NFL contenders weeding out the pretenders

The NFL season has been a strange one. The teams we thought were going to be the cream of the crop of the league find themselves struggling to meet the standard of excellence. The teams we thought were going to go through this season rebuilding or re-establishing themselves, have surprised all of us. 

With half a season behind us and another half to go, not too many people had the Philadelphia Eagles as a team boasting the record in all of football. We all kind of figured out the Buffalo Bills were going to be good, but who would have thought that Tua Tagovailoa would have the Miami Dolphins on top of the Bills and the and the AFC East? 

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Derion Kendrick (6) reaches out in attempt to make the tackle on San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) in an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on October 30, 2022. Photo credit: News4usonline

In speaking about the AFC East, could we have imagined that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots would be sitting at the bottom of that division with the New York Jets posting a better record? I don’t think that a lot of people saw this coming. But we still have a long way to go before the season plays itself out to the finish line. 

Even still, finally seeing some parity in the AFC East makes for the last part of the season to be exciting and more compelling to watch. If they were being handed out for each team for their play thus far, both the Dolphins and Jets would earn the mark of A, while the Bills would get a B plus. The Patriots and their vanilla identity have earned an incomplete for now. 

As we stay the course in the AFC, let’s trot on over to the AFC West where the Kansas City Chiefs are starting to pull away from the rest of the teams in the division. The Los Angeles Chargers were seen as the primary threat to Kansas City’s dominant run in the division coming into the season. 

However, with a couple of games separating the two teams, the Chargers can ill afford to fall back further or risk the possibility of having to fight for a wildcard spot or be eliminated from postseason play altogether. And I guess neither the Denver Broncos or the Las Vegas Raiders have gotten dividends from the offseason commodities they went after and got. 

Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Dru Tranquill (49) making a play against a Jacksonville Jaguars ballcarrier during an NFL game at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 25, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer, courtesy of the Compton Bulletin

In the case of Las Vegas wide receiver DeVonte Adams, it’s not his fault that Derek Carr is more overrated as a quarterback and that the team he’s on is a complete disaster. There is no excuse for the Broncos to have the sub-par record that they have with Russell Wilson as their quarterback. 

But it seems as if Wilson, after getting a trade out of Seattle, has vanquished pretty quickly into the reality that he is not what he used to be. To be more frank, Wilson, who got a whopping $245 million extension from Denver to be their guy, is on the other side of his career and sliding downward by the week. 

It’s not a pretty sight. Right now, Wilson is looking like more of a fraud or just a shell of himself. The Tennessee Titans are doing what they’re supposed to do in the AFC South by running away from the competition in the division. 

It’s kind of hard not to be on top of this division with the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans setting up shop in the division, but don’t expect the Titans to do more than maybe a one and done in the postseason.

In the AFC North, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are hitting their stride. After a bumpy first couple of games, Jackson and the Ravens are back to being the run-oriented, defense dominant self. Everybody else are just busters in the division. 

The Cleveland Browns are just holding on until Deshaun Watson comes back from his 11-game suspension. The Pittsburgh Steelers need a complete overhaul.   

Now let’s turn our attention to the NFC where we began with the Super Bowl champs. Dealing with a wide assortment of injuries and defections, the Rams have not come close to playing at the level of football they did just a year ago. As a result of all the injuries and key player departures, the Rams sit at the bottom of the NFC West.   

This is a development that no one saw coming. With the Rams in danger of not making the postseason, the NFC West is up for grabs, even though the Seattle Seahawks are out in front. Probably the hardest division to play in may be in the NFC East where the Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants roam. This is a very competitive division. 

The Buffalo Bills came into the 2022 NFL season as Super Bowl contenders. Photo credit: News4usonline

The NFC South has shown itself to be competitive as well, except that the division largely has been trending downward with its mediocre play. No,  Tom Brady is not coming to rescue Tampa Bay fans. Whether you like it or not, the era has come and gone. With the .500 mark, you’re a mediocre team. 

And I don’t know what the heck the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are doing? Just bad football. :Period. The Panthers have become a joke. They hired a college coach and gave him a boatload of money and then turned around and fired him. 

On top of that disaster, Carolina went out and cemented that bad decision by getting two below average quarterbacks in Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. It would have been cheaper and better to have kept Cam Newton. At least the franchise would have had an identity. They have none now. 

 As far as the NFC North, the Vikings are running the show. The rest of the division is toast. That concludes our mid-season NFL wrap.