Some way, somehow, the NFL is halfway through the 2020 season: a season filled with excitement, disappointment and drama for teams and fans, and let’s hope the NFL can finish its season on time without any more COVID-19 outbreaks.
At the halfway point of the season, it’s always fun to grade each team and look at their future heading into next year, so it’s time to give each team its midseason report card for the 2020 season!
For the report card, I’m going to break down each team into a category, based on their state after Week 9.
Super Bowl contenders:
These are teams who have a chance to win Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021, from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
They are the Bills, Chiefs, Steelers, Titans, Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Buccaneers.
The Chiefs, Steelers and Seahawks are without question the three best teams in the NFL this season.
The Titans made it to the AFC Championship game last season from the No. 6 seed in the AFC, and they brought back most of their team. Don’t count them out!
The Bills and Packers’ defenses have struggled this season, but they have found a way to win close games, and their quarterbacks have been playing sensationally. They both get run over in the run game, but if their defensive fronts can hold up, they can go all the way.
The Saints demolished the Bucs in an absolute shock on Sunday Night Football in Week 9, they’ve beaten the Bucs twice, and they always look like a Super Bowl-caliber team in the regular season, but let’s see how they do in the postseason, and I’m not counting out Brady and the Bucs yet. Their defense flies around the ball, and they have too many weapons on the other side of the ball to not be a Super Bowl contender.
These are teams who have a chance to make the playoffs this season, but they have too many flaws to win the Lombardi Trophy.
They are the Dolphins, Raiders, Ravens, Browns, Colts, Eagles, Washington, Cardinals and Rams.
Let’s start with the NFC East (or least, whichever way you want to think of it). The division is terrible, no doubt, but there’s also no doubt in my mind that it is a two-team race between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team.
Washington looks like it’s going to go with Alex Smith for the rest of the season after Kyle Allen suffered a fractured ankle in Washington’s Week 9 loss to the Giants. Smith himself is recovering from a brutal leg injury. Washington has the defense to make noise, but I just don’t know how far their offense can take them. The only legitimate threat on their offense is wide receiver Terry McLaurin, and that’s not enough.
For the Eagles, they’re a frustrating team. Not only because they are my favorite team, but because they are beaten up with injuries, and they’re a tough team for even me to read! They could be 6-2, but they could also be 2-6, hence the 3-4-1 record. Doug Pederson always finds a way to push the right buttons late in the season, and they are getting healthier. A Week 17 showdown with the Football Team in Philadelphia to crown an NFC East champion seems likely, and I’ll ride with my birds!
Before the season started, I was bullish on the Cardinals. With what looked like an easy schedule on paper, I had them finishing the season 13-3, a game behind the 14-2 Seahawks. Entering Week 10, they will be 5-3 after disappointing losses to the Lions, Panthers and Dolphins. I still love where Arizona is going with Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, and this team will be a team to reckon with for many years to come.
After taking a step back last season, the Rams have stepped up their game this season with a mark of 5-3 entering Week 10, and even though they’re not as talented as the team that made it to Super Bowl LIII in 2018, they’re still an above-average team with an above-average coach, quarterback, receiving core and defense. Even in a tough division, they should slide into a playoff spot in the NFC.
The Dolphins started off last season 0-7 and looked like a high school football team. Since they are 10-8 and on the verge of a potential playoff spot with a new signal-caller in rookie Tua Tagovailoa, and a head coach in Brian Flores who looks like the first Bill Belichick disciple that’s actually going to work as a head coach. I don’t think Miami makes the playoffs, but they have a shot.
The Raiders beat the Browns in a hail storm in Week 8 in Cleveland, and that game may be the difference between who gets the final playoff spot in the AFC. Both teams have tremendous offenses with a boatload of weapons, a strong running game, an offensive-minded head coach and a terrible defense.
The Colts are somehow 5-3, meaning they’re only one game back of the Titans in the AFC South, but they’re too hot and cold. They defeated the Vikings, Jets, Bears, Bengals and Lions while losing to the Jaguars, Browns and Ravens. I don’t know how much stock I can put into them, considering how poorly Philip Rivers has looked, but their defense is solid and their offense has been good enough to keep them in games. They’ll be in playoff positioning in December.
And now, we get to the Ravens. Yes, that same Ravens team that many experts, including myself, pegged to go 14-2 at worst before the season started. While they are currently at 6-2, something feels off about them, which is why I don’t have them in my Super Bowl category. Last season’s MVP Lamar Jackson just doesn’t seem like himself. He’s hesitant sometimes in the pocket, and he’s not taking off as much. The Ravens offense right now just cannot produce enough points to keep up with their colleagues in the AFC and until they do they’re not a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
These are teams that either got bit by the injury bug, the COVID-19 bug or they’ve lost too many close games, and their seasons are done.
They are the Patriots, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys, Niners, Bears and Vikings.
The Patriots got bit by the COVID-19 bug as six defensive starters opted out before the season, and their roster quite frankly isn’t very good anyway. After the first two games, Cam Newton caught COVID-19 and ever since has struggled replacing Tom Brady up in Foxborough.
The Broncos, Cowboys and Niners have all been decimated by injuries. They’re good teams that will be back in the mix next season.
The Texans had the hardest schedule in the league through the first seven weeks. They faced the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings, Jaguars, Titans and Packers, going 1-6 in those games, leading to the firing of head coach and General Manager Bill O’Brien. They have Deshaun Watson, but this feels like a total rebuild in Houston.
The Vikings could be right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the NFC at 5-3 if they didn’t lose two one-point games to the Titans and Seahawks. They’re a solid team, but it just feels like there’s too much ground to make up for them with their horrid secondary, and a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who is inconsistent, to put it nicely.
The Bears’ offense is terrible, and they don’t have a quarterback. I don’t care how good their defense is; they are the frauds of the NFL this season.
Stuck in purgatory:
These are teams who are not good football teams, but their quarterback is too good to not be a bad team.
They are the Falcons and Lions.
Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford are carrying two bad organizations. Both teams would benefit from getting a top 5 draft pick and selecting a quarterback, but it’s not going to happen. Both organizations are truly stuck in purgatory and more than likely will be there for years to come.
Could be up and coming:
These are teams who have no shot at making the playoffs in 2020, but they may be a force to be reckoned with within the next couple of seasons.
They are the Chargers, Bengals, Giants and Panthers.
The Chargers and Bengals have their franchise signal-callers in Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, and their teams are only going to get better around them. They will be around for a long time.
I like what both Matt Rhule and Joe Judge are doing in Carolina and New York. Carolina is 3-6 while completely rebuilding a defense on the fly. Teddy Bridgewater has played well, and they have arguably the best running back in the league in Christian McCaffrey. The team plays hard for Rhule, and Carolina can ruin a contending team’s season if they’re on the brink of the postseason.
Judge and the Giants have been mostly laughed at this season, but should they be? They’ve lost five games by eight points or less. If it wasn’t for the turnovers, Daniel Jones would be talked about more as an above-average quarterback. I see the Giants building something if defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can fix that side of the ball, and Jones stops turning the ball over. If he doesn’t, he won’t be in New York much longer as the Giants are poised to be in a quarterback-friendly spot in the upcoming draft.
These are teams who are in a complete rebuild.
They are the Jets and Jaguars.
Nothing more has to be said about these teams than the subheading!
Brandon Lewis is a columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.