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A quarter-season check-in of the NFL

With Thursday Night Football passing by in underwhelming fashion (as usual), the NFL is full steam ahead for Week 5. With a quarter of the season gone by, let’s look at each team’s performance so far and compare it to pre-season expectations.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen has officially taken over the helm and the full rebuild begins. The Bills have scored the second-lowest amount of points (50) so far this season. The defense isn’t quite as sound as last season, and with their best player Shady McCoy either being injured or about to be injured on every play, this Bills team doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.

Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill has always been a bit of a mystery, and this season has done nothing to change that. Miami’s offense revolves primarily on speed and youth, and that combination has burned a couple of teams already. With an ever-improving D and a head coach with something to prove, this hungry Dolphins team could disrupt the already crazy AFC.

New York Jets: Sam Darnold has played well above his years, but he is still only 21. The Jets have built one of the scarier secondaries in the League and Todd Bowles looks like he is finally running a top defense like he was hired to. Now about that running game…

New England Patriots: Nothing has changed since the Preseason. Nothing ever changes in the Evil Empire.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have gone from very average to slightly above average this season. Andy Dalton is heading a pretty solid offensive attack which has made up for a poor defense, and Cincinnati seems to keep coming up with big plays. Is this style of play sustainable? Something tells me the orange and black will settle nicely into their 7-9 win niche.

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield looks legit, but most of the Browns still don’t. They are a very young team that underwent a lot of turnover this offseason, so they’re still years away from competing. Despite showing flashes, both sides of the ball are way too inconsistent to win many games.

Baltimore Ravens: Is Joe Flacco finally back? Somehow their ageless D has proved to be, well, ageless. They have allowed 9 points in the second half this entire year, and opposing offenses look nervous. Now all that’s left is to get Alex Collins going and the Ravens will be a scary good team.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Sheesh. You know you’re off to a rough start when you tie with the Browns. They can keep saying that James Connor has lightened the effects of the absent Le’Veon Bell, but the record says otherwise. Losing Ryan Shazier indefinitely has poked a hole in their defense that teams continue to exploit, and the whole locker room seems to be at odds. Just wait ‘till Week 8...

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: Yeah, my previous assessment of the Colts seems to have been spot on. Sure, their franchise quarterback has returned, but with no offensive line or rushing attack, Luck has been much less effective. I will say I am surprised the defense hasn’t been better, though they will continue to learn...they have a lot of solid young pieces.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Another team performing to expectations (besides an odd loss to a surprisingly-good Titans squad), the only difference for the Jags has been the injured Leonard Fournette. They do still rank 12th in the League in rushing, but they also still rank first in the League in inconsistent quarterback play. Their defense is so amazing, if only Bortles could put it together...

Houston Texans: Texans fans got quite excited when they saw their savior Deshaun Watson take the field Week 1, but he has only managed to reward them with 1 win. They sit right in the middle of the NFL averaging 24 points per game, but with an aging and oft-injured defense, the O needs to be spectacular as it was at times last year to compensate.

Tennessee Titans: They may be the most boring team to watch in football, but they also boast a 3-1 record. Tennessee has only scored about 19 points per game this season, but they have only allowed about 18. With Mariota managing the offense and his nerve-damaged hand and a defense to boot, the Titans look just as surprisingly good as last year.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: Yeah, Case Keenum isn’t the answer. He isn’t the problem either, though. This Denver team has performed admirably, and as I said earlier, “Many people are counting this team out, but I wouldn’t be so sure…” Playing in a division with wins to be had and boasting such an extreme home field advantage, these Broncos might have a shot in this aforementioned bizarre AFC.

Los Angeles Chargers: They always seem like they’re on the precipice of breaking through,m but they never quite make it. Philip Rivers throws way too many interceptions, but with TD machine Melvin Gordon in the backfield and a set of greart receivers, this offense is (probably going places). Getting Joey Bosa back in November should help address the weakest part of their defense, the pass rush, but other than that this team looks primed to push into the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs: I was correct in pointing out that the Kansas City D is nowhere near what it used to be, but who cares when your quarterback seemingly throws for 500 yards and five touchdowns every game? Mahomes has shifted this offense from good to great, and with so many guys the defense has to pay attention to, it’s impossible for them not to score.

Oakland Raiders: Things got off to an ugly start in the Jon Gruden era when Khalil Mack was traded, and they haven’t gotten much better. Derek Carr has rebounded from an off year to lead one of the top offenses in the League, but with penalties and another horrible defense and no special teams and an overall lethargy that hangs over the team like a storm cloud….yeah, you get it. They just aren’t going anywhere.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Zeke is back and rumbling through opposing defenses, but Dak Prescott has shown he is not a franchise quarterback. Without a true leader at the position the Dallas offense has struggled, overshadowing a great showing from their defense so far.

Philadelphia Eagles: People are all worried about the defending champs, but they seem to forget Carson Wentz nearly won the MVP last year and it coming off an ACL tear. It will take time for him to get comfortable and rolling again, but when he does...Quick side note: their defense has only allowed 64 rushing yards per game. That’s legit.

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley is for real, but so is the decline of Eli Manning’s career. The Giants need to find another quarterback soon, as Odell Beckham Jr. summed it up perfectly with one question: “How come we don't attempt to throw more than 20 yards?” Because I don’t think Eli can anymore buddy. With another mediocre defense, the Giants need some life if they want to climb out of their self-dug ditch.

Washington Redskins: Alex Smith is no Kirk Cousins, but he has settled in nicely to the ‘game manager’ role in D.C. With a revitalized AD stomping around in the backfield and a defense to boot, the Redskins have taken control of the NFC East and may not relinquish it soon.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Trubisky is still improving, but he has shown flashes of being the franchise quarterback Chicago desperately needs. The “thunder and lightning” approach of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard has continued to bring success from the backfield, and after picking up some pieces the offense is finally a threat. But the defense, oh the defense...we haven’t seen D like this from the Bears since the 80s.

Detroit Lions: I thought Matt Patricia would be the perfect fit for this team with their already amazing offense and up-and-coming defense, but not so fast. The offense has actually fallen off considerably and the defense has not picked up the slack, making me think this could be the beginning of a rebuild for Detroit.

Green Bay Packers: Despite poor Clay Matthews being robbed of all his sacks this year, the Green Bay defense has been outstanding, solving the only real problem for the Packers over past seasons. With Aaron Rodgers running the offense you know you’re in good hands, and they have gotten just enough production from their backs to remain potent.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins has been good, but the offense has not. That’s okay, Vikings fans thought. We still have our top defense. Uhh, bad news for you...If they can’t stop anybody, Minnesota loses its identity and turns into a team completely reliant on their $84 million man. This is a dangerous road they’re turning down…

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Really? They’re starting Jameis? Whatever, have fun being irrelevant again.

Atlanta Falcons: And the fall of the Falcons continues. Julio Jones couldn’t catch a touchdown pass if the defense left the field...Matt Ryan has looked pretty sharp despite a down season a year ago, but with so many injuries on defense there’s no way they can stop anybody.

Carolina Panthers: Another one of those boring teams...Carolina, despite having so many weapons (albeit sans Kelvin Benjamin) has only averaged 23.7 points per game, but the defense has really stepped it up. If they can continue to suffocate teams like this and Cam can find more explosive plays, the Panthers could push the Saints in this wacky NFC South.

New Orleans Saints: They had their one scary game against the Buccos and have since righted the ship (though against three subpar opponents). We still don’t really know if their defense is alright, but we sure as heck know they can put up some points. Drew Brees is an ageless wonder and Alvin Kamara might push for an MVP with Mark Ingram out of the picture (or at least reduced).

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: The only winless team left in the NFL, it’s not hard to see why. The Cardinals are averaging only 9.25 points per game. If that rate holds they would be the sixth worst offense in NFL history. Their defense has actually been solid, but with an offensive line performing way below expectations and fantasy machine David Johnson falling on hard times, this could be one of the worst Cardinals seasons in franchise history.

Los Angeles Rams: They score, then they score again, then they score some more. Oh and they don’t let you score.

Seattle Seahawks: It has been an ugly breaking-up of the Legion of Boom, consummated by the breaking of Earl Thomas’s leg (followed by the raising of his middle finger). However, they are only allowing 20.3 points per game largely thanks to young guys stepping up and filling in for the forgotten Legion members of the past. Russell Wilson still finds ways to make plays, but with a horrible O line, a revolving door at running back and injuries in the receiving corps, it’s a struggle. Still, this Seattle team has the chance to be mediocre.

San Francisco 49ers: With Jimmy G out, all hope is gone for the Niners. C.J Beathard appears to have improved from last season, but as a second-year player who is wildly inaccurate on even the shortest of passes, it won’t be enough, especially with a defense that prides itself on leaving guys the most open out of any team.

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