We’re about a quarter of the way through the 2015 NFL, and Mike Mankoff discusses what we’ve learned so far this season.
The first quarter of the season has come and gone, and there have been quite a few surprises thus far. Between good teams that are now bad and bad teams that are now good, 2015 has certainly kept me on my toes. Week five alone was incredibly exciting; four games went into overtime, and five games were decided by a touchdown or less. In case you missed any of it, here are some of the highlights of the first five weeks, as well as some predictions for the second half of the season:
Most Surprising Team: Atlanta Falcons
After two years of disappointment, the Falcon’s offensive line is performing well this year, enabling Matt Ryan to throw for over 1500 yards. The Falcons’ running backs are averaging a respectable 4.0 yards per carry and provide enough of a threat that defenses have to account for it giving Ryan an even better passing game. The schedule has not been too taxing thus far. Three of the five wins came against 2-3 teams, including one against a Tony Romo-less Cowboys. This current stretch has led to the Falcons’ 5-1 start and has come as a pleasant surprise to Atlanta fans.
Most Disappointing Team: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks came within a yard of back-to-back Super Bowl titles, but you would not notice it from this year’s performance. The Seahawks dropped their first two games and were only able to beat the struggling Lions and Bears (OH MY!). The win over the Lions is still highly controversial and last-minute penalties (or non-penalties) aside, the Lions came within inches of winning the game. In week five, they blew a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter, leading to an overtime loss to the Bengals. This is the second week in a row that the Seahawks showed signs of shakiness protecting a lead; they began the fourth quarter against the Lions with a 10 point lead. While they have been disappointing thus far, if the Seahawks can figure out the fourth quarter, they may have a chance at mounting a comeback.
Worst Coach: Chip Kelly
Maybe this category should be entitled “Worst Coach and GM.” Chip Kelly was given carte blanche to change the Eagles roster this year, and he took advantage of it by trading both Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy, along with a whole lot of other baffling moves. Kelly’s offense relies on up-tempo play and a mobile quarterback, something Kelly does not have with Sam Bradford. Not that he has played poorly, but you cannot expect a guy with two ACL tears to be able to run down the field like a track star. No one quite knew what Chip Kelly’s plan was when he made all the offseason roster moves, but whatever it was, this was not it. That said, his plan may be coming together, as the Eagles put up 39 points in a win against the hapless Saints. There are rumors that this win was spurned by a short, yet effective, pep talk by Sam Bradford (in the shower area, no less). Still, the fact that this “win one for the Gipper” speech came from Bradford rather than Kelly could be indicative of the esteem in which the Eagles hold their head coach.
Most Devastating Injury: Tony Romo
Despite preseason concerns, Dallas started the season well, taking the first two games against the Giants and Eagles. T bottom dropped out, however, when they lost Tony Romo in week three. There’s no doubt that Romo is the heart and soul of the Dallas offense, and his shattered clavicle meant a trip to the short-term IR, a designation he cannot come back from until early November. There are already rumors that Romo may be ready to go by that point. He is undoubtedly one of the toughest quarterbacks in NFL history. However, there is already serious talk of replacing Brandon Weeden, who despite stellar play in two of his three starts, has still lost the last 11 games he started. This begs the question: even if Romo can return in November, will the Cowboys still be relevant?
Worst Division: AFC South
The Texans cannot decide which quarterback to use, the Titans have a horrible offensive line and a rookie quarterback, and three weeks ago the Patriots scored on every possession against the Jaguars. The only team in the division over .500 is the Colts, and all three of their wins have come against AFC South opponents. ‘Nuff said.
Most Likely to Improve by Week Eight: Indianapolis Colts
I know that I just blasted the AFC South and the Colts’ play during the first quarter of the season, but to improve, you have to start at the bottom. The Colts will get Andrew Luck back soon, and once he snaps out of his funk and returns to his normal level, the Colts will become a force to be reckoned with the rest of the season.
Most Likely to Lose a Perfect Record by Week Eight: Carolina Panthers
Out of all the undefeated teams, the Panthers have the toughest schedule in the second quarter of the season. After this week’s bye, they go on to play the Seahawks, Eagles and Colts, all teams that have shown recent signs of improvement.
Who Needs to Get Traded: Robert Griffin III
This has become painfully obvious over the course of the last several years. Despite a stellar first year performance, injuries and fights with management have plagued RG3. After the fiasco with his concussion and subsequent replacement by Kirk Cousins, it is clearly time for RG3 to leave Washington. If coached right and placed in the correct offense, RG3 could shine (even if he never returns to his pre-injury self). He is too good of a quarterback not to have a home, but he will never succeed in Washington.
Best Redheaded Player: Andy Dalton
As a redhead, I feel compelled to award the stellar play of one of the games most under represented groups. Move over Jason Garret: Andy Dalton was my favorite during this quarter of the season. He has led the Bengals to a 5-0 start and thrown for 1518 yards so far and shows no signs of letting up.
This article includes stats through Sunday of week five. The Monday night game between the Steelers and Chargers has been omitted.