The second half has begun.
We have now entered the second half of the NFL season with the arrival of Week 9, and it’s safe to say teams and their fans are starting to realize their team is either a Super Bowl contender or a pretender. Teams that have realized they have a legitimate shot at winning it all made trades at the NFL’s trade deadline that made the NBA’s trade deadline look boring by comparison. The pretenders stood pat at the trade deadline, while even some of the worst teams in the NFL made moves to at least get their off-seasons started early. Will these moves pay off this season or in the future, or will the bust and prevent a team from winning the Super Bowl or slow down rebuilding efforts?
Last Week: 10-3
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (Thursday Night Football)
The Bills acquired Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin at the trade deadline, a move shows the Bills believe they are contenders and one that will help their 30th ranked passing offense in the NFL. The Jets traded for 49ers CB Rashard Robinson, otherwise known as the human embodiment of pass interference. Maybe they’ll finally start tanking like we thought they would.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Neither of these teams made notable moves at the trade deadline, and both teams are heading in directions opposite their expectations coming into the season. The Saints have experienced a revival after an 0-2 start, and the Buccaneers haven’t taken the next step towards contention like many believed they would.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
In a move that surprised many, the Panthers traded away their number one WR, Kelvin Benjamin, to the Bills. Panthers QB Cam Newton won an MVP award without him in 2015 when Benjamin was out for the season, so Newton is used to life without Benjamin. The Falcons were a punt return touchdown away from losing to the Jets, and QB Matt Ryan has yet to regain his MVP form from last season.
Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
Maybe it’s time to admit the Rams are for real, as head coach Sean McVay has turned QB Jared Goff from an all-time bust into a capable starting QB. The Giants seem to enjoy suspending their once vaunted secondary, as CB Janoris Jenkins has been suspended indefinitely for failing to report to the team after their bye week. Coach Ben McAdoo may have lost the locker room in a season that somehow had Super Bowl expectations.
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
Just when you think the Ravens are yesterday’s news, they find a way to creep back into the playiff picture. In their dominant 40-0 win over the Dolphins, QB Joe Flacco experienced one of the most vicious hits you ever see, yet somehow he is starting this week. The Titans remain in the playoff picture as well, yet for a team that was expected to win the lowly AFC South, it was a curious decision as to why they stood pat at the trade deadline and were thinking about trading RB DeMarco Murray to the Cowboys.
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bengals nearly traded away back-up QB A. McCarron to the Browns at the trade deadline. Luckily that trade fell through due to the Browns failing to notify the league office before the trade deadline, thus further showcasing the Browns’ utter incompetence. McCarron could be inserted into this game should the Jaguars live up to their Sacksonville name and terrorize starting QB Andy Dalton. And just as a reminder, the Jaguars are winning with Blake Bortles as their starting QB. It helps when you have a stud rookie RB in Leonard Fournette lining up behind him.
Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles added to their already potent rushing attack (*4th in the NFL with 129.3 yards per game*) by trading for Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi at the trade deadline. The Broncos have benched QB Trevor Siemian for QB Brock Osweiler, who couldn’t even make the Browns 53 man roster.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
The Texans traded away LT Duane Brown after he denounced Texans’ owner Bob McNair’s “inmates running the prison” comments. That won’t matter much, as Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson is the clear favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year after throwing 19 TDs through his first 7 games, surpassing the mark set by Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner back in 1999. The Colts have a stud QB as well in Andrew Luck, but he’s not on the field, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon.
Texans Rookie QB Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice, surely ending the Texans’ playoff hopes. They’ll still get the win against a bad Colts team, who placed QB Andrew Luck on IR, but this is a devastating blow to a team primed for a run at the playoffs.
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks
Redskins QB Kirk Cousins got burned at the trade deadline, as it does not appear like he’ll be heading to the 49ers after they acquired Patriots back-up QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The Seahawks meanwhile look like Super Bowl contenders, with a top 10 ranking offense led by QB Russell Wilson and a defense that still has the legion of boom.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
The Cardinals are going nowhere, especially with back-up QB Drew Stanton having to start for an injured Carson Palmer. The 49ers indicated they are clearly building towards the future by trading a second round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for Patriots back-up QB Jimmy Garoppolo. He may not be playing this week, but it’s the type of move that at least gives 49ers fans hope for the future.
Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys
The ongoing suspension saga featuring Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has seemingly no end in sight. Had he just sat out the first six games of the season, he’d be back by now and the Cowboys would’ve gone 4-3 without him, i.e. their record right now with him through seven games. Now they’ll be without him against a Chiefs team that wants to prove they are the team to beat in the AFC.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott will play Sunday against the Chiefs after being granted a request for an administrative stay by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This on-going saga has no end in sight, and while Elliott will definitely be a help for the Cowboys Sunday, he won’t be enough for the Cowboys to beat the Chiefs.
Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins (Sunday Night Football)
The hope that the Raiders finally turned their season around last about 9 days, as they were physically dominated by the Bills last week. They stood pat at the trade deadline despite the fact that they need secondary help. The Miami Dolphins seem to be in disarray after trading away their best offensive player in RB Jay Ajayi, and head coach Adam Gase seems to be pointing fingers at everyone but himself for the Dolphins inept offense.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (Monday Night Football)
The Lions have faltered after looking like one of the best teams in the NFL early on in the season, and made no moves at the trade deadline to help improve their roster. The Packers are a one man roster: QB Aaron Rodgers. They’ll be lucky to make it to 6 wins this season without him.