NFL Midseason Report Card: Grading All 32 Teams Halfway Through the Year

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2010

NFL Midseason Report Card: Grading All 32 Teams Halfway Through the Year

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?" -Vince Lombardi.

    For some NFL teams of today, losing is less of a choice than more of a curse. The Buffalo Bills have endured numerous torturing seasons since the 1990's, and as if that wasn't enough, the Detroit Lions have also seen their fair share of bad luck since the past glory days.

    However, for those teams that manage to pick up the slack and post a barrage of wins in the 16-game span, midseason grades become all that much easier to dish out.

    Right now there are a handful of teams worthy of being named the best football franchise this season, and although the debate is still left unsettled, midseason grades do help to highlight the contenders from the pretenders.

    To sound cliche, without further ado, here's a look at all 32 Teams Midseason Grades.  Has your team made the cut?

Arizona Cardinals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Current Record: 3-4

     

    Offensive Grade: C

    Two weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals offense looked to be back on track under rookie Max Hall and his big time win over the New Orleans Saints.  But since Hall's promising debut, the young first year player has failed to maintain his starting role, losing out to Derek Anderson once again.

    Currently the Cardinals have had a problem putting points on the board, ranking 24th in the league.  However, more of the problem has also come with forward progression, as Arizona is ranked second last in yards.

    With no solid running game yet, and a lone wolf wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have taken one step forward and two steps back since the departure of Kurt Warner a season ago.

     

    Defensive Grade: C-

    Similar to the offense, Arizona's defense has taken a fall from grace.  The stats don't lie (30th in pass yards, 25th in rush yards) and the simple fact that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie only has one interception on the year, paints the entire story.

    Last season in the NFC Wildcard Game, the Cardinals managed to force a game-winning turnover against the Green Bay Packers.  Yet, this time around, the Cardinals star players in Darnell Dockett and Joey Porter have struggled to post sack numbers.

    This is only half of the problem in Arizona, so don't be surprised to see Ken Whisenhunt target defensive players in the 2011 Draft.

     

    Overall Grade: C-

Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A

    Atlanta's fire power has really begun to show its class lately.  Quarterback Matt Ryan has stepped out of his dismal 2009 status, and has slowly but surely drawn back to his impressive 2008 ways that saw everybody stand up and notice him.

    Midway into the year, Matt Ryan has thrown for 1714 yards and 12 touchdowns, much of which is a compliment of Roddy White's brilliance.

    But aside from this lovable duo, the welcoming back of Michael Turner has really placed the final puzzle piece into place in Atlanta.  Although Turner has only rushed for 587 yards and three touchdowns, his blocking presence and surefire hands make him a target for Matt Ryan on any occasion.

    Atlanta now stands atop the NFC South, even though Tampa Bay and New Orleans breath down their neck.  Still, 10th in points scored and seventh in offensive yards, earns the Falcons a solid A grade.

     

    Defensive Grade: B+

    If you thought Atlanta's offense has been good, Mike Smith's defensive structure has been just as impressive. 

    Looking around the Falcons lockerroom, not many defensive stars emerge.  With that being said though, strong safety William Moore has emerged from the shadows lately, as his three interceptions on the year see him as one the Falcons better defensive players.

    Other than Moore, the Falcons defense has been a team effort.  Maybe Atlanta are fortunate to not feature any egotistical stars, simply because the Falcons players don't seem overly concerned with stats.

    Bigger and better things can come from this defense, and even though they have let teams back into the thick of games recently, the Falcons 5-2 record says it all.

     

    Overall Grade: A-


Baltimore Ravens

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    Larry French/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A-

    Baltimore's new look offense has provided the goods for the Ravens this season.  5-2 on the season, Baltimore have managed to maintain a steady pace in the AFC North, while competing with some of the conference's top dogs.

    But for all of Baltimore's star power, they haven't been quite as dominant as we all had expected.  First and foremost, running back Ray Rice hasn't exploded just yet.  Five-hundred twenty-three yards and two touchdowns on the season are decent stats, but for a rusher that was unstoppable last season, they are a minor step in the opposite direction.

    Secondly, Baltimore's statistics have been a little down.  One week the Ravens can topple the New York Jets, while the next they struggle to keep up with the New England Patriots.

    Chances are the Ravens offense will heat up soon, and don't get me wrong, Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin have been brilliant.  But Ray Rice's expertise and skill would really complete this potentially dangerous package.

     

    Defensive Grade: B+

    A B+ is awarded to the Ravens on the defensive side of the ball.  In the beginning of the season, Ray Lewis' motivated crew were successful in stopping the Jets, only to receive a few tests in later weeks.

    Of course, the likes of the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are no easy task, but since a dominant and groundbreaking start, the Ravens have let their coverage collapse a little recently.

    As it stands, the Ravens defense ranks 15th in pass yards and 12th in rush yards, solid statistics for a team that has just regained Ed Reed from the PUP list.  The upcoming weeks should see the Ravens defensive structure up the anti a little.

     

    Overall Grade: A

Buffalo Bills

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Current Record: 0-7

     

    Offensive Grade: C+

    Buffalo's poor looking offense during the offseason has begun to turn heads in the past four weeks.  When Trent Edwards was benched by Chan Gailey, questionably talented quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped into the limelight.

    It would now be the understatement of the century to say that Ryan Fitzpatrick is a very talented quarterback.  Already he has tested the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, and sooner or later his persistence and skill level will ultimately pay off.

    Aside from Fitzpatrick, C.J Spiller and wide receiver Lee Evans have heated up.  Both are still trying to make a name for themselves in the league, and you get the feeling that if the Bills continue along this "close but no cigar" path, that one of these days it will work out just right.

     

    Defensive Grade: D

    Unfortunately the Bills haven't been able to show promise in all area's of the football, as Buffalo's defense still looks short of potential.

    For you see, it is fine to say that Ryan Fitzpatrick has rallied against AFC elite teams, but at the end of the day, the Bills have lost all three of these games by close margins.

    Just like other teams, Buffalo lack any real star power.  No big name standouts emerge other than Jarius Byrd, and until the Bills target some talent in their draft campaigns, not much is going to change.

     

    Overall Grade: C-

Carolina Panthers

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Current Record: 1-6

     

    Offensive Grade: F+

    Carolina's indecisiveness at the quarterback position in 2010 has cost their franchise dearly.  With Matt Moore starting to begin the year, No. 3 ultimately failed, only to be replaced by rookie Jimmy Clausen, who would also collapse quickly.

    So now, Matt Moore is back under center, and with it comes a 1-6 record on the season, that still looks to be in serious turmoil.

    On the stat sheet, the Panthers are far from just struggling.  Ranked 32nd in points and 32nd in yards, the Panthers offense is as flat as a sheet of paper, even though stars DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith sit on the roster.

     

    Defensive Grade: F

    Keeping the theme of problems going, the Panthers defense is no better than their offense.  Thirty-first in pass yards and 28th in rush yards, the Panthers are seriously missing Julius Peppers, who was lost in free agency during the offseason.

    Until Carolina pick up some linebacker talent in the 2011 Draft and attempt to recruit some true cornerbacks, the Panthers defense will always let this franchise down.

     

    Overall Grade: F+


Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-3

     

    Offensive Grade: B+

    The beginning of the regular season was more than just kind to the Chicago Bears.  When the Windy City faithful saw their team become one of the few undefeated teams four weeks in, Jay Cutler and his young offense looked like a threat in the NFC North.

    For some criticizers though, it was all too long before Cutler showed his true colors.  Against the New York Giants No. 6 struggled, and after suffering a concussion, Cutler hasn't managed to be the stable quarterback he was early on.

    Still, the Bears offense has gotten the job done.  Running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Johnny Knox have begun to emerge, and Devin Hester's kick return brilliance is now back to its best.

    However, the Bears are riding a slippery slope.  In the past three weeks Chicago have struggled, and if Cutler doesn't return to his best, the Bears offense may go underwater faster than the Titanic.

     

    Defensive Grade: B-

    Just like the offense, Chicago's defense was stellar in the opening weeks.  The addition of Julius Peppers was paying dividends for Lovie Smith, and Brian Urlacher's physical presence had been successful in overcoming Aaron Rodgers and other elite NFC quarterbacks.

    Since the first five weeks of the year though, the Bears defense has hit a road block.  Ranked 26th in rush yards, Chicago has been weak when opposing running backs have rushed the ball, something that was evident against Seattle and Washington several weeks ago.

    On the positive side for Chicago, they do have what it takes to fix the problem.  Obvious talent still sits in the linebacker corp, and if Julius Peppers can wreak havoc, a little confidence on defense could turn this team around.

     

    Overall Grade: B


Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Current Record: 2-5

     

    Offensive Grade: D+

    If there was ever a more surprising headline this season, the Cincinnati Bengals lack of offensive chemistry surely takes the cake.

    Thinking back to the offseason, it's hard to imagine why everybody jumped on board the Bengals bandwagon.  Perhaps the addition of Terrell Owens is the most obvious factor, but eight weeks into the year, Cincinnati's 5-2 record has crushed any hopes of a playoff spot.

    To keep it short, the Bengals have had their ups and downs.  Quarterback Carson Palmer has finally come around, but prior to Week 7, Palmer wasn't showing the skill level that he normally displays and was struggling to make some of the most simplest of passes.

    Next on the list, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has given the team nothing this year.  It could be said that he is more concerned with his iPhone application, but Ochocinco's 458 yards and two touchdowns have hurt more than just a few people in Fantasy leagues.

    Last but not least, the Bengals are losing in catastrophic ways.  One moment they will look promising, while the next, they are as flat as a tack in all area's of the ball.  An easy D+ grade is awarded here.

     

    Defensive Grade: C-

    Cincinnati's defense has been the lesser of the two evils, but that isn't to say Marvin Lewis doesn't have a few issues to iron out.

    When it comes to defending the pass, the Bengals have been great.  Ranked 6th in the league, Cincinnati have at least managed to withstand some aerial attacks, even though Matt Ryan and Roddy White looked more than capable two weeks ago.

    So what is the issue on defense?

    The run game. 

    Cincinnati is struggling in the AFC North due to their opponents top gear rush attack—that is relentless for defenders.  Baltimore features Ray Rice, Pittsburgh features Rashard Mendenhall and many other AFC teams are very run savvy.

    Therefore, it's obvious why the Bengals defense is struggling.

     

    Overall Grade: D

Cleveland Browns

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Current Record: 2-5

     

    Offensive Grade: C-

    Don't let the grade fool you, because Cleveland's new look offense has impressed most people who have watched the Browns lately.

    In Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints, the Browns gave the Dawg Pound something to cheer about.  Colt McCoy had become the favored starter, and when Cleveland knocked off one of the leagues top teams, the Browns had finally seen some good come out of their offense.

    Still, as great as the Browns new look is, we've seen Cleveland suffer with new quarterbacks before.  Sure, Colt McCoy has started out well, but how long will it be before he too is swallowed up by the Browns quarterback machine?

    Nobody knows.

    What we do know though is that the Browns offense is rising.  Running back Peyton Hillis has seemingly come out of nowhere to post 460 yards and five touchdowns on the season, while Josh Cribbs continues to make steps toward the starting role.

    A C- grade may seem a little hasty, however, we must take into account how shaky the Browns offense can be from week-to-week.

     

    Defensive Grade: D-

    The Browns two wins on the season have been great, but Eric Mangini's team is yet to totally outplay an opponent on the defensive side of the ball.

    Much of this is of course due to the Browns lack of experience at many positions, and it's fair to say that when the likes of Joe Haden and T.J Ward get going, that Cleveland's defense will really improve.

    For now, the Browns are several stars short of a decent structure.  So far the Browns starters have only recorded four total interceptions, a statistic that is evident of Cleveland's below .500 record.  After the 2011 draft, the story may be different, but Cleveland's defense is still struggling immensely.

     

    Overall Grade: D

Dallas Cowboys

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    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    Current Record: 1-6

     

    Offensive Grade: D-

    Lets face it, it's no secret that the Cowboys offense is disastrous right now.  Wade Phillips is somehow still coaching, while Tony Romo is limited to the sideline experience watching Jon Kitna try and reignite this down-and-out team.

    Defying the odds in typical Dallas fashion though, the Cowboys rankings aren't all that bad.  Ranked 13th in points and fourth in yards, I guess Roy Williams, Jason Witten and Marion Barber have managed to keep the Cowboys offense respectable.

    Other than that though, the Cowboys record hurts them immensely—1-6 on the year and a loss to Jacksonville in Week 8 doesn't help the cause.  The Cowboys offense is no more.

     

    Defensive Grade: F+

    Defense has been the more underrated issue for Dallas, and you need to take one small glimpse at their 31st ranked rush defense to realize how dire strait the situation is.

    Looking back at the 2010 Draft, Jerry Jones now begins to look like a fool.  Targeting Dez Bryant at the time was all well and good, but Dallas' lack of defensive playmakers has hurt their chances at the Super Bowl this year.

    Terrance Newman is currently injured, and Jay Ratliff has recorded one sack all year.  Fortunately for us all, DeMarcus Ware has been bringing quarterbacks down, but when it's all said and done, Dallas' D has lost them many games.

     

    Overall Grade: F

Denver Broncos

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    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Current Record: 2-6

     

    Offensive Grade: C

    If it wasn't for Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd's brilliance, the Denver Broncos would never average a grade above a D.  But considering that Orton ranks among the leagues top passers, and Lloyd has been his go to guy since the departure of Brandon Marshall, the Broncos are quickly let off the hook.

    Putting aside this demeaning duo, the Broncos run game has hit a flat patch.  Knowshon Moreno only has 252 yards and two touchdowns on the year, even though Moreno was injured several weeks ago.

    Realistically speaking, Kyle Orton is now one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game.  His stats continue to impress, but the Broncos continue to let him down, losing to the 49ers in London this past weekend.

    Giving the Broncos a C on offense is tough to do, but without Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd, let's just say Denver's grade would fall lower than the US dollar.

     

    Defensive Grade: F

    Another F for another poor defensive team, the Denver Broncos are amongst some of the leagues worst defending franchises.

    The main problem for the Broncos is injury.  It all started with Elvis Dumervil during the offseason, until Champ Bailey fell, followed by Brian Dawkins and Andre Goodman.

    Several weeks ago, the Broncos were lucky enough to welcome back Champ Bailey from injury, only to see Brian Dawkins go down almost simultaneously.  These key losses have affected Denver, and with no depth at key positions, the Broncos continue to spiral.

     

    Overall Grade: D

Detroit Lions

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Current Record: 2-5

     

    Offensive Grade: B

    Is this really the team that fell to 0-16 two years ago?  I guess so.

    Ah the Detroit Lions, what a bounce back they have made from their past woes.  If you look past their 2-5 record, the Lions actually have had many promising signs in every area.

    Matt Stafford was injured in Week 1, only to be replaced by former San Francisco 49er Shaun Hill, who fulfilled his duties quite well.

    Stepping away from the quarterback position, the Lions obvious standouts have emerged.  We were all familiar with Calvin Johnson going into the season, and now that I tell you he has posted 538 yards and eight touchdowns on the year, I imagine you're not surprised.

    Secondly, rookie running back Jahvid Best has been great.  During his California days, Best was well noted for being a great rusher, but his receiving skills have been highlighted since his arrival in the NFL.

    The Lions offense is one of the most promising in the league right now, and they have also been successful in competing with top NFC teams.  Funnily enough, the Lions are now level with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North, so let's see what happens in coming weeks.

     

    Defensive Grade: C-

    Since the pickup of Ndamukong Suh in the NFL Draft, the Lions have experienced an aurora of intensity on the defensive side of the ball, that has easily matched the NFC North's more versatile defenses.

    But if Ndamukong Suh weren't apart of the Lions roster, one gets the feeling that Detroit would be struggling.  Still head coach Jim Schwartz sees issues at the cornerback position, and the Lions' struggles against opposing run games is a worrying factor.

    On the weekend against Washington though, the Lions put all their issues behind them.  Almost story like, the Lions caused a late turnover against Rex Grossman, and Ndamukong Suh took the ball in for the score.

    This is the type of play we can come to expect from the Lions, and like everybody is saying, the 2011 Draft may be the final time we consider the Lions as a "weak" team in the NFL.

     

    Overall Grade: C

Green Bay Packers

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-3

     

    Offensive Grade: A-

    The unsung hero of Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, was the people's first pick to win the MVP this season.  In an uncanny turn of events though, No. 12 hasn't been the standout that he was in 2009, even though Rodgers has managed to lead the Packers to five total victories this year.

    Two weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packer offense looked off.  Receivers were on a totally different page, and with no run game in sight, the passing game was the only factor the Packers had to fall back on.

    Last weekend against the New York Jets, the exact same story unfolded.  Although the receivers were on cue, and Green Bay's rush game had picked up the slack a little, Aaron Rodgers only threw for 170 yards on the day and was sacked twice.

    Looking back on last year, it's a telltale sign that the Packers offensive line has solidified.  Gone are the days of five-sack games for Rodgers, and now, we see Green Bay withholding the likes of Jared Allen on Sunday Night Football.

     

    Defensive Grade: A

    It may have been tough to give the Packers an A three weeks ago, but following an absolute stellar stand against the Jets on the weekend, the Packers defense is in need of some serious credit.

    To be quite frank, the Packers should be this good.  Charles Woodson is an elite cornerback in the league, and Clay Matthews' 9.5 sacks on the year detail how unstoppable he has been.

    Away from the usual suspects however, the Packers most overlooked players have also stepped up.  Tramon Williams forced an interception against New York, and Nick Collins continues to hold receivers close in the secondary.

    One of these days the Packers will regain Al Harris and Atari Bigby, and when that happens, look out NFC North.  The Packers are in the top spot now, but with a full structured defense, Dom Capers will have no excuse to perform badly.

     

    Overall Grade: A

Houston Texans

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-3

     

    Offensive Grade: A-

    Despite the Texans Monday Night encounter with the Indianapolis Colts, the Houston Texans offense has lived up to every expectation imaginable.

    Entering the season, the Texans run game appeared to lie on rookie Ben Tate's shoulders.  Following an impact to one of Houston's key draft picks though, Arian Foster then stepped into the starting role, and highlighted how dominant he can be in Week 1.

    With 635 yards and six touchdowns on the year, Arian Foster has been unstoppable.  But not forgetting Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, both of these two players have hoisted the Texans to several wins this year.

    Houston has endured a few hiccups recently and are now in danger of falling to .500.  That isn't to say though that Gary Kubiak's offense hasn't been exceptional.

     

    Defensive Grade: B+

    If you thought the Texans offense was the only improvement, guess again, because Houston's defense has also undergone some refurbishment.

    Currently sitting fifth in rush yards stopped and 10th in passing yards, the Texans don't feature a barrage of heavily-talented players.  Keeping that in mind though, Houston do feature an enormous amount of experience, much of which extends from strong safety Bernard Pollard.

    Like the offense, the Texans defense has undergone some tribulations lately.  Peyton Manning and the Colts exposed the Texans secondary for who they really are, and now Houston much rebound.  Whether or not they do that is one thing, but the turnaround this season has been enormous.

     

    Overall Grade: B+

Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A

    "The Sheriff" Peyton Manning has been short a few deputies in the past few weeks, losing Dallas Clarke, Austin Collie and Joseph Addai to injury.  Fortunately for the Colts, that hasn't stopped Peyton Manning from utilizing other players in their absence.

    The biggest name to unfold from Monday Night, was unnoticed running back Mike Hart.  On more than one occasion, Hart pulled off a big play and seemingly left Colt fans forgetting about Joseph Addai's injury, due to Hart's quick draw speed.

    But to state the obvious, the Colts will always have an A grade offense.  Peyton Manning never misses, and take it from a guy who acquired Manning on his fantasy team—Peyton Manning is the master of the game.

    Therefore, the Colts now sit atop the AFC South and are looking to shift into cruise control shortly and ride the wave into the playoffs.  Big games still await Peyton Manning, but it appears the Colts offense has found that typical winning gene.

     

    Defensive Grade: A

    A's across the board for the Colts, especially following their defensive stand on Monday Night.

    When announcer Jon Gruden predicted that Dwight Freeney would rush Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, he was spot on.  Freeney went on to post two sacks in the game, along with Clint Session who was one of the many defensive standouts.

    In the Super Bowl the Colts defense looked flat at times, but their hangover is now well and truly over.  If things continue, the AFC had better be prepared for a casual defensive rout from Jim Caldwell's crew.

     

    Overall Grade: A

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-4

     

    Offensive Grade: B+

    Jacksonville's offense has been surprisingly hot this season.  Quarterback David Garrard had a perfect first half against Dallas on the weekend, and although Maurice Jones-Drew hasn't been the most utilized running back in the league, he too has contributed to the Jaguars wins.

    During the offseason, David Garrard was noted for his work ethic, but one man that went unmentioned was wide receiver Marcedes Lewis.  Already eight weeks into the year, Lewis has caught eight touchdown passes, and by combining this with the talent of Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas, the Jaguars now sit at a favorable .500.

     

    Defensive Grade: C-

    It's unfortunate for the Jaguars that their defense has let them down, but when you slip to 28th in the league on pass yards, a team is going to feel some form of consequences.

    In the draft, the Jaguars decided to acquire rookie defensive end Tyson Alualu.  Currently Alualu has only recorded 2.5 sacks on the year, a presence that head coach Jack Del Rio would like to see more of. 

    Aside from Tyson Alualu, Jacksonville's interception numbers haven't been high.  On numerous occasions, the Jaguars have had opportunities but have failed to capitalize.

    Beating Indianapolis is one of the standouts for this team, still, much more needs to be done in the upcoming weeks on defense.

     

    Overall Grade: B-

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A-

    Finally, Matt Cassel has returned to his 2008 New England Patriot form.  Yes, it took a while, but now No. 7 looks to be one of the more elite passers in the NFL, as the Chiefs have skyrocketed to a 5-2 record this season.

    To give credit where credit is due, much of Cassel's brilliance has come at the hands of Tony Moeaki.  The rookie tight end has acted as one of the Chiefs go to wide receivers this season, along with Dwayne Bowe, who has 357 yards and six touchdowns on the year.

    If you combine all of this with Jamaal Charles' devil stats of 666 yards and two touchdowns, what do you get?

    A winning football team.  At times it hasn't been pretty, but hey, wins are the only thing that matters.

     

    Defensive Grade: B-

    Don't get me wrong, 2010 Draft Pick Eric Berry has been great for Kansas City, but when you allow the Buffalo Bills to force overtime at home in Arrowhead Stadium, something begins to be said about your teams overall defense.

    Being fair to Kansas City, they do lack a lot of skill.  The Chiefs are few and far between on defense, and at times, are stretched to the very bare minimum, considering how inexperienced many of their players are.

    The Chiefs biggest issue though has been stopping the run.  This may be due to facing tough AFC teams, however, the Chiefs linebacker corp needs to step up if they are to keep their playoff dream alive.

    There's plenty of time, so no need to panic if you're Todd Haley.

     

    Overall Grade: B+

Miami Dolphins

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-3

     

    Offensive Grade: B-

    Acquiring Brandon Marshall was supposed to add some spice to the Dolphins offense, but as their 4-3 record indicates, even Marshall hasn't been enough to totally push Tunatown over the edge.

    For those that watched the Dolphins take on the Green Bay Packers several weeks ago, Brandon Marshall was on fire.  No. 19 was catching passes all over the field, and Chad Henne's brilliance was much of the reason for this occurrence.

    So why can't the Dolphins do this each week?

    That reason is still unknown.

    What is known though, is that the Dolphins run game is now back.  Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have made the two-headed attack work nicely, and both have contributed for over 600 yards and two touchdowns this year.

     

    Defensive Grade: B

    Miami's defense was never the highlight going into September, but it is important to remember that Tony Sparano does have some talent to play with before each Sunday.

    The biggest name on defense for the Dolphins is of course Karlos Dansby.  His sack numbers may have been a little down, however as long as Jason Allen keeps his interception-prone ways going, the Dolphins should remain stable on D.

     

    Overall Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Overall Record: 2-5

     

    Offensive Grade: D+

    Brett Favre is out, Randy Moss has been placed on waivers and right now it looks like the Minnesota offense is down-and-out for the count for remainder of the season.

    Through all of the thick of it though, two shining lights have emerged from the Vikings—Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.

    Not only have both of these players still managed to perform through all of the Vikings controversy, both have been as solid as a rock statistically so far this year.

    On the ground game, Adrian Peterson has rushed for 776 yards and six touchdowns, along with ridding any fumbling issues that occurred last season.  In the air, Percy Harvin has also kept up his good work, catching for 393 yards and three touchdowns.

    Brett Favre is pivotal for this team, and with Tavaris Jackson in, well we all know what happens.  Chances are Minnesota aren't going to make the playoffs, but at least a handful of players can go down with a little respect.

     

    Defensive Grade: D-

    Teams have pounded the Vikings poor secondary as of late and have found more than enough room for their wide receivers to score points.

    Just like many other teams, the Vikings defense has been ravished by injuries to the likes of Antoine Winfield, Husain Abdullah and Pat Williams.  Aside from who is out though, Jared Allen's lack of defensive pressure hasn't made the situation any better in Minnesota.

    With only one sack on the year and one interception, Jared Allen has been almost non-existent in past weeks and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to steamroll the Viking defense.

    This probably won't change this season, but if Brad Childress is still around next year, he'd better hope he makes some improvements.

     

    Overall Grade: D

New England Patriots

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Current Record: 6-1

     

    Offensive Grade: A

    Argue with it, deny it, the New England Patriots are the best team in football right now.

    And why is that?  Easy, Tom Brady.

    Yes, Tom Brady is back to his best.  One-thousand six hundred and two yards on the year with 12 touchdowns, even the slightest thought of Randy Moss hasn't stopped Tom Brady from posting more and more wins in Patriot blue and white.

    Along with Tom Brady, also comes young running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has a handful of touchdowns this season. 

    Finally, the wide receiver core has also helped Bill Belichick maintain a nearly perfect record.  Deion Branch is still upcoming, but Wes Welker continues to be reliable, along with Aaron Hernandez, who has appeared out of thin air.

     

    Defensive Grade: B

    The Patriots were once known for their defense, but those days are long gone. 

    Still, New England have been successful in toppling the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings this year, purely due to defensive stands.

    The Patriots now rank 14th in defensive rush yards and 16th in pass yards.  A lot of this is due to a team effort, but cornerback Devin McCourty's two interceptions on the year have made people realize that the Patriots defense is just as good as others.

    New England have a tough schedule ahead and will have to keep their defense in phenomenal shape.  A few injuries have occurred but nothing major to report just yet.

     

    Overall Grade: A

New Orleans Saints

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    Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

    Overall Record: 5-3

     

    Offensive Grade: B

    Sean Payton's team hasn't been their usual selves this season, that isn't to say that the Saints still can't make the playoffs with ease this year.

    To state the plainly obvious, the Saints have been both hot and cold as of late.  One week New Orleans is striving, while the next they slip up to the Cleveland Browns at home in front of a sold out Superdome crowd.

    So what's the reason for this?

    Much of it is due to the absence of Reggie Bush.  For you see, the Saints are now short of a player that could act as a receiver if the run game was a no go or vise versa.  Replacement running back Chris Ivory has been decent lately, but his 322 yards on the year aren't that of a typical Saints player of today.

    Quarterback Drew Brees continues to impress and so do the Saints receivers.  Things are on the right path, but many people are skeptical whether or not the Saints can overcome the Atlanta Falcons down south.

     

    Defensive Grade: C

    Welcoming back Darren Sharper was one thing, yet at the same time even Sharper's brilliance may not be enough to eradicate New Orleans' 29th rank rush defense.

    On Sunday Night against Pittsburgh, the Saints defense played a well rounded game.  Mike Tomlin's team struggled to hit the ground running, and when running back Rashard Mendenhall was stuffed on separate occasions, the Saints had taken a vital part away from the Steelers game plan.

    This is the type of play we are used to from the Saints, but has gone astray this year.  Maybe Darren Sharper's presence will help the team, but testy times do await.

     

    Overall Grade: B-

New York Giants

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A-

    The Giants were never poised to be anything big in 2010, and when New York started poorly to begin the year, it looked as if Big Blue were in for a torturous time.

    Luckily, the Giants and Eli Manning turned their misfortune around and now sit at 5-2 on the year, following a big-time defensive stand and an offense that has managed to use it's youth and explosiveness as an advantage.

    Key players for the Giants include Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks.  Both may be young, but that isn't to say they can't pile on the yards (and points) if Eli Manning manages to allow for both.

    Other than the receivers, Eli Manning himself has improved.  Sure, he may still be that one step away from elite status, however, Manning simply plays the game his way—and believe me, it works.

    The Giants are no flashy team on paper and probably never will be.  That obviously hasn't affected their attitude midway through the year.

     

    Defensive Grade: A+

    It's hard not to give the Giants an A+ on defense, because their hard hitting ways have won football games in the easiest way possible.

    I guess when your team features both Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, you can expect to earn a few sacks.  But 12 combined midway through the year?  No one expected that.

    Other players to watch on defense in New York are Antrel Rolle and Corey Webster.  Both have had a slow start in terms of interception numbers, but both play wide receivers extremely close and rarely let an easy pass slide by them.

    Big Blue's D is back in full force, and an A+ grade is what Tom Coughlin would love to see eight weeks into the year.

     

    Overall Grade: A

New York Jets

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Overall Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: B+

    If this was Week 7, the Jets would have earned a steady A- grade.  Following New York's unimpressive performance against Green Bay last week though, Mark Sanchez and his team slip one place back into a B+ role.

    On offense for Rex Ryan, the usual standouts emerge.  Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has been fantastic in his first year in New York, and wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Dustin Kellar have also seen much success.

    What has let New York down though is quarterback play.  Mark Sanchez looked like he did in Week 1 on Sunday, and his inaccuracy has cost the Jets two crucial wins over big time opponents so far this year.

    In terms of worry, this isn't the biggest issue.  But it is one that could yet again hurt the Jets come playoff time, if Sanchez allows the team to carry him, rather than the other way around.

    New York have tremendous talent on offense and it would be a shame to waste.  Let's hope Sanchez tightens up his arm, and focuses a little more, before turning the ball over so frequently.

     

    Defensive Grade: A-

    The Jets defense has held up nicely throughout the Darrelle Revis injury patch and has squeaked by with wins over New England, Miami and Minnesota.

    As for storylines, Darrelle Revis has certainly packed a punch.  Six total interceptions last year were great, but No. 24 has failed to pick off a pass this season, due to injury.

    Standouts on the Jets defense this year include linebackers Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and David Harris.  Their sack numbers haven't been through the roof, however New York's third ranked rush defense tells the story.

    Where New York have struggled is in the air, and until Revis gets back to his best, it will most likely stay this way.

     

    Overall Grade: A

Oakland Raiders

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-4

     

    Offensive Grade: B+

    Quarterback changes continue to occur in Oakland, with Bruce Gradkowski being replaced by Jason Campbell in Week 8. 

    The move at quarterback does come at a price for the Raiders, but luckily enough Jason Campbell's efforts on the weekend against Seattle were well noted, as the former Redskins passed for 310 yards and two touchdowns.

    To some though, Campbell's efforts may be a little boring in comparison to Darren McFadden.  If you told most people earlier in the year the McFadden would rush for 668 yards and four touchdowns, most would have laughed—but here we are eight weeks in and that stat is 100 percent true.

    Considering where the Raiders were a year ago, a B+ grade is huge.  Tom Cable has turned this team around, and now Oakland sit at 4-4 and ready to improve.

     

    Defensive Grade: B-

    Oakland's defense has been half-and-half.  On one end, their rush defense has been superb, while in the air, the Raiders struggle, even though Nnamdi Asomugha is a top name on the roster.

    Speaking of Nnamdi Asomugha, the cornerbacks absence earlier in the year could be the reason for Oakland's demise in the passing game.  With Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis hogging the spotlight, often Asomugha goes unmentioned, although he is one of the best corners in the league.

    Like already mentioned though, the Raiders just need some talent.  One more draft can provide that, and barring some Al Davis disaster next April, Oakland can easily pick up a well-tuned cornerback, safety or linebacker to compliment what they already have.

     

    Overall Grade: B-

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-3

     

    Offensive Grade: A

    The Eagles offense took the week off last weekend, due to the schedules organized bye week.

    However, if the Eagles offense isn't fresh in your mind, allow me to remind you.  Firstly, we have Kevin Kolb, who now seems to have won the starting role once again over Michael Vick and has been great the past three weeks.

    Secondly, we have the always reliable DeSean Jackson, who has posted 395 yards and three touchdowns.  And thirdly, new running back LeSean McCoy has hit the ground running this year after accumulating 455 yards and five touchdowns.

    The Eagles now take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9, in a fixture that should be quite entertaining.  Both offenses are booming, and given the way Kevin Kolb has been playing, don't be too surprised to see the Eagles walk away with a possible upset.

     

    Defensive Grade: B+

    Keeping the theme of balance going, the Philadelphia defense has been just as impressive.

    Ranked ninth in both categories, the Eagles defensive structure has survived reasonably well this season even though the NFC East throws curveball after curveball at the Andy Reid.

    Cornerback Asante Samuel has three interceptions on the year, meanwhile the Eagles linebackers and defensive lineman have kept up the sack numbers combining for six in total.

    Philadelphia aren't known for great defense, in a division as hotly contested as the NFC East though, it sure does pay off.

     

    Overall Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A

    Forget the Steelers offensive rankings, as they aren't all that pretty for a team who has been so precise and consistent in the past eight weeks.

    To say that the Steelers passing game has been stellar would be an understatement.  Even with Ben Roethlisberger out on a five-week suspension, quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch pulled their weight and allowed the Steelers to post several big time wins in Roethlisbergers's absence.

    As always though, the big storyline comes from Hines Ward.  Always reliable, always sure-handed and always dependable, Hines Ward has 365 yards and three touchdowns on the year, yet is somehow behind Mike Wallace on the stat sheet.

    Not to worry though, there is still time, and the Steelers loss in New Orleans on Sunday Night Football won't derail their yet again postseason destined season.

     

    Defensive Grade: B+

    As if the picture doesn't say enough, the hard hitting Steeler defense is back to full strength this year, when the Steelers welcomed back a 100 percent Troy Polamalu from an injury last season.

    Against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Steelers kept their mentality high.  But it now appears no amount of intensity can stop Roger Goodell from limiting hard hits in the league, something that linebacker James Harrison isn't too happy with.

    The Steelers are ranked 11th in rush yards and 19th in pass yards on defense.  B+ may seem like a low grade for a team that has been top of the class in recent years, but the limitations of hard hits as made Pittsburgh a little hesitant lately.

     

    Overall Grade: A

San Diego Chargers

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Current Record: 3-5

     

    Offensive Grade: C

    It's almost unreal that the Chargers offense is ranked in the Top 10 in the league, and what is even more uncanny, is the fact that Philip Rivers is among the best passers so far this season.

    Here we stand eight weeks in though, and all of the Chargers big-time play has resulted in no more than a 3-5 record, a bunch of coaching controversy and a few hard shots by the media on a team who was poised to make the playoffs.

    Keeping it blunt, the Chargers offense has been productive.  San Diego has produced points and yards, but their consistency throughout four quarters have been poor, especially against top ranked AFC opponents like New England.

    Late minute fight backs have been prevalent from San Diego, and no amount of talent and point scoring will change that, until San Diego's consistency picks up.

     

    Defensive Grade: B-

    Offensively San Diego are great, and on defense, the same story is told.

    Ranked first in defensive pass yards, much of San Diego's late minute fight backs have been due to the Chargers defense, that continues to hold teams in third down situations.

    Perhaps it could be said that the sole reason Norv Turner is still around in San Diego, is due to his teams defensive performance.  Talent is few and far between, but every player has pitched in, and turned Ron Rivera's defense into a productive machine.

     

    Overall Grade: D

San Francisco 49ers

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    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Current Record: 2-6

     

    Offensive Grade: F

    2-6 for a team that was selected to make the playoffs, and possibly rally for a championship?  That's the reality the San Francisco 49ers have had to live with in 2010.

    To start off with a long list of problems, the 49ers offense has been horrid.  Quarterback Alex Smith heard boos at Candlestick Park, and Frank Gore's bumper-to-bumper run play has been notably dull this time around.

    In Week 8, the 49ers took on the Denver Broncos and won in London.  By no means was this a pretty win, but Troy Smith's passing ability brought a breath of fresh air to the 49er offense.

    Positively, tight end Vernon Davis is excelling, with 434 yards and four touchdowns.  Negatively though, when your tight end is your top receiver, some problems obviously arise.

     

    Defensive Grade: D-

    A D- for the 49ers defense, that has been even worse than the offensive side of the ball.

    Heading into the season, the 49er defense showed promising signs.  Patrick Willis is always a threat, but his one sack on the year has been the exact opposite of what head coach Mike Singletary had come to expect.

    The only plus for the 49ers defense is Nate Clements.  Two interceptions and two forced fumbles on the year are decent stats, and along with Taylor Mays' promising ways, maybe next year things will be different out west.

     

    Overall Grade: F

Seattle Seahawks

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-3

     

    Offensive Grade: C-

    The Seahawks have had one of the most up-and-down seasons in their history.  With each week becoming an instant guessing game, wins and losses have been hard to predict for Pete Carroll's team, as his offense still remains a question.

    In terms of issues, the Seahawks haven't had many.  Matt Hasselbeck has 1408 yards and six touchdowns on the year, but his interception numbers haven't been at all welcome. 

    At the running back spot, third year player Justin Forsett has impressed folks in Seattle, and now that Marshawn Lynch is beginning to heat up slowly but surely, the Seahawks can easily turn their run game into a two headed attack.

    Skillful players or not though, the Seahawks have consistency issues just like the San Diego Chargers.  One week a convincing win is posted, while the next the Seahawks are blown out by the Raiders—in a game that Seattle could have won.

     

    Defensive Grade: C

    Seattle have talent on defense but haven't always portrayed it. 

    At the key positions, the Seahawks players have looked impressive.  Full safety Earl Thomas has four interceptions on the year, while Marcus Trufant also displays his true colors at the cornerback position.

    Where Seattle have gone wrong though is up front.  Former Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu is sackless on the season, and Seattle's defensive line has been beaten up at times—both with injuries and by opposing teams.

    Ranked 26th in defensive rush yards, the Seahawks are atop the NFC West. Oakland look to make a move next week, so Pete Carroll needs to rally up his troops USC style.

     

    Overall Grade: C-

St. Louis Rams

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-4

     

    Offensive Grade: B

    Disregard the Rams' rankings, because rookie quarterback Sam Bradford has lived up to every slice of expectation placed on his young shoulders this season.

    Short a wide receiver with Mark Clayton out for the remainder of the season, Sam Bradford is still excelling under center, passing for 1674 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year.

    It may be hard to steer away from Bradford now, but Steven Jackson is also worth mentioning here to.  Injured at times during the past eight weeks, Jackson shook off any rust he may have displayed heading into September and has been a key part of the Rams almost mechanical offense, that has rolled over opponents lately.

    Just like the Raiders, no one expected to see St. Louis at 4-4 midway through.  The Rams now stand a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, and I for one love that thought.

     

    Defensive Grade: C-

    Look at it this way, the Rams had a lot of problems to deal with, and obviously head coach Steve Spagnuolo has focused on offense first.

    So therefore, the Rams defense has become a last minute thought this season.  This time around, we will pay attention to league's rankings, as the Rams rank 22nd in defensive pass yards.

    Similar to every weak team, it's hard to find key defenders on the Rams roster, and by checking out the teams depth chart, the injury bug has run through this team like a bullet in the past eight weeks.

    One of the remaining standouts is cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a player that in his second year has two picks in 2010.  His presence isn't huge on the field, but he is fast and agile, allowing him to grow into a top tier player in the future.

     

    Overall Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-2

     

    Offensive Grade: A-

    Wow.  That's all there is to say about young Josh Freeman, who has single handily turned the Bucs into a winner, instead of a bottom dweller team in the NFC South.

    For those that have been missing out, the new look Bucs are impressive.  Josh Freeman and Kellen Winslow Jr. continue to light the field up, and LeGarrette Blount's 222 yards and three touchdowns on the year finally give Tampa Bay a much needed running game.

    In comparison to past years though, the Bucs now seem to have some depth about them.  If it isn't Blount on the ground game, it's good old Cadillac Williams.  And if it isn't Kellen Winslow Jr. in the air, it's Mike Williams leading the team.

    An offense is pivotal in the NFC South, and Tampa Bay are one of the best.  Forget calling them pretenders, they are the real deal in 2010.

     

    Defensive Grade: B-

    Tampa Bay's big name offense has stolen the spotlight and left very little for the defense to do.  With this said, Tampa Bay hasn't been the most composed defensive team, and more often than not, has let opposing teams rally when it shouldn't have happened.

    To give a prime example, the game against St. Louis is perfect.  With a 18-17 win in hand now, Tampa Bay had to fight back against Sam Bradford and his Rams, due to the Bucs defensive collapse that allowed the game to remain so tight.

    I guess the defense is an area that Tampa Bay are still rebuilding.  But while it is easy to be harsh, a lot of positive has also come from Raheem Morris' efforts lately.

     

    Overall Grade: B

Tennessee Titans

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-3

     

    Offensive Grade: B+

    You'd think that with Chris Johnson on the Titans roster, Tennessee would be an easy A+ team, but unfortunately this isn't the case.

    On the weekend against San Diego Chargers, Tennessee lost in unconvincing fashion, when Chris Johnson ran for only 59 yards and one touchdown.

    Of course much of this loss could be blamed on the defense, but as a result the Titans, find themselves in second place behind Indianapolis in the AFC South, due to one minor slip up that could cost the Titans in the long run.

    Last but not least, Vince Young is one of the few quarterbacks yet to break the 1000 yard mark.  No. 10 is reasonably close, but until Young and the entire offense get on the same page, they may continue to stumble down south.

     

    Defensive Grade: B-

    Tennessee's defense has been good lately, however not great.

    Stopping the run game has been no problem for Jeff Fisher's team, but instead, the aerial attack has offered the Titans a number of problems.

    So what's the reason for this?

    A lack of cornerback presence.

    Tennessee's two starting cornerback's Alterraun Vetner and Cortland Finnegan have only combined for three interceptions on the year.  More to the point, Tennessee's safeties are also struggling to knock back some of the AFC's top receivers, even though their statistics are a little better.

    The Titans are far from panic mode yet, still, we all know how destructive the Colts can be when they hit the top spot.  Tennessee needs to rebound quickly throughout their bye week and convince people in Week 10 that they are still contenders.

     

    Overall Grade: B

Washington Redskins

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-4

     

    Offensive Grade: C

    I, like most people, was thoroughly impressed with the Redskins during Weeks 1-4.  After that rise in the tide though, the Redskins fell back to their 2009 ways and are now sparking controversy from every angle.

    In case you somehow missed it, Mike Shanahan made the questionable call on the weekend against Detroit, to pull the inconsistent Donovan McNabb and replace him with back up quarterback Rex Grossman.

    The events that went on to unfold were fairly predictable.  Rex Grossman lost the game on the first possession, and the Redskins fell to 4-4.

    So what's the positive for Washington?

    At least the Redskins realize the problem.  Mike Shanahan may not be willing to throw McNabb under the bus, but everyone within the organization knows that No. 5 hasn't been performing.

    As for on the field play, tight end Chris Cooley has been having a great season, and wide receiver Santana Moss' 604 yards and two touchdowns are a fresh breath of air on offense.

    Washington can get this all back on track over the bye week, but they need to be in store for some big time questioning over the next fourteen days.

     

    Defensive Grade: C-

    Washington's defense has also encountered some troubles, with Albert Haynesworth stating he isn't ready to fit into the teams defensive scheme

    Truth to this theory or not, the Redskins are no longer the team they were in Week 1 against Dallas, and are struggling statistically.  Ranked 14th in pass yards and 24th in rush yards, the Redskins defensive players have been burnt by injury, and aren't looking likely to improve.

    Standing out above the crop though, is the interception king DeAngelo Hall.  Most people weren't all that familiar with Hall to begin with, but his six interceptions has already tied Darrelle Revis' efforts last year, and there are still eight weeks to go.

    On the injury front safety LaRon Landry and Brian Orakpo are far from 100 percent.  A bye week will help the process, but one gets the feeling with these two injuries, that the Redskins could be in for a rough patch in the next month or so.

     

    Overall Grade: C