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NFL Deep Dive – Mid-Season Special / AFC

ByShaun Blundell

Nov 5, 2020

As we reach the half-way point in the NFL season, let’s have a look at the state of play of all 32 franchises. Who is getting top marks and who has the dreaded “Must try harder” remarks? We start today in the AFC and will flip our attention to the NFC later in the week. It’s time for our deepest dive of the season…


AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Half-Term Report

The Ravens sit with an impressive 5-2 record but alarm bells will be ringing with regards to those two defeats. The wins have come in games that the Ravens would expect to win comfortably. The defeats, however, have come against the sides the Ravens would hope to be competing with in the playoffs. An embarrassing loss to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Week 3 and a divisional loss to the Steelers in Week 8 give us a truer reflection of where Baltimore are. The play of Lamar Jackson is not generating the headlines of last season. The running back committee can’t seemingly find a consistent leader week to week. There are rumblings of discontent in the wide receiver room and main receiving threat Mark Andrews only has 23 catches through seven games.

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Lamar JacksonThe reigning league MVP is nowhere even near that conversation this season. On current projections, he is likely to throw for around two-thirds of his touchdown total of 36 a year ago, while tossing over 50% more interceptions. There has also been a decline in the rushing statistics in an effort to pass the ball from the pocket more regularly. He is averaging 22 yards per game less than a year ago. It has been a season of decline from the man considered to be the new face of the NFL just 12 months ago.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Ravens will almost certainly be making the post season with games against the Cowboys, Giants and Jaguars still remaining on the schedule. Bigger tests lie ahead though with the Colts, Titans and a tasty thanksgiving rematch with the Steelers on the horizon. Losing left tackle Ronnie Stanley for the season obviously hurts them as he has been a superstar for a long time protecting the blindside. The play of Lamar will very much be under the microscope as the Ravens look to establish themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders down the stretch. The defence, however, is playing well enough to keep up its end of the bargain. A deep post-season run would not be a surprise.


Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1)

Half-Term Report

The Bengals record may read 2-5-1 but they have played better than that suggests. Minus one lop-sided defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, the other Bengals’ defeats have been by either three-, four- or five- point margins. The statement win came last weekend against the Titans who had been heavy favourites heading in. The other win came against the Jags in Week 4. Early draft picks Tee Higgins and Logan Wilson have developed quickly into major contributors on both sides of the ball. Vonn Bell has been a good addition in the defensive backfield and despite some injuries to the starting unit, the offensive line has performed admirably of late.

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Joe Burrow The number 1 overall pick has been sensational to start off his rookie campaign. He looks every part the franchise quarterback that the Bengals hoped for when they submitted the draft card back in the spring. He is on pace to break the rookie passing record set by Andrew Luck in 2012. He has already accomplished something no rookie ever has, with a game consisting of 400 passing yards, three touchdown passes and a rushing TD. In a nutshell, he is good. After years of mediocrity with Andy Dalton under centre, there is real reason for optimism in the jungle

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The second half of the campaign will all be about the continuing development of the young players on the Cincy roster. They have a very good young nucleus of offensive skill players in Burrow, Mixon, Higgins and Boyd to build around. Improvements will be needed on the opposite side of the ball for the Bengals to take that next step but that will be for the off-season. Very winnable games against three NFC East opponents (the Giants, Cowboys and Washington) remain on the schedule and it is conceivable to see them finish with six to eight wins, based on a repeat of the performance levels we have seen so far. They are yet to face the Steelers and from a neutral perspective, it whets the appetite to see how Joe Burrow performs against the number 1 ranked defence.

Bengals' offense embarrassed in blowout loss to the Ravens
Evan Habeeb – USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns (5-3)

Half-Term Report

After years in the doldrums, the Browns will be thrilled to be sitting at 5-3 at the halfway stage. A couple of their defeats have been significant ones, losing to divisional foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It would be unrealistic to expect the Browns to be competing with those teams, however. In games that they are more reasonably matched, the Browns have performed well. A double over the Bengals, and wins against the Cowboys, Washington and Indianapolis, show signs of progress in the first year under the direction of Kevin Stefanski. They have performed much better on the offensive side of the ball than they have defensively despite losing superstar Nick Chubb to short-term IR back in Week 4.

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Myles Garrett As poor as the Browns may have been overall, on the defensive side of the ball, they do have one absolute superstar in Myles Garrett. Back from the suspension that curtailed his 2019 campaign, he has been on a personal tear towards Defensive Player of the Year reckoning. He already has nine sacks on the season, registering at least one in six straight games. Even more impressive has been his ability to generate turnovers via pressure. He has registered seven such instances, which already beats the league-leading mark of six from a season ago. An MRI after the Week 8 game came back negative so the Browns should get a healthy Garrett back after the bye week to continue his dominance on the line.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Browns have the fourth-easiest schedule remaining based on win records so expectations should be for a Wild Card berth. With the Jags, Giants and Jets still to come, anything less than a .500 record from here would be a disaster. Baker Mayfield continues to have his doubters and will be looking to elevate his play over the next two months to hopefully give a definitive answer to any questions surrounding his future. Nick Chubb should be back to reinvigorate the running game, which will be featured more heavily with the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. for the remainder of the season.


Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0)

Half-Term Report

The only undefeated team remaining at the halfway stage of the campaign are the Steelers. The winning formula has been powered by a dominant defence that has registered 30 sacks through just seven games. The edge tandem of Bud Dupree and TJ Watt have been fantastic in conjunction with the rest of the front seven defensively. On offence, Big Ben is back and has done just about enough to get things done. On a week-to-week basis, the primary threat has switched between Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Conner, showing the multiple dimensions of the Steelers’ offence. The worrying thing for the rest of the NFL is that there is clearly room for improvement on that offensive side of the ball.

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TJ Watt While his brother may well be past his best, TJ Watt is having another stellar campaign. Through seven games, he has registered 6.5 sacks but even more impressively have been the stats that sometimes people overlook. He already has 12 tackles for loss compared to 14 in the entire 2019 season. He is on pace to register 48 quarterback hits, which would be a 25% increase on what was an already impressive figure of 36 a year ago. He is the most dominant outside linebacker in the league and a real difference maker on a stacked defensive unit.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

It is premature to talk about perfection but with the next three games against the Cowboys, Bengals and Jaguars, it’s conceivable that the Steelers reach double-digit wins without defeat. It will all be about the post-season however and when tested against Baltimore and Tennessee in recent games, the Steelers have found the required answers. With just one guaranteed bye in the playoffs, it will be important for the them to secure that and have January run through Heinz Field. A Championship game of the Mahomes-led offence against this Steelers defence certainly gets the juices flowing. If I was putting my 50p on at the bookies, that would be the Championship game that I and many others would undoubtably be predicting.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Joshua Gunter – cleveland.com

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills (6-2)

Half-Term Report

A two-game lead in the AFC East and a four-game lead over the New England Patriots represent a great first half of the campaign for the Bills. After winning the first four games, the past month has generated a few questions around the Bills’ legitimacy and power moving forwards. Josh Allen was an early season MVP candidate but that chatter has cooled. The defence that was so good a year ago has struggled to reproduce at the same levels. In fact, along with the Eagles (who have a losing record), the Bills are the only division leader with a negative point differential on the season.

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Stefon Diggs – Diggs has proven to be a real difference-maker following his off-season trade from the Vikings. A few eyebrows may have been raised when a first round pick was agreed as the compensation but he hasn’t disappointed so far. He has racked up 54 catches for 695 yards while adding three touchdowns. He has registered at least six receptions in all but one game, becoming a huge piece of the offence. On his current trajectory, he is likely to smash his own personal single-season yardage record by around 300 yards. The Bills will certainly be happy with the return on their investment.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Bills are heading to the post-season, in all likelihood as division winners of the AFC East. Games against the Seahawks, Cardinals and Steelers are all scheduled for the second half of the campaign and will provide a real measuring stick of what the Bills may be able to do come January. If they can recapture the Josh Allen that was on display in the first four weeks of the campaign, then the Bills will fancy their chances against anyone. However, if they get the Josh Allen of the past month, then the defence will need to step up massively for them to be successful down the stretch. Some help from the running game wouldn’t go amiss either with Zack Moss primed to receive more opportunities.


Miami Dolphins (4-3)

Half-Term Report

A year on from allegedly “tanking”, we find the Dolphins with a winning record. Very much in contention for a potential Wild Card spot, the team from South Florida will be delighted with the progress in year 2 under Brian Flores. Young players Myles Gaskin and Preston Williams have been significant contributors on offence. Defensively, they have conceded the fewest points in the league on a per-game basis. Despite the positive record, the Dolphins felt the need to change to Tua Tagovailoa under centre for their Week 8 game against the Rams. The result was a win with all phases of the team providing touchdowns. The Dolphins will obviously be hoping that spark continues to burn deep into the second half of the season.

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Byron Jones The prized gem in free agency for Miami was cornerback Byron Jones. Although he has missed a couple of games through injury, when he has been on the field, he has been exceptional. In five games, Jones is only conceding a 50% completion rate when he is targeted. Those 14 completions that have been made have yielded only 131 yards and he is yet to give up a touchdown in coverage. These stats are all improvements on a pro-rata basis compared to his time with Dallas, which netted his big money move.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

There is a real sense of optimism around the Dolphins heading into the final eight weeks of the season. With the quarterback change having been made, the level of expectation is difficult to gauge. It is unfair to expect too much from a rookie coming back from a career-threatening injury but despite Ryan Fitzpatrick having them in contention, the Dolphins are indeed pinning their hopes on Tua. It will probably require five wins to secure a Wild Card berth. A pair of games against the Jets provide an obvious route to a couple of wins and Miami will fancy their chances against the Bengals, Raiders and Patriots. A team that is certainly heading in the right direction.

Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 28: Final score, recap, highlights
Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots (2-5)

Half-Term Report

That is not a typo: the New England Patriots are 2-5. They are riding a four-game losing streak, something not seen in New England since 2002. Early season wins against the Dolphins and Raiders, along with a game that came down to the last play in Seattle, seem like a long time ago. COVID-19 issues within the camp have affected preparations and, in particular, the play of Cam Newton. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham have both seen snaps at quarterback and have fared no better. The skill positions are bare of talent and the defence that was so good a year ago has unsurprisingly been unable to reproduce the same amount of scores it did a year ago.

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Cam Newton Watching Cam Newton play in 2020 makes it easy to forget just how good he was during his MVP campaign. He is completing a respectable 66% of his passes but unfortunately, that isn’t leading to any respectable offensive production. Just 1,143 yards have come from those completions and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a shocking 2:7. On the plus side, he has delivered five rushing scores and has a receiving touchdown also. After years of the prototypical pocket passer at quarterback, the transition to Cam has been bumpy at best.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Patriots are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That was also the last time they didn’t win the division. I would go as far as to say its difficult to see a path to .500, which is quite the fall from grace. Even the Jets may be looking at the upcoming matches as a realistic opportunity for them to get a win on the board. The dynasty is over and the long road to rebuild should begin now. More playing time for the younger players on the roster should be prioritised and unless the Patriots are going to commit to Cam, then maybe handing the keys to Jarrett Stidham may be the more prudent thing to do for the long term.


New York Jets (0-8)

Half-Term Report

The only team in the NFL still searching for its first win of the season at the halfway stage is the Jets. They have been horrific on offence, ranking 32nd in the league and a full 33 yards per game more pedestrian than the team ranked 31st. Unsurprisingly, that also transcends to being ranked dead last in the passing game, which has generated just four touchdowns on the year. After releasing Lev Bell, Frank Gore has been the lead back. Joe Flacco has suited up at quarterback. For a team that should be rebuilding, can they actually get any older? At least first round pick Mekhi Becton has looked good.

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Chris Herndon There is always one player tipped in the off-season to be “a huge part of this offence”. For Gang Green, that player was tight end Chris Herndon. It actually started positively with six receptions in the opener. Since then, a further eight catches for just 64 yards! He has seen just 17 targets during that stretch and is performing as anything but the supposed weapon he was billed to be. Herndon is a microcosm of the entire Jets offence that has effectively failed to turn up on a week-to-week basis.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

In the same way it’s early to talk about perfection for the Steelers, it still feels early to talk about complete perfect failure for the Jets. With that said, all of their remaining games are against opponents with a winning record with the exception of divisional games against the Patriots. As painful as it will be for Jets fans to sit through and watch, the reality is that short-term losing is actually better for them in the long term. Adam Gase will surely be fired at season’s end and if the Jets have the number 1 pick, they will have decision to either select Trevor Lawrence or demand a king’s ransom for the pick, then back Sam Darnold to turn things around with more talent around him.

Matt Stone – Boston Herald

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans (1-6)

Half-Term Report

From a 24-point lead over the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs to a 1-6 record, 2020 hasn’t been kind to the Texans. Bill O’Brien was given his marching orders after losing the opening four games of the season. Romeo Crennel gets the gig to round out the campaign and despite winning his first game in charge, the losing has returned. It seems as though Will Fuller wants out. David Johnson hasn’t produced. The defence is ranked 30th, giving up 31 points per game. The season was always likely to be judged on the trade away of DeAndre Hopkins. It’s not too early to say that the Texans were big losers in that trade. Whichever way you want to slice it, there is not an awful lot of positives to takeaway from the Texans’ start.

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JJ Watt – Having talked up his brother earlier, I’m afraid to say we have seen the best of the elder Watt boy. JJ was once the most feared defender in the game, now he is just another body. He has just three sacks, five tackles for a loss and just six quarterback hits through the first half of the season. He also has only one forced fumble underlining his declining production. With a cap hit of $15.5 million hanging over his head, Watt is not performing to anywhere near that financial commitment. Trade rumours swirled but ended up fruitless and with no guaranteed money owed in 2021, are these the last nine games for Watt in Houston?

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Deshaun Watson continues to play reasonable football despite the circumstances surrounding him. He alone gives the Texans reason for optimism in a number of games remaining on the schedule. They have divisional games to come against the Titans along with two against the Colts so they will have a huge say in where the AFC South crown will go. Unfortunately for them, it will certainly not be returning to Houston. The focus already switches to the off-season where a new head coach and GM will be brought in.


Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

Half-Term Report

The Colts have been much improved with Philip Rivers at quarterback when compared with the middling play under Jacoby Brissett last year. Rivers has managed six touchdowns in his last two games after just four in his first five games. The defence, however, has been the real star turn for the team, being ranked second in the league in terms of yards per game, second in terms of rushing yards allowed and conceding the fewest amount of first downs in the league. Big wins against the Vikings, Jets and Lions have been sandwiched between tight victories over the Bears and Bengals. A surprise opening day defeat to the Jags could loom large in terms of playoff positioning down the line.

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Xavier Rhodes Rhodes somehow made the Pro Bowl as an alternative in 2019. Make no mistake, he was awful in his last season in Minnesota. His redemption mission in Indianapolis however is off to a fine start. He is only allowing a completion rate of 46.2%, down from 81.5% last year! He has two interceptions compared to none last year. The stellar play on the back end of the defence has allowed the swarming front seven to dominate games. Rhodes looks more like the Pro Bowler that he unquestionably was earlier in his career.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The remaining schedule for the Colts looks difficult on paper. With games against the Steelers, Ravens, Packers and two against the Titans, we are about to find out just how good this team really are. All of those matches could be playoff dress rehearsals as you would fancy the Colts to at least take a Wild Card spot if they can’t outpace the Titans for divisional honours. Young contributors Michael Pittman Jr., Jonathan Taylor and Mo Alie-Cox should feature heavily down the stretch for the offence. The question is, can the defence continue playing to the same level? DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Julian Blackmon give them excellent contributors at all levels. If they can keep it going, then nobody will want to be facing the Colts in January.

The Texans and Deshaun Watson will look for a bounce-back performance against the Colts, who have won the teams' past three meetings.
Elizabeth Conley – Houston Chronicle

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

Half-Term Report

The Jags rank 31st in total defence and 31st in points allowed. The fewest points they have conceded on the campaign is 20 points, which came in the opener, their only win to date against the Colts. Since then, they have given up at least 30 points in every game they have played. With stats like that, it is unsurprising that they have yet to add to that solitary win. Gardner Minshew has allegedly been playing through a fractured hand injury. Leonard Fournette was traded on the eve of the season, but undrafted rookie James Robinson has provided a bright spark. One of the most remarkable stats is that the Jags have used five different kickers in just seven games.

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James Robinson The undrafted rookie running back is on pace for a 1,000 yard season. His best single-game output came last time out when he rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries against the Chargers. His season rushing average is just a hair under 4.5 yards per carry. He has also added another 27 receptions through the air, providing the Jaguars with a genuine dual-threat weapon in the backfield. Chris Thompson is the only other running back to register a carry and he only has six attempts on the year. This is well and truly Robinson’s backfield moving forwards.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Remember “Minshew Mania”? The new slogan is almost certainly going to shift to “Tank for Trevor” as the Jags stare down the barrel of another big losing season. Minshew will now recover from the injury that has been limiting him with rookie Jake Luton set to see some action. Games still to come against the Packers, Ravens and Steelers almost certainly propel Jacksonville towards double-digit defeats and beyond. The pre-season roster moves spoke volumes of where the franchise viewed itself. This season is all about game experience and development for the likes of draft selections CJ Henderson and Laviska Shenault Jr. It feels like Doug Marrone is on borrowed time so another attempted rebuild seems likely.


Tennessee Titans (5-2)

Half-Term Report

The first half of the Titans’ season will be remembered for the COVID-19 outbreak that threatened to derail the league year. Thankfully, that is now under control and relevant discipline will be handed out. On the field, the Titans raced to 5-0 and looked like true AFC contenders. Since then, losses in consecutive weeks to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have raised a few eyebrows, and questions the level of threat the Titans actually pose. Ryan Tannehill has continued his excellent play since arriving at the franchise and Derrick Henry continues to have games where he looks unplayable. Unfortunately, the defence has been a real let-down. The Titans are struggling for a pass rush with only seven sacks. They are giving up 396.9 yards per game and have serious issues to fix on that side of the ball.

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Jadeveon ClowneyClowney was brought in on the eve of the season to supposedly help the defensive struggles detailed above. He has so far not registered a sack, has just six quarterback hits and has just three tackles for loss. Playing on a one-year prove-it deal that pays him $13 million for the season, it’s safe to say the experiment isn’t working out well for either side.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

If I had been writing this article just a fortnight ago, it was hard to find too many causes for concern with the Titans. Fast forward two weeks, however, and the flaws have been exposed. The schedule again looks tricky with games against the Ravens and Packers mixed in among the big divisional games with the Colts. The destination of the AFC South is likely to come down to those games and on paper, the Colts match up well thanks to their stellar run defence, which could keep Derrick Henry in check. If that does indeed come to fruition, then the Titans will continue to show faith in the arm of Ryan Tannehill. AJ Brown will look to improve from a slow start to his second season in the back half of the schedule.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans
Wesley Hilt – Getty Images

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos (3-4)

Half-Term Report

The Broncos have battled injuries throughout the first half of the season but find themselves on the fringes of things at 3-4. Losing Von Miller before a snap had been taken was a huge blow and then losing Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Drew Lock and others at various stages threatened to derail what on paper was a promising season. Three wins from the last four however have things trending positively. Drew Lock is continuing to fight back from his own personal injury. His continued development is hugely important for the franchise. Draft selections KJ Hamler, Albert O and Jerry Jeudy have all now found pay dirt in the passing game. The defence is ranked in the middle of most statistical categories and lacks real star power.

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Bradley Chubb When Von Miller went down on the eve of the season, it created a void for someone to fill. Bradley Chubb has taken on the mantle of being the defensive lynchpin for the Broncos. He has team-highs of 5.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss, and has also forced a fumble. He has played better as the season has progressed and has registered those sacks in the most recent four-game stretch. If Denver are to get back into any Wild Card talk, they will need Chubb to continue performing at this level.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

With the injury report diminishing week after week, things are looking considerably better for Denver. Getting Phillip Lindsay back is a huge under-the-radar boost. He looks like the best back on the roster, despite a decent level of production from Melvin Gordon. The young receiving core are growing week to week, and add the talented tight end Noah Fant to the mix and the Broncos have plenty of weapons to surround Drew Lock with. Lock will be looking to kick on after an injury-hit campaign. Vic Fangio always seems to find a way to maximise his defensive scheme so the Broncos will be in plenty of close games. That said, they have probably left themselves too much to do to squeeze into the playoffs.


Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)

Half-Term Report

The champs look more than poised and capable of a repeat performance in 2020. A league-high 253 points have been accrued with big wins coming already against the Jets, Broncos, Texans and Patriots. The most impressive win was against the Ravens in Week 3 in a game they dominated from start to finish. Patrick Mahomes looks as good as ever and with rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire adding the expected extra dimension in the backfield, the offence looks extremely rounded. There have been improvements defensively from a year ago and with Andy Reid finally figuring out how to wear his face shield properly, the rest of the league have been put on notice that the Chiefs are very much still the team to beat.

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Travis Kelce The big tight end is on pace to set a career high for touchdowns in what has already been a stellar career. Through the opening half of the season, he has six touchdowns and has become the most consistent weapon in the Chiefs’ explosive passing game. He leads the team in both targets and receptions and has even recorded more plays of over 20 yards than speedster Tyreek Hill. He is a red-zone mismatch and whenever Mahomes needs to find a connection, he always looks for number 87 as his primary target.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The race is on with Pittsburgh for the number 1 seed in the AFC. It’s a classic strength vs strength between the two as the Chiefs’ offence is so much better than the Steelers’ but the same can easily be said in reverse for the defence. A tasty dust-up with the Buccaneers remains on the regular season schedule which could be a Super Bowl preview. There is also another marquee match-up against the Saints, along with a divisional game against each of their regular foes. The Chiefs will be out for revenge against the Raiders who inflicted their only defeat of the season so far. I think the Chiefs will secure the top seed and represent the AFC in the big dance once more.

story.lead_photo.caption
Dalton Mims – Associated Press

Las Vegas Raiders (4-3)

Half-Term Report

A new era for the Raiders has been highlighted by big wins against both the Saints and Chiefs. The game against the Saints was the first to be played in the mightily impressive Allegiant Stadium and I for one can’t wait to see that place full of fans. The Raiders have been inconsistent however, as a 4-3 record would suggest. Defeats to the Patriots, Bills and Bucs have been scattered in-between the wins and they haven’t put a winning streak together outside Weeks 1 and 2. Last time out was a win against the Browns, which could prove to be important from a seeding perspective in the tightly packed Wild Card race which the Raiders are definitely involved in.

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Derek Carr Carr is quietly putting together an extremely impressive season. Through seven games, he is good for a 71.1% completion rate, he has tossed 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions. With the added deep threats of Nelson Agholor and Henry Ruggs, his yards per attempt is up on his career average. In nearly every statistical category, he is on par with the likes of Mahomes, Wilson and Rodgers. He hasn’t always seemingly had the best relationship with Jon Gruden but even “Chucky” must be happy with what he is seeing from his signal caller.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Raiders are certainly in the Wild Card mix in the AFC. Very winnable games against the Falcons and Jets are still to come but the Raiders’ fate will probably be sealed by their divisional games. Five of the six divisional contests remain, having only played the Chiefs once so far. They will want more production out of Henry Ruggs who has only flashed his potential. Josh Jacobs is also a player to expect more from, having finally registered his first 100-yard game of the season. That feat did take 31 carries and continued his disappointing 3.5 yards per carry average on the campaign. If the Raiders are to cause some post-season shocks, they need more from their young offensive playmakers.


Los Angeles Chargers (2-5)

Half-Term Report

It’s probably silly to say the record doesn’t matter because it obviously does, but two words make it worthwhile for Chargers fans: Justin Herbert. The rookie got an unexpected chance to play in Week 2 following some “medical issues” from the team doctor’s that sidelined Tyrod Taylor and the rookie hasn’t looked back. Impressive performances in defeat to the Chiefs, Saints and Bucs give the fan base huge reason for optimism. In terms of the record, the Chargers just can’t seem to win a close game. They have a point differential of just -6, which is superior to both the Raiders and the Broncos, both above them in the division. All their defeats have been by a one-possession scoreline, which indicates just how close the Chargers are to being really relevant.

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Justin Herbert Through just six games, Justin Herbert has thrown for 1,820 yards and 15 touchdowns. His season projection translates to 4,160 yards and 34 touchdowns. Bear in mind that the rookie touchdown passing record is 27, held by Baker Mayfield. Herbert could obliterate that. He has developed a great understanding with Keenan Allen and if the Chargers can reignite the run game when Austin Ekeler returns, Herbert could go from strength to strength.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Chargers are always competitive but more often than not fail to get over the line so predicting how they finish the season is a difficult, if not futile, exercise. Home games against the Patriots and Falcons represent favourable games on the schedule, while road trips against the Bills and Chiefs look much more difficult. As is the nature of the team, a record of around .500 from here would not be a surprise, nor would where any of the wins and losses come from. The Chargers will no doubt ruin another team’s post-season aspirations with a surprise win. Continuing to watch Justin Herbert develop will be fun for the neutral. He is exactly what the franchise needed in terms of establishing a fan base in the city.

Isaiah Downing – USA TODAY Sports