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BASN’s NFL Midseason Grades
PHILADELPHIA — The fun thing about covering the NFL is “you think you know” what will happen going into a season, but each season is a weekly rollercoaster that is impossible to predict.
If a person told me the Packers, Lions, Bills, and Browns would be in contention for playoff spots while the Eagles, Bears, and Broncos would be near the bottom of their divisions at the midway point, I probably would have told them they were crazy. But this is the case.
Remember though that the NFL season is a long 17 week process that will no doubt go down to the last weekend for playoff spots, so every team except for the two wins or less teams still have a chance to get to the dance.
The key for all teams is you want to get “hot” and string some wins to together to make a playoff push in the crucial months of November and December (ex. 2006 Eagles went from a record of 5-6 to 10-6 and playoff spot).
1. Patriots (9-0) - Midseason Grade: A+, Forget spygate (are you listening Don Shula), they made my job as a grader easy by obliterating every team they played before week 9 and surviving a tough game versus the champs. This group may own every record in the book by the end of the season.
2. Colts (8-0) – Midseason Grade: A, They may not be perfect, but they won 7 straight to start the season for the third year in a row and they will see the Patriots in the playoffs. If they can get their injuries straight watch out for them late in the season.
3. Cowboys (7-1) - Midseason Grade: A, After losing Bill Parcells everyone questioned this team, but they have responded under potential NFC MVP Tony Romo. They are so good T.O has been a model citizen up to this point.
4. Packers (7-1) – Midseason Grade: A, No one thought that the Pack was anywhere near an elite team when the season started, however a rejuvenated Brett Favre and a tough defense have led them to being maybe the best team in the NFC.
5. Titans (6-2) - Midseason Grade: A-, They ain’t pretty, but they find ways to win games behind their tough head coach, a chain moving running game, and an attacking defense. Will need to get better passing numbers from V.Y in the second half to be a legitimate contender for the AFC South title over the Colts.
6. Giants (6-2) - Midseason Grade: B+, After starting 0-2, they have rallied behind embattled head coach Tom Coughlin to win six straight games and be a legitimate contender. Their attacking defense has carried this team within reach of the NFL’s big boys, but they will need to guard against their usual second half letdown.
7. Lions (6-2) - Midseason Grade: B+, One of the biggest surprises of the NFL’s first half. Now quarterback Jon Kitna’s 10 game prediction doesn’t look so crazy as the Lions have a running game with Kevin Jones, talented receivers, and an improving defense. Should be a good fight with the Packers for the division.
8. Steelers (6-2) - Midseason Grade: B+, Silenced questions whether they would be the same without Bill Cowher. Mike Tomlin has produced a tough running/defensive minded team.
9. Browns (5-3) - Midseason Grade: B, They are the biggest surprise in my midseason report already surpassing their 2007 win total. Led by an explosive offense that can score with anyone and an improving defense look for the scrappy bunch to continue on their way to saving Coach Romeo Crennel’s job.
10. Saints (4-4) - Midseason Grade: B, After a tough 0-4 start including a blowout loss in week one to the Colts, everyone counted them out but head coach Sean Payton never panicked. The young energetic coach has his team back on track and look for them to win the NFC South.
11. Jaguars (5-3) - Midseason Grade: B, I have been impressed how the Jags have been contenders in the NFL’s toughest division after jettisoning Leftwich and having to play games without David Garrard. They show how important it is to run the ball and play tough defense.
12. Redskins (5-3) - Midseason Grade: B, Another surprise team that no one including yours truly thought would be in the playoff hunt. The ‘Skins led by hall of fame coach Joe Gibbs have gone back to smash mouth football and it has worked thus far. Will need to get better play from their quarterback and fight through injuries to remain at the top.
13. Buccaneers (5-4) - Midseason Grade: B-, They are at the top of the NFC South at the moment, but they have not dominated any of their opponents so far. John Gruden will have his work cut out for him as injuries have decimated their backfield. Will need to lean on veterans Garcia, Brooks, Barber, and others in the second half.
14. Bills (4-4) - Midseason Grade: C+, The NFL’s feel good story of the first half as they have overcome injuries (Kevin Everett situation) to contend for a wild card spot. This team is scrappy and if they can get any consistency from their quarterback position look out. I like the way RB Marshawn Lynch is playing and he could help carry this team.
15. Chargers (4-4) - Midseason Grade: C, For a team that won 14 games in 2006, they have been a major disappointment and are struggling to be the best team in the NFL’s weakest division. Maybe AJ Smith should have gone instead of Marty Schottenheimer.
16. Seahawks (4-4) - Midseason Grade: C, Another former perennial division winning team that is clawing to stay at the top of probably the worst division in football. Their roster is getting older and if they want to contend, they will need younger players to step up.
17. Chiefs (4-4) - Midseason Grade: C, They are very inconsistent losing their first two then winning a couple losing a couple then back and forth. Their best weapon LJ maybe lost for the season, so Herm will have his work cut out for him to get back to the playoffs.
18. Panthers (4-4) - Midseason Grade: C, An inconsistent team that has been bitten hard by the injury bug in the first half of the season. They can’t seem to keep their quarterback healthy, which is a major problem. Will need to lean on their tough running game and John Fox’s attacking defense to remain in playoff contention.
19. Ravens (4-4) - Midseason Grade: C, They don’t look anything like the team that stormed to the AFC North title with a thirteen win season in ’06. There has been too much in-fighting within their locker-room and to little big plays on offense. Maybe time to start thinking about finding younger players at key positions (OL, QB, LB).
20. Texans (4-5) - Midseason Grade: C, This young team is getting better each week, but they must find consistency from their passing game. A healthy Andre Johnson in the second half will go a long way into making this team more competitive. Have a good young nucleus led by GM Rick Smith and QB Schaub, but ’08 maybe their year to make a move.
21. Vikings (3-5) - Midseason Grade: C-, They are the best 3-5 team in the NFL as they have one of the best young players in the league with superstar Adrian Peterson. Would have a better grade if they had a quarterback, but their run defense is scary with the Kevin Williams and Pat Williams controlling the middle of their D-Line.
22. Cardinals (3-5) - Midseason Grade: C-, Each year we all expect the on paper talented Cards to contend, but they don’t. Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt has brought a tough Pittsburgh attitude, but with quarterback Leinhart out for the season it maybe wait until next year. Still are only one game out in the NFC West, so they maybe able to sneak into a divisional title.
23. Broncos (3-5) - Midseason Grade: C-, This team had high hopes going into the season, but they have struggle enough that they can’t even compete in the pitiful AFC West. Quarterback Jay Cutler is suffering through a sophomore slump and running back Travis Henry will probably be suspended for the season. The heartbreaking loss to Green Bay in overtime summed up their first half “close but no cigar”.
24. Eagles (3-5) - Midseason Grade: D, Everyone had high expectations with a healthy McNabb returning, but they have been too inconsistent on offense and not produced many big plays on defense. Need to find ways to cut down on mistakes including penalties and end of game breakdowns in the second half. If things don’t change look for big moves after the season (McNabb leaving???)
25. Bears (3-5) - Midseason Grade: D, Probably the team that is the biggest disappointment on my midseason report. Went from the Super Bowl to the bottom of their division as the Packers and Lions have move way past them. Probably a victim of the Super Bowl hangover that has affected almost every big game loser for the past decade. Should have kept Thomas Jones!!!
26. 49ers (2-6) - Midseason Grade: D, After high expectations where they were supposed to challenge the Seahawks for NFC West dominance, they have fizzled. Will need better play from former first overall draft pick Alex Smith, but injury problems to running back Frank Gore could be a big problem.
27. Raiders (2-6) - Midseason Grade: D, Have already equaled their ’06 win total, but they need to do more on offense besides running the ball. I like several young players on this team including CB Asomugha, LB Howard, DE Burgess, and RB Fargas. Will need to let first round pick Russell play as they move toward ’08.
28. Bengals (2-6) - Midseason Grade: D, This team is undisciplined on and off the field the past two seasons and it shows in the win column. They have all the makings of a fantasy football dream (receivers, quarterback, and running back) but can’t string it together in crunch time. Probably will be looking for a new coach in ’08.
29. Falcons (2-6) - Midseason Grade: D, This team has had a very hard time recovering for the Michael Vick disarray. Coach Petrino has dealt with a team that has been undisciplined at times and there have been whispers of dissension in the locker-room. I know owner Arthur Blank and the team can’t wait for ’08.
30. Jets (1-8) - Midseason Grade: D-, This would have been an “F”, but they won a game and have been competitive in others. It is hard to believe that the J-E-T-S were in the playoffs last year. Now it is time for Kellen Clemens to move this team forward going into ’08.
31. Rams (0-8) - Midseason Grade: F, It maybe piling on an injury riddled team, but they have not won a game and that is hard to do in the parity rich NFL. Head Coach Scott Linehan will need to find ways to score points behind pass Marc Bulger and get more pressure on the passer to save his job.
32. Dolphins (0-8) - Midseason Grade: F, This team has had no plan for the 2007 season and it shows. They went with a 37-year old quarterback, who will all knew would get hurt and now their best player (Ronnie Brown) is lost for the season. Look for them to get younger and have almost an entire new roster in ’08. At least they should get a playmaker in the draft.