The race for the eight division crowns is heating up.
As the midpoint of the season approaches, teams are starting to feel the urgency.
Here’s a look at some compelling stories from around the league.
Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Rams are a legitimate factor in the NFC. The team brought their record to 5-2 after shutting out the Arizona Cardinals 33-0 in London. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff has performed well under rookie head coach Sean McVay who’s by far the youngest head coach in the league (he turned 31 this year). Goff isn’t doing it alone, either. He’s handing off to star runningback Todd Gurley, and both offensive studs are backed up by a defense that’s gelling under the tutelage of graybeard defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. If the Rams can win in Seattle, they’ll have a great shot at claiming the NFC West.
BRONCOS COME UP LAME
The Denver Broncos’ offense has screeched to a grinding halt. After an embarrassing 23-10 loss to the winless and injury-riddled New York Giants, the Broncos looked to regroup against the Chargers but came out even flatter. Denver got shut out 21-0, and could only muster 252 yards of offense. In addition, the Broncos turned the ball over three times and were sacked five times. Denver is entering the danger zone as their next three opponents are arguably the best teams in the league: Kansas City, Philadelphia, and New England. The defense is doing its job, but the offense must come up with some answers quickly.
SAINTS GO MARCHING INTO LAMBEAU
The New Orleans Saints looked to be in trouble after an 0-2 start, a distinction that almost always means no playoffs. However, the Saints have won four in a row and–after all three of their division foes lost–now find themselves atop the NFC South. The Saints capitalized on the absence of Aaron Rodgers and defeated the Packers in Green Bay 26-17. With the Falcons, Panthers, and Buccaneers all struggling, the Saints have a relatively clear path to the playoffs, a notion that seemed silly after a rocky opening.
WINLESS AND HOPELESS
The cities of San Francisco and Cleveland aren’t commonly linked, but they share an odd connection. San Francisco’s ownership has roots in Ohio, and former 49er legend Dwight Clark and former General Manager Carmen Policy took on the task of rebuilding the expansion Cleveland Browns. Now the two cities share the wretched distinction of claiming the worst teams in the league. The Browns and 49ers finished 1-15 and 2-14 respectively and owned the first two picks in the 2017 draft. The teams seem headed for the same “honor,” both sitting at 0-7. The Browns fell in overtime 12-9 to the Tennessee Titans, while the 49ers were obliterated 40-10 by their bygone 1990s rival Dallas. The Browns are playing musical chairs at quarterback, and coming up with no answers. The 49ers gave rookie quarterback CJ Beathard his first start and watched him get punished behind a porous offensive line. Both teams are young, but the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t visible.
RAIDERS JUST WIN, BABY
On Thursday night football, the Raiders eked out a 31-30 win over the rival Chiefs on the last play of the game. After a 5-0 start, Kansas City has dropped two in a row, and their stranglehold on the AFC West has loosened a bit. With the return of star quarterback Derek Carr, it’s not out of the question for the Raiders to get hot and go on a run. With their offense, they can score with anybody, and they proved that by putting up 31 on one of the better defenses in the league.
MICHAEL CRABTREE FOR THE WIN! #KCvsOAK #RaiderNation https://t.co/X1PotZ1KtV