Grading each NFL team at the midway point of the season
Denver Broncos (3-5) — D+
For a while, it looked like Vance Joseph might end up being the first coaching casualty of the 2018 season. That didn’t pan out — thanks largely to a blowout win at Arizona — but it does say a lot about how Denver’s season has gone. Big free agent acquisition Case Keenum has been inconsistent at quarterback and doesn’t look like a long-term solution. The names of key players came up in trade rumors. That means the Broncos probably aren’t going anywhere in 2018, and John Elway is going to have to rethink his quarterback situation yet again.
Detroit Lions (3-4) — C
After a 1-3 start, the Lions appeared to be on the rise. Back-to-back wins over the Packers and Dolphins had them back to 3-3 and directly in the midst of the NFC North race. They still are, but their home loss to the Seahawks and the performance that brought it about was particularly disappointing. The defense isn’t elite and the team still looks to be adjusting under new coach Matt Patricia. Things don’t look as dire as they did after two weeks of the season, but this is still very much a long-term project not yet ready to contend.
Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) — C+
The Packers are in an odd spot. Their best win is against the Bears, and their other two victories came against the lowly Bills and 49ers. They’ve looked particularly bad on the road, which doesn’t bode well for their playoff hopes, but as long as they have Aaron Rodgers there’s a chance of winning. Some very bad mistakes have cost them games, and at times they’ve looked dysfunctional. They’re not out of it, but it’s also not the rebound they envisioned.
Houston Texans (5-3) — A-
Probably the turnaround of the season. The Texans have won five in a row after starting 0-3, and that’s despite Deshaun Watson battling a chest injury for the bulk of the winning streak. He looked much better in a blowout win over the Miami Dolphins, and suddenly, the Texans are atop the AFC South and the only team in the division with a winning record. All involved deserve a lot of credit for keeping their heads up and engineering an impressive turnaround.
Indianapolis Colts (3-5) — C
The best news for the Colts remains the fact that Andrew Luck is healthy and really slinging it to the tune of 23 touchdowns in eight games. Unfortunately, the rest of the team, particularly the defense, is not quite up to par. Still, 3-5 isn’t awful, and this is an organization that’s improving. The goal has to be to keep Luck healthy, and they’ve done an excellent job of that in recent weeks by decreasing their sacks allowed and putting up big points. They haven’t been great, but this hasn’t been a bad season for them by any means.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) — D-
The Jaguars looked like they hadn’t missed a beat, starting 3-1 and looking like AFC favorites. They have since lost four straight and benched Blake Bortles, only to return him to the starting lineup a week later. The once-vaunted defense doesn’t look anything like it once did. They’re not bad by any means and rank in the top half of the league in points allowed, but two division rivals have allowed fewer points than they have. They face long odds to salvage a once-promising season. It can be done, but time is quickly running out on them.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) — A+
It’s hard to offer any complaints about the Chiefs’ season. They sit 7-1 and atop the AFC West, and while the Chargers are still pushing them, Kansas City looks like the class of the AFC. Patrick Mahomes hasn’t really fallen off after his scorching start, and the offense remains the NFL’s best. Even their lone defeat was by three points. Their defense remains something of a concern, but so far, they’ve scored enough to render it irrelevant. They can have very few complaints.
Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) — A
The Chargers’ only two defeats are completely defensible, coming against the Chiefs and the Rams, two teams who are a combined 15-1. They’ve beaten everyone else, though some of those games have been closer than they’d probably prefer them to be. Their offense lags behind Kansas City’s, but they’re better defensively, and that’s without Joey Bosa playing this season. They remain a quality AFC dark horse, although the Chiefs may block them from winning the division.
Los Angeles Rams (8-0) — A+
A clear Super Bowl favorite. The Rams have had some close calls, but through eight games, no one has beaten them. Jared Goff has quickly become one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks. The offense on the whole has been dynamic. Defensively, they’ve been excellent despite some key injuries, and the combination of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh has been as good as everyone hoped it would be. They are, realistically, the Super Bowl favorite at this point.
Miami Dolphins (4-4) — C
A very promising start has gone by the wayside for Miami, who have lost four of five. Part of that is down to an injury to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, forcing Brock Osweiler into action and leaving the Dolphins at a disadvantage. Another big part of it is that their defense has been porous, allowing 32 and 42 points in their last two games. The season is quickly heading downhill after a promising start, but they probably need Tannehill back and healthy. The more Osweiler plays, the worse their season will get.