You may recall I earlier wrote something on the NFL asking questions about individual teams that will be answered when play begins for the 2018 regular season. I think now that week 9 is over, it is a good time to revisit those questions and speculate what might happen in the second half of the season. We are at that point where every team has played at least half their games. At this point every team has at least a win and a loss so no talk of a perfect season on either side for the rest of the year. Every year in any sport players get hurt and other players surprise for better or for worse. So here in GRP it is kind of like our version of the Trump mid term referendum but for the NFL. A league that the tambays can’t even spell.
- Yes, Tom Brady is ageless as far as 2018 is concerned. Every year Bill Belichick treats the first month of season as Week 6,7,8 and 9 of the pre-season except with a smaller roster. This evidenced by their 6 game win steak. Yet every year some people are convinced the sky is falling for the New England Patriots in September.
- Ryan Tannehill was afflicted with a mystery injury that made backup Brock Osweiler a spot starter against the Chicago Bears back in Week 6. His play has ranged from decent to very good. Which ultimately does not matter having seen the game against the Texans where the Miami Dolphins defense had early Christmas gifts for the Houston offense. Well how much more evidence do we need that Tannehill is that Italian word fragile.
- Sam Darnold has held his own so far as the rookie starter for the New York Jets. The growing pains are there plus the team around him is not that good, which is why Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings instead for less money.
- Yes, last year was a mirage for the Buffalo Bills since they decided to take two steps back and tinker with their roster for the better. For the better of the rest of the division. Somehow they have two wins this year. Which only leaves them one game out of the cellar in the AFC East.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers had the rare 1-1-1 start ( shades of Uncommon Valor film nerds) but currently lead the division by half a game. Of course Le’Veon Bell was a distraction. A reasonable NBA analogy for him is Carmelo Anthony. The performance of his replacement though is making Bell more and more of an afterthought. I doubt he has much leverage now with the Steelers on a 4 game win streak.
- The Cleveland Browns have 2 wins which already beats their (1-31 ) from the previous two years. Yet they fired both their head coach and their high profile offensive coordinator. Other notes about this firing: 1) the tough part of their schedule is already behind them. 2) On the field the Browns bought into their coach. They were in 3 overtime games as well. Show me a highly drafted flop QB and I can usually show you a guy surrounded by coaching chaos. Strike 1 Cleveland.
- I underestimated the Baltimore Ravens defense in my preview. Yet Cam Newton ( who plays for Carolina) looks good now in part because he torched them. They lost 3 games in a row and sit currently third in the division.
- The Cincinnati Bengals can be playoff bound again. The problem is every time they play in front of the nation ( games after 7 PM local time) Andy Dalton and company turn in a stinker. They are a half game behind Steelers but I perceive that to be the closest they get to the top all year.
- Indianapolis Colts finally welcomed back QB Andrew Luck and he re-injected the franchise with respectability. It helps that new coach Frank Reich has been able to protect him with both players and scheme. Still at this point they are tied for last in the division.
- You may have heard the cliche that the QB gets too much credit during the good times and too much blame during the bad times. Hard to believe the Jacksonville Jaguars were a playoff team less than a year ago so close to knocking off the Patriots. The Jaguars have been playing lousy lately. Not just Blake Bortles. Still, it must sting when some people suggest Eli Manning will be an improvement. They share the basement with the Colts.
- The Houston Texans are looking good again on offense with Deshaun Watson at QB. They lost the first three games and won six straight after. That is good enough to lead the division by two games . The question is can Watson stay healthy the rest of the way.
- The day I started finalizing this piece, the Tennessee Titans dismantled the Dallas Cowboys while playing in prime time. They currently have a .500 record and QB Marcus Mariota is still upright. The Titans, like almost any team outside of the 2017 Eagles will only go as far as their #1 QB’s ability to stay on the field.
- I have no idea how you can look at the moves the Oakland Raiders have made and translate it to anything other than F.U. to the loyal fans of Oakland. Their football team is already headed to Las Vegas and their last years with the team in their backyard is just putrid. As lousy as they are, they are still relevant. I mention them at least twice in other parts of this blog entry.
- I mentioned in my preview that John Elway has not drafted a quality QB during his tenure as the Denver Broncos general manager. He released Paxton Lynch in the pre-season. Two weeks ago the Broncos cut ties with Chad Kelly after a bizarre vacuum incident. None of the five QBs he drafted are on the Denver roster. That kind of instability rarely leads to a record better than the 3-6 Denver has now.
- The only division rival within reach of Denver are the LA Chargers. They had the same starting QB since 2006. Interesting to see if Phillip Rivers will lead his team to many wins as he has kids ( 8) . They will be getting a few players back from injury for the second half like Joey Bosa .
- Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes Jr. III have the Kansas Chiefs humming at 8-1 . While offense has not been the problem, there has been a time the defense was ranked near the bottom of the whole league. They are on a three game win streak but nibbling on their heels a game behind are the LA Chargers. The best division race in the whole league?
- The rest of the year is not really about the Dallas Cowboys making the playoffs but whether 3rd year QB Dak Prescott will be signed to a monster contract or let go. That is why they paid the 1st round price tag for Amari Cooper. To give Prescott less excuses when it is contract time. If you think that it seems quite quick that his contract is almost up, normally you would be right if Dak was drafted in the first round. Prescott is in fact a third round pick and is in feast or famine mode: a huge contract in the off season, franchise tag ( huge pay raise for him) or get released. More details here.
- The New York Giants already benched Eli Manning last year then reneged on that decision like a Manny Pacquiao retirement. At least Saquon Barkley is showing enough ability to kind of deflect their lack of choosing a future Manning. It does not help anyone that their offensive line has more turnover than the local Liberal Party. Flowers like Mar went Independent and is now on the Titans .
- Alex Smith is now at the controls of the Washington Redskins and is currently the biggest threat to preventing their division rivals ( Eagles) from defending their title. I did not see Adrian Peterson coming. I thought he was Emmit Smith as a Cardinal.
- The defending champs Philadelphia Eagles still have Carson Wentz upright which makes their current record 4-4 puzzling to some. Of course it is hard to repeat in the NFL but 4-4 ? They are missing Tim Jernigan, Darren Sproles and Mike Wallace but they are all returning this season in an effort to catch up with the Washington Redskins.
- The Chicago Bears got on everybody’s radar the moment they plucked DT Khalil Mack from the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders. They are within half a game of the division lead with the Vikings. That fact means that the fans of the Monsters of the Midway should be happy with the returns of first year head coach Matt Nagy.
- The Minnesota Vikings were one game from the Super Bowl last year. They tried to address that short fall by signing Kirk Cousins in free agency. Kirk’s Vikings halfway through the season has lost as many as games as Case Keenum’s Vikings did over a 16 game schedule. The expectations on Cousins are very simple: Win one more game in the post season than your undrafted predecessor. The Vikings are a tie better than the Chicago Bears in the division.
- I was lucky enough to watch the Green Bay Packer’s season opener in a public place with an adult beverage or two with my fellow NFL junkie friend. Some people likened the return of Aaron Rodgers after being carted off as Willis Reed like. Unfortunately for the Packers, Rogers may be suffering from nagging injuries from that game. He lost his last two games to the Patriots ( Brady) and the undefeated at the time L.A. Rams. The Packers faithful are already thinking what could have been only halfway through the season.
- The Detroit Lions are at 3-5. Yet if you told Lions fans in August that halfway through the season they would be a tie ( not a win but a tie) behind the Packers they would take it. Both lost their last two games. Note, they fired their special teams coach.
- It looks like Tampa Bay will eventually cut ties with former first pick overall Jameis Winston. I anticipate a Robert Griffin II treatment. Turnovers tend to provoke that. A question I asked in my preview was what did Ryan Fitzpatrick have left at this stage of his career. Well he has both great games and not so great games in his 2018 season. The decision to bench Jameis did not pay immediate dividends though against Cam Newton ( like Jameis a former first overall pick, National Champion and Heisman winner ) and the Panthers this weekend.
- Speaking of which the Carolina Panthers seem to have brought back the 2015 Cam Newton. You know the one who lead them to a Super Bowl appearance. The word is he is very coachable this year. Some people say this is at least in part to his position coach: Norv Turner. How many people predicted them to be 6-2 halfway through the season?
- The team leading the Panthers is the New Orleans Saints with a gaudy 7-1 record. They are fresh off yanking the LA Rams out of the ranks of the unbeaten. The Saints are that good and this was not a surprise to some. We will see if they meet again in the NFC Finals.
- The Atlanta Falcons came into this season with high expectations. Well here they are on a 3 game win streak with a .500 record and three games behind the Saints. Seems like if they want to do some damage this year like they did during their recent Super Bowl run then it might have to be as a wild card.
- The San Francisco 49ers are playing their third QB this season, which is reflected on their 2-7 record. Yet all three QBs so far do not evoke comparisons to say the Bills Nathan Peterman. One of them ( Nick Mullens ) nobody knew before his start against Oakland except maybe Brett Favre.
- The Seattle Seahawks are improving as the first half comes to a close. Currently at 4-4, yet they can be dangerous if they continue improving like they have in the last month. Sad news that many of you know, they lost their owner Paul Allen last month. He bought the Seahawks in 1996 and the Portland Trail Blazers in 1988. Note the two teams are a three hour drive from each other.
- Some people say the Los Angeles Rams are the best team in football. At the trading deadline they beefed up their pass rush. Glad to see in a world of me me athletes, Gurley ignored the wishes of people who had him in their fantasy team. It is about winning. If the whole team thinks like that then they have a chance to be there in February.
- The Arizona Cardinals were not exactly playoff contenders going into this season. Don’t feel too bad for the recently released veteran QB Sam Bradford. He made 15 million dollars this year. He has always been Forrest Gump like when it comes to money in a league where its own players are envious about the money NBA and MLB players make.
Tune in to the NFL to find out the answers to all these questions and for new questions.
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