So, we are seven weeks into the 2016 NFL Season, quickly approaching the mid-way point. The lack luster trade deadline is looming where we are almost definitely going to see zero major impact trades. The elite teams are starting to separate themselves and the bottom feeders, well they are starting to think about the 2017 Draft. Disagree there? Go check Stubhub and see what a Cleveland Browns home game ticket goes for ($12 – yes you read that correctly).
For the purposes of this article we are going to break down teams into four categories based on their play thus far and projected finish: Elite, Playoff Contender, Playoff Pretender and Can’t Wait for 2017. Without further ado, here we go:
Can’t Wait for 2017
Browns, Jets, 49ers, Panthers, Bears, Jaguars, Dolphins
I can’t believe it either, but the Panthers are 1-5 and are in the same category as the Browns, 49ers and Bears. A sexy preseason pick to repeat the NFC in the Super Bowl again, this has not been their year and I don’t see it changing much the rest of the way. While they will win a few games over the next two months, this is not a playoff team in a tough division. Get a high draft pick and forget the 2016 season Panther fans.
So what about the rest of the teams in this category. What do they all have in common? Yes, you guessed it correctly – they need a franchise quarterback. I will go out on a limb and say this though, the Jaguars are the only team I see in this group who have a shot at the playoffs or winning their division. Madness you say? Sure, but something about the AFC South tells me a 7-9 record can win that division.
Rams, Chargers, Texans, Titans, Colts, Bills, Bengals
Look every team listed here has some good aspects about their franchise – great defense (Rams), young stud quarterback (Titans, Colts) or a great running game (Bills). But the bottom line is these are all mediocre teams who will play good one week and let you down the next. None of these teams scream playoffs at me or for that matter, sleeper to watch in January.
Can the Chargers find a new way to lose in the 4th quarter? Can the Colts stop a pee wee league football team on defense? I’m not even going to mention Osweiler after that dandy performance this past Monday night against the Broncos. See the trend here – good teams, but not true contenders. The Bengals have taken a huge step back and don’t be surprised if there is a new coach come 2017. Titans fans should be excited about this team, but they are still a year away. The Bills don’t have enough on offense to make me a believer, but are the closest of all the teams here to move to next category. Rex Ryan’s playoff press conferences would be entertaining, that much I will say.
Saints, Bucs, Cardinals, Falcons, Lions, Packers, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Chiefs, Ravens
Teams listed in this group are all teams that I believe can make the playoffs and potentially win a game or two. The Cardinals, despite their slow start, will turn it around. They’re too talented on both sides of the ball to play horribly the rest of the way. You will notice I have every team listed here from the NFC East. Why you may ask? Because there isn’t much separation among the four teams. Yes the Cowboys are 5-1 with a rookie quarterback, but are you really that confident he will be the next Troy Aikman or that Jerry Jones won’t screw this up somehow? I wouldn’t be Cowboy fans.
Each team has their pluses and minuses – 2-time Super Bowl MVP, great offensive line, dynamic kick returner, elite tight end, but you don’t fear any these teams. As per the norm, the division crown will come down to the Week 17 Sunday night game.
Similarly you will see three teams from the NFC South. I have the same reasoning here – Arguably the top quarterback-wide receiver duo in the game, a Hall of Fame quarterback and young dynamic offense. Yet do you really believe the Saints defense can make a big play or stop teams late in games? Are the Bucs a year away with their young core? Can Matt Ryan overcome some tough losses of late and ride the ship to a division championship? Your guess is as good as mine with the South. The Ravens and Chiefs are two teams in the AFC who I like to be a threat if you see them on your schedule come January. The Ravens come to play if they can sneak in the playoffs and we all know how much Flacco loves a cold road playoff game. To cap it off, I have the Lions and Packers. Lions are a surprising team and Stafford looks like an MVP candidate. I really like what this team is doing this year on offense. My questions are around their defensive ability to stop the elite teams, which they will get tested with later on this season. The Packers are not in the elite section for only one reason – Aaron Rodgers has yet to play like an Aaron Rodgers. If his last game against the Bears is any indication of his turnaround, they will quickly get moved to the elite. I guess I just need to R-E-L-A-X.
Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks, Vikings, Raiders, Steelers
In my view, these are the top teams in the NFL right now. The Broncos, Vikings and Seahawks possess arguable the game’s best three defenses. Each team has a great run game to go with that defense and playmakers on the outside and special teams. The Steelers and Raiders both possess dynamic passing games that can carry a team through the playoffs. David Carr is young and Big Ben may be injured, but I love how both of the offenses can attack you with both the run and pass. They can score quick and often. And last but not least, we have the 6-1 Patriots with a healthy Tom Brady behind center. They have been dominant since Brady returned and I don’t expect that to change much the rest of the way.
If I was a Vegas line maker today, I would have the Pats listed as the favorite to win the Super Bowl this February. But then again, anything can happen on any given Sunday. That’s why we love this game.