Thursday 23 November 2017 / 03:21 AM

MIDWAY REPORT: TANK OR TURNAROUND?

We’ve reached the point of the NFL season where the top teams are starting to distance themselves and the pretenders are rearing their head. But among all the ruckus are a group of teams hovering around .500 or below that either had expectations or none at all that are sitting there at make or break situations. So with the halfway point nearing us, what teams should we write off, and who is going to turn this thing around? Let’s look at some teams.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)

The Bengals sure looked like the right team to put some money on to run with the Steelers this year, with that offense showing promise for the last two years. Andy Dalton got a massive contract over the offseason to be the franchise center piece, and now here we are. Then the start of the season hit, and the Bengals ran into an abysmal start at 0-3. They got smoked by the Ravens, took close losses to the Texans and Packers, and then notched two straight wins. So which do we believe? Well, that offensive line is B-A-D, and that’s despite Andy Dalton being horrible. The Bengals haven’t even played their division much this year, with two games left against the Steelers. Still, these guys are probably better than the Ravens, and I think they can get back above .500 to finish the year, or there’s a coaching change coming.

Verdict: Turnaround

Tennessee Titans (3-3)

This could really be about most teams in the AFC South, but the Titans really have disappointed. After mustering a surprising 9-7 season a year ago, the Titans added all kinds of weapons and looked ready to lock up the AFC South this year, especially with Luck’s injury. Then, the Titans stumbled to 3-3, with a blowout loss to the Texans and a near win over the Colts to cap it off. Sure, Mariota was injured for the loss to the Dolphins, but what is the real Titans? Well, they’ve got a big taste of the AFC North coming up, and this division is getting better around them. I don’t like this Titans team or the way they’ve played. Count this as a disappointment.

Verdict: Tank

Oakland Raiders (2-4)

Man, the Raiders. The Raiders are sitting at two games below .500, and that’s unfortunate in the division they rest in. The Chiefs are rolling, and they’ve got the Broncos back to looking competent on offense. Now, the Raiders are waiting for Derek Carr to regain form. But that may not even matter: the Raiders weren’t great with Carr, and that’s largely due to the underperforming Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Pair that with another year of average defense, and now they are really behind the 8-ball. Sure, they’ll get Carr back, but does this team feel better than either of the top teams in the division barring massive change? And besides that, where are the wins coming from? They have the Chiefs this week, another date later, the Pats and Broncos, in addition to a trip to San Diego and the NFC East to match up against. As much as I want them playing well, this ain’t happening.

Verdict: Tank

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Cowboys…. Man, what can we say. The Cowboys were the surprise team in the NFL a year ago, and with Dak and Zeke returning, it looked like the Cowboys were NFC contenders. Fast forward through Zeke drama and some awful defense, and the Cowboys are staring at 2-3. On the plus side: they’re undefeated in the division. The bad news: Zeke’s suspension could literally start at any week. And that’s not counting just how bad they’ve looked even with him playing. They’ve looked good on offense the last two weeks, but that D is a liability. This is the most high-profile verdict on the list so far.

Verdict: Tank

Atlanta Falcons (3-2)

Hey, a team above .500 team! Yeah, we’re going to touch on the Falcons for one simple fact: they are wholly disappointing so far. The defending NFC Champs (and the best offense, statistically, in league history) needed a blown goal line possession from the Bears and a bad call against the Lions to get to 3-0, and since, they’ve seen their offense bottled up in a bad way against the Bills and Dolphins. And that’s before this week’s trip to New England. The Falcons haven’t been able to score at all, and aren’t targeting Julio Jones near enough. They aren’t looking in sync, and it’s noticeable. That being said, this team is talented. And after they get past the Pats, they have some bad defenses coming up. They might now in the division, but they are a playoff team.

Verdict: Turnaround

Arizona Cardinals (3-3)

Enter year two of the Cardinals Disappointment Tour. The Cards rattled off losses to the Lions and Cowboys, then got wins over just the lowly Colts (without Luck) and 49ers. They’ve since beaten the Bucs, but not before getting smacked by Philly. Let’s be honest: the Cardinals look old and slow. Larry Fitz and the offense is anemic at times, and Carson Palmer is largely to blame for that. They just aren’t clicking, and that’s a serious question mark. Now, adding Adrian Peterson gave them a jolt, but this team overall just isn’t the same. Lots of people are picking turnaround, but I just don’t like this roster. Palmer isn’t the guy, and this team screams 7-9, AP or no AP.

Verdict: Tank

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

The Bucs, the darlings of the media during the offseason and for HBO’s Hard Knocks are now sitting squarely at 2-3. That’s not good, especially considering they are looking up at the 4-2 Panthers, a scorching Saints team, and the Falcons. They’ve also dropped three of four, beating only the struggling Giants. And here’s more bad news: they’ve already had their BYE week because of the hurricane. That means they’ve got 11 weeks of football ahead. Couple that with a lackluster offense and injury concerns around Jameis Winston, and this team just doesn’t look like they have what it takes. This division is too tough, and this team is a disappointment.

Verdict: Tank

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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