News and Notes

The JMRA NFL Midseason Report Card

I don’t like power rankings. They are useless. The NFL comes down to matchups and how teams exploit them.

For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost by four points to the Steelers two weeks ago.

Should one deduce that the Steelers and Jaguars are better than the Patriots, who lost to Pittsburgh by 8? No.

One of my current vocations involves teaching at a college level. Thus, we’re going to break down the NFL’s first half by grade point average process.

0.0 GPA – FLUNKING OUT OF SCHOOL

Indianapolis Colts – Years of bad drafting and letting Peyton Manning serve as a deodorant to the team’s problems finally caught up with the Colts. No team has allowed more than Indy’s 252 points. Oh yeah, Curtis Painter isn’t very good.  They need Andrew Luck but don’t tell this to the Indy front office.

Miami Dolphins – Their calling card is Brandon Marshall’s craziness. That isn’t the most desirable of qualities. Plus, Tony Sparano is searching for a new home, literally.

1.0 – 1.5 GPA – IN GRAVE OF DANGER OF FAILING

St. Louis Rams – Their schedule was jam-packed with tough competitors but still no excuse for the Rams having a league-low four touchdown passes to their credit.

Arizona Cardinals – How is that Kevin Kolb deal working out? Only Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked more times than Kolb’s 24.

Denver Broncos – For some reason, the Broncos stopped listening to themselves and started listening to the fan base. Masses are programmed to yell for the backup quarterback whenever the starting quarterback fails to live up to expectations – regardless of how incompetent he may be.

1.5 – 2.0 GPA – DOING JUST ENOUGH TO GET BY BUT TYPICALLY ASLEEP IN CLASS

Cleveland Browns – Peyton Hillis wants more money. However, he forgot to do two essential things to effectively force Cleveland’s hand. First, he needs to act like a professional. Secondly, he needs to actually produce. The pimp hand of the Madden Curse remains strong.

Jacksonville Jaguars – If you’re looking for the winner of the “worst offense in football” award, here is the winner. Jacksonville ranks dead last in points and yardage. They are playing sound defense though and ranked seventh in the NFL. Somehow, Jack Del Rio continues to survive.

Minnesota Vikings – Their only saving graces are Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen. A fan of mullets, Allen leads the NFL with 12.5 sacks. As for Mr. McNabb, he was doomed from the start. Rumor of his laziness persist in Minnesota and it’s not a coincidence he keeps landing on the bench.

Seattle Seahawks – Thanks to attrition, the 2-5 Seahawks are in second place in the NFC West. As long as Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst are taking snaps, it appears Seattle doesn’t have a plan at quarterback.

Tennessee Titans – Yes, they are 4-3 but three victories came against Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis. Meanwhile, the Titans shelled out a six-year, $56 million contract to Chris Johnson. Through seven games, he is averaging 2.8 yards per carry and his longest run of the season is 25 yards. His one touchdown is the cherry on top of a shaky contract. Woops.

Washington Redskins – Rex Grossman. John Beck.

2.0 – 2.5 GPA – PUT DOWN THE KEYSTONE LIGHT, YOU HAVE AN EXAM TOMORROW.

Carolina Panthers – The Panthers are so drunk on Cam Newton’s start to the season. Carolina signed DeAngelo Williams to a five-year, $43 million deal in July. He is splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart and ranks behind DeMarco Murray, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Michael Vick in rushing yardage. By the way, the resurrection of Steve Smith has been highly enjoyable. He leads the NFL in receiving with 918 yards.

Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo has some soul searching to do. Sure, he is injured but appears to rather listless. Of course, his fourth quarter meltdowns against the Jets and Lions have greatly impacted two of their losses and may have played in an indirect role in the team’s loss to the New England Patriots. Also, this team still looks like Wade Phillips is at the helm.

Oakland Raiders – I was on the Raider bandwagon until the Carson Palmer trade. I’m not a fan of bringing losing players into losing programs in hopes of it turning into a playoff contender. This was a big gamble.

San Diego Chargers – You know that person who just seems to have a dark cloud constantly hanging over their head? That person in the NFL is Norv Turner. He possesses rotten luck. Philip Rivers has been way off this season. San Diego’s once potent offense ranks 17th.

2.5 – 3.0 GPA – YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE HOW INCREDIBLY BUSY I AM. WORK AND SCHOOL…IT’S ALL SO OVERWHELMING.

Chicago Bears – Matt Forte has been spectacular for Chicago this season. He leads the Bears in rushing and receiving and has an NFL-best 1,091 yards from scrimmage. His play is covering up for a wildly mediocre group of receivers and a less than stellar defense.

Kansas City Chiefs – After losing its first two games by the combined score of 89-10 and starting 0-3, the Chiefs have bounced back to win four games in a row. Don’t pop the champagne for the Chiefs yet though. Their upcoming schedule features games against the Patriots, Steelers, Jets, and Packers. The good news is that Todd Haley’s beard is electrifying.

New York Jets – Rex Ryan kindly asked if someone else besides the Jets could beat the Patriots during the offseason. While he is getting a little help in that regard, the Jets have not jumped to the front of the AFC East. They are 29th in offense and Mark Sanchez still doesn’t appear to be the guy to push them over the top. However, they still have a strong pass defense and a schedule that could land them 10 wins.


Philadelphia Eagles – Ah yes. The biggest underachievers of the 2011 season to date! Their 1-4 start featured some of the worst in-game decision making of the Andy Reid era but the Eagles still lurk in the shadows of the NFC East. The emergence of LeSean McCoy could make the Eagles one of the biggest threats to Green Bay in the NFC. They still have some digging to do. Hope is abound in Philly though. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo now has seven games under his belt as a playcaller, which is only seven more than the readers of this piece.

3.0 – 3.25 GPA – WE’RE DOING WELL, BUT WE WILL NOT GO THE EXTRA MILE BECAUSE WE’RE HAPPY WITH BEING GOOD.

Atlanta Falcons – I think of vanilla ice cream when I see the Falcons. The appearance of vanilla is very bland but it’s still pretty good and does the job. Atlanta needs to become chocolate chip or butter pecan ice cream. That is code for Matt Ryan to step up his mediocre level of play. Plus, Atlanta’s 19th ranked defense is helping either.

Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco is determined to prevent Baltimore from becoming a championship team. He has posted a quarterback rating of sub 80 in five of his seven starts this season.

Houston Texans –  A cream puff schedule has allowed the Texans to grab a 5-3 record while beating just one team with a winning record. Despite their proclivity to come up craps in the fourth quarter, a division without Peyton Manning should give Houston just enough push to win the AFC South.

New Orleans Saints – The only way New Orleans will return to championship contention is if Drew Brees lowers his number of turnovers (10 interceptions) and the defense actually makes plays (rank 29th in turnovers forced).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Raheem Morris coined a phrase in Tampa when describing his team. He called them “youngry” (a mix of young and hungry). I call the 4-3 Bucs schizophrenic.

3.25 – 3.50 GPA – WE’RE OVERACHIEVING, OBVIOUSLY. 

Buffalo Bills – Fred Jackson is having a career year despite being 30 years old, which is mostly a death sentence for running backs; Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably going to be a Pro Bowl quarterback once Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger find a way to not play in it; and the Bills defeated New England for the first time since 2003. Buffalo is a live playoff contender but must find a way to navigate a tricky second-half schedule.

Cincinnati Bengals – Somehow, the Bengals are right in the thick of the playoff picture with a rookie quarterback and rookie wide receiver as their primary offensive players. Mike Zimmer’s defense has been a big key. Only San Francisco and Baltimore have allowed fewer than Cincinnati’s 123 points.

Detroit Lions – This is what happens when your quarterback stays healthy. Of course, having Calvin Johnson and a stout pass rush (24 sacks) helps. Their 6-2 record is a bigger surprise when considering their highly touted defense is 30th against the run.

New York Giants – New York’s second-half schedule is straight out of the Jason Avant School of Scheduling. The Giants play at New England, at San Francisco, home versus Philadelphia, and at New Orleans. Luckily, they return home…to play Green Bay. If the Giants, reach the playoffs, it might be a minor miracle.

San Francisco 49ers – Remember when west coast teams couldn’t travel out of their time zone? The 49ers are 3-0 in the eastern time zone. Also, their 6-1 record makes them the front-runner for the NFC’s number two seed. Jim Harbaugh is doing a sensational job of hiding Alex Smith.

3.50 – 3.99 GPA – WE GET MAD WHEN WE GET B’S.

New England Patriots – The Patriots are 5-2 despite having one of the worst pass defenses of the Super Bowl era. Only Mark Sanchez failed to throw for at least 300 yards on New England’s terrifyingly ordinary pass defense. Yet, the Patriots are able to survive because of Tom Brady and Wes Welker. New England is a playoff team but that pass defense will not hold up against the big boys.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger is covering up the decline of Rashard Mendenhall and Pittsburgh’s AARP, injury-riddled defense. The Steelers may end up wearing the AFC’s top seeded dunce cap. Since 1999, only three teams have reached the Super Bowl as the AFC’s top seed (’03 Patriots, ’07 Patriots, ’09 Colts).

4.00 GPA – WE PARTY, GET DATES, AND STILL KILL IT IN SCHOOL.

Green Bay Packers – Alas, it’s time to meet the class valedictorian. Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the world and a mortal lock for league MVP barring a second-half implosion. Through seven games, he has a quarterback rating of at least 111.0 in every game, which is astonishing. He has the league’s deepest receiving corps and a defense that does enough to get by. From top to bottom, the defending world champions are still the team to beat.

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