A look at the NFL through nine weeks

So far in the National Football League this season, there has been a lot to digest this year from the rise of the “Brotherly Shove” to the Detroit Lions being a good football team. There has already been a lot of action this year and we’re just at the halfway point, so here is where the NFL sits through nine weeks using the current playoff picture.

American Football Conference (AFC)

#1 Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

The defending champions have probably graced your television recently as they are in every commercial and the fact that their star tight end Travis Kelce is dating one of the most famous singers ever, Taylor Swift. The Chiefs have been carrying a lot of baggage this season but it hasn’t stopped them as they carry a 7-2 record, they haven’t been as prolific on offense in previous years as they don’t have a true 2nd option behind Travis Kelce but they have been carried by a defense that is ranked fourth in the NFL. 

#2 Baltimore Ravens (7-2)

The Ravens came into this season under the radar but they are now on everyone’s radar with their lockdown defense, a stellar offense led by Lamar Jackson, and a great cast of talented weapons in rookie receiver Zay Flowers, elite tight end Mark Andrews, running back Gus Edwards, and veteran receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Ravens are a serious threat to the Chiefs for the #1 seed by season’s end.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2)

The Jaguars have risen from perennial AFC doormat to playoff contender as they got off to a fast 5-1 start and are in the easiest division to win in football. Jacksonville behind superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the “Sacksonville” defense has become a threat to compete for a championship this year and beyond. Time will tell if they are a serious threat as next Sunday the Jaguars host the San Francisco 49ers.

#4 Miami Dolphins (6-3)

The Miami Dolphins are fun, fast, electrifying, and confusing. Miami is 6-0 against teams with losing records and have been dominant in those games including a 70-20 rout of the Denver Broncos. The confusing part about them is their 0-3 record versus teams with winning records. The three losses are against the Bills, Eagles, and Chiefs, who are three of the NFL’s better teams but in those games, Miami has been bullied by teams who are more physical than them. For Miami to make a deep playoff run they need to marry the concepts of finesse and physical together.

#5 Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

If you thought the Dolphins were confusing the Pittsburgh Steelers are the most confusing through nine weeks as they have one of the worst offenses in the league. The Steelers rank 29th in total offense and have been outgained in nearly every game but somehow are in the mix for a playoff spot. They have been outgained by nearly 800 yards and 30 points this year but are 5-3 and in the middle of a crowded AFC. What keeps them in games is their defense led by TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith as they are ranked 13th in the NFL in scoring defense which is just enough to keep them in games.

#6 Cleveland Browns (5-3)

The Browns are in the Pittsburgh boat as they have been borderline pathetic on offense but it’s not exactly their fault as injuries have made a good offense look bad. They lost superstar running back Nick Chubb to a horrific knee injury and quarterback Deshaun Watson has been in and out of the lineup with concussion and shoulder problems. What is also keeping Cleveland in games is their defense as they are ranked 3rd in defense behind monster defensive end Myles Garrett and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz who holds opponents just under 18 points a game.

#7 Cincinatti Bengals (5-3)

The Bengals started the season horribly as they started 1-3 as Joe Burrow was recovering from a training camp calf injury but since then the Bengals have been nearly unstoppable. The Bengal offense has been dominant as they dominated the Bills defense and Joe Burrow may have had his best performance of the season as he passed for 348 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals are right in the mix in the AFC and will only get better down the stretch.

Other storylines

The New York Jets are hanging on without Aaron Rodgers as they are 4-4 and Rodgers has rumored that he may return before the end of the season.

The Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl window may have shut as they sit at 5-4 and in 3rd place in the AFC East.

The Houston Texans are the most surprising team in the NFL as they sit at 4-4 with rookie quarterback CJ Stroud and first-year coach DeMeco Ryans.

Las Vegas has fired head coach Josh McDaniels and replaced him with linebacker coach Antonio Pierce.

National Football Conference (NFC)

#1 Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)

The Eagles haven’t looked the the Super Bowl team they were a year ago but at the same time, they hold the best record in the league and just beat their hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys in a heavyweight matchup. The Eagles however lost tight end Dallas Goedert to an injury that will keep him out for at least the next four games. Pending anything unforeseen the road to Las Vegas in the NFC goes through Philly.

#2 Detroit Lions (6-2)

Yes, that’s right the Lions are the two seed in the NFC, and, to be honest, they deserve it as they beat the defending champion Chiefs on opening night and currently sit on top in the NFC North. The problem the Lions must face is the Vikings are nipping at their heels and they haven’t been as good against other good teams in the league as they lost to Seattle in overtime and got pounded in Baltimore 35-6. The only question for the Lions is how far is this magic carpet ride going to take them.

#3 San Francisco 49ers (5-3)

The 49ers were probably the best team in the NFL through five weeks but then the Niners crashed back to earth, more specifically Brock Purdy fell to earth. The 49ers have lost three in a row starting with a close loss in Cleveland, and then the Vikings without Justin Jefferson torched the Niner’s secondary. Finally, the Bengals went to Santa Clara and throttled the 49ers 31-17. San Fran has some sole searching to do on both sides of the ball and it starts the offense. The defense will recover but the offense under Brock Purdy has been turning the ball over like crazy, eight turnovers in three games is not how you win games.

#4 New Orleans Saints (5-4)

The Saints are in their first year of the Derek Carr experiment and for now, it’s working as they lead the NFC South behind a really good defense and their offense is doing enough to win games. They still lean on Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, and Chis Olave to get them to the promised land but for them to hold on Derek Carr has to stay on the field. The health of their QB is going to be the thing to look at moving forward in New Orleans.

#5 Seattle Seahawks (5-3)

The Seattle Seahawks are in year two of the Geno Smith resurrection project and it has been so far so good as they sit at 5-3 but they were given a dose of reality as they were thumped by Baltimore and were unable to get Kenneth Walker going on the ground. The Seahawks are still in good shape and control their own destiny in the NFC.

#6 Dallas Cowboys (5-3)

Every year the Cowboys are talked about and picked to win a Super Bowl but through nine weeks they look like every other team in the Dak Prescott era, good but not good enough. The Cowboys have been either really good or really bad this year as they are 1st in margin of victory but also dead last in margin of defeat as they seem to either win by 20 or lose by 20. They have gotten outclassed by the 49ers and lost headscratchers to the Eagles and the Cardinals. The Cowboys are a good team but it may end the same way again, a playoff loss.

#7 Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

The Minnesota Vikings got off to a horrid 1-4 start to the season where they led the league in turnovers and had no rhythm on either side of the ball going into week 6. They then lost the best receiver on the planet in Justin Jefferson, then something funny happened. The Vikings have won four straight games behind role players and stout defensive performances. The wins came at a cost as quarterback Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles at Lambeau Field meaning the Vikings would have to find a new QB, they did in Josh Dobbs. The former Cardinal took the field in Atlanta without knowing more than a few plays but somehow led the Vikings to a 31-28 over the Falcons. Minnesota doesn’t face a team with a winning record until week 15 in Cincinnati so the Vikings may have the inside track for the last playoff spot in the NFC.

Other Storylines

Five team race for the 7 seed in the NFC as Minnesota, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Washington are all at or within a game of the last playoff spot.

Packers’ worst start to a season since 2005 at 3-5.

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