November 3, 2016 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s NFL Midseason Review: AFC
The Steelers have dealt with an array of injuries on both sides of the ball, especially the injury to QB Ben Roethlisberger which has caused this team a few losses along with an inconsistent defense. This team still has one of the most explosive offenses and weapons for days, but the defense needs to get better at all aspects. The return of DE Cameron Hayward should help going forward and the continued growth of their young secondary which can only go up. This team is one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC, as long as Ben is standing upright.
The Bengals have getting great play in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but the run game continues to be inconsistent behind Jeremy Hill with Giovanni Bernard producing only some results. QB Andy Dalton seems to miss his weapons, but continues to play good football which has led to a lot of A.J. Green, but the return to health of TE Tyler Eifert will help a lot. The offensive line has been one of the best in the league led by LT Andrew Whitworth. The defensive line continues to lead the way led by pass rushing DE Carlos Dunlap and versatile DT Geno Atkins, with a solid veteran LB core behind them. Improved play in the secondary is needed and more turnovers by this team, but they have all the talent and good coaching to make another run for the playoffs.
The Ravens continue to be a middling team with an injury to WR Steve Smith stopping the passing game and injuries on the offensive line has killed a promising start. The run game has shown promise behind a hungry Terrance West, but now Kenneth Dixon must join the mix and provide something on 3rd downs and a good change of pace. WR Mike Wallace looked good next to Smith, but has yet to develop some consistency along with his fellow counterparts. The defense has looked good at times and is as deep as they have been in years on the D-line. The secondary continues to be a huge problem with no help opposite Jimmy Smith and no help next to veteran S Eric Weddle who has been playmaker since joining the team. This team will have to play much better football on both sides of the ball, especially at QB and WR, to make a run for the playoffs.
Hue Jackson seems to be getting frustrated with the team’s lack of wins, but everyone knew that this would be a tough job; however, he is clearly developing talent on a team with a strong lack of it. The QB play has been a lot better than expected thanks to Hue and the O-line he was left with continues to play to their best, while experience a lot of growing pains, luckily they still have long time LT Joe Thomas. The run game needs to get better, but is mostly limited by the O-line and Terrelle Pryor has developed into a solid WR prospect in a short period of time, despite not much help around him. The defense continues to get carved by the run, which exposes the passing game, but there is clearly a lack of talent on the defensive line and LB core, as well as, safety. This team is still an uphill battle, but they have a nice stock of draft picks to continue to build on the chemistry they have going.
Another good season by the Hoodie (Coach Bill Belichick), as the Pats found a way to win with Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, and of course Tom Brady coming off suspension picking up where he left off. LeGarrette Blount is having a career year and doing a good job of controlling the ball this season. Gronk and Martellus Bennett are the unstoppable TE duo that the team wanted them to be, while WR Chris Hogan has been a solid pickup. The defense has been solid and holding their own with some problems against the run, but changes at LB have already begun and it will be interesting to see the team without athletic LB Jamie Collins who was traded to the Browns. If this team can do a better job in run defense and fix their O-line, then they could be playing in another Super Bowl.
The Bills have been a surprise this season, as many people expected them to take a leap, but then they were ravaged by injuries to a promising defense and Percy Harvin had retired on offense. However, the Bills have since recovered with Tyrod Taylor continuing to play smart football and making plays with his feet, despite injuries at WR to Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. The running game has flourished behind the dual threat talent of Lesean McCoy and the depth has stepped up, as well. The offensive line continues to be tough up front, as a solid power run blocking unit, despite LT Cordy Glenn battling injuries. The defense has played well, as Shaq Lawson and Marcell Dareus return to help, but the LB core has stepped up behind veterans Zach Brown and Lorenzo Alexander who have played at a high level. The secondary has been inconsistent at times due to their man to man play, but they could use a forceful hitter at safety, especially with S Aaron Williams out with a neck injury. Rex has the Bills playing solid football and they could be even better with the return of some talent, he should be able to save his job, as long as, they remain competitive behind a strong run game and defense. *Percy Harvin is back*
The Dolphins have not seen the growth of QB Ryan Tannehill that they expected and the defensive has regressed and appears, in need of an infusion of talent. The offensive line has been the biggest issue on the team with injuries and ineffective play at all levels. The running game has finally seen the light under HC Adam Gase, as RB Jay Ajayi appears to have turned on the light switch and has shown his potential, as a workhorse back. The WR core continues to lean heavily on Jarvis Landry, as DeVante Parker can’t stay healthy and Kenny Stills hasn’t developed any consistency. The star-studded defensive line has produced, but there hasn’t been much production behind them and the run defense has suffered. With an injury to star FS Reshad Jones and not much talent at CB, the team has also struggled in pass coverage. The Dolphins appear to finally be seeing some offensive growth, but the defense will need to play even better; they need to fix the offensive line and restore Tannehill’s confidence.
The Jets have not made the step to 2nd best team in the AFC East this year due to constant turnovers from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the decline of star CB Darrelle Revis which has led to decline in the overall pass coverage. The offensive line has had problems with Ryan Clady replacing long time LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and new free agent additions, but they have excelled at run blocking. Veteran RB Matt Forte proved that he still has something left in the tank and WR Brandon Marshall continues to excel despite, not much help after WR Eric Decker was loss for the season. The D-line continues to be one of the best and talented in the league, but the LB core continues to struggle and show its age. The secondary has struggled and has received inconsistent safety play, as well. This team needs to shore up the QB play and shore up its passing defense if it hopes to stay in contention, but this team appears to be In need of a big time CB and playmaking speed WR, which will not show up anytime soon.
The Texans have not gotten the return on investment that they expected when they paid QB Brock Osweiler, as he has been average in field awareness and doesn’t throw the most accurate ball. RB Lamar Miller has been great and leading the running game and the WR core has been much improved with speedster Will Fuller. The offensive line has been hit with injuries, but continues to play well. The defense was playing solid football, but the loss of star DE J.J. Watt is a big deal, but the team continues to hold its own, despite being more susceptible to the run. The Texans have a solid foundation and good coaching, but they will need better QB play to run away with this division; they have veteran QB Brandon Weeden who doesn’t scare anyone and young QB Tom Savage, who is more of a prospect and unknown at this point, but he knows the system.
The Titans have fielded a competitive team behind a solid run game and strong front 7 play. The WR play continues to be lackluster and has stunted the growth of QB Marcus Mariota, but he has found ways to win using his legs and TE Delanie Walker. The offensive line has become one of the better units in the league and a strong run blocking unit. RB DeMarco Murray has proved why he is one of the top RB’s in the league and rookie RB Derrick Henry has shown flashes of his potential. The front 7 continues to blitz teams and apply pressure up front to hide a weak secondary, which has done an average job due to the help, but better play all-around is needed. This team has a solid foundation to remain competitive and fight for wins, but more talent is needed and they have the draft picks to make moves, as they continue to build chemistry.
The Colts have been struggling with injuries on both sides of the ball, mostly at WR and CB and have struggled to generate wins. The offensive line continues to struggle, but have found a star up front in C Ryan Kelly who solidified a problem position. QB Andrew Luck continues to work with what he has which has mostly been WR T.Y. Hilton and RB Frank Gore has found running lanes this season. The defense has not played well getting carved by the run and the passing defense has improved with the return of shutdown CB Vontae Davis, but better all-around play is needed and the LB core is too veteran;. The Colts will be in shootouts in most game until the defense improves, but that was foreseen before the season began.
The Jaguars have been a competitive team, but that has not translated into wins so far. QB Blake Bortles still has the same problem of too many turnovers and they have fired the OC to see if this brings changes. The running game has been stagnant behind T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory and this may be mostly due to an average O-line that still needs improvement all over. The WR core continues to be the only solid unit on the team and TE Julius Thomas is finally healthy. The young additions and free agents have helped the pass defense, but the run game and big bodies up front could use an infusion of talent. This team seems headed in the right direction, but can they continue to right the ship before the coach loses his job?
The Raiders have been one of the biggest surprises taking the next step to have a 6-2 start and currently sit atop the AFC West. QB Derek Carr has played great football and has entered the MVP conversation, while leading this team with good decision making and a strong arm. The RB position hasn’t relied on Latavius Murray, as much as expected due to injury and has gotten good production out of the committee. The addition of offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele proved to be a smart one, as the offensive line has been a much improved unit. Amari Cooper continues to prove that he is one of the top young WR’s in the league and Michael Crabtree continues his resurgence under Carr. The defense has had a lot of problems on all levels, but tends to show up when needed, but the secondary really needs to improve. Free agent CB Sean Smith has not been a good pickup so far and David Amerson has been inconsistent. The Raiders have good talent on both sides of the ball and an offense to lean on, maybe the defense will play to it’s potential with the Broncos and Chiefs also playing good football.
The Broncos seem to have made the right decision going with QB Trevor Siemian who has proved to be a consistent calm presence at the QB position that can make plays at the right time. Rookie QB Paxton Lynch has even gotten his feet wet proving that he is backup worthy, but not quite ready for the spotlight. RB C.J. Anderson looked good before season ending surgery, but rookie RB Devontae Booker has shown flashes of his potential. The WR core remains intact while trying to find a consistent slot WR, as Cody Latimer appears to be a bust. Virgil Green has held down the TE position well, but they could use another playmaker. The offensive line has played well at times, doing a good job of run blocking, but injuries have caused problems. The defense continues to be ones of the best in the league, especially against the pass, but they need to improve the run defense and the LBs need to cover TE’s better. The playoff are one of the top teams in the AFC again, but still need to clean up the passing attack and run defense.
The Chiefs are finding ways to win early in the season, as opposed to their usual late season surge. Led by the continued smart play of QB Alex Smith and a strong running game led by Spencer Ware the offense appears to be in good shape, despite star RB Jamaal Charles ending up back on IR. The offensive line has formed into a solid unit, after years of inconsistent play and Eric Fisher has been providing solid play. The WR core has gotten production out of other people than Jeremy Maclin despite not consistently relying on it, while TE Travis Kelce continues to be a star. The defense continues to play well, despite starting the season without pass rusher Tamba Hali and the loss of star pass rushing OLB Justin Houston who could return. The team continues to play solid pass coverage, but has struggled against the run. The Chiefs have a good foundation and good coaching, they are a team that plays smart, efficient football and should work their way into a playoff spot.
The Chargers continue to lean on QB Philip Rivers, as the offensive foundation they set up was decimated by injuries leaving Rivers to work with a makeshift crew. The offensive line continues to struggle with injuries and inconsistency, but have done a good job run blocking. RB Melvin Gordon has finally come to play and has proved to be a solid dual threat, where injuries to Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver have destroyed depth. The WR core was hit harder with injuries to Keenan Allen who was the go to/ #1 WR and Stevie Johnson who could really stretch the field, making free agent pickup Travis Benjamin ineffective at times. TE Antonio Gates continues to produce, while TE Hunter Henry has been a solid find. On the defensive side, injuries in the secondary have caused the pass defense to struggle and the LB core has also had to be shuffled. 1st round pick Joey Bosa has been as pleasant surprise since joining the team and the team would like to continue to see him grow, with problems in all areas on that side of the ball. The Chargers will continue to be competitive, but need an infusion of young talent on defense and at the skill positions.