee Titans (8-0):
Who saw this coming? The Titans can and will run all over you. Chris Johnson and Lendale White will eat your children. VY is out with a broken skirt, K-Coll is the QB, they can’t throw, and it doesn’t matter. They will run all over you. And how about that defense? DT Albert Haynesworth just might be the best defensive player in all of football. I’ll go so far as to say he is. When do you see a DT get moved around so much? He plays tackle, end and even drops into coverage. He cannot be blocked. Not even Chuck Norris or Cole Hamels could block him.
This is arguably the best team in the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts (4-4):
Injured QB’s don’t play well and Peyton Manning’s offseason knee surgery is clearly an issue. However, the banged up offensive line isn’t helping. Neither is the fact that Joseph Addai has been hurt and sucking. Bob Sanders returned to action this week and it’s a different defense when he’s in there. His absence absolutely kills this team. They are a 4-4 team and have played like a 4-4 team. Not what we expected from the Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5):
What a disappointment the Jags have been. In their defense, the interior of their offensive line has been a mess. They lost their two starting guards for the season and C Brad Meester has been hurt all year. To a team that loves the run the ball, this is almost certain death. Losing to the Bengals this past week was a disgrace.
Houston Texans (3-5):
What do we think of the Texans? They were terrible early on, then have been good as of late. Then they lost their starting QB for the next month to a knee injury. Rookie RB Steve Slaton has been phenomenal (kudos to those who grabbed him late in fantasy leagues) and WR Andre Johnson has shown why he is a top-three NFL receiver. It hasn’t really translated to a bunch of wins, but they are showing some promise.
Denver Broncos (4-4):
What a mess this team is. Early on this year their offense was dynamite. Cutler threw the ball to Brandon Marshall and rookie Eddie Royal whenever he wanted to. They were on fire. But, they benefited from two games (the San Diego game in particular) with bad calls and you could easily make the case that this team should be 2-6. And now? This team is awful. The defense can’t stop anyone and the offense cooled off considerably. Good thing they are in the AFC West.
San Diego Chargers (3-5):
3-5?! This is an outrage. This is a team that almost beat the big, bad Patriots on the road in the AFC Championship game last year without their top running back and All-Pro tight end. Philip Rivers was playing without an ACL for crying out loud. To come out 3-5 is just awful. Very disappointing when you consider how good they were supposed to be.
Oakland Raiders (2-6):
The Raiders won two games? Wow, congrats to them because they are just a miserable, miserable team. JaMarcus Russell looks like a bust. They’ve already fired their coach (and did so in a very awkward and clumsy manner) and look like they could be the worst team in the league (no offense to the Lions).
Kansas City Chiefs (1-7):
Speaking of bad teams, the 2008 Chiefs have less talent than Sarah Palin in a debate about fruit flies. Yeah, it’s that bad. The team has no quarterback. Their star running back has numerous assault charges against him and keeps getting suspended. The Chiefs are terrible. We knew they’d be terrible. They didn’t disappoint. Although I will say that I think they are better than the Raiders.