Playing in the NFL is like trying to climb Mt. Everest. Without the right preparation, and the stars aligning, it is almost impossible to get very far. Many people get to base camp, but not much further, for one reason or another. Only the best and most prepared make it all the way to the top.
As the NFL season unfolds, more will be revealed about each team. Ultimately, all teams are aiming for a Super Bowl victory, but only the best will get there. Each week, we will look at how each team is faring in their quest to climb the mountain.
At the Summit
Little has changed in the AFC with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs clearly the teams to beat. The Patriots were far from clinical against the Miami Dolphins, but they were barely challenged. The Chiefs amassed a ton of first half yards and points in their takedown of the Oakland Raiders.
The NFC continues to see the Dallas Cowboys cement their place as a top contender, as they put together another 400+ yard game. The Los Angeles Rams have yet to hit full speed but have already shown they can win in different ways. Both of these teams have some of the more complete rosters, and are strong on both sides of the ball.
On the Ascent
The Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens are both pushing to enter the top tier, but need to beat tougher teams to earn it. Both have mobile Quarterbacks who have shown themselves to be capable passers so far this season. They also have complimentary Defences that give them chances to win even if the QBs struggle.
Alternatively, the NFC also has two teams pushing for respect as elite teams in 2019. The Green Bay Packers’ Defence closed down the Vikings for the majority of the game, and their Offense looks to be finding its feet. The Seattle Seahawks are also 2-0, but weren’t able to cleanly close out their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backup QB. More convincing wins from both teams will propel them to the next level.
The Philadelphia Eagles struggled through injuries to stay in their game against the Atlanta Falcons, but were unable to come away with the win. They had success passing the ball, but not consistently enough, and lacked an effective ground game. With some refinement, and a win over the Detroit Lions in Week 3, the Eagles will reaffirm themselves as a contender, albeit a step behind the Cowboys and Rams in the NFC.
On the Cusp of Success
A handful of teams are knocking on the door of being seen as a team to beat. The San Francisco 49ers are undefeated, but have barely been tested, and sustained an injury to Offensive Tackle Joe Staley. The Atlanta Falcons were strong on Offense against the Eagles, but didn’t show enough in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings to suggest they’re close to the summit of the NFL.
Likewise, the Vikings and Detroit Lions need to be consistent over the next few weeks to climb the rankings. The Vikings have strength across the board, but QB Kirk Cousins is yet to show he can step up and win close games. The Lions have played two tight games, and until they can close out games convincingly, they’ll be mired in mediocrity.
The AFC South
In the mix of teams that need to emerge is 75% of the AFC South. The Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are all 1-1. If one of these teams can get a stranglehold on the division, it will put pressure on the others. Each team has a stout Defence with playmakers, and capable Offensive personnel, but needs to put it all together.
With a fingertip grasp on being a competitor, the Los Angeles Chargers need to win these close games. They were edged out by the Lions this week, and crept home against the Colts in overtime in Week 1. And with the Chiefs in their division, they can’t afford to fall behind in the playoff race.
Similarly, the Chicago Bears are edging closer to disaster. They got lucky with some refereeing calls to steal a win from the Denver Broncos, but are still a game back in the NFC North. QB Mitchell Trubisky also looks shaky, and he could be weighing them down.
On the Descent
Trying to Stabilise
The Cleveland Browns managed to get things clicking this week with a win against the luckless Jets, but it wasn’t a true test for them. They still looked vulnerable at times, and second year QB Baker Mayfield missed some throws, showing ongoing teething issues. Similarly, the Oakland Raiders’ Week 1 win was against a hapless Broncos team, and they weren’t really in the game when they came across a true contender.
Additionally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to get back in the winner’s circle this week, but struggled to move the ball at times. Their division rival, New Orleans Saints, also look to have some setbacks ahead as QB Drew Brees will miss some time with injury. Both of these teams will look to right the ship in the weeks ahead, as they are still in the race to win the division. Losing ground though, will leave them both on the outside looking in.
There are also a handful of teams who are left asking a lot of questions about what 2019 will be for them. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the season, which will make it even harder for them to overcome their 0-2 start. The Jacksonville Jaguars are also 0-2 with their backup QB having to start, and don’t seem to have an identity on Offense.
On the other hand, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will be scratching their heads as to how they are still winless after two games. The Broncos will feel robbed this week, and had a dropped TD the week prior that could have kept them in it. The Panthers have had chances to win, but the Offense has struggled to find the end zone. While their seasons aren’t done, they will need to execute from here on if they are to keep their seasons alive.
The Arizona Cardinals are also winless, and were fortunate to get their tie. They have been able to move the ball, but their Defence can’t do enough to keep them in games. The Cardinals are almost definitely a year away at least from entering the conversation as a contender, especially with the rest of their division 2-0.
Still at the Airport
The Miami Dolphins seem intent on not winning games this season, especially as they are jettisoning talent with each passing week. It seems a matter of time before QB Josh Rosen is handed the reins. At the end of their match against the Patriots he made some good throws, although he was also let down by his receivers a few times. Rosen also had too many judgment errors, but without a better Offensive Line, it’s hard to criticise him too harshly for taking sacks.
The Washington Redskins haven’t been inept, but without a better run game won’t have much happening for them with Case Keenum at QB. The New York Jets were robbed of seeing how their season could be when QB Sam Darnold went down with mono. Their city counterparts, the New York Giants, are also in flux at the QB position as they are set to start rookie Daniel Jones in Week 3, but it’s unlikely to be a smooth transition. The Cincinnati Bengals round it out, also looking weak on Offense and unclear how they’ll win games.