It’s the halfway point for the NFL season, so let’s group the teams into five categories. The categories will range from dead (out of the playoffs) to elite (self-explanatory).
DEAD – Teams who are already looking to 2018
Browns, Texans, Colts, Giants, 49ers – I thought about making a separate category just for the Browns given how awful they are. From the front office down this team is in disarray. The Texans and Colts were dealt the death sentence by losing their quarterbacks, while the 49ers got theirs ten weeks too late.
LIFE SUPPORT – Teams much closer to being out of the playoffs than in
Dolphins, Chargers, Broncos, Bengals, Ravens, Cardinals, Packers, Bears, Buccaneers – More quarterback injuries have caused the Cardinals and Packers to the verge of the “dead zone”. Nobody can quite explain what’s going on in Tampa. They narrowly escaped the dead category. AFC north rivals the Ravens and Bengals may already be there, one more loss for either will seal it.
MEH – Teams just treading water
Jets, Raiders, Redskins, Lions, Falcons – People need to start giving Todd Bowles some serious credit for what he has done this season. How in the world he is 4-5 with that collection of players is a minor miracle. The Falcons and Raiders are huge disappointments this season thus far. Neither appears ready for a playoff push.
SOLID – Teams in the thick of the playoff chase
Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Jaguars, Cowboys, Rams, Seahawks, Vikings, Panthers – The Jaguars and the Rams are the surprise stories of 2018. Los Angeles almost made the elite category, and may yet get there. Jacksonville could ride their outstanding defense all the way to a playoff berth. The only thing keeping the Cowboys from elite status is the weekly threat of losing Zeke Elliot to suspension. Losing him for an extended period of time could knock that team out of the playoff picture.
ELITE – The cream of the crop in the NFL
Steelers, Patriots, Eagles, Saints – Yes you read that right the New Orleans Saints are elite once again. They finally have a defense and running game to compliment Drew Brees. The Saints are going to be a tough out in the playoffs if they can secure home field advantage. Philadelphia has the best record in football, but there are holes there. A young quarterback and a shaky offensive line may derail them in the post-season. In the AFC it’s a two team race, just like it was thought to be. As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around, they must be considered the favorites in any season. Especially when you consider how easily they handled the Steelers in last years AFC Championship game. This is a different Steelers team this year with an apparently much improved defense. They will meet later on in the season, and probably again in the playoffs to decide the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. Home field advantage could go a long way in deciding the eventual winner between these two in the post season.