It has been a season of confusion and narrative, but with so much discussion about off field matters (that are covered again in this week’s podcast) I thought I would stick to matters on the field in this blog.
With so many high profile stars injured and several teams turning their fortunes round from last season, there are new teams and faces challenging for the playoffs so I thought I would take a look at three of these teams.
The most obvious turnaround belongs to the LA Rams who currently stand atop the NFC West division with a 7-2 record having racked up three more wins than they managed all of last season. The changes that rookie head coach Sean McVay has already brought to this team have had a dramatic effect on an offence that has already surpassed the points they put up in the entirety of last season, but it is also an indictment of the previous regimes that not only have the Rams won seven games this year, but the other quarterback who suffered on the 2016 team has already got six wins for himself in the eight games he has played for the Minnesota Vikings.
However, even if the turnaround in record is most impressive for the Rams, the team who lead the NFL with eight wins are the Philadelphia Eagles and this is one more win than they managed in total last season. There are some arguing that Carson Wentz is in the running for MVP, but what is undeniable is that the level of his play has improved and that this has brought the Eagles offence alive. The Eagles clearly believe they can make a strong push into the playoffs as they are still bringing in players to bolster their roster as they pick up injuries. The Eagles have a commanding position within their division and it would be surprising if they can’t convert this into a playoff run.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a less commanding position, but have already doubled their number of wins from last season and share the AFC South lead with the Tennessee Titan. They have the second rank defence by DVOA, which considering they have the thirtieth ranked rush defence is a testament to just how good their pass defence has been. The offence is limited and this is what could limit them going forward but they have just had their first three game win streak since 2013 and for the first time in many seasons they stand a chance of making the playoffs.
None of these teams even had a .500 record last season and in under a year they are seriously competing for a division title. There is a lot of talk of parity in the NFL, but these teams are demonstrating that in the NFL you can turn things round quickly, and I haven’t even mentioned the News Orleans Saints who have won seven straight after their own turn around on defence.
It would be great to see all of these teams hit the playoffs, and I would love for the Bills to make it as well given how long their fans have been waiting for a playoff run but I can see it slipping away. The difference this season is that I genuinely feel like the Bills are building something for the future even if they do miss the post season this year.
I look forward to seeing how all of them do this week.
Gee: Week 10 8-6 Overall 82-65
Dan: Week 10 6-8 Overall 76-71
Titans @ Steelers (-7.5)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are making harder work of games than they really should given the talent on their roster and they certainly shouldn’t have needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Colts by three points on Sunday. This week they welcome a Tennessee Titans team who have quietly dragged themselves to a 6-3 record and a share of the AFC South lead. It has to be said that there did not appear to be any lingering problems with Marcus Mariota’s hamstring as he ran through the Bengals defence. I’m not confident that the Titans will win given they had to score in the last minute to beat the Bengals last week, but I can’t quite bring myself to pick the Steelers giving eight points and I do fancy the Titans to make a game of it.
Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Steelers