The 2019-2020 NFL season has hit its midpoint, and some teams look like serious Super Bowl contenders while others — not so much.
The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers are the only teams that remain undefeated while the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals are yet to record their first win. Ageless wonder Tom Brady has remained as reliable as ever, with the fifth most passing yards in the league, while New York Giant Daniel Jones and Jacksonville Jaguar Gardner Minshew have emerged as the potential next generation of quarterbacks. While it was easy to predict that the Patriots would still reign supreme, here are the teams that have exceeded our expectations and those that have disappointed through the first half of the season.
Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
After star quarterback Andrew Luck shockingly retired before the start of the regular season, the Indianapolis Colts went from Super Bowl contender to optimistic playoff contender. However, the Colts offense recovered from this loss and shifted from a passing attack to an improved running game led by running back Marlon Mack, who is eighth in the league in rushing yards. In addition, the defense has significantly improved, with the Colts allowing the 14th fewest points per game. This Colts team has been on a tear, winning three straight games, including a victory over the then-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs — and with a half-game divisional lead over the Houston Texans, the Colts have the inside track to the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills (5-2)
After a 6-10 record and a third-place finish in the AFC East last season, the Buffalo Bills were not expected to make a playoff push under second-year quarterback Josh Allen. Although Allen has the fourth-worst QBR in the league (minimum five games) and the Bills’ defense has been outstanding, allowing the third-fewest yards per game and tying for the fewest points per game. Although it is unlikely that the Bills can catch up to the New England Patriots and win the division, the Bills are slated to reach the playoffs for the second time in three years.
San Francisco 49ers (7-0)
As one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the league, the San Francisco 49ers have been dominant on both sides of the ball, averaging the third-most points per game and allowing the second-fewest points per game. The running game, led by the duo of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, averages the second-most yards per game and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has nine passing touchdowns on the season. With a solid offense and a dominant defense, the 49ers have a real chance to make an impact in the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns (2-5)
After acquiring star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to pair with Jarvis Landry, the Browns, led by standout second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, were expected to compete for the Super Bowl. However, with a 2-5 record, the Browns have been underwhelming on both sides of the ball, allowing 25.9 points per game and scoring a meager 19.0 points per game. Baker Mayfield has not met the hype following his rookie season, throwing only six touchdowns while tying with Jameis Winston for a league-high 12 interceptions. With a third-place standing in the division, the Browns are unlikely to break their playoff drought this season.
Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
While last year’s Super Bowl run ultimately fell short, the Los Angeles Rams were expected to build upon their incredible offensive season and run away with the division championship. However, the Rams are currently in third place in the NFC West and the offense has taken a step back. Quarterback Jared Goff has thrown seven interceptions and the Rams’ running game has disappointed, averaging a measly 97.3 yards per game. But it may be too early to write off the Rams — though they play in the league’s toughest division with the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, they currently sit just one game outside the playoff picture.
Chicago Bears (3-4)
Before the season started, the Chicago Bears were a trendy pick for the Super Bowl. Based on their dominant defense, solid running game revolving around Tarik Cohen and the expected improvement of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Bears were expected to build off their playoff run. Although the defense has allowed the seventh-fewest yards per game, the offense has been struggling, averaging the fourth-fewest. Trubisky has not made the expected improvements, throwing only five touchdowns on the season. The defense has the ability to carry the team into the playoffs, but the offense must become a threat to change their last-place position in the division.
Email Arvind Sriram at [email protected]