We have crossed the midway point of the season and have a pretty good idea what each team is at this point (except the Jets, no one knows about them) and what to expect going forward. We got the two teams with actual futures in the Pats and Bills, the Dolphins who are going to waste their future, and the Jets that will ruin their future. Should be a fun rest of the season. Now I will say what each team is right now.
Bills: They have a top 10 defense and top 10 offense….most weeks
The Bills like the entire AFC, has been very hot and cold. This same team can absolutely destroy the Chiefs and demolish the Texans and Jets but then lose to the Jaguars. What has been pretty obvious this entire year is the defense has gotten back to the 2019 form and is a force to be reckoned with. The pass defense has been one of the best in the NFL, giving up the second fewest yards per game, the lowest passing rating despite only being 19th in sacks with 19 sacks (the Jets, Fins and Pats all have more). The secondary has played for the most part pretty well despite the #2 CB spot making you hold your breath every time a pass is thrown towards Levi Wallace. Run defense the Bills have also been great, being 3rd in the NFL in yards per game allowed and it has become a pick your poison with this defense.
The offense has been another story. Early in the season there was a rough patch where the offense looked bad against the Steelers, ok at best against the Fins before going on a little hot streak until Dawson Knox suffered an injury against the Titans and the offense started to struggle. After the bye the offense struggled especially in pass protection where a few players were out of position due to injuries and Josh Allen decided Emmanuel Sanders didn’t need the ball (he must have been facing him in fantasy). The offense hit rock bottom against the Jaguars where it was a perfect storm of circumstances that led to one of the worst offensive performances I have seen from a NFL team. But thankfully the Jets were just what the doctor ordered and the offense came back to life this week. Josh Allen looks to be back to his 2020 self and if it wasn’t for convenient flags taking away two big plays from Emmanuel Sanders (that would have given you 8 points in a standard ppr league) he might have won Air Player of the week. The run game is what it is and I don’t expect it to ever be good with the talent they have but at least it was respectable against the Jets. If they can keep this up, the Bills might be good enough to win the terrible AFC.
New England Patriots: Looking a lot like young Brady
The New England Patriots knew 2020 could never happen again and used 2021 to upgrade the offense and defense to get the team back on track. They also got lucky the Jets drafted the 5th best QB at #2 and meant Mac Jones fell to pick #15. Mac Jones has looked like early 2000s Brady where he didn’t make a lot of mistakes and managed the game and let the extremely talented defense win games. The defense is one of the top in the league yet again and it will be interesting how they do against one of the top offenses in the NFL. JC Jackson looks great yet again and is headed for a benching in a key playoff game due to salary disputes. Matt Judon has not looked like a free agency bust like many expected and has actually been pretty good. On offense the rushing attack has been one of the best in the NFL and the passing game has just been good enough with Mac Jones not really having to win a game. If the Pats keep up this formula they will definitely make the playoffs as a wild card where they will lose to the Tennessee Titans because that is the AFC.
Miami Dolphins: I don’t know anymore
The Dolphins started off hot to begin the year before hitting a very rough patch until now. Their 1st round QB Tua missed a few weeks with a rib injury and when he came back actually looked pretty good but the team couldn’t win due to bad challenges by Flores and defensive collapses. Then Tua hurts his finger and they put in Brissett who looks terrible but somehow wins against the Texans. Brissett starts against the Ravens but Tua was healthy enough to play but just didn’t. As soon as Brissett gets hurt, Tua comes in and looks pretty well and Flores sticks with him the rest of the game. How the Fins have handled Tua has made zero sense ever since they drafted him. He wasn’t ready to start last year until he was but then got benched multiple times in game only to start the next week. This year he started then got hurt, started again, got hurt but could still play, didn’t play and then took over when he was forced to play. It is clear that someone is forcing Flores to play Tua when Flores being a defensive guy wants someone boring and reliable (like Teddy Bridgewater). With ownership wanting Watson and were going to offer 3 1st and 2 2nds if his legal stuff was cleared up makes me think that only the GM wanted Tua and everyone else wanted someone else. The Fins should finish 6-11 this year but the future has lots of question marks on the offensive side of the ball.
While the handling of Tua made no sense, the play of the defense this year has been equally as confusing. Week 1 the defense looked like it was for real and looked ok in week 2 but were hurt by a bad offense. Then against the Raiders they looked ok before finally collapsing. The defense from week 3 all the way until the Texans game was one of the worst units in the game. They made Trevor Lawrence look good! They could not stop anyone and no lead was safe. The defense was not getting the extreme amount of turnover luck they relied on last year and when it came to actually stopping offenses, that was a herculean task. Against the Ravens that looked to be fixed but this year the defense showed it was not the dominant force that people expected. The Fins are not a team that can give away 3 1st and 2 2nd and compete for a Super Bowl.
Jets: Ride or Die with Zach Wilson
The Jets were not expected to be good this year and they actually have surprised people. They beat the Titans who are currently in 1st in the AFC thanks to shenanigans. They also beat the Bengals with Mike White. But for most of the year they have gotten blown out by teams or looked incompetent on offense. Against the Bills the Mike White experience was great if you started the Bills defense but not good if you liked the Jets. Mike White is who we thought he was and at this point, Wilson needs to play if healthy. This was always going to be a rebuilding year and getting Wilson reps is the only way to see what you have in him and what you need to address in the offseason and what to focus on going forward. Right now WIlson has made a lot of bad mistakes and looks like he doesn’t feel comfortable playing in structure which makes sense considering in college half the time he just ran out and chucked it deep for a big play. Those plays don’t work as well in the NFL and at this point, you got to drive it in for Wilson to play within himself and every play doesn’t have to be a big play and it is ok to gain 5 yards instead of 20. The Jets need to know what they have in Wilson and the more reps he has, the better idea you will have of him and know what he and the team needs to correct going forward.