By Chris Burke
November 06, 2013
Left for dead before the season, Rex Ryan (right) and the Jets have jumped out to a 5-4 start.
Rich Kane/Icon SMI
NFL Midseason Grades
B Arizona Cardinals
Oh, but for a quarterback and an offensive line. Granted, those are fairly substantial missing pieces, but the Cardinals have wedged their way into playoff contention on a better-than-expected defense. Arizona also nailed the third-round draft choice of Tyrann Mathieu (a Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner) and of sixth-round RB Andre Ellington.
D- Atlanta Falcons
Injuries on offense have ravaged the Falcons -- Julio Jones is done for the year, and both Roddy White and Steven Jackson have missed significant amounts of time. Still, no one could have envisioned this substantial a fall for a team that was one quarter away from the Super Bowl in 2012. The question facing the Falcons in the coming weeks and months: What do you do when a team built to win now completely falls apart?
C- Baltimore Ravens
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. The Ravens' decision to trade Anquan Boldin in the offseason left them without their most reliable wide receiver, but the worthless run game was the real culprit in a disappointing first half. Baltimore's defense, despite losing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, mostly has held its own (aside from a Week 1 shellacking by Peyton Manning).
C Buffalo Bills
The Bills had grander visions than this, for sure. They also anticipated being able to get through a week without losing a quarterback to injury. First-year head coach Doug Marrone really deserves an incomplete until EJ Manuel ... or any QB ... can stay on the field.
A- Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are a couple of plays -- Jermaine Kearse's acrobatic TD grab and Stevie Johnson's last-second score -- from being 7-1. With the league's No. 2 defense backing Cam Newton, there may be more wins to come, despite an increasingly brutal schedule.
B Chicago Bears
Want to focus on the good or bad? What's working right now is Marc Trestman's offense, no matter if Jay Cutler or Josh McCown is winging passes around the field. That defense, though ... The Bears have allowed more than 40 twice. This might be a 4-4 team if not for the Aaron Rodgers injury reprieve on Monday.
B+ Cincinnati Bengals
Giovani Bernard and Marvin Jones have added new, much-needed dimensions to the Cincinnati offense. The dark cloud hanging over the season's second half: Geno Atkins' ACL injury, which robs the Bengals of one of football's most dangerous defenders.
C+ Cleveland Browns
Brian Hoyer threatened to be one of the NFL's real breakthrough stories in 2013, with wins in his first two starts (I'm giving them an A for those two games). A knee injury in outing No. 3 put a serious damper on the season that stuck until a Jason Campbell-led win over Baltimore. The "tank" many envisioned after the Trent Richardson trade never happened. A playoff trip probably will not either.
B Dallas Cowboys
They remain the odds-on favorite to take the East title, but are the Cowboys truly good enough to contend beyond that? The jury, as it always seems to be with this team, remains out. Almost without question (and because of Dallas' shoddy defense), the season eventually will rest on Tony Romo's right arm.
B+ Denver Broncos
Hard to argue with the record -- even if it's only second-best in the division -- or with the potentially record-setting offense. But even Von Miller's return from suspension has not shored up this defense enough to make anyone in Denver comfortable about the postseason.
B Detroit Lions
The Lions' dramatic win over Dallas was a welcome change from the norm. Even earlier this season, this team dropped two games -- at Arizona, vs. Cincinnati -- it definitely could have won. Like the Bears and Packers, Detroit boasts a lethal (Megatron-led) offense and a defense that still has plenty to prove.
B Green Bay Packers
Is it taking the easy road to give all three NFC North leaders a "B" grade? Sure. Perhaps the Packers deserve a slightly lower grade because of slightly higher expectations. Considering how banged-up they've been, this feels fair.
D Houston Texans
The true crime in Houston is that the franchise never attempted to upgrade at quarterback, instead expecting for some reason that Matt Schaub would elevate his game. He didn't, even with more help around him, and everyone else slipped. That the Texans have allowed the least yards but 27th-most points highlights the team's turnover problems.
A Indianapolis Colts
The Colts responded to anyone who labeled them a one-year wonder with a first half that included wins over Seattle, San Francisco and Denver and concluded with a huge rally in Houston. Reggie Wayne's injury may be a fatal blow, but Indianapolis is here to stay.
F- Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have scored 10 points or fewer five times in eight games. They're dead last on both offense and defense. At least they haven't moved to London yet.
A+ Kansas City Chiefs
Knock the schedule if you must, but the Chiefs have earned their undefeated start. It's not all defense either, though it feels like it with Kansas City dominating on that side of the ball. The MMQB's Greg Bedard named RB Jamaal Charles his MVP of the first half.
C- Miami Dolphins
Tough team to get a read on -- three of the Dolphins' four losses came by a total of 15 points -- but Miami is in the playoff hunt at the turn. Just about every facet of this team has been middle-of-the-road thus far. The recent Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation has dropped a dark cloud over the entire franchise.
F+ Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota's 1-0 on foreign soil, so it's got that going for it. Other than that: train wreck. Even Adrian Peterson has not been able to save the Vikings this season, with a revolving door at QB throwing Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman to the wolves at various times.
A- New England Patriots
The storyline is a bit played out by now, but a lesser team with merely an average quarterback would have crumpled under the challenges New England has faced. The Patriots have weathered the storm to keep a firm grip on the AFC East. And with the offense hanging 55 on Pittsburgh, the best days might be yet to come.
B+ New Orleans Saints
The defense has drifted back to Earth some in the past three games, and the offense was manhandled by Rex Ryan's Jets last Sunday. New Orleans remains the team to beat in the NFC South, just not quite as definitively as a month ago.
D- New York Giants
A little life for the Giants prior to the midway point, as they ran off back-to-back wins. In the downtrodden NFC East, that's enough to give their fans hope of a miraculous division title. But unless Eli Manning shakes off a horrific start to light up Weeks 10 through 17, don't count on it. The run game remains very much in flux, and the defense needs to show that its last two outings were not flukes.
A New York Jets
Perhaps the best case of performance exceeding expectations in this 2013 NFL season. The Jets (and Rex Ryan's head coaching tenure) were left for dead before the season began. Yet, here we are in early November with New York holding the AFC's second wild-card spot, two back of New England in the East.
B Oakland Raiders
That's a high mark for a 3-5 team, sure, but a lot of folks were sure that Oakland was going to suffer through a catastrophic 2013 -- something resembling, say, its 49-20 loss to Philadelphia last Sunday. That game aside, Oakland has more than held its own, even hanging around with Indianapolis, Denver and Kansas City, for little bits and pieces.
B- Philadelphia Eagles
The idea of "Chip Kelly: Miracle Worker" has been replaced by a more conservative line of thinking. That said, the Eagles have turned on the afterburners on occasion (i.e. that Oakland game mentioned above), enough to stick within a game of first place in the East. The arrow is pointing up, even if the record remains below the .500 line.
D Pittsburgh Steelers
The reality seems to be setting in that Pittsburgh's salary cap problems are going to cause extended woes on the field. This team is a long way from being Super Bowl-caliber again, with stopgap solutions failing. Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown make for a good start on offense, but the issues are numerous elsewhere.
C+ San Diego Chargers
The Chargers were pegged as an average bunch before the season, so it should come as no surprise that they're right on track for 8-8. The frustrating thing for them is that they mostly wasted a brilliant first half from Philip Rivers. All four losses, culminating in an OT setback at Washington, came by 10 points or fewer.
B San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco again started playing like the defending NFC champs on a Week 4 Thursday night in St. Louis. Including that 35-11 whipping of the Rams, the 49ers have run off five straight, scoring 31 or more and allowing 20 or fewer each time (they deserve an A+ for that stretch). Bonus: They'll get WR Michael Crabtree back soon, adding even more oomph to that lineup.
A Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks avoided disaster last week, rallying from 17 down to beat Tampa Bay. That comeback left a six-point setback in Indy as the only blemish on an otherwise flawless resume. The defense has been as sturdy as advertised, allowing a mere 16.5 points per game. And just as San Francisco preps for Crabtree's return, the Seahawks are awaiting Percy Harvin's arrival.
D St. Louis Rams
Following last season's 7-8-1 campaign -- which included a 4-1-1 mark within a tough NFC West -- the Rams believed they had a shot to sneak up on some folks this year. Not only have they failed to do that, but also their offense, which was supposed to crank it up a couple notches this season, has tread water. The emergence of RB Zac Stacy offers a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
F- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong for Tampa Bay in the first half did, up to and including multiple outbreaks of staph infection. The call to bail on Josh Freeman for rookie Mike Glennon may pay off down the road. This feels a bit like Kansas City last season, in that the talent level is way too high to justify such a dismal record.
B Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker's most recent injury came at the worst possible time, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick into the lineup for games with Seattle and Kansas City. No shame in dropping either of those games, or in losing to San Francisco in Week 7. There should be a little embarrassment, though, in Chris Johnson not finding the end zone until Week 9. But Locker's back, the defense is ninth in points allowed and the Titans are set up for a run at the playoffs.
C- Washington Redskins
Are Washington's two wins over the past three weeks a sign of another second-half run? Or was that merely a blip on a six- or seven-win season? The RGIII-led offense finally -- finally! -- is kicking it into gear. The defense, rather problematically, remains awful.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)