As the NFL approaches its midpoint, teams tend to consolidate their place in the league. They occupy real estate at the top, middle or bottom, and there is little major movement between these levels. Let’s see where each team currently lives in the NFL’s apartment block.
Sitting comfortably as the only undefeated team in the AFC, the New England Patriots are strong on both Offense and Defence. They don’t have a lot of tough games on their schedule. Their biggest tests come after their Week 10 bye, so they should reach double-digit wins easily.
The NFC is a different story. The New Orleans Saints have found ways to win without Quarterback Drew Brees, and their Defence is taking the pressure off the Offense. The San Francisco 49ers are playing a similar brand of football with a fierce defensive front, and strong secondary. However, the 49ers are yet to face a truly tough opponent, and will reveal their true selves in the second half of the season.
The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are the other top contenders in the NFC. With experienced QBs, they can move the ball on Offense, and have a quality Defence that can make plays. They’ve also beaten difficult opponents, but need to avoid slipping up in two of the toughest divisions.
A handful of teams are trying to keep up with the Patriots, but so far haven’t been consistent enough to assert themselves as the pinnacle of the NFL in 2019. The Kansas City Chiefs were running hot on Offense until they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs can put up a ton of points when healthy, and the Colts are well-balanced. But both teams have looked vulnerable at times, and until they fix their issues can’t be considered powerhouses.
The Buffalo Bills have possibly the best Defence in the league. Their issue is whether their Offense can score enough points to outlast opponents. The Houston Texans are up and down, and could easily have gone 4-1 instead of 3-2. They showed they are capable of piling on the points this week against the Atlanta Falcons, scoring 53. But they have also scored 10 and 13 in two different games. With either of these teams, if everything is firing they can compete with anyone.
The NFC East is rapidly becoming a two-horse race between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were beating easy teams in their opening three games, but have now lost two in a row to the Saints and Packers. The Eagles, on the other hand, beat the Packers but had two narrow losses, including one to the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles look like the better of the two at the moment, but they’re level in the standings. With a tight wildcard race already beginning in the NFC, it’s likely only the divisional winner makes the postseason.
It’s hard to get a true read on either the Los Angeles Rams or Detroit Lions. The Rams have looked comfortable against lesser opponents, and competitive against stronger ones. With the exception of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who they were unable to handle at all, planting a seed of doubt in their potential. The Lions are yet to make a statement win, and need to earn one against either the Packers or Minnesota Vikings in their next two games.
The Carolina Panthers are going on a run after early-season stumbles. The loss of QB Cam Newton seems to be a boon instead, as backup Kyle Allen has won three from three. The Panthers are hanging around in the NFC South thanks to their Defence, but they need to avoid falling further behind the Saints.
The AFC is riddled with teams that are assembling wins but are far from the top teams above. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are caught in a very tight AFC South. With neither team able to rely solely on their Defence or Offense from week-to-week, it’s looking less likely that they’ll be around in January.
The Oakland Raiders are perhaps a surprise to be sitting on a winning record at this point. They’ve survived late comebacks in their wins, but lost big in their losses. The Los Angeles Chargers are almost the reverse, having had to be the team to try and launch comebacks. With the Chiefs stumbling in Week 5, the door hasn’t been slammed shut on either of these teams. But with the way things look and a tough upcoming schedule, neither is likely to be alive by December.
The AFC North is seemingly a two-horse race between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. They’ve both beaten up on weaker teams, and the Browns triumphed when the two met in Week 4. However, the Ravens’ Defence looks susceptible with a poor pass-rush, and the Browns’ Offensive Line has struggled to protect QB Baker Mayfield. With the Ravens able to put up points more readily, there’s a slight edge to them to take the final playoff spot.
Like the AFC South, the NFC North has two teams that aren’t out of it but aren’t in it either. The Chicago Bears seemingly had a lights out Defence, until they allowed the Raiders to put up 24 points. The Minnesota Vikings have had issues on Offense, but have won the games they were supposed to. Both teams have the tougher portion of their schedule approaching, and unless they sort out their Offensive struggles, will finish around 8-8.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be a thorn in the side of many opponents. They have a friendly schedule that could help them win enough games to stay in the hunt. They have shown themselves to be capable of beating strong opponents, but also capable of losses to teams that you have to beat if you’re really a playoff team.
In the Lobby
The Atlanta Falcons seem to be on the edge of collapse. Although there is still time for them to go on a run and get back into the race, it’s hard to see them fixing all of their issues before it’s too late. They haven’t been able to convert in the red zone, and their Defence is giving up yards too easily. A get-right game against the Arizona Cardinals will give them hope, but their season is virtually over.
The New York Giants had a glimmer of hope with back-to-back wins thanks to rookie QB Daniel Jones. Yet unless they get wins against bigger opponents, they are drifting towards a losing season. Similarly, the Pittsburgh Steelers seem destined to be going nowhere fast with a dysfunctional Offense. However, their remaining schedule is soft and they could go on a run on the back of their Defence.
The Denver Broncos will look at their record and shake their heads, but after finally getting a win, there is a bit of life left in them. There is every reason to believe they win the majority of their remaining games, assuming they play the way they have been. If they can close out teams and be more clinical, especially avoiding unnecessary penalties, it’s not a given they finish last in the division.
In the Basement
A handful of teams are yet to really get going this season. Although the Arizona Cardinals have won a game and drawn another, their division prevents them from notching too many wins. This season for them will be used to identify their needs heading into the Draft and offseason. The New York Jets are winless, but will hope to get things going as QB Sam Darnold returns.
The Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and Cincinnati Bengals are also winless. While this won’t remain the case as they play each other at different points, the turmoil is worsening. Washington have fired Head Coach Jay Gruden, and are floundering with their current ownership and front office situation. The Dolphins and Bengals expected to begin a rebuilding phase, and at this point want high draft picks for next year.