Pop Quiz: A Quick Report Card for Every AFC Team
Now that we’re approaching the mid-point of the season it’s time to see how each NFL club has performed compared to preseason expectations. We’ll look at the AFC this week and pop on over to the NFC following next weekend’s slate.
Bear in mind that we’re grading on a sort of curve here. Don’t think that just because New England gets an A+ and Oakland gets an A that the two teams are evenly matched, it’s just that .500 for the Raiders is like winning the bloody Super Bowl.
To clear up any confusion, we’ll list the teams by order of standings in each respective division.
Here’s to hoping your favorite team doesn’t suck.
New England Patriots (6-0): A+
We all knew that Tom Brady was on a mission to make “them” pay for Deflategate, but who knew that “them” would literally mean everybody. Brady to Gronk has become automatic and winning the turnover battle against the Pats is beyond ridiculous. The team has a league-low 3 giveaways all season long, one INT and a pair of lost fumbles.
Any murmurs of the Jets, Dolphins or Bills challenging for the division crown must be shelved until the 2016 season.
New York Jets (4-2): A
The return of Darrelle Revis to New York has been huge. Just six games into the campaign he’s already nabbed a trio of interceptions to go with three more fumble recoveries. With Chris Ivory averaging 100.2 yards rushing per game the Jets may very well be able to ride the league’s #2 defense all the way to the playoffs.
There’s no question this club is one of the top overachievers thus far in 2015.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 26, 2015
Miami Dolphins (3-3): C
The Dolphins have looked dominant at times but they’ve also looked hapless.
Their offense is ranked 12th in the league at 369.8 YPG but #21 in total defense just isn’t good enough for a team hoping to make the leap to the playoffs.
Two straight wins following the firing of Head Coach Joe Philbin should give Fins fans hope but a pair of victories is not a long enough win streak to signify the end of the team’s issues. QB Ryan Tannehill is averaging more than 1 interception per game and this just isn’t good enough.
Buffalo Bills (3-4): B-
This team has shown flashes of brilliance and the emergence of Tyrod Taylor has given Bills fans hope that they might finally have found their first winning quarterback since Jim Kelly hung up his cleats.
But a losing record is still a losing record for a team that’s tired of being happy to “just be close.”
I still like this club’s chances to turn things around, but with four losses this early in the game the margin for error is shrinking.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 27, 2015
Denver Broncos (6-0): B+
The first place Broncos boast the league’s scariest defensive unit. Leading the NFL with a hair over 281 yards allowed per game and just 17 points, Von Miller and company are on pace to be one of the best defenses of all time.
Unfortunately, with the way Peyton Manning and the Denver offense is playing, they need to be.
With just 7 touchdown passes to go with 10 interceptions there’s cause for concern with regards to the future HOF quarterback.
Brock Osweiler every time Peyton Manning throws a horrible interception or picksix pic.twitter.com/bkknA7gN3k
— Mushin (@MetalMushin) October 19, 2015
Oakland Raiders (3-3): A
The 2nd-place Raiders are in 2nd place! That’s really all we need to say here.
But seriously, Derek Carr has weapons to throw to and he’s getting it done. They may not catch the Broncos but after last weekend’s drubbing of the Chargers on the road in San Diego it looks like the Silver & Black are ready to say good-bye to the cellar.
Dilfer on Derek Carr “It’s amazing what hope great QB Play can give a team, it’s an exciting time to be a #Raiders fan”
— 95.7 The GAME (@957thegame) October 26, 2015
Kansas City Chiefs (2-5): F
— Kansas City Chiefs (@chiefs) October 26, 2015
The Chiefs have finally won their second game of the season – enjoy your half-price pizza while it lasts, Kansas City.
Forget that Jamaal Charles is out for the season. I’m giving the Chiefs an F because they were supposed to challenge Denver for the AFC West crown, not the Lions for the #1 draft pick.
San Diego Chargers (2-5): D
iPhone Chargers > San Diego Chargers
— Mac (@YungEmac) October 25, 2015
What is wrong with the Chargers?
After all, they lead the NFL in total offense. At 430.7 yards per game they’re a full 19.9 yards ahead of the #2 Patriots. So why are the Bolts (2-5) while the Pats are (6-0)?
The answer is simple: run defense.
A non-existent one. Only the Browns have given up more yards on the ground than the #31 ranked Chargers.
And here’s the problem with giving up 132.1 rushing yards per contest: it sets up opponents for 2nd and short and 3rd down running conversions.
No team has given up more 20+ yard run plays than San Diego.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-0): A+
Many predicted Cincy to take the talented AFC North. Few predicted they’d still be undefeated so far into the season.
All those postseason flubs make it easy to forget how good Andy Dalton really is. 14 passing TDs to just 2 interceptions and a pair of scores with his legs.
It looks like the Red Rocket might just avoid a fifth straight Wild Card weekend loss by giving his team a first-round bye.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3): B-
How do you judge a team that’s lost its All-Pro Field Marshall to injury? Sure, every team battles the injury bug, it’s part of football, but losing Big Ben has been a huge blow for the Steelers. A blow they appear to be unable to overcome.
Le’Veon Bell is a stud with the NFL’s 4th-best rushing total at 511 yards, but it’s tough to win with a backup and third stringer under center.
Cleveland Browns (2-5): C-
On paper Cleveland is better than this but on the field we’ve mostly seen the same old Browns.
The defense is ranked 28th in the NFL and the offense, despite being #13 in total yards, is 23rd in scoring at just 21 per game.
A poor defense and a low-scoring offense go together like fat guys and garden burgers.
At least they’ve got Johnny Football…
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) October 27, 2015
Baltimore Ravens (1-6): F
How can a team boasting the league’s 9th-ranked offense only have one win?
The answer is two-fold.
For starters, only six clubs give up more points per contest than the Baltimore defense. An average of 27 PPG is embarrassing, particularly for a franchise that’s been built on the defensive side of the ball.
And second? You lose a lot of close games.
But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Indianapolis Colts (3-4): D
We’ve discussed Andrew Luck’s woes ad nauseum so let’s turn the table a bit and point out that the Colts feature the leagues last-ranked defense.
And what kind of yardage does 32nd place give up per contest?
This isn’t the NCAA or a video game. You can’t give up four hundred yards per game and wind up with a winning record.
Fortunately it won’t be too hard to right the ship in the NFL’s weakest division.
For 1st time since 1970, a team is in sole possession of 1st place after 7 weeks despite a losing record: Colts 3-4 (via @EliasSports)
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 25, 2015
Houston Texans (2-5): C-
While we all expected quarterback issues in Houston this season I don’t think many expected this club to take such a giant leap in the wrong direction.
More than once this season the Texans have looked absolutely outmatched and all five losses have been by a touchdown or more.
JJ Watt is incredible – but let’s not forget that football is the ultimate team sport.
At least he’s got all those promotional dollars to wipe away the tears.
“Hey I know, let’s get JJ Watt to do a commercial for us.” – every single company in America.
— Adam McKay (@GhostPanther) October 26, 2015
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5): C+
When Gus Bradley came to town he took over perhaps the least talented football team in the NFL and rebuilding takes time.
But we’re still talking about a club that’s lost by double-digits in three of their five losses.
However…here’s one thing the Jaguars do have: a franchise quarterback.
And that’s huge.
This is Blake Bortles’ 5th game with multiple Pass TD this season (9 TD in his last 3 games). Last year, he had 2 as a rookie.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 25, 2015
Tennessee Titans (1-5): D
The Titans came out of the gates guns blazing, rolling 42-14 over Tampa Bay in the battle of Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston.
They haven’t won a game since.
The rookie signal caller out of Oregon is playing great, and that’s a good thing.
But this is still a bad team.