Just aback you anticipation it had angry the corner, the AFC South already afresh went south.
This year’s dip isn’t as bad as it was from 2014 to 2016, aback AFC South teams won alone 35.8 percent of non-division games. But the corruption is aloof baffling.
The Jacksonville Jaguars benched Blake Bortles on Sunday and accept surrendered 30 credibility per adventurous over their accomplished three games, all losses. Tennessee Titans Coach Mike Vrabel concluded up demography a accident instead of branch to overtime by activity for two in a 20-19 accident to the Los Angeles Chargers in London. This analysis is so anemic that the Houston Texans had an 0-3 alpha and now a ages afterwards advance the analysis at 4-3, and the Indianapolis Colts accept some activity admitting a 2-5 start. Afterwards assault Buffalo, 37-5, the Colts comedy Oakland this week.
The AFC South appears to be aback in a abode area nine victories will win the division. And the declivity got us thinking: What are the best and affliction capacity in the NFL? Seven weeks in, we ranked them all. (Plus, our accepted attending at adventure curve from about the alliance are added bottomward in the column.)
1. AFC North: Admitting the Cincinnati Bengals’ 45-10 accident at Kansas City on Sunday night, the AFC North offers three abeyant playoff contenders in the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers. Plus, the Cleveland Browns accept been aggressive abundant to booty four teams to overtime.
While a case could be fabricated for the NFC North or NFC South to be here, those teams face a tougher playoff path, accustomed the all-embracing abyss of the NFC. Whichever two of the above three teams don’t win the AFC North will actually be in the wild-card mix. The Ravens are the best team, featuring a able aegis and an bigger receiver trio. Pittsburgh is bouncing back. The Bengals accept achievement with playmakers on both abandon of the ball. And the Browns? Well, the “Hard Knocks” ball continues, and they abide interesting.
2. NFC North: Thanks to a Hail Mary completion, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky came aural a backyard of demography Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to overtime. Alike admitting he adeptness accept a addiction to aish some passes, Trubisky is proving he can be added than aloof a quarterback who can assassinate a 15-play calligraphy in the aboriginal quarter. And, wow, can he accomplish plays with his feet.
This analysis added the best offseason accretion at quarterback (Kirk Cousins) and on aegis (Khalil Mack). The analysis appearance three quarterbacks (Cousins, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford) who could put up 28 or added credibility per week, and there are no teams beneath .500. It’s abstraction up as a actual aggressive chase for the analysis title.
3. NFC South: This was the league’s best analysis aftermost year, bearing three playoff teams. It appears acceptable to get two this year, with the Saints attractive like the beloved to be the conference’s No. 2 berry abaft the Rams as Drew Brees rewrites the almanac book and Sean Payton goes for it (and gets it) on fourth bottomward added and more.
The Panthers went 3-1 adjoin the NFC East as Cam Newton shows abundant administration and playmaking ability. If the Panthers can’t t the Saints, they should be in the mix for a agrarian agenda at 10 wins. Alike admitting the Buccaneers got to 3-3 with their overtime win over Cleveland on Sunday, their aegis should accumulate them out of the playoffs. The Falcons should animation aback but accomplishment with no bigger than seven wins.
4. AFC West: The Chiefs and Chargers are two of the arch teams in the AFC. Both should accomplish the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes is accepting an MVP-type season, and so is Philip Rivers. What should advice both in the playoff chase is accepting to comedy two times apiece adjoin the disturbing Broncos and afflicted Raiders. They additionally face the NFC West, which appearance two of the NFL’s affliction teams: Arizona and San Francisco.
5. NFC East: Alike admitting Alex Smith is accepting alone 21 credibility out of the Redskins’ offense, they are 4-2 in a analysis that adeptness alone booty nine wins to clinch. While this adeptness be the best counterbalanced analysis in football, it additionally adeptness be the best disappointing. The Eagles arch to London to face Jacksonville with a 3-4 almanac and a charge for added abhorrent weapons. They accept apropos at advanced receiver and in the backfield. The Eagles aren’t acceptable the aing amateur they won aftermost year and are 2-4 in one-possession outcomes (eight credibility or fewer).
Following the Cowboys’ 20-17 accident at Washington, Dak Prescott has denticulate 20 credibility or beneath in eight of his accomplished 15 games. That’s not acceptable enough, and the Cowboys are 3-4. The Giants accept apparent there isn’t abundant larboard in the catchbasin for quarterback Eli Manning.
6. AFC East: It’s still the Patriots and anybody abroad in this division. Poor drafting over the accomplished brace of years is starting to appearance its aftereffect on defense, but Tom Brady has denticulate abundant credibility to advance New England to 5-2 afterwards aing wins over the Chiefs and Bears.
The gap amid New England and the blow of the analysis may be alike bigger than in accomplished seasons. The Dolphins are 4-3, but they attending annihilation like a playoff contender, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill alone and DeVante Parker’s abettor calling Coach Adam Gase “incompetent.” The Jets are up and bottomward beneath amateur quarterback Sam Darnold. The Bills are at the basal of the alliance afterwards a 32-point accident to the Colts.
7. NFC West: The Rams are active abroad with the conference. They are 7-0 and accept a 3 1/2-game analysis advance on the Seahawks, authoritative them the beloved for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Seattle has at atomic an alfresco adventitious at a wild-card spot, accustomed its bigger active adventurous and three added matchups with the abominable Cardinals and 49ers, who accept been outscored by a accumulated 152 points.
8. AFC South: Afterwards Vrabel’s accommodation to go for two in the Titans’ 20-19 accident to the Chargers, Tennessee has bootless on seven afterwards two-point about-face tries, dating from 2015. Colts Coach Frank Reich fabricated a analogously adventurous accommodation to go for it on fourth bottomward in his team’s area in overtime vs. Houston, a adventurous they went on to lose.
Now the Texans are aback aloft the division, and the Titans and Colts are 3-4 and 2-5. One could altercate that both teams are in a bigger abode than the Jaguars, who accept been outscored 57-0 in the aboriginal bisected of their accomplished three games, and who benched quarterback Blake Bortles during Sunday’s accident to Houston.
The botheration for the Jags: Who can they sub in at quarterback? Backup Cody Kessler is 0-8 as a amateur in his career. Barter rumors accept swirled, but there don’t assume to be abounding astute options — and midseason QB trades are rare. A aggregation that about fabricated the Super Bowl aftermost year is at a crossroads.
Houston is now in the driver’s bench in the analysis afterward its four-game acceptable streak, but the bloom of quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was absent to a broken ACL aftermost season, is a concern. Accustomed worries about a accessible damaged lung from aftermost week’s game, the Texans had Watson booty a 12-hour bus ride instead of accepting him fly. It’s fair to admiration whether Watson can accomplish it through a abounding season, accustomed the struggles and bloom issues forth the Houston abhorrent line.
— At some point, these overtime amateur are activity to t up with the Browns’ defense. Cleveland is 1-3 in its four overtime games, and the aegis has had 60 added plays compared with alone 24 for the offense. That’s the agnate of the aegis arena eight amateur in seven weeks, addition a accustomed adventurous is about 60 plays. One of the problems in overtime is that the Browns’ breach has had seven three and outs in those four games.
Life is accepting arresting for the 2-4-1 Browns. Coach Hue Jackson said afterwards the adventurous that he’s because calling the abhorrent plays instead of coordinator Todd Haley.
— Over the aing eight days, there will be a lot of altercation about trades for advanced receivers. The Cowboys, Eagles and Browns will be attractive to add one, and DeVante Parker, Kelvin Benjamin and Amari Cooper are the better names potentially available.
So far, the big champ in the receiver barter bazaar is Patriots Coach Bill Belichick for acrimonious up Josh Gordon. Gordon had four catches for 100 yards Sunday in the win over Chicago. In four games, he has 13 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown.
— One affair to watch for is a beachcomber of injuries to active backs. LeSean McCoy of the Bills suffered a concussion. Marshawn Lynch will be out at atomic a ages with a beam abrasion and could be put on afflicted reserve. Royce Freeman of the Broncos suffered an abate abrasion Thursday. Bilal Powell of the Jets suffered a close injury, and Sony Michel of the Patriots went out with a knee injury. Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette charcoal out with a hamstring injury, arch the aggregation to barter for Carlos Hyde.
More NFL coverage:
Eric Reid calls Malcolm Jenkins a ‘sellout’ afterwards battle in Panthers-Eagles game
Analysis: The Jaguars bet on Blake Bortles and lost
Al Michaels abiding articulate like he bet the over in the Chiefs-Bengals game
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