Folks, we are halfway through the 2019 NFL season!
Well, in theory anyway. It’s been a fascinating season thus far, as we’ve seen the star power of old at the QB position take a hit due to injuries, and a rise in the significance of defense. It’s been a really fun to watch all this take hold, and the fun should continue in the second half. Before we get to my rankings, I thought I’d share the players I see in the lead for awards at the midway point of the season.
MVP: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Second choice: Deshaun Watson, Texans
Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffery, Panthers
Second choice: Michael Thomas, Saints
Defensive Player of the Year: Stephon Gilmore, Patriots
Second choice: Devin McCourty, Patriots
Coach of the Year: Sean Payton, Saints
Second choice: Frank Reich/Kyle Shanahan
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
Second choice: Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Nick Bosa, 49ers
Second choice: Josh Allen, Jaguars
Comeback Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp, Rams
Second choice: Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
In addition to that, the most positive surprises have been the 49ers and Bills, while the biggest disappointments… there’s a lot, but the Falcons and Bears top the list for me thus far.
Alright, back to the rankings.
Biggest rise: Tennessee Titans (up 4 spots)
Biggest fall: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears (down 4 spots)
1. New England Patriots (PR: 1)
Record: 8-0 | Week 9 opponent: Baltimore Ravens (away)
The Browns might have revealed a way to beat the Patriots with a strong run game, but it still does not matter, as the Patriots defense can still feast on any mistake you make (looking at you, Baker). Facing the Ravens tomorrow night will be a big test, but the Patriots have showed no reason that they can’t handle Lamar Jackson & co. With N’Keal Harry set to make his debut, Tom Brady is slowly getting a full arsenal of weapons… this team has another level, folks.
2. San Francisco 49ers (PR: 3)
Record: 8-0 | Week 9 opponent: Arizona Cardinals (away); won
The only thing I take away from Thursday Night Football is if you win or not, and the 49ers won… yet again. Their performance from Sunday is the reason they’re ahead of the Saints, and until one of these teams loses before their date in Week 14, recency bias will reign supreme. Jimmy G is now 16-2 in his career as a starter, and 14-2 with the 49ers in that role. If he learned anything in New England, it was how to win… and if he can have a game like he did against the Cardinals consistently… watch out.
3. New Orleans Saints (PR: 2)
Record: 7-1 | Week 9 opponent: none (bye week)
It was a slow start in Drew Brees’ first game back under center, but he ultimately looked as good as always, going 34 for 43, 373 yards, 3 TDs & 1 INT (116.4 passer rating). I was more impressed with the 49ers win on Sunday, but the Saints continued to show they are a Super Bowl contender in the NFC. With a schedule not too challenging in the second half of 2019, the Saints should be on a path to at least 12 wins. Payback for last season’s end is on the table.
4. Green Bay Packers (PR: 4)
Record: 7-1 | Week 9 opponent: Los Angeles Chargers (away)
Although it was against the infamously bad Chiefs defense, Aaron Rodgers had another great game (along with Aaron Jones), putting up high-caliber numbers. The Packers defense was a bit more disappointing, but Andy Reid always gets something out of whatever QB he has under center, and Matt Moore was no exception. Regardless, I think the offense is now capable of doing the heavy-lifting for this team.
5. Seattle Seahawks (PR: 5)
Record: 6-2 | Week 9 opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (home)
The Seahawks seemed to run away with their most recent game in Atlanta, but they allowed the Falcons to stick around (and Matt Schaub throw for a ton of yards), but they pulled away with another win. The story of this team continues to be scoring enough in spite of the porous secondary, and that was very apparent on Sunday. This should be a problem down the line, but not in the regular season with a QB as good as Wilson. And welcome to the team Josh Gordon!
6. Minnesota Vikings (PR: 8)
Record: 6-2 | Week 9 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (away)
The Vikings are coming off of some extended rest ahead of their game with the Chiefs, but don’t forget how strong they were going into that break. After starting 2-2, Minnesota is on a 4-game winning streak, and Kirk Cousins is putting up stellar numbers, going 91 for 116 (78.45%), with 1261 yards, 10 TDs & 1 INT (137.1 passer rating). Those are MVP numbers. He was less than average to start 2019, but now as he and his teammates have a new offensive scheme mastered, and with their always reliable defense, the Vikings should be on everyone’s radar.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (PR: 5)
Record: 5-3 | Week 9 opponent: Minnesota Vikings (home)
Even in defeat, the Chiefs played a competitive game against one of the best teams in the NFL, and with a QB who started his first game in almost 2 years. I forgot about the days of Andy Reid in Philadelphia where backup QBs were able to have success in his scheme (i.e. Jeff Garcia in 2006). This won’t make things easier tomorrow against Minnesota, but should smooth things over for the remainder of Mahomes’ time on the sidelines. They’ll still be a threat this season.
8. Baltimore Ravens (PR: 10)
Record: 5-2 | Week 9 opponent: New England Patriots (home)
I can’t tell you much I’m looking forward to seeing Lamar Jackson and the Ravens host the Patriots; it’s going to be a great game. One could argue the Ravens have had just as lackluster of a schedule as the Patriots to this point, but they too are a very good team. Jackson is on pace for over 3700 passing yards and 1300 rushing yards, a feat never before seen in the NFL. Their offense seems well suited to have a good evening, but their defense could be vulnerable against Tom Brady & co. Ultimately, we’ll get to see how much of a contender in the AFC the Ravens are.
9. Indianapolis Colts (PR: 9)
Record: 5-2 | Week 9 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers (away)
It was a very close game, one that needed a GW FG from the ageless Adam Vinatieri, but the Colts got the job done. Indy is not a flashy team, but they are balanced, and they know how to win. Just like Jimmy G in San Francisco, Jacoby Brissett must have learned this in New England, as evidenced during the GW drive, where he made a remarkable pass to help the Colts get into FG range. I’ve said it before and will say it again, but this might be the second best squad in the AFC this season.
10. Houston Texans (PR: 11)
Record: 5-3 | Week 9 opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars (away – London)
Deshaun Watson continues to have a great season, throwing for 3 TDs on Sunday to help his team move to 5-3. Houston did not take their first lead until there was less than 7 minutes in the 4th quarter, but it continues to show with Watson under center, they will be in any game they play. With the way their defense plays, if this team is able to win their division, it will be because of Watson, and that will make him a top choice for MVP.
11. Buffalo Bills (PR: 7)
Record: 5-2 | Week 9 opponent: Washington (home)
For only the second time this season the Bills lost game, but it might be enough to cause some concern. The Bills defense was exposed on the ground, which seems to be a developing trend, and Josh Allen did not have a good day against a rather bad pass defense. This is an issue, as the offense has put up less yards than the week prior for a month now, and that will only make it harder for them to succeed in the weeks to come. This is still a good group, but Josh Allen & co. need to figure out what they’re doing.
12. Dallas Cowboys (PR: 13)
Record: 4-3 | Week 9 opponent: New York Giants (away)
The Cowboys get a nice long rest as they are coming off of a bye week, and they play on Monday (versus the Giants!), which should allow them to build off of the progress they made before the bye against Philly. The story of the second half for this team is if Ezekiel Elliot and the run game can find another gear similar to years past and support the pass game. If that happens, the Cowboys still have a chance to make some noise this season and in the playoffs.
13. Carolina Panthers (PR: 12)
Record: 4-3 | Week 9 opponent: Tennessee Titans (home)
The Panthers were exposed, plain and simple, and Kyle Allen looked awful. However, this is more of a testament to the 49ers than the Panthers being frauds. Lets remember how bad that team has made QBs look all season (looking at you Jared Goff). It was ugly, but this is still a good team, and they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow against the Titans. I don’t expect them to suddenly spiral.
14. Los Angeles Rams (PR: 14)
Record: 5-3 | Week 9 opponent: none (bye week)
The Rams did their job against the Bengals and won, moving to 5-3 on the season. Cooper Kupp is quickly becoming one of my favorite players; every time you look up he’s making a clutch play to help this team, and this season that’s meant a LOT of heavy lifting. I’m still not impressed with this group as a whole, but after they come out of their bye week, they’ll still be in position to compete for a Wild Card spot.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (PR: 16)
Record: 4-4 | Week 9 opponent: Chicago Bears (home)
Philly cleaned up their act after an awful game against the Cowboys and beat a strong Bills team. It looks like they have something with their run game, but they’ll have to be more consistent as a team in the second half if they want to make the playoffs, and this means better play from not only their secondary, but Carson Wentz. He needs to prove he’s the QB he was in 2017 the remainder of this season, and moving forward. There’s too much talent here for them to be 4-4.
16. Detroit Lions (PR: 17)
Record: 3-3-1 | Week 9 opponent: Oakland Raiders (away)
Detroit pulled of a win after some tough losses to move back to .500, which is more or less what this team is as a whole. With Kerryon Johnson out for the remainder of the season, the load will fall on Matthew Stafford to bring this group to the playoffs. Their defense will let up a ton of yards, but like Matt Patricia’s days in New England, if they can produce turnovers, it will mask those numbers.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (PR: 19)
Record: 4-4 | Week 9 opponent: Houston Texans (home – London)
Minshew Mania won yet again to move this team to 4-4, which probably seemed impossible after Nick Foles went down to injury in Week 1, so it’s good to keep that in perspective. The WSU product has 13 TDs & 2 INTs on the season, which for a rookie picked as late as he was, is remarkable. I don’t know if they’ll be able to win the AFC South, but they’ll be fun to watch with him under center… and don’t lie, you thought about dressing up as him for Halloween.
18. Oakland Raiders (PR: 18)
Record: 3-4 | Week 9 opponent: Detroit Lions (home)
Even in defeat, the Raiders continue to impress me this season. Derek Carr had a solid performance, and this group has more fight than they did a year ago under Gruden; he might be onto something long term. They still have a chance to win the division, but these next few games against the Lions, Chargers, and Bengals are must-wins; these are also home games, the Raiders first true home games since Week 2 (yes, it’ll have been 49 days since a true home game tomorrow). Give Oakland a proper goodbye.
19. Chicago Bears (PR: 15)
Record: 3-4 | Week 9 opponent: Philadelphia Eagles (away)
Another depressing loss to move what should be a playoff contender down into purgatory. They finally seem to find a kicker, and he Parkey’s them when they need him most. Mitch continues to miss easy throws. They were getting boo’d even when they were winning at halftime. This is sad, they should’ve made a move for a QB, and ought to this offseason.
20. Tennessee Titans (PR: 23)
Record: 4-4 | Week 9 opponent: Carolina Panthers (away)
Who knew in 2019 that Ryan Tannehill would be playing like one of the better QBs in the NFL… <insert Paul Rudd saying “not me”>. The Titans next few games won’t be as easy as Tampa Bay, but the fact they won their last 2 games under Tannehill saved their season and at least put them in the race for a playoff spot, something that was not happening under Marcus Mariota.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (PR: 21)
Record: 3-4 | Week 9 opponent: Indianapolis Colts (home)
The Steelers Monday Night game did not start pretty, and was borderline worrisome, but they were able to rally and beat the winless Dolphins to move to 3-4 on the season. With an injury to James Conner, the Steelers might need to call Jerome Bettis to play RB tomorrow against the Colts.
22. Cleveland Browns (PR: 20)
Record: 2-5 | Week 9 opponent: Denver Broncos (away)
I can’t keep giving this team passes, but they were at least able to stay with the Patriots through 3 quarters. However, it was never more apparent that Freddie Kitchens is an inept coach (I still literally cannot comprehend him going for it on 4th & 16 in the 4th quarter), and that they are sloppy and undisciplined in their play. Now their schedule gets easier, but if they don’t start winning right away, I’m not sure Kitchens makes it through the season.
23. Arizona Cardinals (PR: 22)
Record: 3-5-1 | Week 9 opponent: San Francisco 49ers (home); lost
The Cardinals winning streak came to an end as they suddenly now have a 2-game losing streak after just 5 days. That’s what happens when you face the two best teams in the NFC in short order, but regardless, they stayed close to the Saints for the most part, and held their own with the 49ers. Kyler Murray continues to impress me, and he continues to be the reason to watch this squad.
24. Los Angeles Chargers (PR: 26)
Record: 3-5 | Week 9 opponent: Green Bay Packers (home)
Even after beating the Bears the Chargers fired their offensive coordinator. Philip Rivers took the blame for that happening, but for a veteran QB as good as him, his team should not be performing as bad as they have been this season. Injuries have played a role for sure, but there have been plenty of close losses and overall bad showings for a team that only lost 4 games a year ago. Probably too late to salvage their season.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (PR: 24)
Record: 2-5 | Week 9 opponent: Seattle Seahawks (away)
Jameis, Jameis, Jameis. The Bucs QB now leads the league in INTs with 12, and has flat out regressed his past 2 games. After the Titans took a 27-23 lead, the Bucs got the ball back 3 times, and couldn’t do a thing either time. Whatever progress was being made to start 2019 is quickly going out the window, and it won’t get any easier versus Seattle tomorrow.
26. Denver Broncos (PR: 25)
Record: 2-6 | Week 9 opponent: Cleveland Browns (home)
They almost pulled off a victory, but couldn’t finish off the Colts, and now Joe Flacco is out for the season. I didn’t know who Brandon Allen was until yesterday afternoon. Drew Lock could play this season, but it depends on who the team wants to activate off of IR. Nothing left to see here, if you see them playing, change the channel. Onto 2020.
27. New York Giants (PR: 27)
Record: 2-6 | Week 9 opponent: Dallas Cowboys (home)
The Giants lost yet again on Sunday to the Lions but Daniel Jones had a really good day passing for over 300 yards & 4 TDs. He’ll play in his first Monday Night game in two days against Dallas, so that should be fun!…
28. New York Jets (PR: 28)
Record: 1-6 | Week 9 opponent: Miami Dolphins (away)
I guess the ghosts came to Jacksonville last week. Being sacked 8 times probably isn’t good for your spleen either. Thank goodness they still have Jamal Adams… onto 2020.
29. Atlanta Falcons (PR: 29)
Record: 1-7 | Week 9 opponent: none (bye week)
I don’t enjoy bringing up people’s jobs so liberally (sorry to you too Freddie Kitchens), but how did Dan Quinn keep his? I know Arthur Blank likes the guy, but maybe he could’ve traded him to the Seahawks for a draft pick. Just a thought. Onto 2020.
30. Washington (PR: 30)
Record: 1-7 | Week 9 opponent: Buffalo Bills (away)
I don’t even want to talk about Washington. This Trent Williams situation is a disgrace, and I’m just glad he’s now healthy. Dan Snyder should be forced to sell this team. At least D.C. has the Nationals. Onto 2020.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (PR: 31)
Record: 0-8 | Week 9 opponent: none (bye week)
Andy Dalton was benched on his birthday… I don’t blame Cincy for moving on to Ryan Finley, but could they have at least made the decision Monday? A real birthday present would’ve been trading him to his favorite fans: the people of Buffalo. Onto 2020.
32. Miami Dolphins (PR: 32)
Record: 0-8 | Week 9 opponent: New York Jets (home)
Enjoy the sun, Aqib. Hopefully Flores doesn’t actually make you play. 9 more chances to win. Onto 2020.
Photo above via Fox Sports