NFL 2022 midseason report — AFC, NFC questions and key accidents

With 9 weeks of video games within the books, we’re formally on the halfway level of the 18-week 2022 NFL season.

The Philadelphia Eagles (8-0) have the most effective file within the league and sit atop the NFC as Week 10 commences, with the Minnesota Vikings (7-1) not far behind and the Dallas Cowboys (6-2) and New York Giants (6-2) amongst these pondering massive as properly.

The AFC image is extra muddled, with only a recreation separating seven groups on the prime of the convention: the Buffalo Payments (6-2), Kansas Metropolis Chiefs (6-2), Baltimore Ravens (6-3), Miami Dolphins (6-3), New York Jets (5-3), Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) and Tennessee Titans (5-3).

As we sit up for the second half of the season, ESPN requested NFL crew reporters for his or her ideas on what they know — and do not know — about their groups on the midseason mark, whereas additionally providing readers and followers an extra component to look out for because the second half commences.

Soar to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

AFC EAST

What we all know: The Payments have seemed like one of many NFL’s greatest groups however have some points to wash up in a aggressive AFC East. Total, the line of defense has improved from final season, however stopping the run has developed into an issue (170-plus speeding yards allowed in every of the previous two video games). On the opposite aspect, when quarterback Josh Allen is on and supported by a little bit of a run recreation, this offense has proven it may be unstoppable.

What we do not know but: In his previous six quarters, Allen has accomplished 47.9% of passes and thrown zero touchdowns to 4 interceptions. He threw a complete of 4 interceptions previous to that stretch. A lot of the Payments’ success will rely on whether or not Allen could make good choices and keep on the identical web page with the offense. The opposite query surrounds the return of cornerback Tre’Davious White. With White’s return imminent, how will he carry out and what is going to it do for the protection?

Key harm to observe: Allen is presently coping with a proper elbow harm, particularly to the ulnar collateral ligament and associated nerves. All the offense revolves round him as he has accounted for 23 of the crew’s 25 offensive touchdowns both by passing or working. Allen can also be the crew’s main rusher (392 yards). If he’s to overlook any size of time and Case Keenum fills in, the offense will change considerably. — Alaina Getzenberg


What we all know: Tua Tagovailoa has lived as much as all of the offseason hype. The Dolphins have gained each recreation he has completed and has been the driving drive behind most of them — together with back-to-back video games in Week 8 and Week 9 with a minimum of 300 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He is the NFL’s chief in quarterback ranking and has thrived pushing the ball downfield, main the league in yards per try whereas rating third in air yards per try.

What we do not know but: Whereas their offense has been top-of-the-line items within the league over the primary half of the season, the Dolphins’ protection has teetered between statistically mediocre and beneath common. They traded for pass-rusher Bradley Chubb on the deadline however to this point, we do not know if this protection can regain its kind from a season in the past. Miami ranks twenty ninth in defensive anticipated factors added, twenty fifth in scoring, twenty third in yards allowed per recreation and twenty seventh in third-down protection.

Key harm to observe: Cornerback Byron Jones hasn’t participated in any soccer exercise since final 12 months’s season finale. Offseason Achilles surgical procedure landed him on the bodily unable to carry out checklist — which he’s but to return from. Undrafted rookie Kader Kohou has been the shock participant of the 12 months in Jones’ stead, however Jones’ return would offer a lift to a depleted Dolphins secondary. Simply do not anticipate it inside the subsequent two or three weeks. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


What we all know: Matthew Judon is a number one contender for NFL Defensive Participant of the Yr, with a league-high 11.5 sacks, and is motivated to keep away from the identical late-season slide he had in 2021. Led by Judon’s robust play, the Patriots are a crew outlined by protection and particular groups items, because the Mac Jones-led offense has but to interrupt out.

What we do not know but: Is the offensive teaching setup, with Matt Patricia because the playcaller and Joe Decide because the QBs coach, constructed to final? After an offseason of buildup about Mac Jones taking a Yr 2 soar and elevating into the dialog of a being franchise quarterback, it hasn’t occurred thus far.

Circle this upcoming recreation: The Patriots come out of their Week 10 bye and play three video games in 12 days — Nov. 20 in opposition to the New York Jets (6-3), then Thanksgiving evening Nov. 24 in opposition to the Minnesota Vikings (7-1) earlier than one other Thursday recreation on Dec. 1 in opposition to the Buffalo Payments (6-2). We’ll discover out much more in regards to the Patriots after that three-game stretch. — Mike Reiss


What we all know: The Jets are an excellent defensive crew, and that may enable them to compete with the so-called elite groups. They’ve a minimum of one takeaway in each recreation and have held 4 of their previous six opponents below 200 passing yards. Defensive sort out Quinnen Williams and cornerback D.J. Reed are having profession years, and Sauce Gardner is a candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Yr. It is a resilient crew — 3-3 when going through double-digit deficits, in comparison with 3-40 within the earlier 4 seasons.

What we do not know but: Quarterback Zach Wilson nonetheless is not adequate to hold the offense for 4 quarters, so it is honest to marvel how they’d fare in a shootout-type recreation. They’ve sufficient playmakers, particularly with rookie broad receiver Garrett Wilson heating up, however he must be managed due to his penchant for errors. He wants a floor recreation; they’re 6-0 when scoring speeding touchdowns.

Key harm to observe: Huge receiver Corey Davis (knee), who missed two video games, is predicted to return in Week 11. When he does, who will get dropped from the receiver rotation? How will it have an effect on chemistry? Denzel Mims has performed properly sufficient to earn a everlasting position, in response to coach Robert Saleh. Somebody must be the odd man out, and it might be Elijah Moore, whose manufacturing has disappeared. Curiously, he hasn’t caught a ball since his commerce request. — Wealthy Cimini

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AFC NORTH

What we all know: Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have been practically unstoppable working the ball. Baltimore has rushed for 150-plus yards in eight straight video games, which is the longest single-season streak because the 1985 Chicago Bears. The offensive line has been so dominant that 5 gamers have totaled over 100 yards speeding this season. Jackson stays elusive, producing 26 runs of 10 or extra yards (second most within the NFL).

What we do not know but: Can Baltimore win if Jackson has to throw the ball? Jackson ranks fourth with 16 landing passes, however he’s 18th in passing yards with 1,768. He has lacked consistency hitting his receivers this season. Over the previous 5 video games, Jackson has accomplished lower than 60% of his passes 4 instances and has averaged 175 yards passing. A few of the decreased manufacturing is the results of accidents to talent place gamers. However Jackson additionally hasn’t been sharp. His 19.3% off-target fee is the seventh worst within the league.

Circle this upcoming recreation: The Ravens shut out the common season on the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), and this appears to be like like the sport that may determine the AFC North. The Browns (3-5) have struggled with quarterback Deshaun Watson on suspension, and the Steelers (2-6) have sputtered with out Ben Roethlisberger. This division is a two-team race between Baltimore and Cincinnati, which have mixed for 3 of the previous 4 AFC North titles. The Ravens, although, have to reverse historical past after dropping seven of the previous 10 video games in Cincinnati. — Jamison Hensley

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Marcus Spears breaks down why he sees the Ravens as Tremendous Bowl contenders.


What we all know: The Bengals have been a really up-and-down crew. They began 0-2 earlier than rallying to win 5 of their subsequent seven video games. That included three wins over a foul NFC South division. The issues that made Cincinnati the AFC champs final 12 months — well timed offense and a stout protection — are the core of this 12 months’s crew, too.

What we do not know but: If the Bengals will be capable to stand up to the upcoming opposition of their playoff push. In response to ESPN Analytics, the Bengals have the second-toughest remaining power of schedule. With Cincinnati a recreation behind Baltimore for the AFC North lead and the Ravens going through a a lot softer schedule (Twenty fourth-toughest SOS), a wild-card berth might be the Bengals’ greatest likelihood of returning to the postseason.

Key harm to observe: The timetable for broad receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s return can be pivotal to Cincinnati’s playoff possibilities. Chase has been top-of-the-line receivers within the NFL since he entered the league in 2021. When he is on the sphere, he forces opposing defenses to regulate their schemes accordingly. Chase is a key asset for quarterback Joe Burrow and an offense trying to stay one of many NFL’s most effective items. — Ben Child


What we all know: The Browns boast one of many prime speeding offenses within the NFL. Nick Chubb is second within the league in speeding (841 yards), averaging a whopping 5.64 yards per carry with a league-best 10 speeding touchdowns. Kareem Hunt, staying with the Browns previous the commerce deadline, stays one of many NFL’s prime backup backs. And the offensive line, led by Professional Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, continues to dominate the road of scrimmage.

What we do not know but: How good is that this Browns protection? Due to a collection of tough performances to start the season, the Browns rank simply twenty seventh in defensive effectivity. However Cleveland can also be coming off its greatest outing of the 12 months, fully shutting down Joe Burrow and the Bengals on Monday Night time Soccer. The expertise is there, headlined by All-Professional pass-rusher Myles Garrett. If the Browns can discover consistency, particularly within the fourth quarter, the protection might start to satisfy its lofty preseason expectations.

Stat that outlined the primary half: The Browns’ protection ranked thirtieth in defensive anticipated factors allowed (-13.08) within the fourth quarter. Late-game collapses in opposition to the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers are the most important purpose Cleveland is 3-5 regardless of rating tenth within the league in ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. The analytics recommend the Browns ought to have a a lot better file at this level, and fourth-quarter protection is why they do not. — Jake Trotter


What we all know: The Steelers aren’t performing like a playoff crew — or something near it. Although the tip of Ben Roethlisberger’s profession wasn’t easy, the Steelers are nonetheless coping with the ripple results of life and not using a veteran signal-caller and the transition to a youthful core on either side of the ball. The protection, taking part in with out T.J. Watt for practically your complete first half of the season, struggled via the NFL’s hardest schedule, unable to get strain on the quarterback and cease massive passing performs.

What we do not know but: Not solely can we not know the id of this offense, we do not know if they’re going to ever develop one. The Steelers made the early-season change to Kenny Pickett, however the offense nonetheless is not producing factors. The plan is predictable, the run recreation is stagnant (ranked twenty eighth within the NFL), and Pickett, whereas having the demeanor and confidence to stay composed in massive moments, has eight interceptions to simply two landing throws. Mike Tomlin is adamant he will not make any midseason teaching modifications, so will the Steelers ever be capable to determine the offense?

Non-quarterback X issue for the second half: After sustaining a pectoral muscle tear in Week 1 and present process an unrelated arthroscopic knee surgical procedure, Watt is ready to return for the Steelers’ Week 10 matchup in opposition to the New Orleans Saints. With out Watt, the Steelers have recorded simply eight sacks in seven video games after recording seven within the Week 1 win in opposition to the Bengals. Not solely is Watt returning, however the Steelers are additionally getting security Damontae Kazee off harm reserve they usually traded for nook William Jackson III on the deadline. At 2-6, the Steelers are solidly in final place within the AFC North, however they might nonetheless salvage a .500 — and even profitable — season. — Brooke Pryor

AFC SOUTH

What we all know: The Texans are 1-6-1, and in response to ESPN’s projected draft order, they’ve the most effective likelihood (30%) to land the No. 1 general decide. The crew hasn’t been as unhealthy as its file would recommend — each recreation has been a one-possession recreation within the fourth quarter. However they have not been in a position to end.

What we do not know but: If quarterback Davis Mills is the long-term reply on the place. Mills’ second 12 months has been inconsistent. His passer ranking is 81, and his completion share is 62%, each figures down from his rookie 12 months of a passer ranking of 88 and completion share of 66%. He is on tempo to throw 21 touchdowns and cross for 3,519 yards. However will that be sufficient to maintain the beginning gig in 2023?

Group pattern to observe: The Texans’ run protection is backside of the league. They’ve allowed 1,445 yards passing (most within the NFL), 12 touchdowns (third most) and 5.5 yards per carry (third highest). They’ve allowed the 2 highest speeding totals in a recreation this season because the Tennessee Titans rushed for 314 yards in Week 8 and the Chicago Bears hit 284 in Week 3. — DJ Bien-Aime


What we all know: The firing of coach Frank Reich and set up of Jeff Saturday as interim coach means the Colts are actually in an analysis mode for the rest of the season. Already 3-5-1, the upheaval definitely would not determine to spice up their possibilities of turning the season round. So, the Colts are more likely to strategy the ultimate eight video games with a watch towards subsequent season, searching for indicators on what form the crew ought to absorb 2023.

What we do not know but: What sort of response involves the Saturday experiment. That is as unconventional a rent as you may ever see within the NFL, so it will likely be fascinating to see how the gamers and remaining workers members reply. Saturday can be watched intently by his gamers, who will simply be capable to inform whether or not he’s as much as the duty regardless of having by no means coached past the highschool stage. Add to this the truth that Saturday is taking on a crew in disarray, and it is clearly a tall order.

Breakout participant to this point: Rookie receiver Alec Pierce hasn’t but posted big numbers (25 receptions, 396 yards), however for those who constantly watch him play, his potential is clear. Pierce has already proven nice strides in two areas the Colts feared may take him a while: He’s displaying spectacular capability to beat press protection, which has enabled him to be a downfield risk. He is also proving he can work throughout the center and in site visitors in opposition to tight protection, erasing considerations in that space as properly. — Stephen Holder


What we all know: The Jaguars aren’t the simple out they have been the previous a number of seasons. Seven of their 9 video games have been determined by one rating, and the opposite two have been blowout victories. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been up and down in his second season, however the Jaguars can run the ball properly (seventh within the NFL) and working again Travis Etienne Jr. is a rising star.

What we do not know but: The Jaguars did quite a lot of work on the protection — signing 4 free brokers and drafting three gamers within the first three rounds — however the cross rush is beneath common (16 sacks), they usually’ve pressured solely two turnovers up to now 5 video games. They’ve additionally failed to carry fourth-quarter leads in 4 of their losses. Nobody has emerged as a constant playmaker for first-time coordinator Mike Caldwell. The Jaguars want to seek out cohesiveness with the toughest a part of schedule forward.

Stat that outlined the primary half: Lawrence has been unhealthy within the pink zone: His QBR is 10.8 and ranks thirty first (forward of solely Russell Wilson), and he has thrown a league-high three interceptions in that space. Two of these have been in the long run zone on practically similar throws. If he would not throw these picks, the Jaguars seemingly win each video games (Denver, Houston) and might be 5-4 and battling the Titans for the division lead. — Mike DiRocco


What we all know: All the things revolves round Derrick Henry and the offensive line. Henry leads the NFL with 870 speeding yards. The offensive line has undergone some shuffling as a consequence of accidents however has just lately hit a stride paving the way in which for Henry to hurry for 100 or extra yards in six consecutive video games. Henry is the Titans’ largest scoring risk. His 9 speeding touchdowns are greater than everybody else on the crew mixed.

What we do not know but: How good can this protection be? Tennessee’s relentless entrance is led by Jeffery Simmons and has a rotation that goes a minimum of seven deep. The Titans specialise in getting strain with simply the entrance 4, permitting them to drop seven into protection. Denico Autry is quietly probably the most disruptive gamers on the protection. If the Titans can discover methods to shut video games out, they might show to be one of many NFL’s prime items.

Stat that outlined the primary half: 99-33. That is what number of factors the Titans have allowed within the second half as in comparison with what number of factors they’ve scored. The Titans get off to nice begins, at one level scoring a landing on the primary 4 game-opening drives of the season. However they have not carried that success over to the second half. Tennessee was outscored 21-7 in its season-opening loss to the Giants and 11-3 in its most up-to-date loss to the Chiefs, resulting in a 5-3 file. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

What we all know: We all know definitely that the Broncos can not compete at a playoff stage in the event that they rating 1.4 touchdowns per recreation, even with top-of-the-line defenses within the league. The Broncos have 11 touchdowns in eight video games and had simply eight touchdowns within the first seven. Everybody, from coach Nathaniel Hackett (the playcaller) to quarterback Russell Wilson, has too usually pressed to attempt to repair the offense in a single play. They discovered a minimum of slightly composure with the journey to London simply earlier than the bye and have to hold it now that they’re again within the criticism swirl of their hometown.

What we do not know but: The Broncos merely have to do what they need to and never what they need, each in strategy and within the second. Again and again, they’ve tried to be one thing they are not — Wilson is working performs out of the shotgun and open formations as their cross safety repeatedly fails them. A few of the choices have been as a consequence of accidents in addition to always trailing in video games. However after they play with extra heft within the personnel groupings, with Wilson below middle extra (particularly within the pink zone) and only a sliver of extra persistence, they carry out much better.

Key harm to observe: Outdoors linebacker Randy Gregory suffered a meniscus harm within the Broncos’ Week 4 loss to the Raiders and hasn’t performed since. The Broncos hoped Gregory, who signed a five-year, $70 million deal within the offseason, would gas their cross rush, particularly given the influence he confirmed early on. However with the commerce of Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins, Gregory’s capability to remain on the sphere and carry out at a excessive stage is much more essential. He is nonetheless a number of weeks away from a return, but when the Broncos are actually going to make one thing of the season’s second half, they’ll want him to be at his greatest when he does. — Jeff Legwold


What we all know: The Chiefs lead the league in scoring and are getting an enormous season from quarterback Patrick Mahomes and large receiving contributions from Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and others every so often. Opponents which have slowed the Chiefs have stored blitzing to a minimal whereas nonetheless producing some strain.

What we do not know but: The Chiefs are nonetheless figuring who they’re on protection. Their cross rush is way improved however inconsistent. Their strain tends to be each down or nonexistent for lengthy stretches. The Chiefs have been taking part in nice run protection early within the season, however that a part of their recreation has declined. 5 rookies are both starters or obtain important taking part in time on protection, so the Chiefs have an inexpensive expectation for enchancment.

Circle this upcoming recreation: The Chiefs, who beat the Chargers in Week 2, head to Los Angeles for the rematch in Week 11. A win would give them the season sweep of the division rival closest to them within the standings and an enormous edge of their pursuit of a seventh straight AFC West championship. The previous three video games between the Chiefs and Chargers have been determined by six (with a late-deciding TD), six (in extra time) and three factors. There simply hasn’t been a lot to separate these two groups after they get collectively. — Adam Teicher


What we all know: Josh Jacobs may need taken some offense to not having his fifth-year choice picked up by the Raiders’ new regime, as the previous Professional Bowl working again has been the crew’s MVP via eight video games. Contemplate: The 2019 first-round decide is on tempo to set profession highs in speeding yards (1,579) and speeding TDs (13) and had a three-game stretch during which he rushed for 144, 154 and 143 yards to steer the Raiders to 2 wins in that stretch — their solely two of the season. Jacobs has been a revelation for coach Josh McDaniels, who historically makes use of a working back-by-committee strategy.

What we do not know but: When, or if, the Raiders will play a stable 60 minutes of soccer. Blowing three video games during which they led by a minimum of 17 factors is an indication of a squad that does not know tips on how to end, a surprising improvement for a crew that was within the playoffs a 12 months in the past and supposedly took a step ahead with a seemingly elite playcaller in McDaniels. Plus, the protection giving up 15 touchdowns in 15 goal-to-go conditions is greater than mind-numbing.

Key harm to observe: Tight finish Darren Waller’s newest illness is the hamstring he injured in Week 5, taking part in simply eight snaps at Kansas Metropolis. He has not performed since. Waller injured the opposite hamstring in coaching camp, simply earlier than signing a three-year, $51 million extension. Throw within the knee and again accidents he suffered final Thanksgiving at Dallas, and Waller has missed eight of the Raiders’ previous 14 regular-season video games. As uneven and incomplete as Las Vegas’ offense has been, Waller’s wholesome presence would have a settling impact. — Paul Gutierrez


What we all know: The Chargers constructed top-of-the-line rosters on paper over the offseason, that includes a league-high eight gamers featured in ESPN’s NFL prime 100 rankings. Nevertheless, the group by no means has performed — and by no means will play — a single recreation collectively this season as a consequence of a rash of accidents, which resulted in broad receiver Keenan Allen lacking 5 video games due to a hamstring difficulty and edge rusher Joey Bosa, left sort out Rashawn Slater and cornerback J.C. Jackson every being positioned on injured reserve.

What we do not know but: If, regardless of the harm state of affairs, the Chargers are able to turn into a playoff crew. The Bolts have not made the postseason since 2018, which counts as their solely look over the previous eight seasons. They appeared poised to compete within the AFC in a Week 2 showdown with the Chiefs regardless of dropping 27-24 at Arrowhead Stadium. Nevertheless, they’ve but to play a constant — not to mention dominant — recreation since and even failed to point out in a Week 3 loss to the Jaguars and a Week 7 loss to the Seahawks.

Circle this upcoming recreation: Week 11, the Chargers host the Chiefs at SoFi Stadium. Even with a number of important accidents, an offense that has regressed from 2021 and a protection that has flashed however has but to show constant enchancment from a 12 months in the past, the Bolts stay in second place within the AFC West behind the Chiefs. A win over quarterback Patrick Mahomes & Co. might present this group a much-needed morale enhance and confidence to make a push down the stretch. — Lindsey Thiry

NFC EAST

What we all know: The Cowboys have an opportunity to be the NFC consultant within the Tremendous Bowl. How good of an opportunity? That is still to be seen. They’ve a dominant protection that may have an effect on the quarterback (Micah Parsons & Co.) and take the ball away (Trevon Diggs & Co.). They will run the ball successfully with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. They’ve a greater than stable particular groups unit. The gamers are in place for the Cowboys to make it to a minimum of a convention title recreation for the primary time since 1995. Can they clear no matter psychological hurdle has clamped down on this franchise because the mid-Nineteen Nineties?

What we do not know but: Can the offense constantly put up factors? It cleared 25 factors simply as soon as within the first eight video games, and if you wish to give as the explanation for it that backup quarterback Cooper Rush began 5 instances, that is nice. Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz and whoever else should constantly present they will get it performed within the passing recreation. The 42 factors scored on offense (of the 49) in opposition to the Chicago Bears was a constructive, however it may possibly’t simply be a one-off.

Circle this upcoming recreation: Dec. 24 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. Since their loss to the Eagles in October, the gamers have been speaking in regards to the rematch. They really feel like they let an opportunity slip away at Lincoln Monetary Subject due to a gradual begin and three interceptions, and Prescott didn’t play in that recreation. It might be for the NFC East title and probably home-field benefit, however even when it is not, a win would give the Cowboys an enormous enhance heading into the postseason. — Todd Archer


What we all know: The Giants are vastly improved from the previous 5 years after they have been tied for the worst file in soccer. Begin with the teaching and management. Coach Brian Daboll appears to be like like the true deal and basic supervisor Joe Schoen has performed a masterful job juggling a flawed roster with little cash below the wage cap at his disposal. It seems the Giants lastly have their coach and GM for a few years to return.

What we do not know but: It is nonetheless to be decided how the Giants deal with the futures of quarterback Daniel Jones and working again Saquon Barkley. Each are impending free brokers. Schoen has the franchise tag at his disposal, however does he apply it to both? The ultimate 9 video games will go a great distance in figuring out whether or not the Giants wish to construct round Jones and in the event that they wish to put money into a working again. Staying wholesome is paramount for each gamers.

Circle this upcoming recreation: Giants vs. Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving. The following two weeks, the Giants have the Texans and Lions at residence, and it is completely attainable they’re 8-2 getting into that Cowboys recreation. It is their alternative to show this crew is legit and is not going away in entrance of a nationwide viewers, particularly after Dallas dealt with them fairly simply of their first matchup in New Jersey. — Jordan Raanan


What we all know: The Eagles have the NFL’s greatest file and are 8-0 for the primary time in franchise historical past. That is largely as a result of MVP-caliber play of quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has gained 11 straight begins, the longest lively streak amongst quarterbacks. He has 18 complete touchdowns and simply two interceptions. Turnover differential tells the story of a crew that’s caring for enterprise on either side of the ball. The Eagles have gained the turnover battle in all eight video games performed, posting an NFL-best plus-15 differential this season, and are the primary crew to take action because the 1972 Steelers. 

What we do not know but: Simply how lengthy this outstanding run will final. The Eagles are projected to be favored in each recreation remaining on their schedule apart from their Christmas Eve matchup on the Dallas Cowboys, in response to ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. It is tough to determine holes on both aspect of the ball. However the gamers are conscious that, because the NFL’s solely undefeated crew, they’re going to be getting everybody’s greatest recreation from right here on out.

Key harm to observe: Rookie defensive sort out Jordan Davis is on injured reserve with a excessive ankle sprain, however he’s anticipated to return in some unspecified time in the future this season. Within the meantime, the Eagles’ protection must stabilize in opposition to the run. It allowed Texans rookie Dameon Pierce to go off for 139 yards on 27 carries in Week 9. Coming into that recreation, the Eagles allowed 3.9 yards per rush with Davis on the sphere (70 rushes) versus 6 yards per rush with him off the sphere (112 rushes). — Tim McManus


What we all know: Their offense lacks any kind of consistency or id. They’ve good talent expertise with receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson and versatile again Antonio Gibson. However the offense has scored greater than 17 factors solely as soon as up to now seven video games. In the meantime, the Commanders’ protection has stored Washington in each recreation since Week 2. Tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne have mixed for 10 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss.

What we do not know but: Who will begin at quarterback for the second half? Taylor Heinicke will begin his fourth recreation vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday after which Carson Wentz can be eligible to return off the injured reserve checklist. Wentz has the upper ceiling, however studying a brand new offense mixed with taking part in behind poor safety has led to issues. Heinicke’s mobility supplies a spark to the offense, however his different bodily expertise are restricted. It is also unsure what enhance defensive finish Chase Younger will present when he returns from a torn ACL.

Non-quarterback X issue for the second half: The run recreation. The Commanders do not have the quarterback play, or safety, to turn into a pass-heavy crew. Nevertheless, they haven’t developed a constant run recreation in Ron Rivera’s three seasons. They rank twenty first in speeding yards per recreation and twenty fifth in yards per carry. At instances it is about dedication; different instances it is blocking or run design. Whatever the purpose, if Washington would not develop a extra constant run recreation, it will be out of rivalry for the third wild-card spot in mid-December. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

What we all know: Growth for a franchise within the first 12 months of a rebuild supplies hope for the long run no matter what the win-loss column appears to be like like in 2022. This offense is unlocking Justin Fields’ strengths as a pure runner (he set the common season single-game QB speeding file with 178 yards vs. Miami) and capitalizing off his arm expertise. His passing numbers aren’t gaudy, however the way in which he is throwing the ball (two of his passing touchdowns in opposition to the Dolphins got here whereas below duress) has improved. In his final 5 video games, Fields has thrown for 851 yards, 11 touchdowns, and two interceptions whereas posting a 100.5 QB ranking. He is doing his half to show he is the reply at quarterback.

What we do not know but: Instantly after finishing his teardown on the commerce deadline, Ryan Poles made a transfer to help Fields by buying and selling for broad receiver Chase Claypool. What is the subsequent step for the Bears’ basic supervisor? Poles has upward of $123 million in cap area and eight draft picks to make use of within the offseason. The offensive and defensive traces want work. Fields wants higher receivers. The Bears want to find out whether or not they’re snug shifting ahead with Khalil Herbert as their lead again or give David Montgomery his subsequent contract. The following eight video games are an analysis interval for a roster comprising gamers on rookie contracts and veterans on short-term offers. What number of of these gamers do the Bears envision as a part of their long-term plan?

Breakout participant to this point: Eddie Jackson is the most effective participant on the Bears’ protection and ranks second within the NFL in interceptions (4) via 9 weeks. That is a welcome turnaround for the veteran security whose manufacturing dipped the final two years regardless of posting the best sort out totals of his profession. Rebuilding Chicago’s secondary was the first focus of the draft, and the addition of rookie Jaquan Brisker has put Jackson able to roam at free security and create massive performs. Jackson has the seventh-highest cap hit of all safeties at $13 million in 2023 ($9.6 million in useless cash). The Bears have had no difficulty accumulating useless cap this season, but when they imagine Jackson’s stage of manufacturing is sustainable, he ought to stay within the fold. — Courtney Cronin


What we all know: Rookie Aidan Hutchinson is legit. The No. 2 general decide ranks first for rookies in sacks (4.5), quarterback hits (9) and complete pressures generated (24). He even recorded an interception off Inexperienced Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Hutchinson is attempting to assist change the tradition in Detroit, and he has a fan in former Lions star Ndamukong Suh. “Hopefully the GM and ownership are smart enough to build around him!” Suh just lately wrote on Twitter when requested his opinion of the rookie.

What we do not know but: Can the Lions’ protection flip it round? Coming into Week 9 win versus Inexperienced Bay, the Lions have been permitting a league-worst 32.1 factors per recreation — which led to the firing of defensive backs coach Aubrey Nice. Towards the Packers, they allowed simply 9 factors, which was their fewest in a recreation this season. The defensive unit held a players-only assembly the week of the Packers recreation, which can have helped encourage that efficiency, but it surely stays to be seen if this play is sustainable shifting ahead.

Key harm to observe: The well being of working again D’Andre Swift. A shoulder and ankle harm has restricted Swift to taking part in in 5 of the primary eight video games of the season. He is averaging a career-best 7.3 yards per carry however has simply 34 speeding makes an attempt compared to Jamaal Williams’ 126 carries. Even after lacking three video games, Lions head coach Dan Campbell and his workers proceed to watch Swift shifting ahead as they put together to face the Chicago Bears on the highway Sunday. “We feel like there wasn’t a setback and we gave him enough plays to where we feel like he could handle it. And yet, we could use the things that he does well,” Campbell mentioned. “And so, we’re hopeful we can give him a little bit more this week.” — Eric Woodyard


What we all know: The Packers are in disarray. Their 3-1 begin was a mirage. Their protection had protection breakdowns, and coach Matt LaFleur could not discover a stability between the run recreation and Aaron Rodgers. All of that has been exacerbated throughout a five-game dropping streak, their longest since Rodgers’ first season as a starter (2008). And contemplating their subsequent three opponents have a mixed file of 19-5, it is arduous to think about this turning round anytime quickly.

What we do not know but: If they are going to give Jordan Love a glance. LaFleur in all probability will not even entertain the thought until the Packers have been eradicated from playoff rivalry. At that time, nonetheless, it will serve the group greatest if they will see Love in motion to find out whether or not he is made progress from final 12 months and could be thought of the inheritor obvious — particularly if both the crew or Rodgers are undecided about shifting ahead collectively in 2023.

Stat that outlined the primary half: The Packers have averaged 17.1 factors per recreation, their fewest via 9 video games since 1992 — Brett Favre’s first season in Inexperienced Bay. — Rob Demovsky

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Marcus Spears breaks down why he would not bench Aaron Rodgers if the Packers fall out of rivalry.


What we all know: The Vikings all however locked up a playoff spot within the top-heavy NFC earlier than they reached the midpoint of their season. A 7-1 begin, mixed with disastrous openings in Inexperienced Bay, Chicago and Detroit, provides the Vikings a 99.3% likelihood to succeed in the postseason, in response to ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. They might play at .500 the remainder of the way in which and nonetheless ease their approach into the playoffs.

What we do not know but: A minimum of a part of the Vikings’ success could be attributed to wonderful well being amongst a veteran core that’s getting the overwhelming majority of the crew’s taking part in time. By means of eight video games, two starters missed a complete of two video games. Gamers like Harrison Smith (33), Patrick Peterson (32) and Adam Thielen (32) are logging quite a lot of snaps. Nevertheless, can they maintain their well being and effectiveness via a 17-game season?

Stat that outlined the primary half: The Vikings gained six consecutive video games by one rating, and 4 required the Vikings to beat a fourth-quarter deficit. — Kevin Seifert

NFC SOUTH

What we all know: Arthur Smith’s crew has a transparent id and plan to win — run the ball on offense and be OK with yardage however not factors on protection. On offense, it is working. Atlanta has run for 1,466 yards this 12 months and has 4 gamers with 299 yards or extra on the bottom. On protection, which is the place the Falcons nonetheless want essentially the most enchancment, they’re permitting 25 factors per recreation.

What we do not know but: Properly, lots. It is a crew in transition, so the way forward for the quarterback place — significantly in the long run — stays a query together with when the Falcons will get Kyle Pitts (23 catches, 285 yards, two touchdowns) going with extra consistency. So, too, does a semblance of a cross rush. The Falcons are higher there than final 12 months — Atlanta has 12 sacks via 9 video games after solely 18 in all of 2021 — but it surely’s nonetheless coming too occasionally. The place that might enhance continues to be a serious query.

Non-quarterback X issue for the second half: Pitts. If Atlanta is ready to get its star tight finish constantly concerned as a receiver, then it may possibly open up far more of the offense. After a 1,000-yard season final 12 months, Pitts has had solely two video games of greater than 30 yards receiving and simply two video games with greater than three catches this season. Final season, Pitts had 9 video games with 4 catches or extra and 13 video games with greater than 30 yards receiving. It is a totally different offense now, however contemplating Pitts’ 30% goal share, his 2022 numbers needs to be a lot better. — Michael Rothstein


What we all know: This crew is a dysfunctional mess. Head coach Matt Rhule was fired after a 1-4 begin, and Christian McCaffrey, the face of the franchise, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers every week later. And but the most important mess stays the quarterback place that has been the failing this franchise for the previous three-plus seasons. The reply is not Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold or PJ Walker, however any person within the 2023 draft.

What we do not know but: Who would be the subsequent head coach? Interim coach Steve Wilks needed to do an distinctive job to be an element. And whereas his robust management has been distinctive, it hasn’t modified a lot on the sphere. He very properly is likely to be the reply shifting ahead. He deserves a good shot to be a head coach within the league, however he’ll have to put collectively a string of wins and stay viable within the weak NFC South to get a glance from proprietor David Tepper, who will wish to make a splash together with his subsequent rent.

Stat that outlined the primary half: Look no additional than a 26.7% third-down conversion fee that is final within the NFL. The offense’s incapability to maintain drives alive outlined the inconsistency of the quarterback place and put approach an excessive amount of strain on a younger protection with expertise. — David Newton


What we all know: The Saints do not have a long-term quarterback state of affairs. They’re sticking with Andy Dalton over Jameis Winston for now after Winston was injured early within the season, which is the second time the Saints have chosen one other quarterback over Winston (the primary being after they tried to get Deshaun Watson within the offseason). Dalton has been in a position to transfer the offense however not constantly, and neither looks like a surefire choice in 2023 or past. Contemplating the Saints do not need a 2023 first-round decide, the long run appears murky at that place.

What we do not know but: What the Saints’ true potential could be. The Saints performed in addition to they’d all season in opposition to the Raiders earlier than taking an enormous step again in opposition to the Ravens. Their season has been outlined by their inconsistency to this point, they usually’ve proven solely flashes of stable play. However the Saints stay in it, regardless of being 3-6, due to a weak division. They nonetheless have an opportunity to make a run, however provided that they will string collectively multiple good recreation at a time.

Breakout participant to this point: Huge receiver Chris Olave. Olave has been one of many brilliant spots of the Saints’ offense, catching 43 passes for 618 yards and two touchdowns. Olave’s play has helped ease the Saints’ ache of dropping Michael Thomas for a second straight season, and it has been wanted contemplating Jarvis Landry has been out for greater than a month. The primary-round decide looks like a budding star for the Saints long run. — Katherine Terrell


What we all know: This is not final 12 months’s crew. They’re averaging 17.2 factors per recreation on offense — twenty sixth within the league — after main the NFL a 12 months in the past. There isn’t a Rob Gronkowski. There isn’t a Antonio Brown. They don’t seem to be scoring at will — nowhere near it. And middle Ryan Jensen won’t return in time for the playoffs — in the event that they even make it that far.

What we do not know but: Can the protection get wholesome and keep that approach? The Bucs seemed like a dramatically totally different crew when defensive sort out Akiem Hicks and cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting led the way in which to assist snap a three-game dropping streak Sunday in opposition to the Rams. Till the offense can put up extra factors, they’ve to hold the load.

Group pattern to observe: The Bucs presently lead the NFL with 19 drops. That they had 30 all of final 12 months. That quantity wants to return down in the event that they wish to maintain drives and rating. Apparently, it is Mike Evans who’s main the crew with 5, adopted by Leonard Fournette with three. — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

What we all know: The Cardinals aren’t a well-organized crew. They have been suffering from psychological errors and self-inflicted errors, an indication of an absence of self-discipline. Arizona’s offense can also’t discover a rhythm, which, for a crew that has a slew of stars on the offensive aspect of the ball, would not bode properly for the long run. It is a crew that is presently in a state of disarray.

What we do not know but: How the Cardinals will reply to the primary half of the season. All through the primary two months, coach Kliff Kingsbury has mentioned time and time once more that the Cardinals hope this season will unfold as the other of final 12 months: a gradual begin adopted by a powerful end. The query now’s: Is that this crew able to resurrecting this season?

Key harm to observe: Middle Rodney Hudson’s knee may maintain a key — not the important thing — to the remainder of the season. The extra time he misses, the extra the offense will seemingly look unorganized and be unproductive. He was the glue that held it collectively — not simply the offensive line, your complete offense. His capability to current a way of calm upfront and information quarterback Kyler Murray via checks and defensive schemes was a significant component within the Cardinals’ success the previous couple of years. — Josh Weinfuss


What we all know: This 2022 Rams crew would not seem like the roster that went 12-5 final season en path to a Tremendous Bowl victory. The Los Angeles offense, having added Allen Robinson II and subtracted Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr., hasn’t discovered any consistency. The Rams have scored 131 factors — in comparison with 245 factors at this level final season. The 131 factors are tied for the second fewest by a defending champion within the Tremendous Bowl period.

What we do not know but: Whether or not Cooper Kupp can single-handedly flip this season round for the Rams’ offense. It appears unlikely via eight video games that this would be the case, as Kupp has 72 catches for 813 yards and 6 receiving touchdowns, and the Rams are nonetheless 3-5. But when there’s a non-quarterback on this league who might spearhead that change, it will in all probability be Kupp, who has caught 75% of the crew’s passing touchdowns this season.

Group pattern to observe: Can the Rams discover any success on the bottom? Regardless of getting working again Cam Akers again Sunday in opposition to the Buccaneers, the Rams mixed for 68 speeding yards on 24 carries. Twenty-three of these yards got here on one play by Darrell Henderson Jr., which was the Rams’ longest run of the season. Los Angeles will seemingly get rookie working again Kyren Williams again subsequent week in opposition to the Arizona Cardinals, however will that be sufficient to jump-start a speeding offense that got here into the loss in opposition to the Buccaneers ranked thirty first within the NFL? — Sarah Barshop


What we all know: When wholesome, the 49ers have probably the most dominant defenses within the league and an offense that is trending upward. Regardless of a few hiccups, the protection nonetheless ranks close to the highest of the league in lots of key classes and may get most of its injured starters again. The offense boasts elite expertise however seeks consistency. At 4-4 and 3-0 within the NFC West, the Niners are within the thick of the playoff image.

What we do not know but: Two important questions that want solutions: Can the Niners get and keep (comparatively) wholesome, and might quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo keep away from massive errors at essential moments? Accidents are a problem everywhere in the league however have been a much bigger drawback within the Bay than most locations for happening 5 years. Garoppolo has his limitations, but when he is caring for the ball and distributing it to his playmakers, the Niners can beat anybody.

Non-quarterback X issue for the second half: RB Christian McCaffrey. Typically the plain alternative is apparent for a purpose. McCaffrey hasn’t had a lot time together with his new crew however has already proved able to being the centerpiece of the offense in a significant recreation. With a lot expertise on the talent positions, McCaffrey mustn’t solely produce massive numbers however create alternatives for his teammates to do the identical. If that occurs, the Niners can be poised for one more postseason run. — Nick Wagoner


What we all know: Geno Smith and the Seahawks are for actual. They have been one of many largest surprises of the NFL season, Smith taking part in at a excessive stage — after spending the previous seven seasons as a backup — and Seattle sitting at first place within the NFC West after few anticipated them to compete with out Russell Wilson. And none of it seems like a fluke. Smith has the NFL’s fourth-best QBR and has statistically been the league’s most correct quarterback. The protection has gone from terrible to wonderful, permitting the fifth-fewest factors since its turnaround started in Week 6. And after the Seahawks scored three straight touchdowns Sunday to beat the Cardinals in Glendale after falling behind on a third-quarter Smith pick-six, we additionally know they seem to be a resilient crew.

What we do not know but: The place do they rank — and the place will they end — within the NFC pecking order? Solely two groups within the convention presently have extra wins than the 6-3 Seahawks, and one of many two different groups that additionally has six wins — the Giants — obtained dealt with by the Seahawks in Week 8. The Giants have not seemed spectacular, nor have the 7-1 Vikings. Based mostly on exterior expectations, the Seahawks have been extra more likely to find yourself with a top-10 decide than to compete for one of many NFC’s prime two playoff spots, however that is an attainable purpose. They’ve the NFC’s hardest remaining schedule, in response to ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index. However 5 of their remaining eight video games are at residence, they usually’ve nonetheless obtained their bye.

Non-quarterback X issue for the second half: Can their stellar draft class keep away from the proverbial rookie wall? Six of the Seahawks’ 9 draft picks are already important contributors, together with a pair of rookie of the 12 months candidates in cornerback Tariq Woolen and working again Kenneth Walker III. Tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, exterior linebacker Boye Mafe and nickelback Coby Bryant are additionally taking part in properly, giving the Seahawks their most proficient group of younger gamers since their Tremendous Bowl groups of practically a decade in the past. However there is a hazard in rookies slowing down late within the 12 months as a result of the NFL season is for much longer than the faculty slate, particularly now with a seventeenth recreation. In Walker’s case, it would assist that he has much less mileage on his legs as a result of he did not take over as Seattle’s RBI till Rashaad Penny went down in Week 5. — Brady Henderson