Over the second quarter of the NFL season, we’ve had 69 games. That’s 69 things we’ve learned that help give us a clearer picture of how the post-season will look. Let’s look back through Weeks 5 to 9 and see what we’ve learned. (Refresh your memory of Weeks 1 to 4 here.)
The AFC South is terrible, and still ruled by Indianapolis
The Colts re-asserted their dominance in the weak AFC South with a 27-20 win at Houston. Indy are still favourites for the division despite struggling across the board.
The Falcons can still win when Matt Ryan struggles
Good teams have franchise quarterbacks. Great teams win even when their franchise quarterbacks struggle. The Falcons overcame a poor game by Matt Ryan – who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble – to beat the Redskins 25-19.
The Ravens are really struggling
Baltimore had looked incredibly disappointing this season, and they hit a new low by losing 33-30 at home against Cleveland. The Ravens’ defense, once the strength of the team, allowed a career day for Josh McCown (457 yards, two touchdowns).
The Bengals are real contenders
Despite starting the season unbeaten, some still won’t take the Cincinnati Bengals seriously. They will now, as the Bengals overcame a 17 point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Seattle 27-24 in overtime. Andy Dalton was clutch, rallying the team to upset a playoff-calibre defense.
Aaron Rodgers’ record at home is over
For the first time since 2012, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception at Lambeau Field. Despite two picks, the Packers defeated St. Louis 24-10 to stay unbeaten.
Kansas City’s season could be over
Disaster struck the Chiefs against Chicago, as star running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL and is out for the season. With Charles also being one of the Chiefs’ leading receivers, the offense struggled in his absence. Jay Cutler threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes to give Chicago an 18-17 win.
Philadelphia’s offense can still overwhelm opponents
After struggling for much of the season, Chip Kelly’s Eagles hit their stride against New Orleans. Sam Bradford threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns and DeMarco Murray ran for 83 yards and a score in a 39-17 rout.
Jameis Winston is the real deal
Winston showed clear improvement for the Buccaneers after struggling early in the season. Winston didn’t throw any interceptions and finished with 209 yards and one touchdown in a 38-31 win over Jacksonville. Doug Martin exploded for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries to give Winston some much needed support.
The Titans are more competitive
Marcus Mariota performed well for the Titans, throwing for 187 yards. The Bills ground out a close 14-13 win thanks to Tyrod Taylor to stay in touch in the AFC East.
Matthew Stafford has regressed again
Since coming into the league in 2009, Stafford has regressed every season (apart from 2011). This year is no different, as Stafford threw three interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals and was benched for backup Dan Orlovsky. The Cardinals dominated Detroit, winning 42-17.
Even offensive line problems can’t stop Brady
In Greg Hardy’s controversial return to the football field, the Cowboys sacked Brady five times in the first half. But the Patriots rallied to win 30-6 in Arlington, knocking Dallas further out of contention in the NFC East.
The AFC West should be closer
With Peyton Manning still struggling, the Oakland Raiders were able to stay in touch with the Broncos for most of the game. Charles Woodson picked Manning off twice and Derek Carr threw for 249 yards against one of the league’s best secondaries to give the Raiders renewed hope for the playoffs.
The Giants control the NFC East
Fighting to stay atop the competitive yet disappointing NFC East, the Giants secured their position for another week with a 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Steelers can stay in the mix without Big Ben
After losing Roethlisberger in Week 3, Pittsburgh’s prospects took a nosedive; but against the struggling San Diego Chargers, Michael Vick guided the Steelers to a 24-20 win to keep them in the AFC wild card race.
Atlanta’s unbeaten run is over
After looking like one of the NFC’s best teams over the first month, Atlanta fell to the resurgent New Orleans Saints. The Saints looked like the better team with a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown, a fourth-down touchdown catch, and three forced fumbles. New Orleans kept their season alive with a 31-21 win.
Cincinnati’s offense is stacked
Despite number one target A.J. Green covered well by the Bills, Andy Dalton spread three touchdowns around to his deep stable of weapons for a convincing 34-21 win over Buffalo. E.J. Manuel struggled in relief of Tyrod Taylor.
Peyton Manning is making things difficult for Denver
Denver had an overtime scare against the Cleveland Browns as Manning threw three interceptions to keep the Browns in the game; but Josh McCown gave the game right back with an interception in overtime.
The Lions won’t go 16-0
In a game no one seemed to want to win, the Detroit Lions got their first win of the season with a 37-34 overtime win against the Chicago Bears. Stafford and Cutler combined for 758 yards, five touchdowns, with four turnovers between the teams shifting momentum continuously in a tense shootout.
The Jaguars haven’t made progress in the AFC South
The Jaguars look like a much better team this season, but they are still fighting to escape from the basement of the AFC South. For progress to be made, Gus Bradley needs to win against divisional rivals; instead, the Jaguars fell 31-20 to the Texans.
The Vikings continue to win ugly games
With the Chiefs hampered by the loss of Jamaal Charles, the Vikings had a golden opportunity to win, but Adrian Peterson struggled to break through Kansas City’s defense and Teddy Bridgewater had a bad day; however, the Vikings still managed to come away with a 16-10 win thanks to electrifying rookie receiver Stefon Diggs bursting onto the scene.
Chris Ivory can dominate defenses
Ivory burned the Redskins’ defense for 146 yards and a touchdown on the ground to give the Jets a 34-20 win. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdowns and rushed for one more as the Jets dominated the second half. New York remains close to the Patriots in the race for the AFC East.
The Cardinals have some issues
After dominant performances over the first four weeks of the season, the Cardinals suffered a poor loss against the Steelers. Even with Ben Roethlisberger out, Pittsburgh managed to win 25-13 after backup quarterback Landry Jones threw two touchdowns in relief of Michael Vick.
Dan Campbell restores Miami’s confidence
Miami’s loss to the Jets at Wembley would cost head coach Joe Philbin his job. Former tight ends coach Dan Campbell took over a talented Dolphins team that lacked confidence and trust. Against the hapless Titans, it looked like Campbell had turned Miami around. Lamar Miller was the centrepiece of a dominant 38-10 victory that saw the defense playing aggressive football at last.
Carolina are legitimate playoff contenders
Carolina’s 2014 playoff run ended in Seattle last season; but with Cam Newton on MVP form and the Seahawks struggling to communicate, Carolina proved their doubters wrong with a 27-23 win at CenturyLink Field. The Panthers have the edge over the Seahawks in the NFC playoff race, giving themselves a great chance of getting home-field advantage.
The Chargers are holding Philip Rivers back
Philip Rivers threw for 503 yards against the Packers, but his Chargers could only score 20 points in a 27-20 loss. Rivers has carried this team despite all the other pieces struggling, but can’t win games on his own.
San Francisco get the better of Baltimore the second time around
In a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers defeated the Ravens 25-20. Colin Kaepernick threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns to give the 49ers a boost after a difficult season. Joe Flacco threw two interceptions as the Ravens continued their freefall.
The Colts still can’t beat the Patriots
All of Indy’s offseason moves were geared towards beating New England, fortifying the line of scrimmage and adding speed to Andrew Luck’s weapons; but it still wasn’t enough as Tom Brady got revenge for the DeflateGate scandal with a 34-27 win.
The Eagles are still in touch in the NFC East
In a tightly contested division, the Eagles gained the upper hand with a dominant 27-7 win over the Giants. The win gives Philly an edge over New York if they both end up with a similar record at the end of the season, and could secure the division for Chip Kelly.
Seattle have found some form
The Seahawks got back on track with a convincing 20-3 win over the 49ers. The defense has been playing as good as ever, even being upstaged by Denver. What was once a heated rivalry has now lost all meaning with the 49ers struggling to stay relevant.
The Jaguars can win at Wembley
The second International Series gave us one of its closest games yet as the Jacksonville Jaguars – Wembley’s de-facto home team – beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31. The Jaguars were on the verge of blowing a 24 point lead, but Allen Hurns dove for Blake Bortles’ late touchdown pass to seal the win for Jacksonville.
Teddy Bridgewater comes up big against Detroit
Teddy Bridgewater had a second career game against the Detroit Lions. With Adrian Peterson contained, Bridgewater threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns to lead Minnesota to a 28-19 win.
The Colts are losing games they should win
Against one of the league’s weakest secondaries, Andrew Luck and the loaded Colts should’ve beaten New Orleans. However, the Colts couldn’t generate points early and failed to overcome the Saints in a 27-21 loss.
Kansas City keep themselves in the wild card race
After struggling without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs gutted out a 23-13 win over Pittsburgh to keep themselves in the AFC wild card race. Alex Smith passed for 251 yards and a touchdown as Charcandrick West rushed for 110 yards and a score.
Have Miami turned a corner under Campbell?
Miami continued their resurgence with a dominant 44-26 win over Houston. Lamar Miller rushed for 175 yards and a score as Ryan Tannehill set a new NFL record with 25 straight completions. Are the Dolphins back?
The AFC East isn’t over
Despite the Patriots dominating the division once again, the improved Jets were able to give New England a run for their money in Foxborough. Even though the Jets lost 30-23, there is still hope that they can beat the Patriots in Week 16 at the Meadowlands.
Todd Gurley has exceeded the hype
Phenomenal rookie Todd Gurley rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-6 win over Cleveland. With Gurley leading the charge and backed up by a stout defense, the Rams have a chance to sneak into the post-season.
Atlanta gets lucky
If Marcus Mariota had been in the game instead of Zach Mettenberger, the Titans likely would’ve beaten the floundering Falcons. However, Atlanta managed to escape with a 10-7 win to keep their hopes alive.
Kirk Cousins likes that!
After a nail-biting 31-30 win over Tampa Bay, this was how Kirk Cousins reacted:
Need we say more?
The Raiders have escaped the AFC West basement
Having surprised us all with a huge leap forward this season, the Raiders dominated San Diego in a 37-29 win that was over before half-time. Derek Carr threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders won’t be finishing in last place this season.
Dallas are losing the division without Romo
The Cowboys continued a run of losses with Tony Romo recovering from a broken clavicle with a 27-20 loss to the Giants. Dallas are rapidly slipping out of contention in the NFC East, and could soon be too far behind for even Romo to fix.
Carolina can dominate people on the ground
Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart combined for 145 rushing yards and a touchdown apiece in a dominant 27-16 win over the Eagles. The Panthers moved to 6-0 for the first time in franchise history, defeating potential playoff opponents nearly every week.
Chris Johnson is a Comeback Player of the Year leading candidate
After being involved in a drive-by shooting during the offseason, Chris Johnson didn’t know if he would ever play football again. Recovering from the incident, CJ2K was picked up by the Cardinals early in the season. Against the Ravens on Monday Night Football, Johnson rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown in a 26-18 to continue a strong comeback campaign.
Miami’s resurgence was short-lived
With the Dolphins looking much stronger under Dan Campbell, their Thursday Night Football clash with the Patriots looked mouth-watering; but Miami flopped as New England took firm control of the AFC East with a 36-7 win in Foxborough. The Patriots have beaten all their divisional rivals once, giving them a huge advantage for the second half of the season.
And it’s back to blowouts at Wembley
After a tense game between the Bills and Jaguars in Week 7, the clash between the Lions and Chiefs was awaited eagerly, but it was back to business as usual as the Chiefs dominated proceedings with a 45-10 win. Having fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi before travelling to London, the Lions would fire GM Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand after the loss to the Chiefs.
Atlanta are slipping out of contention
The Falcons needed a good win to stay in touch with Carolina in the NFC South. Instead, they dropped a 23-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for an 0-2 divisional record. Atlanta are rapidly slipping out of contention in the NFC South.
Rivers denied by Ravens, but at huge cost
Another good day’s work for Philip Rivers was wasted by his team in a 29-26 loss to Baltimore. Rivers threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers claimed a franchise record with his fifth consecutive 300 yard game, despite San Diego now losing four straight. But the biggest loss belonged to Baltimore, who lost leading receiver Steve Smith to a season-ending Achilles tear.
The Vikings are Green Bay’s biggest threat in the NFC North
Any hope of Chicago challenging the new status quo in the NFC North were dashed in a close 23-20 loss to the Vikings. Minnesota were lucky to beat a more competitive Bears team, sealing the win on two late scores from Teddy Bridgewater and kicker Blair Walsh.
Arizona are struggling for consistency
After being one of the league’s most dominant teams over the first month, the Cardinals have slipped in the second quarter of the season. They allowed Cleveland to stay in touch during the first half before taking control in the second. Arizona needs to win games more decisively to secure home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
Tennessee are still stuck in the AFC South depths
Despite improvement with Mariota on board, the Titans have struggled in his absence. Zach Mettenberger was the victim of poor protection as Houston got their own campaign back on track with a 20-6 win.
Eli Manning and Drew Brees can still sling it
In the most exciting game of the season, Eli Manning and Drew Brees combined for 101 points and both teams combined for over 1000 yards of offense in a thrilling shootout in the Superdome. Brees tied an NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game with seven while Eli became the first quarterback to throw six touchdowns and zero interceptions in a loss.
Pittsburgh’s injury luck is terrible
After missing five weeks, the Steelers finally got Ben Roethlisberger back from injury, only to lose star running back LeVeon Bell for the season with a torn MCL – the same injury that felled Roethlisberger in Week 3. The Bengals escaped with a lucky 16-10 win to remain undefeated.
Colin Kaepernick has hit rock bottom
Kaepernick’s struggles this season reached a crescendo against the Rams. Kaepernick failed to see a completely uncovered Torrey Smith while backed up in his own endzone, instead choosing to run the ball. Kaepernick’s poor performance in the 27-6 loss to the Rams forces San Francisco to bench him and turn to Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers are done for the year.
Oakland are in the playoff mix
The Raiders continue to surprise us this year. Derek Carr torched one of the league’s best secondaries for 333 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-20 upset against the New York Jets. Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a thumb injury, forcing the Jets to turn to Geno Smith. Even with number one target Amari Cooper locked down, Carr wasn’t fazed as he paired up with Michael Crabtree for 102 yards and a score.
Seattle survive dull Dallas clash
The Seahawks have been lucky this season. While they haven’t played well, their opponents have also struggled at times this season. Seattle scored the game’s only touchdown in a dull 13-12 win over Dallas marred by a terrifying-looking neck injury to Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette.
Aaron Rodgers can’t carry the Packers alone
In a battle between undefeated teams, Green Bay were dominated by a resurgent Peyton Manning and a vicious Broncos defense. Aaron Rodgers threw for just 77 yards in a 29-10 loss behind a poor offensive line and an injured crop of receivers.
The Colts have to fix Andrew Luck
Indianapolis failed once again to beat a playoff-calibre rival in a 29-26 loss to Carolina. Andrew Luck struggled to move the chains against the Panthers’ defense in the first half, but managed to bring the Colts back under an up-tempo scheme. But Indy fell short, and the guillotine fell on offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Rod Chudzinski will now attempt to get Luck and the Colts back on track.
Cincinnati are in control of the AFC North
The Bengals made short work of Johnny Manziel and the Browns with a 31-10 prime time win. With earlier victories over Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals have effectively secured the AFC North title. Now all that remains is to secure home-field advantage to help them win in January.
Miami haven’t fixed their problems
Without Cameron Wake, Miami struggled to keep up with the healthy Buffalo Bills. LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams both eclipsed 100 rushing yards as the Bills played the way Rex Ryan loves. With their problems on defense seemingly fixed, Buffalo can begin to chase the Jets for second in the AFC East.
The road to the NFC goes through Carolina
In another strong performance, Carolina defeated yet another major NFC rival with a 37-29 win over Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers suffered his first consecutive losses since 2010 after struggling to move the ball in the first half. The Panthers seem to have an answer for everything their opponents throw at them, and have effectively secured home-field advantage for the playoffs.
The Vikings grind out another tough win
With the Todd Gurley-Adrian Peterson showdown failing to live up to expectations, the Vikings managed to beat St. Louis 21-18. Minnesota has crossed fingers for Teddy Bridgewater’s return after the second-year quarterback was knocked out while sliding. If they lose Bridgewater due to the concussion protocol, the Vikings are in trouble.
Even injuries can’t stop the Patriots
After Sebastien Vollmer left the game with a head injury, New England inserted a tight end into the offensive line and still won comfortably against what looked like a good defense. The Patriots are halfway to 16-0 after a 27-10 win over Washington.
Mariota keeps the Titans alive
After losing several winnable games without Marcus Mariota, the Titans kept themselves in the AFC South race with a 34-28 win over New Orleans. Mariota threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns in his return, continuing an impressive rookie season despite now having a new head coach. Ken Whisenhunt was fired after going 3-20 in Tennessee, replaced by Mike Mularkey.
Gus Bradley’s seat is getting hot
Preaching progress only lasts so long when you don’t seem to be making any. Jacksonville should’ve beaten a limping Jets team with a strong showing from Blake Bortles and his receivers, yet suffered a 28-23 loss. The defense made progress, shutting down Chris Ivory; but the results aren’t showing the team’s growth, which doesn’t bode well for Bradley
Big Ben can’t stay on the field
Just a week after returning from injury, Ben Roethlisberger went down again. With Big Ben likely to miss at least two weeks with a leg injury, Pittsburgh are lucky that both Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams can carry the team. Brown had 17 catches – a franchise record – and 284 yards while Williams battered the Raiders for 170 yards and two scores. The Steelers escape with a 38-35 win to stay in the wild card mix.
Yet another disappointment from Atlanta
Losing by a single point to a bad San Francisco team led by Blaine Gabbert could be the final nail in Atlanta’s coffin. Once tipped to make the playoffs, the Falcons look worse every single week. Even a big game from Julio Jones couldn’t save Atlanta from a 17-16 loss.
The Giants keep clinging to the NFC East
An improving Jameis Winston gave the Giants a scare, but Odell Beckham torched the Buccaneers for 105 yards to keep New York on top of the NFC East with a 32-18 win. But how long can he keep covering for the defense?
The Colts bounce back
No one predicted Indianapolis to bounce back against Denver’s dominant defense; but under new offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski, that’s exactly what they did. Andrew Luck looked back on form, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns to deny Peyton Manning the chance to break Brett Favre’s passing yards and win records.
Philly are back on track
The Eagles and their rejuvenated up-tempo offense torched the Cowboys in a critical 33-27 win that keeps Philly in the mix for the NFC East. Sam Bradford threw for 295 yards and the game-winning touchdown while DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews combined for 150 yards on the ground. If the offense is back to full speed, Philadelphia can mount a late challenge for the division.
Chicago wins the battle of the basement-dwellers
Jay Cutler threw two touchdowns to become Chicago’s franchise leading touchdown passer in a 22-19 win over the Chargers. Alshon Jeffery torched San Diego’s injured secondary for 151 yards as the Bears scraped some life out of a transitional year.