NFL Season Analysis Through Week 10

Through the first ten weeks of the NFL season, there have been many interesting storylines and surprises. Many teams, such as the Packers and Vikings, that looked dominant through the first few weeks are now struggling and may not make the playoffs. On the other side of the spectrum, teams, such as the Cardinals and Giants, have rebounded and are making a push toward the top of their respective divisions.

Biggest AFC Surprise

The Oakland Raiders have been the biggest surprise in the AFC through the first half of the season because of their great offense. The key to the Raiders’ offense has been the emergence of star quarterback David Carr. Carr has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season and he will compete for league MVP and potentially Offensive Player of the Year. In addition to Carr, the Raiders have a stacked offense with Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Latavius Murray. The Raiders have been in multiple close games this season, but have been able to pull out the wins, which is the main reason for their 7-2 record. The Raiders came away with a huge statement win against the Broncos in their most recent showdown on Sunday Night Football. Over the past few weeks, the Raiders’ defense has been constantly improving, which makes them a true contender in the AFC. The Raiders’ defense is led by multiple All-Pro Khalil Mack and pass rushing specialist Bruce Irvin.

Biggest NFC Surprise

The Dallas Cowboys have been a major surprise in the NFC because of the emergence of their young stars. After losing their first game against the Giants, the Boys have not looked back and have won 8 straight games. The biggest reason for their success is Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. Dak was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, but has displayed leadership and poise of a veteran. While Dak has been more of a game manager, Ezekiel Elliot is stating his claim as the best running back in the league. Elliot has already broke many rookie records and is on pace to break even more records before the end of the season. A significant reason why they have been able to succeed is due to their offensive line. The Cowboys possess the best offensive line in the league, which has given Dak a clean pocket and Elliot huge lanes to run through.

AFC Disappointment

Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the biggest disappointments through the first half of the season. Throughout points of the season, the Steelers have looked like one of the best teams in football, while looking like a non-playoff team in other games. Although they have incredible talent with Brown, Big Ben, and Bell, the offensive line has frequently let the offense not reach their full potential. In addition, the defense has been gashed by opposing offenses. The defense is young and has not reached its potential. Many teams have been able to slow down the game with their rushing attacks because the Steelers are not physical enough to bully opposing offensive lines and win at the line of scrimmage.

NFC Disappointment

The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers have disappointed their fans throughout the season. Although many claim that Rodgers is one of the top three quarterbacks in the league, he has not displayed that talent through the team’s first nine games. This year, Rodgers is having one of his worst seasons of his career because of his poor accuracy. This season, Rodgers is completing only 63% of his passes, which is a few point below his career average. In addition, he only has a passer rating of 93, while he has been consistently over 100 throughout his career. This has been disastrous for the Packers because they cannot establish an effective running game. Along with Rodgers’ less than stellar play, the defense has been dreadful. The defense has allowed over 3o points in four of their last five games and is a major reason why they have lost each of those games. Unless the defense begins to add pressure onto the quarterback, the Packers will miss the playoffs and disappoint their fanbase once again.

AFC Favorite

The Patriots are the absolute favorite in the AFC. Since Tom Brady returned from his suspension, he has dominated the entire league and have gone 4-1 during the five games. The combination of Blount, Brady, Gronkowski, and their entire set of offensive weapons make the Patriots nearly impossible to defend. In addition, they are incredibly difficult to defend because they do not turnover the football. Through the first 10 weeks, they only threw one interception. Along with their explosive offense, the defense has been solid throughout the season. Led by Belichek, they have allowed only 30 points once this season and have held teams under 20 points five times this year. In addition, they have championship experience and will likely have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

NFC Favorite

The favorite in the NFC is the team that just beat the New England Patriots during Sunday Night Football at Foxborough. The Seahawks have not been the most consistent team in the league, but they have most talent in the NFC. Over the past few weeks, the Seahawks’ offense has succeeded because of the emergence of Jimmy Graham and the improved play of Russell Wilson. During the first year and half in Seattle, Graham has not looked like the star tight end that dominated the league in New Orleans. However, this year, he has successfully returned from a nasty injury and displayed the talent that made him an All-Pro. Along with the improved defense, the Seahawks still have the best defense in the league. Although they have lost members, the Legion of Doom is still dominant and the rest of the defense still has the ability to cause pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If the Seahawks are able to pass the Cowboys and claim home field advantage, they will be nearly impossible to beat a CenturyLink Field.

 

Why the Chicago Cubs will not become a Dynasty

Last week, the Chicago Cubs defied the odds and finally won their first World Series Championship in the last 108 years. The team had a remarkable season as they won 103 games and were the consensus best team in the MLB throughout the regular season an post season. The Cubs were the best team since the 2009 Yankees due to their all-around depth. The Cubs are stacked with young stars, including perennial MVP candidates Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. In addition, the team boasted 7 All-Stars, including 5 All-Star starters. Many believe that the Cubs will become a dynasty and win more than 3 World Series in the near future because of their depth, young stars, and financial ability to keep many of their young stars and sign potential free agents. All of the Cubs’ star positional players, Bryant, Rizzo, Contreras, Schwarber, Baez, and Russell, will all be on the roster until at least the 2022 season.

Although the Cubs seem to have an abundance of talent and youth, they will not become the first dynasty since the late 1990s Yankees because a multitude of reasons. The main reason why the Cubs will not win multiple World Series championship in the near future is their lack of pitching. This season, the Cubs were blessed with having 2 of the top 3 contestants in the NL Cy Young voting and the Cy Young winner from last season. However, there are major question marks after the top three because the team let Jason Hammel and John Lackey leave toward free agency. In addition, it must be seen if Kyle Hendricks can continue to pitch at a Cy Young level. Prior to this season, Hendricks was never a top of the rotation pitcher and never came close to resembling the same success. Hendricks does not have impressive stuff, which means that he has to continue pitching with a small margin for error. In addition to Hendricks, Lester is rising in age and he has already many thousands of innings on his shoulder. While the rest of the MLB struggles with arm issues and pitching injuries, the Cubs did not face any injuries to their starting rotation throughout the season. Although the pitchers have been models of consistency, it seems likely that at least one of their star pitchers will go down with a serious injury.

Another reason why the Cubs will face problems in the future is due to their lack of bullpen arms. During the trading deadline, the Cubs realized that they did not have enough fire power in the bullpen so they decided to trade one of their best prospects for Aroldis Chapman. However, the Cubs are losing Chapman this offseason to free agency. During the postseason, it became obvious that the Cubs were extremely reliant on Chapman to pitch during the most highly leveraged innings during games 5,6,7. The Cubs do not have many other options because their farm system is not stocked with high level pitching talent. Next year during the playoffs, the Cubs will not win the World Series if they are not able to sign or trade for great bullpen arms next season. The Indians and Royals showed in the past that teams can win with drastically lower talent as long as they have 3 or 4 consistent and dominant arms in the back of the bullpen.

Lastly, the Chicago Cubs will not win multiple WS in the future because of the level of competition in MLB. Although the Indians were not the most talented team in the league, especially due to their injuries, they showed that they could nearly defeat the Cubs as they pushed them to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the WS. Over the next few years, many teams with great rosters will challenge the Cubs for dominance. The few teams that will continue to battle with the Cubs will be the Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Nationals. The Red Sox may be the team with the most talent besides the Cubs and they also have the young talent to match the Cubs. The Red Sox have many great players including Betts, Bogearts, Bradley, Price, Pedroia, Kimbrel, and Porcello. If it was not for the brilliance of Andrew Miller, the Red Sox would have likely faced off against the Cubs. Similar to the Cubs, they have great hitting, but do not have the same talent in their starting rotation. Similar to the Cubs, the team has the financial wherewithal and prospects to acquire top level through free agency and trades. Similar to the Red Sox, the Yankees should be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years. The Yankees acquired a lot of young Major League talent during the trading deadline. In addition to the young prospects, the team will be major players in free agency over the next two years. In two years, there will be an incredibly amount of top level talent such as Harper, Machado, Harvey, and Kershaw. The Yankees will have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, which should catapult them immediately into contention. The Giants, Dodgers, and Nationals are all similar teams that could challenge the Cubs. Each of the teams have top tier pitchers as well as MVP caliber players. Even besides these teams, it is possible that other teams surprise and play at a high level like the Indians for a few weeks. Baseball currently has a lot of parity in the game, which will ultimately lead to the demise of the Cubs’ chances of winning multiple WS.