After 8 Weeks in the NFL, here are my grades for each team in the AFC. Enjoy and feel free to comment!
1. New England Patriots (6-2) – B+. The Patriots have been successful despite the offense struggling through the first half of the season. The defense has played well, but injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Aqib Talib might hurt them in the 2nd half. I expect the Offense to get better and the defense to continue playing at the same level.
2. New York Jets (4-4) – C+. The Jets have exceeded my expectations from the start of the season, but they are lacking consistency. They have alternated wins and losses to start the season and only have one good win (vs. New England). Geno Smith has played well for a rookie and if the Jets can find some consistency they will be tough going forward.
3. Miami Dolphins (3-4) – C. The Dolphins started out 3-0 after some hype in the offseason but have now lost four games in a row and are sputtering. Ryan Tannehill has played well at times this season, but he has 9 interceptions and 32 sacks already. They need more offensive consistency to push for a possible wild card spot.
4. Buffalo Bills (3-5) – C. I think the Bills have played respectably on defense to start the year, but need to find more on offense. The injury to E.J. Manuel hurts them, but Thad Lewis has done well in replace of Manuel. They need more output from their running backs if they want to finish above .500.
1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – B+. The Bengals are really starting to become a top team with how both the offense and defense are playing. They have beaten some good teams (New England and Green Bay), but also lost a head-scratcher at Cleveland. Overall, there is a lot to like about this team going forward and they are a deep team.
2. Baltimore Ravens (3-4) – C-. The Ravens’ start was not unexpected to me, but as defending Super Bowl Champions they need to show a lot more. They are not doing enough offensively and the pass protection needs to get better. The bye week should help Ray Rice and the run game, which in turn will help the passing offense. Still a lot left to do in the 2nd half of the year if they want to make the playoffs.
3. Cleveland Browns (3-5) – C. I give the Browns a C because they have played well despite several issues. For one, there has been a QB carousel between Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, and now Jason Campbell. Campbell appears to be the starter going forward and that should help solidify the offense as the season wares on. Secondly, the Browns traded their 1st Round pick from 2012 in Trent Richardson which does not appear to have had any effect (good or bad) on the offense. The defense has played well this year and will continue to keep them in games.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) – D. The Steelers have played horrendously on offense and have virtually no running game. For a proud franchise like the Steelers, this is completely unacceptable. The defense has played well for the most part, but how long can they keep that up in a season considering they are an older group?
1. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) – B+. Andrew Luck continues to shine as the Colts won some big games at San Francisco and beat Denver and Seattle in Indy. The trade for Richardson has not worked out well thus far from a production standpoint, but there is still time to fix that. The defense has played well, but needs to work on stopping the run. Some big games in December at Cincinnati (Week 14) and at Kansas City (Week 16) should determine how many home games Indianapolis plays in the postseason.
2. Tennessee Titans (3-4) – C+. This was a tough team for me to grade because they have lost to three really good teams (Kansas City, Seattle, and San Francisco), but have beaten decent teams (San Diego and New York Jets). For the most part, the Titans are playing good defense and Jake Locker is coming back from the injury to his hip. The Titans are a decent team and a little more offensive consistency will help them in the 2nd half.
3. Houston Texans (2-5) – F. Given the expectations and the lackluster start, the first half of the season has been a failure for the Texans. They barely beat San Diego and Tennessee to start the season and then Matt Schaub started playing poorly and the Texans lost five in a row to go into their bye week. The loss of Brian Cushing will hurt the defense and the injury to Foster will slow the offense down. Things are not looking good for the Texans after some high hopes at the start of the campaign.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) – F. The grade might be harsh as everyone expected the Jaguars to play poorly, but the Jagaurs have been completely inept. The offensive line has blocked poorly, Blaine Gabbert looked completely lost when he was playing, and the defense is on the field way too long due to the offense. There is a long way to go for this team to be competitive this season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0) – A+. This was probably the easiest grade to give. A team that goes from 2-14 to 8-0 the next season is a shoo-in for an A+. The defense is playing great and the players are adapting well to the offensive system. The only caveat with this team is they play some close games against opponents that are clearly inferior (Tennessee and Cleveland come to mind). Nevertheless, look out for this team in December and January.
2. Denver Broncos (7-1) – B. What? Only a “B”? Yes because everyone expected the Broncos to be good, and they have been, but their defense is not very good. The have had suspension and injuries to start the year, but that is no excuse for giving up 48 points to the Cowboys or 190 yards to Justin Blackmon (who is Jacksonville’s only receiving threat). You cannot keep falling behind and expect to win every game, especially when it is to a good team (see Indianapolis).
3. San Diego Chargers (4-3) – C+. Let’s start with the fact that Philip Rivers is playing excellent this year and the offense is clicking even with some injuries. My main issue with the Chargers is they have lost games late to Houston and Tennessee and they threw that clunker in against Oakland. Overall, they have done a decent job in the first half of the season.
4. Oakland Raiders (3-4) – C. The Raiders have looked good on defense this season, but have struggled a bit on offense. Terrelle Pryor is the best fit at QB for the Raiders and as he gets more experience, the offense will find it’s groove. They have lost to top teams (Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis), but have do have a win against San Diego. The Raiders will be a very tough out in the 2nd half.
Grade Letters Distribution
Below is the distribution of each letter grade given out to AFC teams.
A – 1 (Kansas City)
B – 4 (Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, New England)
C – 8 (Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Miami, New York Jets, Oakland, San Diego, Tennessee)
D – 1 (Pittsburgh)
F – 2 (Houston, Jacksonville)