NFL Quarterly Reviews with Coach Jerm: Midseason Evaluations

Everyone huddle up! Gather ‘round, take a knee I’ve got an announcement. We are officially heading into Week 10 of the NFL season. Every team has played at least eight games and it’s time to gear up for the second half. Now with that being said, if we want to go into the second half prepared and informed we need to take a brief look at each team’s first half to see where they stand moving forward. One by one I’ll be calling teams into my office for the second of their four quarterly reviews (the first can be found in podcast form here). This is not a league overview, it is individual team overview. Look, I’m not a macro guy. Leave that to the suits in Washington. This will be team by team, division by division, conference by conference. If you suck you suck. If you’re good you’re good. Respect will be given where earned. I will be clear and (hopefully) concise, on where I stand with each organization. I am very excited and you better be too. Let the takes commence! Pittsburgh, Coach will see you now.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (5–2–1): Back on Track

After starting the season 1–2–1, that 1 being a tie to the Browns, the Steelers’ start to the season was more than abysmal. Especially with the Le’Veon Bell fiasco constantly hanging over their heads. HowEVA.. Since the Week 4 loss to the division rival Ravens the Steelers have rattled off four consecutive wins. Three of which at the expense of their AFC counterparts and one dismantling of the decimated Falcons. Le’Veon Bell is supposedly in Pittsburgh and hinting at finally reporting to the team by next Thursday. I don’t understand how all of this contract stuff works with him but if I’m the Steelers I tell him to buzz off and figure it out when the season is over. James Conner has provided more than serviceable play at tailback halfway through the season and the team has started to figure it out and are rolling. Another reason to stick with Conner, in the words of head coach Mike Tomlin “We want volunteers, not hostages”. I’m completely on-board with what Bell is doing and wants to accomplish, but for the team’s sake, ride it out with the guy that wants to be there.

Next 4 Games: Tomorrow vs. Carolina, @ Jacksonville, @ Denver, vs. LAC

Cincinnati Bengals (5–3): Lurking

Did you see that? Those big yellow eyes in that dark area in the brush? That’s the Cincinnati Bungal Tigers lurking and waiting to pounce on the division. The Bengals are always this team. They’re either 6–10 or 10–6. It’s just a matter of Andy Dalton putting an offense together, getting help from his backfield, and utilizing your freak wide receiver in AJ Green. The defense is always a question mark but as long as they can keep the offense in games and not completely and disastrously implode and quit on themselves they can win games. Joe Mixon is becoming the player they drafted him to be, doing his job on the ground by way of 509 yards and four scores. Andy Dalton is riding smooth on the Dalton-line with 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The way I see it, if your quarterback finishes the season averaging one interception per game and a 2:1 touchdown:interception ratio then they’re just average enough to keep on the field so long as there isn’t a readily available clearly better option. The Bengals aren’t going to make much noise through the next quarter of the season and you’ll forget about them. But in four weeks they’re still going to be in the hunt, lurking just over your shoulder. They have a bye and two home games, one most likely being a loss to the Saints, and if they can win their one road game against the rival Ravens, they’re sitting inside the playoff bubble in the AFC.

Next 4: Bye, vs. NOLA, @ Baltimore, vs. Cleveland,

Baltimore Ravens (4–5): Lost Control of the Ship

The ship that long-time general manager Ozzie Newsome built from the ground up and skippered so professionally over the last two decades is stepping down after this season. A tenure that included two Super Bowl victories and ten playoff appearances. But the captain always goes down with his ship, and his ship is taking on water. Through the first quarter of the season the Ravens yielded a 3–1 record and silenced all those calling for Lamar Jackson over Joelite Flacco. The defense, which still includes Terrell Suggs, was playing better than it has in years. And then Cleveland happened. Even though it wasn’t Cleveland’s first win, it was still an embarrassing loss to a still-awful team. And what a stinker it was. A 12–9 OT barn burner in the Dawg Pound. They bounced back the next week beating an ugly Titans team 21–0 then floundering for three straight losses. All to good teams, mind you, but losses nonetheless. The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for a team with a struggling offense and aging quarterback riding the same Super Bowl train as Eli Manning, and a coach on the hot seat. You never hear too much negative coming from the Ravens organization even when the team is underperforming. They have always ran a tight ship up in Baltimore and are consistent playoff threats up until the last few seasons. But with Newsome stepping down, it feels like a complete 180 franchise overhaul is in store for the Ravens if they miss out on a playoff spot for the fourth straight season.

Next 4: Bye, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Oakland, @ Atlanta

Cleveland Browns (2–6–1): Three Wrongs Make a Right

Your three wrongs here go by the names of Hue Jackson, Todd Haley, and Gregg Williams. How in the hell did anyone think this pairing of people would work well together and put a winning team on the field? Hue Jackson is clearly unfit to be a head coach. His overall record is 11–44–1. That’s almost impossible. Three and a half seasons and he managed 11 wins. And Todd Haley, the guy who got axed in Kansas City and Pittsburgh for being a big prick gets to mesh with Gregg Williams, the big prick that had literal bounties on players. The more I talk about it this seems like a match made in heaven. These three guys together is pure comedy and made the Browns the undisputed correct choice for Hard Knocks. To my original point, the right these three gigantic wrongs created was a cleaning of the house in Cleveland with an actually decent team to put on the field. There is no way Gregg Williams maintains Head Coach status by the end of the season and the Browns can, once again, start fresh with a new head coach, a high draft pick, and fresh young talent come next season. But this time, they’ll actually have a quarterback at the helm.

Next 4: vs. Atlanta, Bye, @ Cincinnati, @ Houston

NFC North

Chicago Bears (5–3): Wounded, Not Hurt

The Bears started off the season with a defense as dominant as I’ve seen in years and an offense that couldn’t keep up. I’ve seen that part a million times. But the second quarter of the season was full of ups and downs. A 3–1 team looking like they turned the corner on offense, absolutely throttling the Buccaneers 48–10. Although the Bucs defense was an absolute mess. Followed by an absolutely haunting loss to the Dolphins in overtime. A loss that is going to loom darkness over the entire season, much like the Bills loss for the Vikings. But then the rollercoaster of emotions fires upwards again. Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson have been sidelined the last two weeks with minor injuries nothing more than a little break could take care of. They got that break. In two weeks without their most skilled receiver and defensive monster, the Bears got two relative bye weeks. One grind-it-out boring win vs. the Jets at Soldier Field and a beheading of the Bills in Buffalo. I could go on for way too long throwing out Bears defensive rankings and convincing people they’re a playoff team. But I’m not going to do that. The defense is good, the eye test will tell you that. What I am going to do is give me completely 100 percent unbiased take on the polarizing QB that is Mitchell Trubisky. Is he Patrick Mahomes? No. Not many people are. That kid is special. Mitchell can make special throws on the occasion. And I personally believe that we’ll see them more as time goes on. What I’ve noticed about Trubisky’s game is this. Over the course of a game his decision making is very very good 90 percent of the time. He makes the right reads, he tucks and runs when he has to (getting better with the happy feet), and he makes good, on-target throws. The other ten percent, however, can be catastrophic mistakes. He’s thrown a few balls into multiple defenders that haven’t been intercepted but should have, he’s also thrown bad passes that have been intercepted. And about 2–5 times per game he sails the ball over a wide open receiver’s head. A few could have been key touchdowns this season. But the key here is this: When he lets go of the ball I don’t find myself cringing and peaking through my hands waiting for a Jay Cutler interception. Because he’s better than that. And that’s that. The Bears real test is in the next quarter. Three divisional games in 11 days and a game against the Vikings in two weeks that’s been flexed to primetime. Needless to say I’m excited.

Next 4: vs. Detroit, vs. Minnesota, @ Detroit (Thanksgiving), @ NYG

Minnesota Vikings (5–3–1): Ship. Righted.

The Vikings did not start the season the way fans wanted them to. This was their season to repeat what was done last year except with a much better quarterback. An ugly tie to the Packers, the worst loss of the season by anyone in the league that no one has any answers for to the Bills, and the wrong end of a shootout to the Rams. The Vikes were 1–2–1 and looking rough. Everson Griffen flew off the handles, the offensive line was swiss cheese, and the defense was not themselves. Since, they got their revenge on the Eagles in America’s game of that week, beating teams they should beat in the Cardinals, Jets, and Lions, then notched a loss to the Saints who look unstoppable. Either way, the Vikings looks dominant again. Even without a reliable running back the offense is clicking, the defense just recorded ten sacks while allowing only nine points to the Lions this past week. Stefon Diggs got some rest this week with a bruised rib and will get one more week off with a bye before playing the Bears Sunday night in Soldier Field. It’s shaping up to be a great race for the North if they can get through their next three games at 2–1.

Next 4: Bye, @ Chicago, vs. Green Bay, @ New England

Green Bay Packers (3–4–1): Aaron Rodgers

The Packers are a mess. Mike McCarthy is a bad coach and has more than overstayed his welcome. The team is trading away players for pennies on the dollar because they either A) don’t want to pay them because they don’t believe in their abilities or B) are openly defying the game plan because they threw a tantrum on the sidelines and played hero ball. The defense can’t stop anyone. Bryan Bulaga is hurt again. Surprise surprise. The receiving core can’t stay healthy forcing them to field the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who?) and Equanimeous St. Brown (WHO??). Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham are over the hill and Clay Mathews is the biggest defensive bum in the league. The Packers suck. Oh wait.. they have Aaron Rodgers? Never mind. They’ll be completely fine and nipping at the heels of a playoff spot come December. I HATE THIS TEAM!

Next 4: vs. Miami (I’ll be there!), @ Seattle, @ Minnesota, vs. Arizona

Detroit Lions (3–5): Back Where They Belong

Back to the bottom of the North where you belong. Go on git! The first year of the Matt Patricia experiment is going exactly how I’d hoped. Matt Stafford is just as not-scary as ever. They had a 100-yard rusher for the first time since Reggie Bush and there’s no reason to fear him either. They dealt away their best receiving option for reasons unknown. Where’s Darius big play Slay? Is trading Golden Tate a tanking move? There is very little to be excited about with this team. The offense was anemic against the Vikings on Sunday and I don’t see any reason for that not to continue. If they beat the Bears in either of their two games the next three weeks I will be furious.

Next 4: @ Chicago, vs. Carolina, vs. Chicago, vs. Rams

AFC South

Houston Texans (6–3): NRGized

How the hell has this team won six games in a row? They had the quietest four game win streak I’ve ever seen and now, in the spotlight, they somehow won two more. It all started with a blunder. A blunder by Colts head coach Frank Reich. Electing to go for it on fourth down near midfield in an overtime game, ultimately failing, and making way for DeAndre Hopkins to bring the Texans within field goal range for the win. Since then they had an ugly, boring, Monday Night Football win over the Cowboys, beat the Bills by a touchdown, and narrowly escaped Mile High due to an unforgivable missed field go on the Broncos part to win the game. Yes wins are wins, but I see through the charade that is the 6–3 Texans. I don’t trust their offense one bit and I don’t think their defense is good enough to win them games. This is a team destined to win a bad division and get smoked in the Wild Card round by a clearly superior team. Can’t wait..

Next 4: Bye, @ Washington, vs. Tennessee, vs. Cleveland

Tennesse Titans (4–4): Ugly

Speaking of ugly. You wanna talk ugly? This Titans team is so lucky to be 4–4. They have two running backs that, coming into the season, were supposed to be catalysts for this offense. The perfect 1–2 punch with Henry taking the lead and Dion Lewis complementing as the perfect third-down back. Both of them are essential non-factors. How is Derrick Henry not a productive NFL running back?! He is a monster! He’s big, he’s quick, he has instincts. Is it the offensive line? Is it the play calling/lack of trust in him? Honestly, I think it’s a classic case of “we don’t respect the QB, we’re going to stack the box”. Marcus Mariota has not won over many critics and I don’t think he will. He is currently 28th in passing yards, has five touchdowns and five interceptions. That’s inexcusable. I mean that is so bad. And a less than stellar defense doesn’t help matters much. This team is stuck in the 7–9 to 9–7 hole for years to come.

Next 4: vs. New England, @ Indianapolis, @ Houston, vs. NYJ

Jacksonville Jaguars (3–5): Wyd?

What happened to the Jaguars? Did anyone see this coming? I feel like some people might have. But seriously? This is pathetic what they’re doing. Embarrassing, honestly. And you can’t even blame the offense. They’re basically the same team as last year. But I guess with Blake Bortles at the helm your future is much too volatile. Leonard Fournette being injured doesn’t help matters either. Ever since Patrick Mahomes castrated their defense they haven’t been the same. The swagger is gone. In the ensuing weeks they lose three more, totaling a four game skid. In London, four defensive players were arrested less than ten hours prior to game time. Dante Fowler Jr. throws a fit and gets traded to the Rams. And the Jaguars look like they’re headed to the bottom of the division unless they can get back on track against Andy Luck and the Colts this week.

Next 4: @ Indianapolis, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Buffalo, vs. Indianapolis

Indianapolis Colts (3–5): Gap Year

The Colts are interesting. Andrew Luck is finally, at least, 90 percent healthy. He’s slinging the rock and the Colts can put up some points. The endzone doesn’t escape them like it does the Titans. They still have T.Y. Hilton producing at a high level, Marlon Mack has been a surprise, and Quenton Nelson is the real deal. The defense is the question mark. Which is why I’ve graded them as “Gap Year”. Even the position they’re in right now they have a chance to win some games and be in a favorable spot in a bad division. The caveat is you have to believe the Colts can win these games. Even against floundering division opponents in the coming weeks it’s hard to put your money on any of them. These are sure fire stay-away games. It’s going to be an ugly battle for the AFC South. I get nostalgic just thinking about it. My hope for the Colts is they tank it out for just one more season and find themselves a defensive playmaker in this year’s draft. Get one of those Alabama or LSU guys. Who? I don’t know, there’s always one or two.

Next 4: vs. Jacksonville, vs. Tennessee, vs. Miami, @ Jacksonville

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (7–1): Absolute Wagon

The Saints are insanely good. And we’ve seen this Saints team before. The offense clicking in all facets, especially since the return of Mark Ingram. Michael Thomas is a legitimate star in this league, as is Alvin Kamara. Drew Brees has thrown himself into the MVP conversation trailing only Patrick Mahomes. It would be his first MVP honor ever at the age of 39. And the Saints defense is not to be slept on either. The last time we checked all these boxes was the 2009 season where they went on to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts in the Super Bowl. They can score and score and score and score again. And this time, with the likes of Cam Jordan and second-year Marshon Lattimore, they can stop you from scoring. Not to mention they trade for Eli Apple and just signed Dez Bryant. They are GOING FOR IT.

Next 4: @ Cincinnati, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Atlanta, @ Dallas

Carolina Panthers (6–2): Dangerous

Killa Cam is back and Christian McCaffrey has arrived. The Panthers are a confusing team, you almost never know what you’re going to get week to week. But lately they have been consistent. And Consistent Cam is what wins you five of your last six games. The two biggest factors I’ve noticed with the Panthers this season are defense, and turnovers. The Panthers have been very resilient on defense. They haven’t shut anyone down necessarily, this isn’t the 2015 team. But they’re doing enough to give the offense room for comfort. And when I say turnovers, I mean turnovers on defense, and lack of turnovers on offense. During their three game win streak the defense has forced six turnovers while the offense has not given the ball away once. What a concept right? Don’t turn the ball over, win games. Profound. The biggest pat on the back in that area goes to Cam, who has only four interceptions so far this season and two touchdowns in every game except week 1 (0) and week 3 (3). Consistency! I believe in this Panthers team to come out with a wild card spot, or even a division title should the Saints give them an inch. And it all starts tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

Next 4: @ Pittsburgh, @ Detroit, vs. Seattle, @ Tampa Bay

Atlanta Falcons (4–4): Dug Themselves Too Deep

The Falcons are a good team ravaged by injuries and bad luck early. This happens to some poor saps every season. Devonta Freeman seems to be on his last legs of high level football. They’ve lost three very important defensive pieces to IR (Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen) and don’t seem poised to make a run even though their record mathematically has them in the hunt. The Saints and Panthers aren’t going to give them any daylight and I can’t envision three teams coming out of the NFC South in the playoff race. Even with the addition of Bruce Irvin, and Julio Jones finally finding the endzone, they’re in too big of a hole. Yes, two games back is too big of a hole. I SAID TOO BIG! Moving on. Get out of my office.

Next 4: @ Cleveland, vs. Dallas, @ New Orleans, vs. Baltimore

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3–5): What Do Now?

Those hardy Buccaneers have found themselves in a position I wouldn’t wish upon most teams. They have the ultimate sunk-cost in Jameis Winston, who has a cap hit of ~$20 million next season, and is so clearly not the answer in Tampa Bay. He is so bad. You want to talk about bad young quarterbacks? There’s your guy. Some of the throws he makes are Jay Cutler-esque in the sense that there was no one on his team within 15 yards of the ball and it gets housed. And their only other option is 35 year old Ryan Fitzpatrick. No quarterback. Wasted offensive weapons. No running back. A defense with very little to be excited and/or hopeful about. A coach nobody believes in. I have no idea where they go from here and I’m just ready to watch it play out.

Next 4: vs. Washington, @ NYG, vs. San Francisco, vs. Carolina

AFC East

New England Patriots (7–2): ….

What is there to even say about the Patriots? They don’t have Gronk, so what? No Michel, so what? A defense that shows up when it has to and the best coach to ever live and Tom Brady. They’re making Josh Gordon work. The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl. Winning it will be a matter of a bounce one way or another from an oblong football.

Next 4: @ Tennessee, Bye, @ NYJ, vs. Minnesota

Miami Dolphins (5–4): All Aboard the Brocketship

The Dolphins have the same exact problem as so many teams before them. A decent team with some young foundational pieces, and a quarterback that can’t take you anywhere. Ryan Tannehill is not taking the Dolphins anywhere and the Brocketship is going to crash land in Lambeau this Sunday. It’s just got to be frustrating as a Dolphins fans seeing some decent offensive weapons and a talented secondary paired with the ageless Cameron Wake be stunted by poor quarterback play week after week. The Phins are just two games out for the division but we all know how this ends.

Next 4: @ Green Bay, Bye, @ Indianapolis, vs. Buffalo

New York Jets (3–6): Snore

I can’t find one standout thing to be hopeful for as a Jets fan. Sam Darnold has looked extremely subpar, and even if he turns it around next season or later this season, who is he surrounded with? Isaiah Crowell has had his run and I think we all know his limits. Robby Anderson? Potential number two option there. I don’t think I can name a single defensive player. I could cheat and look up the roster until I see a name I should have known but I’m not going to do that to you. Jamal Adams. I remembered as I was typing. I like him. Build around him. Figure it out and treat him well.

Next 4: vs. Buffalo, Bye, vs. New England, @ Tennessee

Buffalo Bills (2–7): Nobody Look, Nothing to See Here

How did the Patriots wind up in a division with these sorry excuses for professional football franchises? The Bills made the playoffs last season for crying out loud how does this happen?! Their offense is being anchored by a washed up LeSean McCoy, fat Kelvin Benjamin, and the Peter-Man. It is astonishing the situations the Bills keep running into having to put this man back on the football field. They can’t get away from him! At least with the Bills they play good enough defense to get people saying “well at least they have a solid defense”. See? It got me to do it. And at least I can name some players on theirs unlike the Jets. Shaq Lawson is their Jamal Adams, hang onto that. TreDavious White and Phillip Gaines make for a decent cornerback duo, and Tremaine Edmunds is a legit middle linebacker. Both the Bills and the Jets are REALLY banking on these quarterbacks to work out.

Next 4: @ NYJ, Bye, vs. Jacksonville, @ Miami

NFC East

Washington Redskins (5–3): How?

How are the Redskins leading their division, aside from the fact that it’s the NFC East? I’ll tell you how. Alex Smith is game-managing the season of his life. The epitome of averageness. Maybe even below-averageness. Nine touchdowns and three interceptions. I’m shocked. This is my shocked voice. Essentially what we have is a team that’s caught a few breaks in a very weak division. They’ve beaten bad teams they should beat (Cardinals, Cowboys, Giants). They beat the Panthers in arguably the worst game of the Panthers’ season. Catching the turnover bug we mentioned earlier. And they caught Aaron Rodgers on the road with one leg. Games they’ve lost? The Skins were stifled by the Colts 21–9, throttled by the Saints 43–19, and taken down a notch by the Falcons last week 38–14. The Washington R-Words lose to teams they should lose to, and beat teams they should beat. The schedule is their only enemy. And that enemy is weak. Only the Eagles can get in their way. Philadelphia.. the coach will see you now.

Next 4: @ Tampa Bay, vs. Houston, @ Dallas, @ Philadelphia

Philadelphia Eagles (4–4): Waking Up

The reigning champs are finally waking up from their massive Super Bowl hangover. The bye has given them a chance to take a shower and get some coffee and McDonalds hash browns in their system (Cowboys) before finally getting out of bed to start the day or, in their case, the rest of the season (@ Saints). This roster is still talented. They only added more pieces to their championship roster, including Golden Tate at the trade deadline, and got their signal caller back. This team has been very open about not giving a bleep and just having fun so long as they got their one ring. Mostly Lane Johnson. I’m not entirely sure he speaks for the rest of the team but they’ve sure played like it. Now that they’ve napped through half the season and their division is so horrid they can finally start to make a run at the second half.

Next 4: vs. Dallas, @ New Orleans, vs. NYG, vs. Washington

Dallas Cowboys (3–5): Dead Men Walking

I am so done watching the Dallas Cowboys on primetime. As is everyone every single season because they probably get at least three every season. Well good luck for us, they have three more games for the masses upcoming. After getting embarrassed by the Ugly Titans this past Monday, they go to Philly to play the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Then they get their annual Thanksgiving afternoon game, and a Thursday night matchup the following week against the Saints. Get this team out of my face. I don’t want to see their corpse of a coach any longer. Or Dak Prescott failing to throw the ball downfield. Or watching Sean Lee get hurt. Again. Yes, it happened again. Amari Cooper went from one dumpster fire to a dumpster fire in a giant dumpster made of glass.

Next 4: @ Philadelphia, @ Atlanta, vs. Washington, vs. New Orleans

New York Giants (1–7): Don’t F This Up

The Giants made the wrong choice drafting Saquon and the right choice at the same time. They absolutely needed a quarterback and lucked out with the current crop not being very good (so far), and fielding a team so bad that they’re lucky to even have the one win they do. But NOW.. they have Saquon Barkley AND a top 3 draft pick waiting for them. IF they don’t screw this up. They need to let Eli do whatever he wants the rest of the season. Keep him out there because there is no way that guy is winning you football games. It is time to move on. It’s been time. Build around this freak of nature roaming your backfield and get a QB. Maybe then they can become the Cowboys.

Next 4: @ San Francisco, vs. Tampa Bay, @ Philadelphia, vs. Chicago

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8–1): Do it in the Cold

I might be the only person in the world still doubting the Chiefs. But hey, those high flying offenses, young quarterback, quick skill players needing ideal footing and weather, I’m just saying. Maybe our guy Mahomes takes a small step back and that high powered offense goes down a gear when it gets cold out. And Kansas City can get pretty nippy. Aside from that. Here are the positives. The Chiefs have matched any sort of challenge thrown their way. Even losing to the Patriots wasn’t much of a loss other than on the scoreboard. They went toe to toe with Tom Brady and the Pats in Foxborough and only lost by a field goal. They took care of the Chargers in week 1 and won the shootout in Pittsburgh in week 2. The Jaguars haven’t been the same since Mahomes ruined their picnic. Every challenge they’ve faced they’ve handled masterfully. A young team playing like a veteran team that’s been through the ringer. Challenges left on the schedule, I would say, are the Rams in LA in two weeks, home against the Chargers week 15, and in Seattle week 16. This team is objectively good, but I can’t contain the reserves I have about their defense and the ability for this offense to continue this production. I get the feeling of a Divisional round exit. Not everyone can fit on the bandwagon!

Next 4: vs. Arizona, @ LAR, Bye, @ Oakland

Los Angeles Chargers (6–2): Hitting Their Stride

The Chargers’ only two losses are to two of the top teams in the league, the Chiefs and the Rams, and they have either handled or closed out close games against everyone else. The man, the myth, Phil Rivers is putting up MVP numbers himself with 2200 yards, 19 TD’s and only 3 INT’s. The interceptions stat is a big one for Mista Rivas having led the league in INT’s two of the last four seasons. He’s always been very good but it’s felt like he’s needed to throw a lot more and take more chances in previous years because the offense was all the team had. Now the defense, which hasn’t seen Joey Bosa take the field yet, has studs like Melvin Ingram and Derwin James (8 sacks combined) holding it down for a dangerous Chargers team with an offense that knows how to score. Melvin Gordon is an underrated high-level producer in this league. Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Mike Williams make for a skilled receiving core. They only trail the Chiefs by one game, and I just might become a Chargers supporter the rest of the way.

Next 4: @ Oakland, vs. Denver, vs. Arizona, @ Pittsburgh

Denver Broncos (3–6): Not Surprised

The 2018 Broncos will go under the radar coming into the 2019 season given their record. A lot of people will forget exactly how their season went and why it went the way it did. Last season they had the common conundrum of having a good defense with offensive weapons and no quarterback. They addressed the quarterback situation as best they could this offseason with the addition of Case Keenum. But I think, to anyone who watched enough Case Keenum last season, knew this was a possibility for the Broncos. He’s not a game-changing talent and is too prone to the untimely turnover to win a lot of football games. I can’t convince myself that 2017 Case Keenum was anything but a fluke. As evidenced by his lackluster 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, that is way too many turnovers for a guy that’s essentially supposed to be your game manager while the defense takes care of business. Here’s two quick stats to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Stat 1: The Broncos have 12 turnovers as an offense this season. Keenum has 10 interceptions. Stat 2: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have 17 sacks combined. That’s nine for Von and eight for Chubb. That’s 17 of 28 total, tied for second in the NFL. As well as 12 takeaways total, tied for 16th. Put them together and you’ve got a defense doing its job and an offense not holding up their end of the bargain. The Broncos have two losses to the Chiefs by a total of 11 points, a loss to the Rams by 3, and the Texans by 2 (missed GW FG). They are in these games and playing up to their competition. John Elway is even making tough decisions by, rightfully, trading Demaryius Thomas for some draft capital, giving Courtland Sutton his time to get some snaps to get ready for next season. Bottom line is, Case needs to be better. Maybe then, Denver will find themselves back in the postseason.

Next 4: Bye, @ LAC, vs. Pittsburgh, @ Cincinnati

Oakland Raiders (1–7): Lucky to Have 1

The Raiders are (insert your favorite synonym for “bad”). This Raiders team is absolutely spider-2 Y-bananas, man. I may have verbally abused the Cowboys in an earlier section, but I would actually love nothing more than the Cowboys and the Bears to make the playoffs just so Jon Gruden’s two first-round picks are as late as possible. Although I have little faith he picks players that will become foundational pieces anyway. What happened to anyone of any importance on that team? He is going full on NBA tank mode on an NFL football team and I am here for the process. Because football fans, especially Jon Gruden apologists, are not going to have as much patience as those 76ers fans. I could name only a few players on their defense. Two of which being Bruce Irvin and Karl Joseph. Bruce Irvin had three of the team’s seven sacks aaaand he’s GONE. Karl Joseph, former 14th overall pick, is non-existent. Oh but let’s not forget Run D.R.C. and Frostee Rucker! Seriously who is left on this team at the end of next season? Derek Carr and Jalen Richard? I think Derrick Johnson might actually pull a Vontae Davis next season. Where can I make that prop bet? Did you know there’s a tight end on the roster named Derek Carrier? Ten years $100 million. Sheeeeeesh. He better give that money back when he “can’t get it done”, or he’ll be a liar AND a thief. Do they win a second game? I say no. Their best bet is in Arizona in two weeks. This stuff is wild, man!

Next 4: vs. LAC, @ Arizona, @ Baltimore, vs. Kansas City

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams (8–1): Superteam

This is what Vince Young had in mind when he called “superteam” as the backup quarterback. Sean McVay is a genius and an assassin. The LA Rams gave us one of the craziest NFL offseasons with their moves alone. They started by trading for corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters on the same day, trading for Brandin Cooks only a few weeks later, and signing Ndamukong Suh two days after that. Once the roster was nearly complete they went ahead and locked up Todd Gurley for a four year extension and gave Brandin Cooks a five year extension, as well as their prized defensive stalwart Aaron Donald for a zillion dollars. Last but not least they just added Dante Fowler Jr. from the Jaguars. This is another team, along with the Saint, absolutely 100 percent going for it all. Marcus Peters hasn’t produced as asked thus far, Talib has been injured and Suh has had his struggles as well. The Rams defense, through nine games, have given up first downs on third-and-seven or longer 44 percent of the time. And they’re 8–1 and still not as bad overall as the Chiefs defense. Sean McVay’s offense will not be stopped. And although they have skilled defensive players struggling right now, I would take struggling talent over thriving scrubs. The talent will figure it out when it matters most. And the Rams will be playing in games that matter the most. The NFC playoffs are going to be insane.

Next 4: vs. Seattle, vs. Kansas City, Bye, @ Detroit

Seattle Seahawks (4–4): 12's

Here are all the Seahawks cliche-go-to’s: The defense has been dismantled and is hurt. The offensive line is atrocious. The running back carousel is worse than the Lions. There are no weapons on offense. Russell Wilson keeps the window open.

The Seahawks are extremely boring and they are no bueno this season. But I give them the review of “12's” because they are still going to play teams tough and steal wins at home because we’re still giving them that. They have the home field advantage. Hell, they almost beat the Rams just because they were playing at home. If Sean McVay wasn’t a ballsy mother bleeper on that 4th and inches at midfield maybe it’s a different story. But McVay ain’t scared of Stinky Pete Carroll. The Seahawks will just be a thorn in everyone’s sides the rest of the season, miss out on the playoffs, get themselves a decent draft pick (probably some receiver they turn into an all-pro) and Wilson will make them good again.

Next 4: @ LAR, vs. Green Bay, @ Carolina, vs. San Francisco

Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers: Spiderman Meme

Whoever’s reading this, show me the difference between these two teams (without Jimmy G, of course). Shoot me an email or a text. I know you’re dying to tell me. Neither of them will make it to the “Playoff Hunt” edition four weeks later. Was that a teaser? I think it might have been. Keep an eye out!

This may have got long-winded at times but I enjoyed it. Off the top of your head takes on football teams is what we as football fans live for. Tell me I’m wrong on anything I said and I’ll debate you to the death. Now let’s get out there and have a great second half of FOOTBALLLLL!