We’re slowly beginning to whittle down the list of NFL playoff contenders as teams begin to fade and fall out of the race. That still leaves us with plenty of potential entrants, though, some much more likely than others.
Even the best of these teams ave weak spots; there are, after all, no unbeatens in the NFL anymore. There’s going to be a lot of gameplanning for these weaknesses, and a lot of efforts to exploit them. Some of them will likely cost their teams a playoff game.
Here’s a look at the glaring flaw for each of the NFL’s major playoff contenders.
Los Angeles Rams (11-) — Run defense
For a team with such a talented defensive front, the Rams actually sit just below the average among run defenses this season. They’ve allowed about 118 yards per game this season, good for a modest 18th in the NFL. The worrisome performances are there; both Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson went for over 100 yards against them for the Seattle Seahawks this season, and it would probably be worse if teams could afford to run more against them. Even the team’s own players have highlighted their run defense as a weak spot.
We’re over halfway through the NFL season, and a clear picture is developing regarding the league’s elite teams. Excitingly, there isn’t really one team that stands head and shoulders above their peers, ensuring what should be a very hotly-contested playoff that lacks a clear favorite. That lack of a singular standout team doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of quality; three teams are carrying just one loss, while four others have only lost twice.
So who might win the Super Bowl? Here are ten teams who have demonstrated that they may well have what it takes.
10) Houston Texans
It would be foolish to ignore the team that is currently one of the hottest in the NFL. The Texans have won six in a row on the strength of a solid defense and an offense that is slowly improving as Deshaun Watson gets progressively healthier. They now lead the AFC South, and their three division foes look too inconsistent to really push them. They lack the elite talent and depth of their peers, but a sturdy defense that doesn’t allow many points combined with the Watson-DeAndre Hopkins connection means they always have a chance.
The Houston Texans were dealt a major blow last week when Will Fuller went down with a torn ACL, but it appears they have already found a replacement for the wide receiver.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Texans and Denver Broncos are finalizing a deal that will send Demaryius Thomas to Houston in exchange for a mid-round draft pick.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 30, 2018
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 30, 2018
The Broncos have been fielding offers for Thomas for several weeks, and it makes sense that they want to move on from the 30-year-old given where the team is at and how much money he is owed. Thomas, a former first-round pick, has 36 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns this season. His production has fallen off over the past couple of seasons, but it’s hard to tell how much that has to do with Denver’s quarterback situation.
At least one other top AFC team was said to be interested in Thomas, but it makes sense that the Texans have decided to add him in the wake of Fuller’s injury.
We’re midway through the NFL season, which means there’s no better time than the present to hand out some report cards. Some teams have performed okay, some are great relative to expectations, and others simply have not performed well enough all season long. We also still have an unbeaten team even after Week 8.
Which teams pass and who fails? Here’s a grade for all 32 NFL teams midway through the season.
Arizona Cardinals (2-6) — D
There’s not a lot to say about the Cardinals. Josh Rosen has looked promising at times and led a nice comeback drive in Week 8, but they don’t have a lot of talent. What they have seemed to be misused under former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Perhaps Byron Leftwich will be an improvement in that role. However, there’s no ignoring the fact that their only two wins have come against a woeful 49ers team with no Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s hard to see many more coming their way.
- Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins
The Miami Dolphins lucked out on a controversial call in the final minute of the first half of Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans.
The Dolphins had a 2nd-and-10 at their 45 with 35 seconds left and attempted a pass with Brock Osweiler in shotgun. Osweiler was pressured by Josh Keyes who came untouched on a blitz. Osweiler moved his arm forward for a throw but had the ball knocked loose and the Texans picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.
Didn't count, but the Texans mean business on defense pic.twitter.com/bsD6A0dv6d
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 26, 2018
The call on the field was touchdown, but the officials reviewed the play and overturned it to an incompletion. Instead of being up 20-10, Houston’s lead remained at 14-10 and Miami ended up punting before the game went to halftime.
Upon review, it looked as if Osweiler was trying to bring the ball back to his body and not throw it. The old tuck rule seemingly should have applied, but it’s no longer in existence, leading many to think a fumble was the right call. However, the officials controversially overturned it and took the touchdown off the board.
Miami caught a real break with that call.
While there were some exceptions, Week 5 was not a great one if you were a quarterback, or especially a kicker. There were a lot of notably underwhelming performances, including a handful of high-profile quarterbacks and a kicking nightmare in Detroit. Those were hardly the only positions to suffer, though, as receivers, defenses, and even coaches were left looking a bit silly after Sunday’s events.
Here’s a look at 15 of the biggest disappointments of NFL Week 5.
Mason Crosby, K, Packers
It’s safe to say Crosby had the worst kicking performance of the 2018 season. His first miss, wide left from 41 in the first quarter, was unusual, but sometimes good kickers just blow one. Then he missed off the right upright from 42, followed by another wide right from 38, and it was clear that something was going on. A missed extra point in the third confirmed that Crosby’s confidence was shot and initiated a Twitter pile-on, and sending him out there in the fourth to miss from 56 — more understandably — felt like cruel and unusual punishment. It was so bad for Crosby that the Packers saw fit to let him hit one from 41 with seven seconds left just so he could see one go through the uprights. Crosby has five seasons, including the previous three, where he missed just four kicks all season. To say this was uncharacteristic for him is an understatement.
The Houston Texans’ struggles at the goal line were the story of the team’s Sunday night game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Houston cashed in with a touchdown on their first red-zone trip, but they were stymied their next four. The team settled for three short field goals and even got stopped before halftime on fourth down to come away with nothing.
After the Texans had a 1st-and-goal at the 1 and failed to punch in a TD during the fourth quarter, Twitter as all over them.
Texans at the goaline in this game pic.twitter.com/KGE34i58dh
— Tommy Tran (@TommyTranTV) October 8, 2018
Texans goal line offense pic.twitter.com/3SpzRgGddr
— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) October 8, 2018
I do not understand the Texans goal line offense. Don’t they have any plays with a lead blocker to pound it in?
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) October 8, 2018
Bill O’Brien waits for everyone to leave the Texans facility at night, goes into the film room, locks the door behind himself, and then puts on that Sark red zone film
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) October 8, 2018
Is Bill O'Brien trying to get fired? He's coaching like it
— Robert Littal (@BSO) October 8, 2018
Live look at Bill O’Brien’s goal line offense pic.twitter.com/nIKsiyxb9Z
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) October 8, 2018
If the Texans lose this, fire Bill O'Brien for the goal-line play calling alone. Absolutely atrocious.
— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) October 8, 2018
Have I mentioned how incompetent the Texans are in the red zone? I have? Oh, my apologizes. First and goal at the 1 and they settle for a 19-yard field goal. I've run out of insults.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) October 8, 2018
They might want to mix in some power formations and handoffs to their running back down at the goal line. Maybe a QB sneak or two as well.