It’s the halfway point of the season and some things are clear. The Browns are still to be pitied above all other franchises. The Jets, Panthers, and Cardinals aren’t the same team as they were last year. The Patriots are. So is Denver.
However, not everything adds up. The league’s most penalized team is 6-2, and Brock Osweiler is leading a 5-3 squad. The Seahawks seem good, but not great; their offense has issues. Cincinnati has also took a step back from a year ago. Still, for all the uncertainty and teams nearing despair, there’s a second half for a reason. Almost every team still has a chance to make the playoffs; even it’s a long shot. The week 8 slate left fans with plenty to ponder.
The Raiders keep on winning: Logic would suggest that playing every game down to the wire would lead to eventual losses for any team, particularly one with as much youth and inexperience as the Oakland Raiders. Perhaps those losses are right around the corner, but for the time being the Raiders continue to shine in crunch time. Now 6-2, with a confident quarterback who seems to get better every week (500 yards and 4 TD’s this week), this team’s ceiling is sky high. Meanwhile, a Vegas relocation this offseason is all but official. The Raiders are a dark horse Super Bowl contender at the moment, but they gain more legitimacy with each victory. If they pulled off the unthinkable, and brought a Lombardi trophy back to the Black Hole, would Mark Davis dare leave Oakland after the championship parade?
Another tie…in London: It’s always a surprise to see two teams tie, because a 15 minutes is a long time for two NFL teams to go without scoring. In this case, the two offenses put up 27 a piece! Dustin Hopkins missed a potential game winning kick with just over 2 minutes left in overtime, which is a staple of almost every NFL tie now. This game summed up both of these teams in 2016. Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins are both talented quarterbacks, yet not quite elite, and both defenses have significant flaws that will likely keep them out of the playoffs. Cincinnati and Washington are both good, just not good enough to beat each other, or contend for a Super Bowl ring anytime soon.
The Saints defense: Seattle clearly has offensive problems. The Saints have been historically bad on defense the past few years and show almost no signs of improvement so far this season. Even after limiting the Seahawks offense to 13 points, the Saints defense still ranks 31st in the league, allowing more than 30 points per game. Given Seattle’s poor offensive line play, don’t expect New Orleans to repeat this performance, but it goes to show what this team is capable of when the offense doesn’t have to score 40 points to win. Drew Brees and company managed to put up 25 on the NFL’s second ranked defense.
Tennessee’s offensive explosion: Nobody wants to play the Titans these days, because they’re a physical, fundamentally sound football team. However, nobody is confusing their offense with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Mike Mularkey promised old school ground and pound football when he took the job and Marcus Mariota protects the football as well as anyone in the NFL. Their slow and steady approach went out the window on Thursday night as they embarrassed Jacksonville’s talented young defense. Mariota shone bright and gave Titans fans reason to believe their team could make it back to the playoffs in 2016.
A Nick Foles sighting: Good old Andy Reid, the quarterback whispering offensive genius, scooped up the former Eagles and Rams castoff this summer. Reid’s prowess explains why Foles performed so well in relief of the (twice) injured Alex Smith. Foles looked sharp in his return to action, tossing 223 yards and 2 touchdowns. Granted, it was against the Colts, but Foles looked inept for most of last season in St. Louis. He’s talented, and he’s always had the arm; maybe Reid can work some his magic and get Foles another shot at starting. If Alex Smith goes down again, Kansas City will need him to perform well.
Minnesota has problems: Two weeks ago, the Vikings looked like the best team in the NFL. Everyone at least had them in their top 3-4. Now, after Philadelphia and Chicago bludgeoned their offensive line in back to back weeks, the Vikes suddenly look flawed. The defense played poorly on Monday night, but the bigger problem is protecting Sam Bradford. Without Adrian Peterson, the offense needs Bradford to continue playing well. He isn’t Tom Brady or Drew Brees, though, and doesn’t look great when he’s on the run, or lying on his back for that matter.
Things that shouldn’t have surprised anyone
Another Patriot blowout: After a 4 game winning streak, the Bills drop a second straight division game. Their week 4 victory in Foxborough didn’t impress much, given that Jacoby Brissett was making his second career start. With Brady back under center, the Pats made quick work of a mediocre Bills defense, something that has haunted Buffalo since Rex Ryan took over. Revenge was inevitable for Bill and Tom.
Dallas vs. Philadelphia was an amazing game: Something memorable happens seemingly every time these teams get together. This time it was the showdown between the league’s top two rookie quarterbacks, both of whom were considered projects heading into the season. After 7 games, it’s clear that both quarterbacks are legit and their teams will be fighting for a playoff berth, come December. Dallas has their sights set on the number 1 seed, while Philadelphia hopes to get revenge when the Cowboys come to town on New Years Day to close out the season.
Terrelle Pryor continuing to stuff the stat sheet: Darrelle Revis has lost a step, there’s no getting around it. Not that Revis has ever been one for theatrics, but he didn’t even seem bothered as Pryor racked up over 100 yards on him in the first quarter. Pryor is the real deal; he’s taken to the position like a natural. While 2016 has been a coming out party for him, as he gains experience, he will learn nuances of route running and become even more dangerous. If Cleveland ever finds a quarterback and gets Josh Gordon back on the field, their offense will be a force to be reckoned with. Until then, enjoy the World Series.