The halfway point of the NFL season is nearly upon us, and while some teams have established themselves as postseason locks, not everyone has been easy to peg as a contender or pretender. Furthermore, not everything that has happened this season – particularly in Week 7 – has been true to reality, and we’re here to determine what’s true and what’s merely a mirage.
Here are five overreactions from the past week of NFL action.
The Chargers are contenders in the AFC West
Thanks to outstanding play from Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa, the Chargers have lifted themselves into the playoff discussion. If not for a few heartbreaking losses early in the year, the Chargers could easily be above .500 and in contention in the AFC West. At 3-4, they’re not there yet, and won’t be in 2016.
They’ve dug too big of a hole to climb out of in the division, which you could make the case is the best in football. The Broncos are Super Bowl contenders, the Chiefs are flying under the radar as a playoff team and the Raiders have been unbeatable on the road en route to a 5-2 record. That leaves the Chargers in last place with a two-game deficit to the Raiders and Broncos. Their schedule has been tough, and it won’t get much easier with the Broncos, Dolphins and Texans upcoming. The Chargers have a long way to go before they challenge for a division title, and they’ll need help from their rivals in order to do so.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will turn the Jets’ season around
Fitzpatrick took over for Geno Smith in Sunday’s game against the Ravens and led the Jets to a win. He said after the game that he should start every week and that the coaches, general manager and owner have lost confidence in him. Well, he will be starting every week from now on because Smith is out for the year due to a torn ACL. His play was much better against the Ravens than it was during his mistake-filled start to the season, but in no way is he the Jets’ answer at quarterback.
Additionally, he’s not going to save their disaster of a season.
Fitzpatrick is what he’s always been: a decent quarterback who consistently makes mistakes and is reliant upon his offensive weapons to make plays. He’s never carried a team to the playoffs despite coming close last season, and he won’t do it this season. The Jets are going to move on from him in the offseason and address the quarterback position in the draft (or free agency).
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Jay Ajayi is the best running back in the NFL
Jay Ajayi has taken the league by storm the past two weeks, rushing for a combined 418 yards and three touchdowns in that span. He became just the fourth running back ever to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back games and has single-handedly taken the Dolphins offense to another level.
But for as good as he’s been, he’s nowhere close to being the best running back in football.
That title is still held by one of two players: Ezekiel Elliott or David Johnson. Ajayi has had one of the best stretches the NFL has ever seen (as brief as it’s been) and appears to be the Dolphins’ future at running back, but let’s tap the brakes on anointing him as the league’s best back.
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The NFL is putting a bad product on the field
After Sunday night’s marathon of a game that ended in a 6-6 tie following two embarrassing misses by the Cardinals’ and Seahawks’ kickers, many were crying out that the NFL is putting a garbage product on the field: The games are sloppier, there are more flags being thrown, and games just aren’t as exciting, hence the drop in TV ratings. That’s simply not the case.
The game between the Cardinals and Seahawks was still wildly exciting and unpredictable – when do two kickers miss field goals inside 30 yards to win a game? Never. Steelers-Patriots still produced a 13.7 rating, which is exceptional considering Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play, and it was a late-afternoon game. Fans are still watching games, even if there are more flags for unnecessary celebrations. This idea that the NFL simply isn’t watchable is false.
The Vikings have major issues
The Vikings lost their first game of the season against the Eagles on Sunday, and it wasn’t really close. Minnesota was dominated by Philadelphia defensively as the offensive line was beat up for 60 minutes. Does that mean the Vikings were exposed and are no longer Super Bowl contenders? Well, no – not entirely.
Yes, they were exposed a bit along the offensive line, which has become a serious problem for the Vikings. Because of injuries, Minnesota has had trouble protecting Sam Bradford, who could be knocked out for the year at any given moment. Matt Kalil and Andre Smith have been sorely missed at both tackle spots, and it’s only going to get worse if the Vikings have to face a team like the Seahawks or Cardinals.
That doesn’t mean the Vikings have serious issues all over the place. The Eagles dominated the Steelers previously, and they’re just fine. Sure, Minnesota has areas to improve upon, but it remains a top team in the NFC.