I thought I’d try something a bit different this week as the NFL hits the halfway point of the season. I have a few mid-term grades for the Eagles, and some thoughts on which teams are “pretenders” and who are the actual “contenders” in what has been a confounding year so far in the NFL. Here’s my latest Rob’s Rants on Sports:
Carson Wentz: C+. He started out looking like he was already a veteran franchise quarterback, but has shown that he really is a rookie lately. I think perception would actually be better if he didn’t start 3-0, and, I admit, the grade would be a little higher. But with 4 interceptions in the last two games and the team having lost 4 of 5, it’s time to wonder if teams finally having video on him is a problem. To be fair, he has absolutely no weapons around him.
Doug Pederson: C-. I’m being generous. Twice, he punted games away, and apparently tried to make up for it last week by “going for it” on a couple occasions where doing so was just ridiculous. Seriously, he was approaching Rich Kotite depths of bad decision making last week. He is dealing with a rookie quarterback—though he didn’t have to be—and Darren Sproles is apparently his best running back based on how he’s using guys. But he’s not even making basic decisions correctly right now.
Wide Receivers: F. They stink. None of them scare defenses by going deep, and they constantly drop passes. Jordan Matthews is the best of the bunch, and he’s a slot receiver. Dorial Green-Beckham is showing why Tennessee gave up on him. Even the tight ends, previously thought of as pretty good, have done little.
Running Backs: D. This could be higher, I think, if Pederson played Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood more. Sproles can’t be the main running back with 285 rushing yards. Ryan Matthews only has two more yards on 17 more carries. Play the young guys.
Defense: B+. They won at least a game or two, and kept them in others, but they coughed up the Dallas game. I don’t think they are as good as people thought, but they are definitely the best unit on the team.
Special Teams: B. This is very tough to judge. They’ve made some plays and given up a couple. Except for a blocked field goal, I don’t think they have really cost the team, and they have had at least two big returns.
Contenders and Pretenders
I only looked at teams .500 or better, which would seem to be the minimum requirement for being viewed as pretending to be contending for the Super Bowl. By the way, 18 teams fit that description. Parity is ugly.
Patriots: Despite Tom Brady’s suspension, New England is 7-1 and they look unbeatable. Things change quickly in the NFL, and, trust me, my “predictions” have been horrible this season, but they may be the only real contender.
Cowboys: If Dak Prescott wasn’t a rookie, they would be everybody’s choice to win it all—at least everyone in the national media. I don’t think even Jerry Jones would go back to Tony Romo . . . unless they lose a couple in a row. I’d say they’re a contender.
Broncos: Can they really be considered a dark horse as defending champions? If Trevor Siemian get his shoulder fully healthy, maybe not. I’d say contenders with an asterisk.
Raiders: I haven’t seen them play, but they’re leading the best division record-wise in football. They have to be a contender.
Chiefs: If their current injury situation doesn’t linger, I’d say contender. They beat the Raiders, and won a game with Nick Foles replacing the injured Alex Smith, albeit against Jacksonville.
Steelers: It’s killing me, but with Ben Roethlisberger not 100% (again) and a shaky secondary, I think they’re pretenders.
Ravens: They lost 4 straight before they beat the Steelers. Pretenders, if that, even with the win against Cleveland last night.
Houston: I haven’t seen them much. They did beat the Chiefs and Colts, but got slammed by the Patriots, Vikings, and Broncos. Pretenders, if that.
Dolphins: With only one win over a team currently .500 or better, they are pretenders. Probably not even that good.
Giants: I’m saying contender because they could still win the division against Dallas, and they do what they do in the playoffs. They have some offensive weapons.
Washington: They’re barely on this list at 4-3-1, and are about to face the Vikings, Cowboys, Cardinals, and Eagles. I only have Dallas as contenders from that list, and I still think they will struggle. Pretenders.
Vikings: I defended Sam Bradford, and he let me down. After what I saw against the Eagles, Minnesota may be the biggest pretender.
Lions: They are in a surprisingly weak division, and I just saw that John Clayton reported several GMs have Matthew Stafford in the mix for MVP. But true contenders? Eh, I’ll say no. Pretenders.
Falcons: Three tough games coming up starting with the Eagles, then what should be a walk to the playoffs. Matt Ryan is playing well. They could still get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Contenders.
Seahawks: They’ve looked putrid at times,, but if Russell Wilson can get going . . . maybe. I’ll flip a coin and say pretenders.
Saints: Winning 4 of 5 has salvaged their season, and they only play 3 teams currently above .500 the rest of the way. Two of them are at home, and Atlanta is also in a dome, where New Orleans traditionally thrives. I still say pretenders.
Packers: I keep waiting for them to get rolling, and they just don’t. Without a running game, I don’t think they’ll be anything but pretenders.
Eagles: I write about them every week, so there’s not much to add. This season? Pretenders.