In what seems like a blink of an eye, we’re already more than halfway through the 2019 NFL season. So far the Patriots have been the typical Patriots, dominating opponents all season long with an 8-1 record and a league-best 172 point differential through nine games. On the flip side, tank season has begun for the winless Bengals, who have scored the second fewest amount of points (124) in the league and have benched starting QB Andy Dalton in favor of rookie QB Ryan Finley. While those results could have been foreseen before the start of the season, there’s been a pleasant amount of shock and letdown from teams across the league heading into week 10. Here’s a list of surprises and disappointments so far this season.
San Francisco 49ers (8-0)
Thanks to the Ravens shocking the football world by beating the then undefeated Patriots last Sunday night, the only undefeated team left in the NFL is the 49ers. While QB Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been perfect, the running game and the defense has carried the team thus far. The 49ers defense is crushing it’s opponents, allowing the fewest yards in the league with 241 yards per game and are tied for 3rd most sacks in the league with 30. A big reason for that has been the play from second overall pick DE Nick Bosa. Bosa has been dominant in his rookie season, recording 21 combined tackles, seven sacks, and an interception.
If it couldn’t get any better, the team traded a 2020 third and fourth round pick for WR Emmanuel Sanders before the trade deadline. Sanders has proven to be of great value to the 49ers, posting 137 yards and two touchdowns through two games. While their schedule has been fairly light so far, the real tests will come soon as they play the Seahawks (twice), Rams, Saints, Ravens, and Packers down the stretch.
Carolina Panthers (5-3)
Once franchise QB Cam Newton went down with an injury in week two against the Buccaneers, the 2019 season seemed bleak for the Panthers. Since then, QB Kyle Allen has led Carolina to a 5-1 record and on the fringe of a playoff spot in the NFC. While Allen has stepped in nicely for the injured Newton, the real reason the Panthers are where they are at is because of RB Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has been virtually unstoppable all season, recording 1,244 total yards (881 rushing and 363 receiving) and 13 total touchdowns through eight games. Even though the MVP is now almost a strictly QB award, McCaffrey should be in strong consideration for the award if he can keep pace and stay healthy for the second half of the season.
In order to stay in the playoff hunt, McCaffrey and the Panthers will have to continue the success on the ground against tough opponents in the Saints (twice), Seahawks, and the Colts coming up.
Buffalo Bills (6-2)
Coming into the 2019 season, no one really knew what to expect from the Buffalo Bills. In year two of the Josh Allen era, the Bills had several good pieces but lacked depth especially on the offensive side of the ball. After signing WRs’ Cole Beasley and John Brown and adding a plethora of talent via the draft and free agency to the offensive line, the Bills look like a completely different team from a year ago. The Bills have already won six games after only winning seven all of last season. Brown and Beasley have been a big part of that, leading the team in receiving in seven of the eight games.
Despite having a “light” schedule so far to start the season, the Bills have been excellent in close games, going 3-1 in games that are decided by a touchdown or less. While the Bills have had success early on, they’ll have a tough go of it down the stretch. Over a four week span, the Bills play the Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, and the Patriots, with three of those four games on the road. It’ll be a defining moment for the Bills team and its young QB if they can keep this momentum going forward into a potential playoff spot.
New York Jets (1-7)
Back in August during the preseason, I predicted a couple of non-playoff teams from last season that had a realistic shot to make it to the postseason this year. The New York Jets were one of those teams. They signed impact free agents in RB Le’Veon Bell, LB CJ Mosley and brought in the previously retired center Ryan Kalil. Along with drafting DT Quinnen Williams in the first round, the Jets looked as if they were rebound after a 4-12 season in QB Sam Darnold’s second season.
Nine weeks in and it’s been the complete opposite.
After blowing a 16-0 lead to the Bills in week one, Darnold contracted mononucleosis, sidelining him for the next month. Over that span, the team went 0-3 and got outscored by its opponents 84-23. Not ideal for first year head coach Adam Gase who is already being called to get canned from the Meadowlands. To make things worse, Darnold was caught mic’d up on MNF in a 33-0 crushing loss to the Patriots saying he was “seeing ghosts”. In that game, Darnold only completed 34 percent of his passes and finished with a dismal 86 yards passing and five turnovers (four interceptions and one fumble).
While the schedule does get fairly lighter from here on out, it’ll still be a fight for the Jets to make it back to .500 as they couldn’t even beat the winless Dolphins last week. Unless something out of the ordinary happens in the second half, the Jets will likely be picking in the top 10 of the 2020 draft for the fifth time in six seasons.
Cleveland Browns (2-6)
The biggest miss in my teams to make the playoffs this season was the Cleveland Browns. Back in August, I projected the team would shock the NFL world by going in 11-5 and claiming its first AFC North crown and winning its first division title since 1989 when it was the AFC Central.
After a convincing week four win in Baltimore that moved them to 2-2 on the season, the Browns have completely nosedived. The Browns are 0-4 in that span and QB Baker Mayfield has failed to go over 300 yards since week four and has not had multiple games with a touchdown pass all season long. The second year QB also has more INT (12) than touchdown passes (7). Mayfield has looked like a shell of himself so far this season after leading the Browns a game short of the playoffs last season.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. who has been shockingly quiet this season, let his voice be heard after their most recent loss to the Broncos in week nine. After beating Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr, Beckham stated that “I can’t get the ball to save my life” after Mayfield decided to throw an incomplete pass to double-covered WR Jarvis Landry on a decisive 4th and 4 instead of getting it to the wide open Beckham. Mayfield and Beckham have failed to get on the same page so far this season, as the duo only has one touchdown connection on the year. Beckham, known as one of the top five players at his position when healthy, has only recorded two 100+ receiving yard games this season. If you’re the Browns, that’s not a recipe for long-term success.
Chicago Bears (3-5)
In last year’s NFC wild card game, the Chicago Bears were only a made field goal from advancing to the Divisional Round with a chance to reach the Super Bowl with a historically dominant defense. After kicker Cody Parkey “double-doinked” the post and crossbar and missed a potential game winning 43-yard field goal, the Bears haven’t been right since.
The Bears opened the NFL’s 100th season and its home opener with a 10-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. After winning its next three games, the Bears have gone into hibernation. The team has lost four in a row, including three straight home games. QB Mitchell Trubisky has looked like a shell of himself from last season where he made the Pro Bowl and finished third in the league in quarterback rating (QBR).
While the Bears aren’t completely out of it yet, they must get it together soon. The next four games aren’t too strenuous as they play the Lions (twice), Giants and Rams. However, if the Bears don’t get it turned around soon, they could see themselves on the outside looking in at the 2019 playoffs. In the month of December, the Bears have to face the Cowboys, Chiefs, Vikings, and Packers, all who are above .500 and are currently in a playoff spot. With Trubisky struggling mightily and the defense breaking more than bending from being on the field too long, it could be the end of a short era for Trubisky as the Bears starting QB.
No Shenanigans, Just Football.