Ell’s NFL Midseason Rankings Part 2 (#1-16)

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November 14, 2013 by Ell and Mike Sports

NFL Midseason Rankings

chiefs D

1. Chiefs (8-0)As the last remaining undefeated team, the Chiefs deserve this #1 spot. Coach Andy Reid has come in and taken this team from worst to first in his 1st year in KC. Reid acquired QB Alex Smith who has led the way as a good game manager out of the west coast offense which he is so familiar in. This has allowed Smith to make plays with his feet showing off athleticism people didn’t know he had and continue to make smart plays off the run game like he did in SF. RB Jamaal Charles continues to prove that he is one of the best RBs in the game and maybe the most explosive as he has really carried this team on the ground and in the receiving game. He has been the true heart of this offense this season and he is irreplaceable. WR Donnie Avery has led this team in receiving which has been a big surprise as he has been the most consistent receiver on the team. WR Dwayne Bowe has had a decent season playing off of Avery, but it was expected to be the other way around. WR Dexter McCluster continues to make plays in the receiving game and special teams unit as a weapon to use in space. The defense has really displayed a strong pass rush, behind LBs Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Derrick Johnson who get after the quarterback all game long. Houston has taken his game to another level making teams pick their poison between Hali and himself. DT Dontari Poe has held down the middle this season playing to his potential, dispelling any talks of him being a draft bust. The secondary has really played well this season thanks to a healthy Safety Eric Berry and free agent pickup CB Sean Smith who have both been playing well leading this secondary along with CB Brandon Flowers and some young pieces who have contributed. With the run game and solid defense this team has, they could make a run at a championship as all parts appear to be in place. However, it doesn’t help that the best offensive team is in the same division so winning the division could come down to wire and head to head battles will be very important.   

2. Broncos (7-1)Behind QB Peyton Manning, the Broncos have been one of the best teams in NFL History offensively and they have a solid defense which has been playing well despite missing two key playmakers, in CB Champ Bailey (injury) and OLB Von Miller (Suspension). Manning has been destroying defenses this season with so many weapons to be used to his liking in: WRs Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker, and TE Julius Thomas. Manning’s numbers at the half point look like a full season’s body of work and he still has a ways to go; his numbers could be madden-like (the video game). The Broncos have gone with a trio or RBs: Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, and Ronnie Hillman, but Moreno seems to have led the way. Moreno has been the most consistent and has been solid in the receiving game, as a pass blocker, and as a nice one-cut back with quick feet. Ball has struggled to hang on to the ball and appears to be getting groomed as a power back who can pound out the clock. RB Ronnie Hillman has run the ball well and has contributed as a nice 3rd down back; however he has been inconsistent at times leading to more Moreno. Undrafted free agent RB C.J. Anderson has also shown flashes when given the opportunity to get in on the carries. In the receiving game, Demaryius Thomas leads the way as the home run threat who can always break off for the big play at any time. Decker is the most consistent wideout who can go up and get it and make plays all over the field. Welker is one of the best out of the slot and has continued to live up this his name by earning the trust of Manning who goes to him often. TE Julius Thomas has continued off his great play in the preseason to become one of the most athletic TEs in the game. Thomas has been too quick for linebackers and seemed unstoppable, until his lack of blocking was exposed in the loss to the Colts. The offensive line was playing great, until the loss of star LT Ryan Clady who is out for the season after a big contract and injuries to the interior line mostly at center. On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos have provided a nice pass rush from the front 7 led by free agent pickup OLBs Shaun Phillips and Danny Trevathan. Trevathan has really emerged this season as a solid play maker who can make plays all over the field. Phillips has been solid to mask the loss of OLB Von Miller to suspension by getting after the QB. On the D-line, free agent pickup DT Terrance Knighton has really solidified the middle and all the DEs have played well: Derek Wolfe (high motor), Robert Ayers (pass rusher), and Malik Johnson (pass rusher). The secondary has been inconsistent at times, but free agent pickup Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has lived up to the offseason hype as a nice #1 CB on a year leash with a chip on his shoulder. CB Chris Harris was having a good season before getting injured as he replaced injured CB Champ Bailey. CB Tony Carter was a nice replacement until he got injured, but rookie CB Kayvon Webster has provided a physical nature from the CB position as a hard hitter. Safety Rahim Moore has shown improvement over last season, but must continue to grow and needs help next to him. On special teams, WR/KR Trindon Holiday has been destroying teams forcing them to kick away or be punished as he has a 105 yd kickoff return for TD and an 81 yd punt return for TD. This Broncos team has a solid offensive which can score with any team in the league and can never be counted out of a game with Manning at the helm. The defense has gained great experience minus the two leaders and once Bailey and Miller return the pass D should be a lot better at avoiding giving up the big play. For this team to be so good, they are only 2nd in the division and must change that by dominating in the head to head games and improved defensive play down the stretch.

3. Seahawks (7-1)The Seahawks appear to be the best team in the NFC thanks to a defense which continues to shutdown opposing teams due to a strong secondary and fast pass rusher. On the other side, QB Russell Wilson continues to impress making plays with his feet and always making the smart play. Wilson doesn’t always throw for a lot of yards, but he runs at the appropriate time and really controls the field with good accuracy. Backup QB Tarvaris Jackson played well in his one game of relief duty. RB Marshawn Lynch continues to pound the rock with force as the key cog to the offensive side; he also helps in the receiving game out of the backfield. Backup RB Robert Turbin has not been running as well as last year, but rookie RB Christine Michael has provided a nice change of pace when active. WRs Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin lead the passing attack as two consistent targets. WR Sidney Rice battled injuries and was just coming along strong before getting injured again for the season. Undrafted rookie WR Jermaine Kearse who was a standout in the preseason continues to impress by stretching the field. The offensive line has suffered a lot of injuries, but they have been able to play well despite them; hopefully, this does not haunt them in the long run. On the defensive side, the pass rush is led by free agent pickups DEs Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril which shows why this team has been so successful; by making smart moves. The secondary is led by star CB Richard Sherman and extremely underrated Safety Earl Thomas who continue to rack up interceptions along with the rest of the “Legion of Boom”. The linebacker core remains intact and continues to make plays against both the run and the pass. This team is one of the best, if not the best, NFC team in the league with a true chance to make a run at a championship. The offense should improve with the return of playmaking WR Percy Harvin who should help stretch the field and replace Rice. The defense is in good position, injuries pending, but they need to sure up their run defense in case a team pounds it out on them. This is a good young team to watch going forward.

4. Saints (6-1)The Saints appear to be back with Coach Sean Payton leading the way again. QB Drew Brees is back to slinging the ball around to all his weapons mostly TE Jimmy Graham who continues to dominate defenses. The running game has not been that good with RBs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, but both players have been excellent receivers out of the backfield really racking up yardage from big plays. RBs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson have played well in limited carries this season. Graham leads the team in receiving yards by a wide margin as he shreds defenses using his size and athleticism; he almost seems unstoppable. WRs Marques Colston continues to play well as now the 2nd option in the offense to Graham, but he always provides consistent hands. Rookie WR Kenny Stills has been able to build off his preseason momentum and has been a solid, speed receiver out of the slot or 4th WR spot stretching the field well. After underachieving, the Saints have even brought WR Robert Meachem back to life, as his career seemed over with the Chargers. The offensive line has suffered a few injuries and has struggled at times. The defense has been aggressive under new Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan as the pass rush has been solid coming from all angles, mostly DE Cameron Jordan who continues to impress. The young linebacker core has also provided solid pressure and play, despite injuries to a few veterans. Free agent CB Keenan Lewis from the Steelers has been a solid addition to this defense leading the team in interceptions. The other bright spots have been Safety Malcolm Jenkins who continues to makes plays and rookie Safety Kenny Vaccaro who continues to get better and is seeing more time on the field. This team is one of the most dangerous teams in the league as the Saints have the ability to score with anybody. However, the run game could use improvement (maybe from more Ingram) and the young defense must continue to grow. The Saints run defense really needs help as they could use a talented big body DT in the middle to anchor the run D. However, they must find a way to seal the interior; maybe it will come from the safeties like past years. This team could get hot and really do damage in the playoffs they will be a team to watch.

5. Pats (6-2)These are not the Pats we have seen the past few years, as this team has won with defense and a solid running game, as Tom Brady continues to learn his new receivers. However, TE Rob Gronkowski will be back soon and Brady is developing chemistry with some young WRs like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted free agent), and he still doesn’t forget about WRs Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (when healthy). Brady’s numbers are down all across the board, but that could change by the end of the year as they have a solid running game to lean on as chemistry is built. RB Stevan Ridley has played well this season and has built off of last season a runner the Pats can depend on for all styles of running. RB LeGarrette Blount continues to be a solid pickup powering teams after Ridley has done damage; he has also displayed some ability to break long runs. RB Brandon Bolden has been a nice change of pace back with a nice ability to catch the ball. WR Julian Edelman leads the team in receiving yards as the most consistent WR. Dobson has stretched the field, but can be inconsistent at times. Thompkins has been a nice deep threat since he has been active and seems to have the potential to do more. The Pats D has been good against the pass behind a strong pass rush by DE Chandler Jones who continues to impress as a smart draft pick by the Pats 2 years ago. The defense is without DT Vince Wilfork who is out for the season and MLB Jerod Mayo who may be out for the season which has really hurt the run defense as big blows to the interior. Rookie DT Chris Jones seems to be a solid find providing nice pass rush as a rotational player and injury fill-in. DT Tommy Kelly has rejuvenated his career with the Pats and has provided toughness up front; he will take on a more important role with Wilfork out. CB Aqib Talib has played some of his best football with the Pats and appears to be a great fit and exactly what the defense needed. The Pats have been winning despite not playing some of their best football. The offense could be even better and the young injured defense could gel together better by then which could make them a big problem around playoffs time. However, this team knows the offense will be alright, but can the defense survive without Wilfork?

6. 49ers (6-2)The 49ers have overcome some early struggles with QB Colin Kapernick and have gotten back to running the football and playing solid defense. Kapernick is not building off last year’s success and has been struggling mightily as he tries to display better passing skills. However, his success running the football has also been limited this year and the hope is that he continues to improve as the season continues. RB Frank Gore has been running the ball well and after demanding the ball, he finally got it which has been the right move. Backup RB Kendall Hunter has played well spelling Gore, while RB Anthony Dixon has struggled as change of pace back. RB LaMichael James still wants to get in on the carries and could with Dixon struggling or injuries pending. WR Anquan Boldin has led the way for the receiving game with some big games, but some inconsistent play; however, his blocking will always be there if he struggles. TE Vernon Davis continues to be a consistent target playing off Boldin well as the top two receiving options on the team. The defense has played well despite losing their captain MLB Patrick Willis to various injuries causing him to miss games and their best pass rusher OLB Aldon Smith as he deals with off the field problems resulting in a visit to rehab. LBs Ahmad Brooks and Navarro Bowman have held them the team in Willis and Smith’s absence showing the talent across the board of this linebacker core. The D-line of DE/DT Ray McDonald, DT/DE Glenn Dorsey, and DE/DT Justin Smith has been a powerful group making plays or pushing the line of scrimmage for the linebackers to make plays. Dorsey has been a good surprise as he was inconsistent in KC, but many of factors could have played into that. The secondary hasn’t been the same, but CB Tramaine Brock and rookie FS Eric Reid have excelled forcing turnovers. Safety Donte Whitner has been a punishing hitter in the secondary, but must be careful of going overboard leading to more fines. The 49ers continue their trend of a good run game and defense, but Kapernick must play better if this team wants to go anywhere. Someone else needs to step up in the receiving game outside of Boldin and Davis if this offense wants to become more dangerous. The defense has played well and will even better once Willis and Smith returns which will make them a factor in every game.   

7. Packers (5-2)The Packers have been solid this season finding balance on offense with a solid run game behind Starks, Lacy, or Franklin, however the defense have been struggling giving up big yardage in the secondary. QB Aaron Rodgers has been solid as usual spreading the ball well between all his options and playing off the run game he has been waiting on for a long time. Rookie RB Eddie Lacy has been able to take over the starting job displaying a nice consistent power run game which everyone expected him to have when he came out, but his learning curve has been even better than expected coming out of Alabama. RB James Starks has been a nice consistent back with the ability to take over games, but he has played well in a backup role to Lacy. Rookie RB Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA has displayed his potential in game against the Bengals, but hasn’t seen much carries since. WR Jordy Nelson has been a nice consistent target for Rodgers this season proving that he can be a true #1 WR in this league increasing his value. WR James Jones has done a good job stretching the field as usual, until injuring his knee. WR Randall Cobb has been solid in both the receiving and rushing game as a nice playmaker to use in space. TE Jermichael Finley has been making plays again which should be good as far as keeping him in GB and shows that he is fully healthy. WR Jarrett Boykin has played well since injuries have brought him up the depth chart. The defensive side of ball has been marred by giving up big plays in the secondary and not producing turnovers (interceptions). The Packers have provided a strong pass rush behind LBs Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Nick Perry, and DEs Mike Daniels and rookie Datone Jones, but injuries to Matthews and Perry have led to struggles with the pass rush and secondary play. DT B.J. Raji continues to clog the middle and is the key reason why they are good against the run. The secondary has struggled to force turnovers even CB Tramon Williams, but he has been able to sack the quarterback. On the special teams unit, rookie CB Micah Hyde has been a good punt returner and has also been able to make plays on defense; he should be able to stick around. The Packers have played well up to this point and still appear to be the best team in the NFC North, but injuries or the secondary issues could cause problems as there is good competition from the Lions and Bears. The offense is one of the best as usual, but the growth of this young defense will be the key going forward.

8. Bengals (6-2)These are not the Bengals we have always known, these Bengals know how to win close games and bring good defense led by a stout D-line. Although he still can’t silence the critics QB Andy Dalton has been solid this season and a lot more consistent. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been consistent, but has not run as well as previous seasons. However, the Bengals have Green-Ellis in a good position as he usually is the power back who controls the clock and starts up the run game. Rookie RB Giovani Bernard has been the perfect complement breaking long runs and catching the ball well out of the backfield. WR A.J. Green continues to be one of the best in the league, but Dalton has been using all of his weapons well. This includes: WR Marvin Jones who has good size and good speed and has come along strong these past few weeks and WR Mohamed Sanu who continues to improve. The two TE set has been wonderful as TE Jermaine Gresham continues to block well, but has improved his receiving and TE Tyler Eifert stretches the field and causes mismatches with his size and athleticism. The defense has played well against both the run and the pass led by DT Geno Atkins in the middle who continues to get after QBs even after the big contract. DEs Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, and Wallace Gilberry all get after the quarterback, while DT Demato Peko has provides a strong push up the middle. The linebacker core has played well led by OLB Vontaze Burclift who has a strong lead in tackles on the team as he makes plays all over the field and OLB James Harrison who provides pass rush, leadership, and toughness. The secondary has played extremely well and are deep enough to deal with the injury to CB Leon Hall, thanks to the solid play of CB Adam “Pacman” Jones. This team has a real chance to win the AFC North thanks to good coaching and deep talent, but the question is if they can make noise in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if this Bengals team continues to dominate on both sides of the football.

luck

9. Colts (5-2)This Colts team has matured and is playing a lot more physical as they appear to be the best team in the AFC South. QB Andrew Luck has killed any hope for a 2nd year slump as he has carried this team to victories mostly in the 4th quarter where he seems to turn up his play. Without his 4th quarter comebacks, this team would be sitting somewhere along the middle, but it is the QB’s job to make their team better and make the big plays. Newly acquired RB Trent Richardson has struggled to pound the rock, but has provided them with some big power runs which were missing from this offense. Free agent pickup RB Ahmad Bradshaw proved that he could pound the rock, but continues to struggle with injuries again. RB Donald Brown has proven to be a solid 3rd down back in this offense running the ball well off of Richardson’s north/south game and catching the ball well out of the backfield. WR T.Y. Hilton leads the team in receiving as he continues to stretch the field by getting behind opposing defenses. However, long time Colt veteran WR Reggie Wayne has torn his ACL and is out for the season which is a big blow to this offense as the most reliable and consistent WR; we wish him the best on his recovery. Wayne was having another excellent season and was the veteran leader in the locker room on this team. WR Darius Hayward-Bey continues to struggle with inconsistency and injuries and the Colts might need him with Wayne out. After losing emerging 2nd year TE Dwayne Allen to a season ending hip injury, TE Coby Fleener, who was a college teammate of Luck, has played well in his absence; while displaying his pass catching skills after struggling as a rookie. The offensive line has struggled early, but has come on strong lately which is a good sign of chemistry. The defense has played inconsistently, but captain OLB Robert Mathis has been destroying teams as the key pass rusher. ILB Jerrell Freeman has been a good find working his way up from being an undrafted free agent pickup by the Titans in 2008; he has been a solid emerging playmaker for the Colts defense. The secondary play has been inconsistent, but longtime Colts Safety Antoine Bethea still holds down the last line of defense. This young team continues to grow, but will really see what they are made of without Wayne. Luck needs help from the running game and Richardson needs to prove his worth because they can’t wait on Bradshaw. This team should continue their pace to win the AFC South, but can they make noise in the playoffs?

10. Bears (4-3)Under new coach Mark Trestman, the Bears have excelled on offense with QB Jay Cutler spreading the ball well. It will be interesting to see how they survive while he is injured. RB Matt Forte continues to complement Cutler by catching the ball well out of the backfield and running the ball well. WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have both caught the ball well and TE Martellus Bennett has been a nice target as a free agent pickup. The defense has been inconsistent, but good at times behind new leader LB Lance Briggs. The D-line continues to provide the push led by DEs Julius Peppers, Corey Wooten, and Shea McClellin. The secondary has been led by Safety Major Wright and CBs Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman who continues to provide the physicality and toughness. KR Devin Hester has been solid in the return game again with a few long kick returns and a punt return for TD. The Bears were looking like the best team in the division at a point, but the defense must continue to improve and remaining healthy will be the key down the stretch if they want to go deep in the playoffs. They can only go as far as Cutler can take them and he must be on the field to make that possible.

11. Lions (5-3)These don’t seem to be the Lions we are used to seeing as this team plays with toughness and balance on both sides of the ball; of course, led by the offense with Stafford to Johnson. QB Matt Stafford continues to air the ball out despite losing WR Nate Burleson who was having a good year he should return in a few weeks. WR Calvin Johnson continues to destroy defense even going for a record 329 yards against the Cowboys. The key addition has been RB Reggie Bush who has been great for both the rushing and receiving game as he may have finally found his fit. RB Joique Bell has brought good balance as a power option, giving them a solid rushing attack. The D-line continues to provide a strong pass rush behind DT Ndamukong Suh and rookie DE Ezekiel Ansah. The run defense has been decent led by LBs DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch, but the secondary needs to play better. However, safeties Louis Delmas and Glover Quinn have been playing well. This Lions team could be the best team in the NFC North, but the defense must play better going forward and any receiving help opposite Johnson would be icing on the cake.

12. Panthers (4-3)The Panthers have finally been clicking under QB Cam Newton who is playing well and find ways to win games. The defense has been playing great and RB DeAngelo Williams has brought back a strong run game. Newton has added to the run game using his usual athleticism. He has spread the ball well between all of his weapons this year led by TE Greg Olsen and WRs Steve Smith, Brandon Lafell and Ted Ginn. The defense is led by a strong front 7 and Captain MLB Luke Kuechly. The defensive line provided the pass rush led by DEs Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. Linebacker Thomas Davis has played well and remained healthy this year also providing to the pass rush. Safety Mike Mitchell has proven to be a good pickup from the Raiders adding to a young secondary in need. Undrafted free agent Safety Robert Lester out of Alabama might be a good find for this defense with 2 INTs. This team can really take off as long as Newton is passing the ball well. They should get RB Jonathan Stewart back soon and he should also add to strong rushing attack giving this team another weapon. This is a team to watch going forward.

13. Chargers (4-4)This team has been relevant thanks to the arm of QB Philip Rivers who has really led this team to victories almost singlehandedly spreading the ball well between his weapons.  This is one of River’s best season and definitely his best in a couple seasons; showing people that he hasn’t lost a step. RB Ryan Matthews is running well, but continues to struggle with his consistency and truly be a pound it out type of back. Free agent pickup RB Danny Woodhead hasn’t been the best runner, but has really contributed as a 3rd down back in the receiving game as a good x-factor for the Chargers O. The O-line has been extremely inconsistent which makes the job Rivers has done so amazing so far, especially with an inconsistent run game to match. Reliable TE Antonio Gates is having his best season in a few years thanks to being healthy and has continued his good connection with Rivers. Rookie WR Keenan Allen has played well coming along after the 1st couple games to lead all Chargers’ WRs in yardage. WR Malcolm Floyd was playing well until he was injured, but WR Vincent Brown continues to show flashes. WR Eddie Royal is finally making plays again leading Chargers’ WRs in TDs. The defense has been extremely inconsistent while starting off the season well led by Safety Eric Weddle who continues to rack up tackles. DE Corey Liuget and OLB Jarrett Johnson have provided the pass rush following the losses of DE Melvin Ingram and OLB Dwight Freeney to season ending injuries. They have struggled against both the run and pass as they struggle to consistently provide pressure or even cause turnovers. The Chargers are staying around .500 thanks to Rivers and the offense, but this defense must play a lot better if they plan to stay in any games in hopes of winning. The run game also could use improvement as Matthews still doesn’t seem like a feature back.

14. Cardinals (4-4)The Cards have been playing hard under new Coach Bruce Arians on both sides of the football. The play of QB Carson Palmer has been inconsistent, but for the most part he has been a good find as a leader and best QB the Cards had in a while as he can connect with both WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. The running game has been average behind RB Rashard Mendenhall, but RB Andre Ellington has made plays on the field proving to be a playmaker in both the run and receiving game; he should see more carries going forward. The offensive line has been average, but they are young and will continue to grow. CB Patrick Peterson has been a playmaker on defense and offense as he has made plays in all aspects by completing a pass, running the football, and making a few receptions stretching the field showing his versatility. The defense has played well especially rookie Safety Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu who worked his way from special teams to a starting job. The linebackers have been great led by the return of MLB Karlos Dansby and young star ILB Daryl Washington. The D-line continues to dominate led by star DE Calais Campbell and DT/DE Darnell Dockett who continue to apply pressure and get to the QB. The secondary is much improved led by Peterson, Mathieu and Safeties Yermehiah Bell and Rashard Johnson (who even lost part of his finger). The Cardinals D will win them some games and the offense will provide help at times, depending on the O-line’s performance. This would lead to the offense making even more plays, but maybe Ellington can open up the field even more. The Cards are in a tough division, but are finding a way to win games; they should look to upgrade their O-line in the draft.   

15. Cowboys (4-4)The Cowboys have played well with the offense leading the way as they appear able to score with anyone and may be the best team in the NFC East. QB Tony Romo has played well despite the critics who HATE on his play and contract extension. He has led the way to a solid passing game where he spreads the ball well. RB DeMarco Murray has played well this season, but has struggled with injuries. Rookie RB Joseph Randle out of LSU has not played well in Murray’s absence and has struggled at times as a backup. WR Dez Bryant continues to be too physical for most cornerbacks in the league and has really dominated this season. TE Jason Witten continues to be a favorite target of Romo and provides another pair of consistent hands. Rookie WR Terrance Williams has been a great addition as a solid target across from Bryant in the absence of WR Miles Austin due to injury. WR Cole Beasley has come along lately out of the slot and was compared to a Welker/Edelman type of WR. The defense has played well led by MLB Sean Lee, but inconsistently thanks to problems in the secondary just like prior seasons. The Cowboys D has provided a strong pass rush from DEs Jason Hatcher and George Selvie up front and OLB DeMarcus Ware continues to impress, but he has struggled with injuries this season. They have done a good job against the run, but more help in the pass rush department is definitely needed. The secondary needs improvement mostly out of the safety positions, although Safety Barry Church is a reliable tackler. The cornerbacks have underachieved, but the more CB Morris Claiborne can grow and stay healthy the better this secondary will be in the long run. The Cowboys must continue to win games to keep their NFC East lead, but the secondary can’t continue to hold this team back. However, the health of Murray will be the key going forward as the offense will need balance to continue to produce. This team is competitive and has the talent like most Cowboys teams in the past couple of years, but if they make the playoffs, will they make some noise?   

16. Jets (4-4) – This team has been a big surprise of the season with rookie QB Geno Smith leading the way on offense behind an unexpectedly good defense and run game. Smith started the season showing great poise and smart play early, but he has struggled lately; however, this never affects him in the 4th quarter. Smith shows that he is a mature playmaker who can make plays with his feet and will grow into something special. RB Bilal Powell has been a big surprise carrying the team with a good consistent power running game. RB Chris Ivory has come along lately after struggling early in the season and RB Mike Goodson has had a few good runs. WR Jeremy Kerley surprisingly leads the team in receiving yards as the most consistent receiver on the team and WR Stephen Hill has been stretching the field. WR Santonio Holmes has made it back on the field, but he continues to struggle with injuries. TEs Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow have been good targets for Smith at times, but need to improve their consistency. The Jets defense has provided a good pass rush led by emerging DE Muhammad Wilkerson, OLB Calvin Pace, and Rookie DE/DT Sheldon Richardson who continues to impress. This defense could be even better as DE Quinton Coples gets healthy and continues to improve and the secondary starts to force turnovers thanks to the extra pressure. The Jets have been tough and resilient in their wins, but have a lot of holes in their team. They will be competitive in every game and the young team will continue to improve as both sides of the football show signs of hope, especially the defense. KR Joshua Cribbs was brought in to help the special teams unit and could provide some explosive plays as he has been out of the league for a while.       

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