Our NFL Midseason Rankings

Jacob Thomas and Xavier Clark, Staff Writers

  1. New England Patriots 6-0

The Patriots continue to show the NFL their dominance among the AFC East. The Patriots have only finished second in their division once in the past decade. Although their defense has been lackluster at times, their offense has been key to their success. QB Tom Brady continues his historic career, totaling 1,699 yards so far. His offensive line has given Brady endless time to throw, allowing only two sacks on the season. Offensive-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo is helping this line be the best it can be with the talent it has, in order to protect Brady. People like Sebastian Vollmer, Josh Kline, and David Andrews have really stepped up. Down-field threat WR Julian Edelman continues to blossom. Over the first six games Edelman averaged more than 78 yards per contest, good for 19th in the league. Edelman also ranks sixth in total receptions and fifth in total touchdowns, continuing to prove each week that he is a serious threat and a top receiver in this league. TE Rob Gronkowski also continues to shine this year, as he ranks second in touchdowns, second in yards after catch (YAC), and first in total yards among tight ends. Gronk is still Brady’s number one target.


2.Green Bay Packers 6-0

The Packers have lived up to all the hype they received this off-season. Last year’s NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers looks sharp in his first seven games with a 106.5 passer rating on the season. Injuries to key WRs Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams have not stopped Aaron Rodgers and the passing offense. There has been an unexpected splash from 31-year-old James Jones, who leads the team in receiving touchdowns and receiving yards. It looked to be Eddy Lacy’s breakout season in 2015; however, he has simply not produced. Lacy has yet to surpass the 100-yard rushing mark in a game this season. This may be because he has been bothered by an ankle injury all year.  The Packers defense has matched the firepower of the offense this year. Both Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are having outstanding seasons. The veterans have combined for 11 sacks on the year, giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares. The pass rush has taken pressure off the marginal secondary. The secondary is a concern for the Packers; in week 6 Philip Rivers threw for over 500 yards on the suspect secondary.     


3.Cincinnati Bengals 6-0

The Bengals have proven this year that they are a force to be reckoned with. QB Andy Dalton has led the charge, ranking second in total yards and tying for second in touchdowns with Tom Brady and Carson Palmer. Furthermore, Dalton has a top ten WR in A.J. Green to throw to. For Green this is considered a down year. He has totaled 531 yards, along with three touchdowns as of Week 7nothing compared to the numbers he has put up in the past. The defense for the Bengals has also continued to be a staple. The treacherous defensive line led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap has been destroying offenses. Both Atkins and Dunlap combine to average two and a half sacks per game and 51 tackles. The heart of this Bengals defense is truly an immovable force. Even though the defensive line of the Bengals is a major strength, the linebacking corps has dropped off. Vincent Rey and Rey Maualuga have continued to miss tackles time and time again. On the other hand, their secondary just keeps getting deeper. With Adam “Pacman” Jones, Darqueze Dennard and Leon Hall, the Bengals have continued to make plays over the first seven games.


4.Denver Broncos 6-0

The Denver Broncos have simply started off the season winning games. The interior defense of the Broncos is what has kept this team undefeated. Von Miller has taken on a key role on defense, totaling 24 quarterback hurries and three sacks. On the other side of the defense, OLB DeMarcus Ware has been the best pass rusher in the NFL this season, tearing it up for a league leading six sacks. The dominant inside presence of the Broncos is combined with a ball hawking secondary. CB Aqib Talib and CB Chris Harris Jr. have combined for a total of five interceptions. Tackling has also been a bright spot for Denver, where they rank number one in overall defense. On offense the Denver Broncos are off-balance. Whether Bronco fans like it or not, Peyton Manning is starting to decline. Manning has thrown ten interceptions as of Week 6 and that is just not him. Manning has always been prone to throwing interceptions, but not like this.


  1. Carolina Panthers 6-0

This offseason the Carolina Panthers were overlooked and nobody gave them a shot at even making the playoffs especially after WR Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL. The Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winning 10 straight regular season games. The Panthers might not be the flashiest team in the NFL but they have gotten the job done. As long as playmaker Cam Newton is under center the Panthers will always have a chance to contend in the NFC South. Cam Newton has made the most of his limited weapons. The only viable threat he has in the passing offense is his TE Greg Olsen. Cam is force-feeding the ball to Olsen, who has 439 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cam Newton has done this work with an average running game at best. Jonathan Stewart has only surpassed 80 yards in one game once this season, making Newton having to pick up the slack in the run game. The defense continues to keep the Panthers in many ball games. The Panthers defense has been lead by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis who have done a terrific job stopping the run. In the secondary the Panthers have one of the best cornerbacks in the league: Josh Norman. Norman has been thrown at 39 times this year and has only allowed 18 completions.   


  1. Arizona Cardinals 4-2

The Cardinals lead the pack in a struggling NFC West so far. QB Carson Palmer continues to quiet the doubters, averaging 287 yards per game and 2.3 touchdowns a game. On the receiving end the Cardinals have found a one two punch with 32 year-old Larry Fitzgerald and 25 year-old John Brown. Fitzgerald has caught a second wind in his long career, averaging 89 yards per game and also hauling in six touchdowns. Lining up mainly in the slot, Brown presents great speed and route running. Brown had a breakout game in Week 6 with 10 receptions for 196 yards. On the other side of the ball their defense is lead by playmakers Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. The two have combined for four interceptions on the year. Peterson has continued to lock up receivers, making him one of the best CB in the league. Mathieu, “The Honey Badger” has recorded 35 tackles this season.


  1. Atlanta Falcons 5-1

Julio Jones, is pretty much the only name you need to know when talking about the Atlanta Falcons. He ranks as the best wide receiver for a reason according to Pro Football Focus. Jones tops the NFL in yards after catch, and ranks second in total yards. For the past two weeks Julio has dropped off minorly, those he continues to impress while battling a hamstring injury. QB Matt Ryan has also been solid completing 172 passes; good for fourth in the league. Ryan continues to prove himself by already totaling 2,002 yards which proves to rank third league wide. The Falcon’s season so far has also been treated with a surprise standout star in RB Devonta Freeman. What separates Freeman from the rest of the pack is his ability to affect the passing game. Freeman leads the league with 621 rushing yards and also ranks top three in receiving yards for running backs. The speed and agility of Freeman is unmatched and he will be a valuable threat as the season continues. As far as defense goes the Falcons are a few steps behind. The overall defense of the Atlanta Falcons is just middle of the road; they have a mediocre pass rush, an OK pass defense, and an above average run defense.


  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3

The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the best offenses in the league. In the first seven games the Steelers have been missing many pieces on the offensive end but still have produced. The Steelers have gone half the season without Big Ben, two games without the best running back in the league Le’veon Bell, and five games without Martavis Bryant. Ben Roethlisberger started off the year hot with 720 passing yards in just two games. However he suffered a knee injury in week 3 against the Rams that sidelined him for four weeks. But Big Ben is expected to be back this week vs the Bengals . Once Mike Vick took his place offensive  coordinator Todd Haley became more conservative in his play calling and it affected WR Antonio Brown. The offense has relied on Le’veon Bell and he has produced, rushing for 511 yards and has caught many balls from backup Mike Vick on checkdown throws. With Mike Vick under center Bell has caught 15 receptions in just 3 games. Although the offense is lethal the Pittsburgh defense is suspect. Their secondary is one of the worst in the league. CB Antoine Blake has been picked on all year, giving up 489 yards to opposing receivers. One bright spot in the Pittsburgh defense is Jerome Harrison. The veteran OLB has recorded 16 QB hurries on the year.                  


  1. New York Jets 4-2

The New York Jets are another team in our top ten that just continues to win football games. With not a great amount of talent, the Jets have to rely heavily on their standout RB Chris Ivory. Now,  when you first think of the Jets Ivory might not be the first name that pops out, but this season he has proven that can easily be that name. Chris Ivory  has totaled five touchdowns, 507 rushing yards, along with five yards per carry. Ivory is top ten in the league in literally every statistic and he has turned out to be one of the best talents in the NFL when it comes to running the football. The Jets have always been known for for their robust defense that’s anchored by DT Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie standout DT Leonard Williams out of USC. These two are complete monsters on both defending the run and raiding quarterbacks. This is one of the best D-Line tandems in the league and should give trouble for the Patriots in that AFC East battle. One player in particular who helped New England win a super bowl in 2015 was CB Darrelle Revis. Although Revis is starting to reach the latter end of his career he is still arguably the best defensive backs in the league.


  1. Minnesota Viking 4-2

The return of Adrian Peterson has benefited the Minnesota Vikings tremendously and the offense has centered around him as expected. Even after sitting out of football for a whole year he is still a top five running back in the league. Peterson comes in at number three among rushing yards for running backs this season, only behind Devonta Freeman and Doug Martin. With a consistent running game it has taken pressure off of Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater has played the game-manager role all year. WR Stefon Diggs has burst out on the scene in the last three games, averaging 108 yards a game. Diggs has turned into Bridgewater’s number one target, overshadowing WR Mike Wallace. The surprise for the Vikings is there stout defense. The Vikings haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game this season. The defense doesn’t have many big names but they play well as an unit.