With about half of the NFL season in the books, the 2019 outlook for each team is clearer. We handed out grades for each team through eight weeks of the season.
Arizona made a splash in the offseason by hiring Kliff Kingsbury and drafting Kyler Murray first overall. The defense has spent most of the first eight weeks without Patrick Peterson due to a suspension and has allowed the second most points in the league, but the offense has shown some explosion, resulting in a 3-4-1 record, including a recent three-game win streak. It's definitely progress.
The Falcons cleaned house in the offseason, getting rid of all three coordinators, but it's apparent the problem was above them. Atlanta enters the bye week 1-7, allowing a staggering 31.3 points per game and underachieving on offense with only 20.6 points per game. Matt Ryan's recent ankle injury has only added to their woes. Head coach Dan Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl only three years ago, but now it's clearly time for him to go.
It was fair to expect regression from the Ravens after losing significant talent on defense during the offseason, but the team has made up for its defensive issues with an explosive offense led by Lamar Jackson. Baltimore ranks second in the league with 30.6 points per game and is coming off a huge win at Seattle. The Ravens host New England this week, which will be a measuring stick for both teams.
While it's hard to complain about a 5-2 record, especially given the recent history of the Bills, we still need to put their five wins in perspective. They all came against teams with a .500 or worse record, including two winless teams. The offense has struggled despite several notable offseason additions, with young quarterback Josh Allen showing inconsistency. A 31-13 home loss to a floundering Eagles squad in Week 8 is concerning.
Considering Cam Newton's foot injury and resulting five missed games, a 4-3 record is about as good as the Panthers could have expected. That said, they were blown out at San Francisco, 51-13, coming off a bye, which puts a stench on their start. After Kyle Allen's poor play in that game, Newton's return is probably coming sooner than later. The defense had played well up to that point, but now there are suddenly questions about it.
The Bears have big problems, starting with third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He's taken a big step back early this season, with a terrible 5.6 yards per attempt and a 81.4 passer rating. His poor play has resulted in consecutive home losses, and two missed field goals by Eddy Pineiro vs. the Chargers also raises questions about the kicking game, which was one of the top priorities in the offseason. At 3-4 in a tough division, Chicago's prospects to return to the playoffs this year don't look great.
New head coach Zac Taylor entered a bad situation, and one in which some head coaching candidates refused to even interview. The problem is that he hasn't done anything to help the situation. The former Rams quarterback coach is leading an offense that's averaging just 15.5 points per game as they enter the bye week 0-8. Andy Dalton is likely looking at his final days as a starter in Cincy, and the defense hasn't made marked progress after a terrible 2018 season.
The expectations for Cleveland were probably a bit too lofty after their big offseason moves, including the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. That said, the team is a disappointment at 2-5 for even the most pessimistic. Despite a bevy of weapons, the team ranks 25th in points per game, and Baker Mayfield has seen huge regression with 12 picks in seven games. The Browns have committed the most penalties in the league and have the second-most giveaways. That's losing football, and it goes squarely on first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens.
It's been a first half of inconsistency for the Cowboys, who have a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak already. The good news is that their offensive line is finally healthy again, and it looks like their 24-22 loss at the Jets in Week 6 was a wake-up call. Dak Prescott remains an MVP candidate with a 102.6 passer rating, and the team is in the driver's seat in the NFC East after a big win vs. Philadelphia. The Cowboys could do a lot of things better, but they're in an enviable position in the standings.
Vic Fangio's long-awaited chance to be a head coach hasn't gone well, with a 2-6 start and an inept offense. The truth is that the Broncos roster has been in transition, with many new faces on defense and Joe Flacco at quarterback. Flacco has continued to prove he's a below-average quarterback at this point in his career, with the team averaging only 15.6 points per game, and he could be out indefinitely with a neck injury. The team desperately needs to address the offensive line next offseason, but that's something we've been saying for years. John Elway, are you listening?
Detroit went into its bye week 2-1-1, with a home loss vs. Kansas City as the only major blemish. Since then the team is 1-2, losing to division opponents Green Bay and Minnesota. Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to play well under new coordinator Darrell Bevell, but running back Kerryon Johnson will miss significant time for the second straight year to injury, and the defense remains a disappointment, allowing 26.6 points per game.
The ball has bounced Green Bay's way during the first half of the season, most recently with favorable reffing vs. Detroit in Week 6 and the absence of Patrick Mahomes when the team visited Arrowhead Stadium in Week 8. Regardless, Green Bay is 7-1 through the first half of the season and has been without No. 1 wideout Davante Adams for most of the year. Aaron Rodgers is playing great football under new head coach Matt LaFleur, and running back Aaron Jones also looks like a potential MVP candidate with 11 touchdowns. Looking ahead, the team's visit to San Francisco in Week 12 could have huge playoff positioning implications.
The Texans are in good position in the AFC after a 5-3 start, and Deshaun Watson continues to play like an elite quarterback. However, the team has already spent much of its 2020 draft capital to help in the short term, and J.J. Watt is now out for the year. Anything short of a playoff run will be a disappointment, and missing the playoffs is still well within the range of possibilities with four division games remaining.
With a 5-2 start to the year, Frank Reich has to be the current leader for Coach of the Year. Andrew Luck retired just before the start of the season, and the Colts have also had significant injuries, most notably T.Y. Hilton, Malik Hooker and Darius Leonard. Jacoby Brissett has been extremely efficient, which is a direct credit to Reich's development, and the defense continues to play in the top half of the league despite the injuries.
If the Jaguars were told Nick Foles would suffer a fractured collarbone in Week 1 and Jalen Ramsey would appear in only three games, another disastrous season would probably be considered a foregone conclusion. However, rookie Gardner Minshew has done a great job filling in for Foles, and the Jags were able to get past the Ramsey distraction and net a great trade return from the Rams. Leonard Fournette is also playing the best football of his career. At 4-4, the Jags' playoff hopes are still alive.
Injuries have ravaged the Chiefs, including to Patrick Mahomes, three offensive linemen, their top two wideouts and top two defensive linemen. The team has also lost three home games already. However, Mahomes might miss only one or two games after what looked like a catastrophic knee injury in Week 7, and the defense has picked up the pace despite its missing pieces. The Chiefs remain in good position to not only win the AFC West again but to also possibly earn the coveted No. 2 seed in a thin AFC.
With 2018 being a rare exception, the Chargers seem to have lived through the movie "Groundhog Day" for the last decade. They've had numerous major injuries, headlined by star safety Derwin James, lost games in ways no one would believe and continue to disappoint despite a talented roster. Through seven games, they already had more losses than last season. Philip Rivers has started to show his age at times this year, and the remainder of the schedule is brutal, including the Packers, Vikings and two games against the Chiefs.
The Rams seemed to put their disappointing Super Bowl performance behind them by starting the season 3-0, but that was followed by three straight losses. They've righted the ship against the Falcons and Bengals and still have a good shot to make the playoffs. The offense ranks eighth in points per game, well behind what it did last year as Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have struggled, and the defense has been embarrassed on multiple occasions. The good news is that they seem to have received a boost after acquiring cornerback Jalen Ramsey two weeks ago.
It appeared the Dolphins were tanking before the season began, and that speculation was realized prior to Week 1 when Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills were traded. The team has continued to make trades, most notably Minkah Fitzpatrick for Pittsburgh's 2020 first-round pick. For all its struggles, Miami has gotten closer to a win recently with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. However, there's no sugarcoating the fact that the Dolphins rank dead last in points scored and points allowed per game.
Minnesota is doing a nice job bouncing back from a disappointing 2018 season, with a solid 6-2 start. Kirk Cousins has played some of the best ball of his career recently, while a healthy Dalvin Cook is on a 2,200 yards from scrimmage pace. The defense also looks better, allowing only 16.5 points per game. While both losses came in the division, they were also on the road. The Vikings remaining schedule is difficult, but an NFC North title and No. 2 seed in the NFC are still well within reach.
There's no debating that the Patriots' schedule has been incredibly easy, but they've barely had a scare through eight games. The defense is on a historic pace, with only 7.6 points allowed per game, and the team also quietly leads the league with 31.3 points per game. Still, the schedule is about to get much tougher, and it remains to be seen if the offense has enough weapons for Tom Brady to stand up to the challenge, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per pass attempt despite that mediocre schedule.
No Drew Brees, no problem. This is no longer the one-dimensional Saints from a few years ago, going 5-0 with backup Teddy Bridgewater under center. More recently, they also were without star running back Alvin Kamara for two games. The team is now 7-1 with Brees back behind center, and the defense ranks ninth in the NFL with 19.5 points allowed per game. As the team gets healthy, all of its preseason goals are still in reach, including home-field advantage with a home matchup vs. the undefeated 49ers in Week 14.
The Giants benched Eli Manning after only two games and have gotten a spark from rookie Daniel Jones. He's just 2-4 as a starter and in the midst of a four-game losing streak, but the team did suffer tough losses against the Cardinals and Lions. The defense has been a much bigger issue than the offense, with a leaky secondary that's allowing 8.5 yards per pass attempt, resulting in 27.3 points allowed per game. The team is far from viable but has an interesting young offensive core with Jones and Saquon Barkley.
With each passing week, it's more clear why the Dolphins fired Adam Gase after last season. Sam Darnold has played only four games due to mono, but he's thrown eight picks with a terrible 66.2 passer rating. The offseason additions have mostly been disastrous, with Le'Veon Bell averaging 3.2 yards per carry and C.J Mosley missing most of the year due to injury. The offensive line play has also been subpar, and the injury controversy between the team and now departed guard Kelechi Osemele has further put a stain on the organization.
Halfway into the season, the Raiders remain in the playoff conversation at 3-4 with even an outside shot to win the AFC West. They have two big wins at Indianapolis and vs. Chicago, and Derek Carr is making solid progress in Jon Gruden's offense. The defense certainly hasn't shined, allowing 27.4 points per game, but it has at least had some semblance of a pass rush after struggling mightily in that area last season.
Philadelphia has weathered a rough early schedule and plenty of injuries on defense to a 4-4 record. It looked like the Eagles might come undone after consecutive blowout losses at Minnesota and Dallas, but they turned things around at Buffalo. They remain in contention in the NFC East, but their upcoming schedule won't do them any favors. The two year regression of the defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz has been disappointing.
After getting embarrassed 33-3 at New England in Week 1, Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury the following week. The offense sputtered even before Big Ben got injured, and it's become clear by the somewhat conservative play that replacement Mason Rudolph might not be the answer when Roethlisberger retires. Just as concerning has been the mediocre play of the defense, which hasn't done much to progress despite using its first-round pick on Devin Bush and trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, although it is tied for the league lead in sacks. With all that said, the team is not completely out of the playoff conversation yet at 3-4.
The 49ers have quietly built a behemoth on defense, making several notable offseason moves with the signings of Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, along with first-round draft pick Nick Bosa. The result is a finished product that's allowing only 11.0 points per game, and Kyle Shanahan's terrific playcalling is helping the offense score 29.6 points per game, third most in the league. Jimmy Garoppolo has been far from spectacular in his return from a torn ACL, but it's hard to find fault in a 7-0 start.
Seattle is 6-2, but it hasn't been easy. Four of the Seahawks' wins have come by four points or less, and they have two home losses. The defense has struggled to find a pass rush after losing Frank Clark in the offseason, but Russell Wilson continues to play like an MVP with a 115.5 passer rating and more than 2,300 yards between passing and running. It hasn't been pretty, but the Seahawks still have a chance to make a memorable season.
Bruce Arians was hired to fix Jameis Winston in his walk year. The early returns haven't been pretty, with Winston leading the league with 12 picks and producing a career-worst 34.7 QBR. Even after improbable wins on the road at Carolina and the Rams, Tampa Bay is just 2-5. The team's bad defense from last season hasn't made any progress, allowing 30.3 points per game even with acclaimed coordinator Todd Bowles.
Tennessee has finished 9-7 in three consecutive seasons, and that result looks well within reach again after a 4-4 start. As expected, the defense has been the strength of the team, allowing only 16.9 points per game, and the Titans have back-to-back wins after benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. If nothing else, Tannehill has been efficient, but the poor offensive line play isn't doing him or Derrick Henry any favors.
No one should be surprised about Washington's offensive struggles given the personnel, but its 36 total points over the last five games is particularly bad. The team's only win after eight weeks was a 17-16 victory at Miami in which the Dolphins dropped the go-ahead two-point conversion at the end of the game. Otherwise, Washington has been mostly non-competitive, fired head coach Jay Gruden, and first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins has looked lost in his two appearances.