Every NFL season has had its major storylines. This year's 100th NFL season has certainly had its share. Throughout these 8 games, there's been some quarterbacks playing well, but not the ones that people are expecting, injuries, and surprising teams, have led the way towards a very interesting 100th season. So with all of that being said, let's go into the first aspect of this year's major storyline.
This year, there have been a lot of quarterbacks who have just started to catch the attention of football even though some fans didn't see it coming. Out of these up and coming quarterbacks, none has been more impressive than Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens. Last year, he took over a crumbling Ravens team and led them to the playoffs. However, he mainly did that thanks to his running skills and not his throwing. It inability to consistently make plays with his arm showed in their Wild Card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. But this year, he has shown lots of strong progression as a passer. In the opening game of this season, he threw for a whopping 5 touchdowns while posting a perfect passer rating. While he hasn't been able to replicate that kind of performance, his improvements as a passer have clearly been evident, and his 11 TDs and 94 passer rating is a sign of good things to come. Jackson. Two unheralded backup QBs who were drafted as backup quarterbacks unlike Jackson, have also been in the spotlight this season. With their high-priced free agent signing Nick Foles out, rookie 6th round draft pick Gardner Minshew has surprisingly been playing really good for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Besides his unique look and personality which has made him a fan favorite, his 13 touchdowns and 4-3 record, is a big reason why the Jaguars are still in the race for a playoff spot. The other surprise, is Kyle Allen of the Carolina Panthers. With Cam Newton injured, he took over and won 4 straight games before getting trounced by the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. In those 4 wins, his 7 touchdowns and smart decision making, were huge factors during that streak. Every NFL season has a quarterback who plays great when no one is expecting it. This year, Jackson, Minshew, and Allen have been those quarterbacks as of now.
There have also been some surprising teams in the league this year. The first team that comes to mind, is the 49ers. With a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, a man child at tight end in George Kittle, a solid group of receivers, and a running game that's currently 2nd in the league, the 49ers are 7-0 for the first time since 1990. While Garoppolo returning from a torn ACL last year clearly makes a difference, their defense is also a huge reason why they are playing this good football. With a front 7 featuring Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and DeForest Buckner, they have been wrecking havoc in backfields. The secondary led by Richard Sherman has also been a potent unit for them. Overall this a team that is functioning in every way so far this season and it'll be interesting to see if they can continue their great football. Another team that is function in every way possible so far this season, is the Green Bay Packers. Even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, they weren't expected by many to make the playoffs with a coaching hire of Matt LaFleur that was deemed okay at best. But now, that is looking like a great hire. He has Rodgers playing like an M.V.P. once again, but he also has the running game clicking as well thanks to Aaron Jones who has been enjoying a breakout season. Their ability to successfully mix up the run and the pass, has left many opposing defenses confused. The defense led by Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Jaire Alexander, has been just as balanced as the offense has been this season. They've been the reason why the Packers have been able to control games and make big plays, is also a big reason why the Packers are 7-1, and looking poised to make a big playoff run. Though they had a solid offseason, not many people expected the Buffalo Bills to be playing 5-2 football so far. Their sophomore quarterback Josh Allen's decision making hasn't really improved that much than last year, but he's definitely doing enough to help them win. They also have appeared to find a gem in rookie running back Devin Singletary who along with veteran running back Frank Gore, have formed a potent rushing attack so far. The defense however, is the main reason why they're winning. Every unit of their defense from the defensive line to the secondary is well balanced, and as of now, they are one of the league's most stingiest defenses. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep up the good play since they do have a reputation of collapsing in the second half. The Packers and 49ers are already appointed with the task of potentially adding a new chapter to their already storied histories, while the Bills' task will be to keep up their first half success in order to become a legitimate postseason threat. Overall, it's going to be interesting to see what happens to these teams in the long run.
But while there have been some surprising teams, there have also been disappointing teams. One of those teams, is the Los Angeles Chargers. Last year, they had not only one of the best all around rosters and coaching staffs in the league, but they had great chemistry and togetherness which was evident since every game is considered an away game for them because of the lack of their home fans. They were able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013 where they defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round. This year, they had expectations to possibly take the division from the Kansas CIty Chiefs but those speculations have died in a hurry so far. On offense, they've turned the ball over too many times when they were knocking on the door. None was more worse than their loss to the Tennessee Titans in which after two touchdowns getting overturned, they turned it over on the next play which lost them the game. But the defense also deserves a lot of blame. Their inability to come up in key situations has also been costley for them in many games this year. Fortunately, they're used to facing adversity before, but with Melvin Gordon likely to move on in free agency, there isn't much time left. The Chicago Bears have also been disappointing. Now there first 6 games have gone in the exact win-loss order as last year, but when you won 12 games last year thanks to a dominating defense and productive offense, that shouldn't be happening. They are actually 3-4 now, but they were going through lots of problems even before their loss to the Chargers. After showing improvement in his sophomore season, QB Mitchell Trubisky has struggled to find any kind of consistency this year which has hurt the Bears in many games. On defense, Khalil Mack is still the monster he is, but they have not been playing that great football consistently compared to last year. For a team that's already been through a lot of success in 1 year, there's still time, but with a deep N.F.C., they must figure out their troubles quick. The final disappointing team is the Cleveland Browns. After a very busy offseason, many picked them to win their division, let alone make the playoffs for the first time in what feels like an eternity. However, they just look like a team that looks great on paper, but can't fit the pieces together. QB Baker Mayfield hasn't been able to repeat his rookie success which is a big reason why their best player Odell Beckham Jr. hasn't been able to do much this year along with his fellow friend and pro bowler Jarvis Landry. Baker's not the only reason though, as head coach Freddie Kitchens has looked nothing short of a puzzled coach. The defense isn't entirely the problem, but it's also been a disappointment this year, their defensive line and sophomore CB Denzil Ward haven't lived up to expectations that was made after last season or the offseason. With the window closing on some of these teams, their own standards may decrease very soon.
Like any other NFL season, this year's centennial season has had many storylines. Some have caught a lot of media attention like these overachieving quarterbacks. Others have been surprises like certain teams that could be playoff threats. And then there are those who fit in the category of disappointment. But overall, this has definitely been a unique season.
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