Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Deadly flaw: well being
It is all coming collectively in Baltimore this season. Lamar Jackson is taking part in at an MVP stage. New coordinator Todd Monken has revitalized the offense, opening up straightforward buckets for the quarterback. On protection, coordinator Mike McDonald is on the forefront of the defensive motion; The most effective head teaching candidate will likely be heading into the offseason. For the primary time in years, the Ravens have a real move rush. They win by way of scheme and particular person excellence. The one concern: Can they maintain this up? Accidents have already depleted components of the roster, and the Ravens haven’t got the depth at an important positions to cowl any well being considerations heading into the again half of the season. Accidents have hampered the Ravens’ title bid earlier than. In the event that they keep wholesome, they’ll have the right championship method.
Miami Dolphins (6-2)
Deadly flaw: transitions
The Dolphins are as near being unstoppable on offense as any crew within the league. Nevertheless, on protection, the crew has struggled to generate the form of turnovers which might be a calling card of Vic Fangio’s much-vaunted defenses. The Dolphins at the moment have a turnover differential of -4, which places them twenty seventh within the league. They’ve simply eight defensive factors this season, the bottom mark of any Tremendous Bowl contender. The return of Jalen Ramsey may very well be an answer. Few gamers are as pure as Ramsey – and in Fangio’s defence, he will likely be given the liberty to play all around the area, a freedom he has hardly ever loved all through his skilled profession.
Kansas Metropolis Chiefs (6-2)
Deadly flaw: receivers
That is one of the best protection Patrick Mahomes has performed in 5 seasons. For the primary time since Mahomes grew to become the starter, the Chiefs have been in a position to end within the high 5 in DVOA, a measure of general effectivity. Provided that, you’d anticipate Kavkaz Heart to have a robust lead towards them.
They don’t seem to be. Points outdoors of the Travis Kelce-Mahomes connection put a (slight) lid on the Chiefs’ offensive ceiling. Normal supervisor John Dorsey moved on the commerce deadline to carry again Mecole Hardman, however they nonetheless function the weakest crew among the many high contenders within the AFC. Perhaps Mahomes and Kelce, with their complementary operating sport, will likely be sufficient. They’ve executed it earlier than. The Chiefs have a reasonably average schedule the remainder of the best way, with loads of time for Mahomes to spark the form of chemistry he is constructed earlier than with average-to-good receivers.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2)
Deadly flaw: move rush
On paper, the Jags have every part a crew must compete deep within the postseason, together with an up-and-coming quarterback and expertise on the ability positions. Now that Cam Robinson is again from suspension and members of his unit are wholesome, the Jags have among the finest offensive strains within the league. On protection, they’re good, athletic and versatile. However outdoors of Josh Allen, they’ve struggled to generate a constant move rush. They created a whole lot of stress however did not convert it into sacks on the driving finish. A lot of Jacksonville’s enchantment on the offensive line this season centered on Allen, who was among the finest move rushers in soccer. Travon Walker, the 2022 No. 1 general choose, has proven promise after a disappointing rookie 12 months, however he has but to point out he can win persistently on the rim. If Walker catches fireplace, the Jaguars will likely be one of many hardest groups to face within the playoffs.
Buffalo Payments (5-3)
Deadly flaw: Inside defensive position
Sean McDermott has regained artistic management of the Payments protection this offseason. To this point, the outcomes have been largely the identical. The Payments have been extra versatile on the again finish of their protection, and the crew’s move rush, sturdy a 12 months in the past, has been wonderful this season, even with Von Miller lacking the majority of the season. However Buffalo’s entrance can nonetheless be pushed within the run sport. Final season’s playoff exit was maybe extra disappointing than the 13-second loss to Kansas Metropolis. The Payments have been bullied by the Bengals up entrance. And issues are heading in that route once more. Sooner or later, one of many Payments’ inside lieutenants — Jordan Phillips or Ed Oliver — must develop into a strong weapon towards the run. How Buffalo let the Seahawks pounce on him Acquire Leonard Williams from Giants It stays a thriller.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)
Deadly flaw: Corners
Now that Joe Burrow is wholesome, the Bengals offense seems to be like a distinct unit. What was an early concern (as all the time appears to be the case with the Bengals offense) will dissipate over the course of the season. However there are points associated to defence. Lou Anarumo (Loudini!) remains to be among the finest defensive coordinators within the league. Nevertheless, there may be solely to this point he can plan his option to success. The previous two years, Cincy has been completely satisfied to cope with a weaker operating again room as a result of presence of Jesse Betts and Von Bell at security. Each left in free company and their replacements haven’t performed on the similar stage this season. The Bengals nonetheless have a artistic group and a ferocious move rush, however these cornerback spots may very well be uncovered within the playoffs with no sturdy security behind them.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)
Deadly flaw: linebacker and security
Exhausting to seek out any Error in Eagles roster. If there is a lacking piece, you higher imagine Howie Roseman will go and discover it. Philly made the choice to de-prioritize safeties and linebackers within the draft and free company. On the whole, that is the precise method to crew constructing. However he left the crew’s protection uncovered at occasions. The Eagles handed for 300 yards to Kirk Cousins and Mac Jones, and allowed Sam Howell to persistently drive down the sphere. Accidents to star cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry didn’t assist in the early levels of the season. Each are again now, however opposing offenses are nonetheless discovering methods to isolate and assault the Eagles’ midfielders in protection.
Detroit Lions (6-2)
Deadly flaw: lack of expertise
Take a stroll by way of the Lions roster and you will find there are a number of shocking holes for a crew that is nonetheless early within the improvement cycle. They’ve one of the best offensive line within the league. They’ve playmakers on offense — they usually bolstered them this week with the addition of Donovan Peoples-Jones. On defence, a gaggle that gave the impression to be a 12 months away from consolidation, carried out a lot sooner. Aidan Hutchinson is now a distinction maker. Rookie Brian Department has stepped in and offered All-Professional output from the slot. One other first-year participant, Jack Campbell, nonetheless must discover a steady spot, however he has made good reps regardless of the place he’s. And not using a high perimeter cornerback, the secondary ought to have been a priority. There have been powerful video games, however to this point the secondary has been ok to maintain the Lions on monitor to win the division. Even the much-maligned Jared Goff has carried out at a top-10 stage amongst quarterbacks this season. The one factor holding Detroit again is an absence of gamers with playoff expertise.
San Francisco 49ers (5-3)
Deadly flaw: defensive id
If you wish to level out the offensive line right here, go forward. However the Niners’ defensive points could also be much more important by the point the playoffs roll round. The Niners at the moment have one of many weakest defenses within the league. Even worse: There is a cut up between defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes and a gaggle stuffed with all-pros.
When the Niners employed Wilkes this offseason, they took a progressive method. As an alternative of hiring DC with a longtime philosophy, and turning the keys to among the finest defenses within the NFL over to somebody to form their very own picture, they selected at hand their playbook and blueprint over to interviewees earlier than deciding on what was greatest. The coach will inherit the blueprint quite than construct his or her personal model.
The returns have been questionable. The Niners had the highest protection within the league final season by each conceivable metric. This season, they rank eleventh in EPA per sport and sixteenth in DVOA, each measures of effectivity. Wilkes is struggling to juggle the Niners’ fronts with their protection, which is a flowery means of claiming issues are disjointed. For a few years, the Niners have been as structurally sound from entrance to again as any crew within the league, with gamers free to do what star gamers do greatest: fly to the ball.
As Wilkes struggles to adapt to the Niners’ means of doing issues, he is counting on his previous crutch: the blitz. The Niners are taking pictures by simply 20%, the third-lowest mark within the league. this underneath On final season’s whole. However these offensive charges fluctuated from week to week, and rose steadily within the fourth quarters when video games have been shut – It is often expensive.
Buying and selling for Chase Younger ought to see the Niners return to their earlier strategies: a four-man method that tips an additional participant into protection. Pairing Younger with Nick Bosa provides Wilkes two gamers at the moment within the high 5 in move rush%, one thing no different crew within the league can accomplish. However determining find out how to pair that with a stable construction, whatever the expertise on protection, has been a problem all season.
Dallas Cowboys (5-2)
Deadly flaw: Explosive performs
It has been an up and down season for the Cowboys offense. Some weeks, all of them smoke in entrance of them. Different weeks, it appears boring and previous. However, so, what else do you anticipate whenever you hand the crime over to Mike McCarthy and DakBot? Prescott is a quarterback who’s adept at timing and rhythm. Earlier than the shot, it is Peyton Manning. However the Prescott who created the offense out of construction early in his profession is lengthy gone. The offense should generate explosive performs by way of artistic designs. In CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Tony Pollard, the Cowboys have the items. Final season, Dallas had a blowout 126 performs (12%) en route to 3rd within the NFL in factors per sport. This season, the crew ranks second in factors per sport, however solely 27 (6%) whole are explosive performs (positive factors of 10 or extra yards on the run or 20 or extra yards). Maybe McCarthy believes the trade-offs are price it; It might not win brownie factors within the common season however it can set the Cowboys up for postseason success. However anticipating to place collectively drive after drive towards championship-caliber defenses is hard. Dallas has to seek out methods to generate extra yardage extra simply.
Seattle Seahawks (5-2)
Deadly flaw: move rush
Final season, every part was altering for the Seahawks on protection. They deserted the previous Pete Carroll orthodoxy and embraced the brand new world of Vic Fangio. Outcomes? Not nice. Seattle was sensitive about defending the run, and lacked the star energy up entrance to offer a game-changing move rush.
The whole lot modified once more this 12 months. The Seahawks have reverted again to the previous Carroll means of doing issues. The outcomes to this point have been spectacular: Seattle cracked the highest 10 in defensive EPA per sport, was nice towards the run and far improved within the move rush. The Seahawks rank tenth in stress price and fifth within the league in sacks. It was a crew effort, with nobody participant shouldering the whole load – Boye Mafe main the crew with stress price. Is it sustainable? Dropping Uchenna Nwosu, the crew’s most full passer, to a pectoral damage throughout the season was painful. The addition of Leonard Williams will assist add a robust inside presence. However towards one of the best of one of the best, does Seattle have the form of one-man game-wreckers who can dominate a postseason sport?