The State of the NFL, Week 11

Fisher DiSimone, Staff Writer

The 2021-2022 season has been very surprising as of week 11, teams have been rising and falling when nobody expected them to be. Usually there is a frontrunner for a team that will win the Super Bowl. Not this year, however, with teams constantly shifting records to the point where the Lombardi Trophy is completely up for grabs.

For starters, the number one seed in the AFC is the Titans, and the Cardinals for the NFC. These both come as somewhat of a surprise, because these teams were supposed to be good; however, they are completely exceeding expectations. Even with the Titans losing Derrick Henry, arguably the best running back in the NFL, they still have been dominating mostly because their defense has stepped up, which was supposedly a bottom 10 unit. A somewhat similar story with the Cardinals, in the absence of QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins the undisputed top two players on the Cardinals, they still managed to go 2-1 thanks to James Connor stepping up in a large way. Connor is currently tied for second on most touchdowns scored this season (13). Some other surprising teams on the rise are the Patriots, Bengals, and Cowboys. The Patriots were speculated to be a middle-of-the-pack team with the new addition of rookie QB Mac Jones to take the place of one of the greats, Tom Brady. However, they have been on a tear winning the past five games, sitting at 7-4, number one in the AFC East. This is mainly thanks to their defense, which tallied four interceptions this past game against the Falcons. Next up, the Bengals are a very interesting team, a team that was supposed to be pretty bad, but has actually been extremely successful. Most of this success can be attributed to rookie WR Ja’marr Chase who has put on quite the season, and has emerged himself as a Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. The Bengals sit at 6-4, one game behind the Ravens in the AFC North. Lastly, the Cowboys have been very promising, after a disappointing 2020 season which started with star QB Dak Prescott getting sidelined for the entire season after a gruesome injury against the Giants week 5. This season, however, they have arguably one of the best offenses despite an offensive breakdown against the Chiefs week 11. Dak Prescott is continuing right where he left off, and with a breakout year from second year receiver Ceedee Lamb the Cowboys have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl this year with a 7-3 record.

Apart from the successful teams, there have been some teams that have been disappointing as of right now. For starters, the Chiefs haven’t been significantly bad, but they have not been living up to their high expectations that were held for them before the season started. They had a very slow start, going 4-4 in their first 8 games, but have picked it up heavily, winning three straight and reclaiming first in the AFC West. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is to blame for their early struggles; however, he has drastically improved over the course of these past three weeks. Next, one of the more obvious ones is the Seattle Seahawks. This team completely broke down especially after the loss of superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. After a loss on Monday Night Football to the Washington Football Team the Seahawks sit at 3-8. Even with Russell Wilson coming back, he is 0-2 in his return from a finger injury. Apart from Wilson missing time, the blame can also go on the poor offensive line, and defense. Another negative of this team is their draft situation. Normally, if your team has a poor record you would have a high pick in the upcoming draft which can help you draft a young star to turn your franchise around. In Seattle’s case, in 2020 they traded both their first round picks for the two upcoming seasons for Jets star safety Jamal Adams. This is hurting them more than helping them as of now, where they hold the 4th pick in the draft that the New York Jets have the rights to. The last disappointing team is the Cleveland Browns. While the Browns don’t have a particularly horrible record, they have disappointed as of late with their first issue stemming from quarterback Baker Mayfield. Earlier in the season, there was a lot of controversy in the Browns locker room revolving around Baker Mayfield. People within the organization were not too happy with him, feeling as if he isn’t good enough to lead their talented roster to the Super Bowl. A case of this went public as Odell Beckham Jr expressed his frustration with the team, who was later dropped due to him not being confident in not only Baker Mayfield but the entire organization. As of right now, the Browns sit at 6-6 with playoff hopes, but the odds are not in their favor with other teams shocking the NFL and posing a risk by taking playoff spots.

This year of the NFL is confusing to say the least. Usually every year there are a few surprises with teams, players, etc., but this year is shaping up to be a good one, with a multitude of teams climbing or falling down the power ranks as we head into the final stretch right before the playoffs. This will truly dictate if these teams have what it takes to secure a spot in the postseason.

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license