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The NFL has reached the midway point of the 2023 season, a step closer to sorting out which teams are going to be competing in Super Bowl LVIII come February. The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs appear primed for a Super Bowl rematch, while the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys are a few teams looking to crash the party.

Through nine weeks, 15 teams are above .500. The Buffalo Bills are out of the playoff picture and the New England Patriots have the worst record in the AFC (only team in the conference without three wins). The AFC has 13 teams that have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, as the No. 7 through No. 13 seeds are separated by 1.5 games. 

The NFC has the Eagles on top and everyone chasing them. As for the playoff race, the Minnesota Vikings have the No. 7 seed while the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Commanders are a game back. Regardless of records, the NFL has been full of parity in the first half of the year. 

With the first half completed, each team had to take home a grade after the first nine weeks. So how did each team fare after the midterm exam? It depends on the expectation, but performance was a huge factor in the final mark. 

Arizona Cardinals

  • Record: 1-8
  • Grade: D-

The Cardinals deserve some credit for playing hard under first-year head coach Jonathan Gannon in the first half of the year. This team was supposed to be as bad as their record indicated, especially with Kyler Murray missing the first nine games. They're currently projected to get the No. 1 pick, so things are going to plan. 

Beating the Cowboys was their lone win, which was completely unexpected. Might be their only win. 

Atlanta Falcons

  • Record: 4-5
  • Grade: C

The Falcons are in the NFC South race because the division is poor. They don't use Bijan Robinson enough, especially in the red zone, and Kyle Pitts has become a ghost in the offense. Losses to the Titans and Vikings on consecutive weeks are unacceptable, considering both teams had quarterbacks playing their first game with those teams. The defense is still significantly better under Ryan Nielsen. 

Desmond Ridder was benched in favor of Taylor Heinicke. Hard to take this team seriously without a good starting quarterback, even if Atlanta is one game out of the NFC South race. 

Baltimore Ravens

  • Record: 7-2
  • Grade: A

The Ravens are really, really good. Baltimore has beaten Detroit and Seattle -- two of the top NFC teams -- by 30-plus points over the last three weeks. They are 4-1 against winning teams and have the top-ranked scoring defense, as Baltimore is allowing 13.8 points per game (the lowest through nine games for the franchise since 2000).

Lamar Jackson may be the MVP frontrunner as he's the league leader in completion percentage, while still a real threat running the ball. The Ravens rushing offense is still elite as well, having a balanced attack with the revamped passing game. 

This may be the best team in the AFC at the halfway point. They'll be tested in the second half. 

Buffalo Bills

  • Record: 5-4
  • Grade: B-

Injuries are significantly hurting this Bills team on defense, even though Buffalo is seventh in points per possession allowed. The offense also seems off, even though Buffalo is fourth in the league in points per drive and third in yards per possession. 

Hard to ignore the poor losses to the Jets and Patriots, the reasons why the Bills are on the outside looking in regarding the AFC playoff race. Their season will be determined when the Bills play the Eagles, Chiefs and Cowboys in consecutive weeks. 

Carolina Panthers

  • Record: 1-7
  • Grade: F

Hard to tell if Bryce Young is a bust or not (it's only been nine games), but the way C.J. Stroud is playing in Houston makes one wonder if Carolina made a mistake. Frank Reich already gave up play-calling duties to Thomas Brown, and the change hasn't affected Young from making poor decisions and running for his life. 

The offense is 28th in points per possession and the defense is 30th in points allowed per possession. They don't even have a first-round pick to improve after the year as a result of trading up to No. 1 to get Young. 

This is a disaster of a season for Carolina. The Panthers should be better, much better than what they are showing on the field. 

Chicago Bears

  • Record: 2-7
  • Grade: F

This was the trendy pick to take a massive step in the NFC, thanks to the addition of D.J. Moore to be the No. 1 wide receiver for Justin Fields. One problem, Fields never developed as a passer as the Bears got off to a horrendous start. Once the Bears allowed Fields to play more freely, the offense actually improved a bit. 

Whether Fields is the franchise quarterback is yet to be seen. Head coach Matt Eberflus is likely on his way out and the Bears are trying to improve for 2024 and beyond. Trading for and signing Montez Sweat was a good move to improve a pass rush that's last in pressure rate. The Bears also currently have the No. 2 and No. 3 picks in the draft thanks to their trade with the Panthers.

The 2023 season is a wash for the Bears, but things are looking up. 

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Record: 5-3
  • Grade: B

The Bengals got off to a slow start as Joe Burrow was healing from a calf injury in training camp. Burrow is clearly healthy as Cincinnati has rebounded from a 1-4 start to win four straight and get back in the AFC North race. This team is a Super Bowl contender when Burrow is right, as Cincinnati has beaten three straight teams with winning records to turn the season around. 

Cincinnati needs to improve running the football (32nd in NFL) and keep Burrow upright (third in NFL in pressure rate per dropback allowed). This is a different team than the one that entered the season regardless.

The Bengals are a second-half team. They should never be counted out. 

Cleveland Browns

  • Record: 5-3
  • Grade: B+

The Browns deserve a lot of credit for being the toughest out in the AFC. Cleveland had the looks of a good team in training camp, evidenced by their defense being second in the NFL in points allowed per possession and first in yards allowed per possession. This defense has held three teams to three points or fewer this year, as Jim Schwartz may be one of the best assistant coach hires of the offseason.

The offense lost Nick Chubb and can still run the ball efficiently. Deshaun Watson hasn't been great, but the Browns offense is significantly better when he plays versus when he doesn't.

Cleveland has the look of a playoff team. The Browns may survive the gruesome AFC North, too. 

Dallas Cowboys

  • Record: 5-3
  • Grade: B

The Cowboys should be a Super Bowl contender, but they can't beat any team that is on their level. Dallas should have beaten Philadelphia, yet failed to score three times inside the Eagles' 30-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys were also blown out by the 49ers in their first true test against a good team, going 0-2 against their biggest competition in the conference. 

Dallas is still a good team and getting great football from Dak Prescott, yet situational football eludes them. This team will be ultimately judged in January as the early returns don't seem promising. 

Denver Broncos

  • Record: 3-5
  • Grade: C

After a horrendous start in the Sean Payton era, the Broncos have righted the ship with two straight wins going into their bye week. Payton hasn't made the Broncos contenders, but he has fixed Russell Wilson (16 touchdowns, four interceptions, 101.4 rating) and the running game is starting to thrive with Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin

The defense was abysmal after the first four games (they allowed 70 to the Dolphins), but have allowed just 15.0 points over the last three games. The Broncos actually beat the Chiefs too!

Denver appears to be on the upswing, even though the Broncos should be better at this stage under Payton. They'll be interesting to watch in the second half.

Detroit Lions

  • Record: 6-2
  • Grade: A-

The Lions were hyped up as a team on the rise in the NFC, and so far they have lived up to it. Beating the Chiefs in Week 1 was a statement victory as Detroit cruised to a 5-1 start before getting blown out by Baltimore. The Lions are second in the league in yards per game and continue to run the ball well despite the recurring injuries to David Montgomery

Sam LaPorta appears to be the next star at tight end and Jahmyr Gibbs is coming into his own at running back, more offensive pieces and already good unit can use down the stretch. 

Dan Campbell has this team in command of the NFC North and in the race for home-field advantage in the conference. These are the Lions, right? 

Green Bay Packers

  • Record: 3-5
  • Grade: C-

There may have been unrealistic expectations of the Packers this season, especially regarding Jordan Love and his development. Losing David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins early in the year didn't help matters, which have affected the entire offense. The defense has actually held its own, but isn't elite enough to carry an inconsistent offense each week. 

The Packers haven't scored over 20 points since Week 3, even though the defense has only given up over 20 points twice in that span. This season comes down to Love improving as a passer, specifically on the deep ball. 

Green Bay isn't out of the playoff race, but needs to stack up consecutive wins to get back in contention. 

Houston Texans

  • Record: 4-4
  • Grade: A-

The Texans are the most improved team in the NFL after being the laughingstock of the league since the Deshaun Watson fiasco. Mired in a long rebuild, this was supposed to be the transition year upward with a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.

Stroud is arguably a top-10 quarterback in the league already and has the Texans offense as a top-10 unit. He's thrown just one interception while being responsible for the Texans winning games. Ryans has the defense on the upswing, too, even with rookie Will Anderson not making an immediate impact in the pass rush. 

Take away a loss to the Panthers, and the Texans would have a playoff spot in the AFC. This year may the first in a very bright future for Houston. 

Indianapolis Colts

  • Record: 4-5
  • Grade: B

Shane Steichen's impact has already been felt in his first year in Indianapolis, even if franchise quarterback Anthony Richardson is lost for the season. The Colts are the only team to score 20-plus points in every game this year, and they're seventh in the league in points per game. They got the Jonathan Taylor situation figured out and the running game is clicking with he and Zack Moss

Gus Bradley's defense hasn't been great (25th in points per possession allowed), yet the Colts are taking care of the teams they match up well with on the schedule. They also have a win over the Ravens on the road, the signature win of the year. 

This season could have been a disaster when Richardson went down. It hasn't. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Record: 6-2
  • Grade: A

Give the Jaguars significant credit toward emerging as a Super Bowl contender in the AFC, winning five straight games -- all against teams that entered the game with a winning record. They have the most opportunistic defense in the league with 18 takeaways in eight games, along with the top run defense in football (third in yards allowed per game).

Trevor Lawrence battled a knee injury and has still been efficient, thanks to the depth of pass-catching talent he has to throw to. Travis Etienne is emerging as a star running back as a result of Doug Pederson's West Coast-based offense. 

Jacksonville is a tough out for the contenders every week. The Jaguars are a contender themselves. 

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Record: 7-2
  • Grade: A

Weird to think of the Chiefs as a defensive team, but this is their identity in the first half of the year. Kansas City is second in the league in points allowed per game and fourth in yards allowed per game, holding every opponent to 24 points or fewer. 

Patrick Mahomes is still getting the job done at quarterback with the lack of playmaking pass catchers outside of Travis Kelce (although Rashee Rice is coming into his own). The Chiefs are still ninth in points per possession regardless.

Andy Reid's teams are usually second-half teams, so the 7-2 start for the Chiefs is dangerous for the rest of the AFC. 

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Record: 4-5
  • Grade: D+

Inclined to give the Raiders a higher grade just because they fired Josh McDaniels before the season went off the rails. Just a week ago it was uncertain if Davante Adams was even going to close the year in a Raiders uniform, showcasing the mess McDaniels created in his short time there. 

The Jimmy Garoppolo experiment looks to be a failure, and it took McDaniels getting fired to get Josh Jacobs going. The offense still needs a lot of work with the quarterback being uncertain, but the defense has held their own, thanks to Maxx Crosby.

The Raiders are a mess, yet somehow they're 4-5. This team is immediately better with McDaniels out of the picture. 

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Record: 4-4
  • Grade: C+

Feels like this team should be worse than they are, yet this is the roller coaster ride of the Chargers. Leave it to the Bears and Jets to get their season back on track, even if the Chargers are 1-3 against teams that currently have winning records. 

Justin Herbert hasn't been elite, but he hasn't been average either. Austin Ekeler's return has certainly helped, as the Chargers offense is still fifth in the NFL in points per possession despite the loss of Mike Williams. The defense is not good, ranking 27th in points allowed per possession and 31st in yards allowed per possession despite playing well the last two weeks.

Hard to gauge what the Chargers are through the midway point. Their second-half schedule (Lions, Ravens, Bills, Chiefs) can change the narrative. 

Los Angeles Rams

  • Record: 3-6
  • Grade: D

The Rams found an emerging star in Puka Nacua, but this team is only competitive if Matthew Stafford is healthy. Stafford has been dealing with a thumb injury, which severely hinders the Rams offense from getting the ball to its playmakers and scoring points. 

Los Angeles isn't good enough to beat the good teams and the Rams aren't one of the worst teams in the NFL. They are somewhere in the middle, but not competitive when Stafford misses time. Kyren Williams' injury hasn't helped matters either. 

Time for a rebuild in Los Angeles, whether the organization wants to go through it or not. 

Miami Dolphins

  • Record: 6-3
  • Grade: B+

The Dolphins are the best team in the AFC East at the midway point and appear primed to go to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Their high-flying offense came up short against the good teams (Chiefs, Eagles, Bills), which ponders questions how good Miami really is. 

The offense is still a problem to game plan against every week (first in points and yards per possession), having a balanced attack throwing (first in NFL) and running the ball (second in NFL). The defense has already seen a boost with the return of Jalen Ramsey

The second half of the year will tell if the Dolphins are a true Super Bowl contender or not. They're a good team, but are they an elite team? 

Minnesota Vikings

  • Record: 5-4
  • Grade: B

The Vikings have battled through adversity all season long, from their 1-4 start to Kirk Cousins being lost for the season. They won a game with a quarterback who didn't even know the players on his own team last week. 

Minnesota has won four straight games in spite of all the early season obstacles it faced, holding down the final playoff spot in the NFC at the midway point. The Vikings are one of the worst running teams in the league, but the defense has significantly improved under Brian Flores despite the talent discrepancy (16th in points allowed per possession and 17th in yards allowed per possession). 

Can this Vikings team hold on with Josh Dobbs? Their schedule is certainly favorable. 

New England Patriots

  • Record: 2-7
  • Grade: F

The Patriots were going to be bad this year just by the offseason moves. Bill O'Brien was supposed to make the offense better, yet the Patriots are 29th in points per possession and struggle to move the ball consistently. The franchise may have to move on from Mac Jones, as he's made poor decisons all year long. 

Injuries have affected the pass rush, and the return of J.C. Jackson didn't make the secondary better. The Patriots are a bad football team and Bill Belichick is out of touch with today's game.

Might be time for New England to move on from Belichick and start a rebuild. The offense is built to win in 1993 and the defense isn't good enough to stop opponents consistently. This team may only win five games (or less). 

New Orleans Saints

  • Record: 5-4
  • Grade: C+

The Saints should be better than their record indicates, based on the opponents they played. New Orleans has only faced one team that currently has a winning record, yet sit just one game over .500 and leading a poor NFC South. 

This is a better team and it is starting to show it. Derek Carr is starting to get more comfortable in the offense and Rashid Shaheed is becoming one of the best deep-ball wideouts in the league. The defense has been outstanding -- sixth in points allowed per possession and third in yards allowed per possession -- while recording 18 takeaways. 

The schedule isn't daunting in the second half either. The Saints should win at least 11 games. 

New York Giants

  • Record: 2-7
  • Grade: F

Actually amazing how this team has two wins. The Giants were content with losing by 31 points in the divisional playoffs, signing Daniel Jones to a massive contract and placing Saquon Barkley on the franchise tag. The improvements on the offensive line weren't really improvements and the collection of No. 2/No. 3 receivers they signed are just that. 

The result is 0.91 points per possession (32nd in the NFL) and failing to score 20-plus points in any game but one. The Giants have 39 points in the last four games -- and Jones is now lost for the year with a knee injury. 

New York needs to rebuild the roster. Hopefully Brian Daboll isn't a casualty of the front office's mistakes. 

New York Jets

  • Record: 4-4
  • Grade: B-

Losing Aaron Rodgers was the one injury the Jets couldn't afford to have, and it occurred four plays into the season. The offense has been a disaster with Zach Wilson since, ranking 31st in points per possession and 32nd in yards per possession. The Jets are sticking with Wilson for 2023, but he still isn't better than the version they got the last two years. 

New York's defense is elite, shutting down the best quarterbacks in the league (Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen). They're also one of the league's best scoring defenses (fourth in points allowed per possession), which is why the Jets are .500 in the first place.

This team was built to have Rodgers lead the offense, but that was lost minutes into the year. Amazing this team is .500 with this offense. 

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Record: 8-1
  • Grade: A

The Eagles aren't as good as they were last year, yet they have the best record in the NFL. Jalen Hurts has been battling through a knee injury and has been putting up MVP passing numbers over the past few weeks. A.J. Brown is stating his case as the best receiver in football and the "tush push" is the hardest play to stop, thanks to Hurts and the elite offensive line. 

The defense gives up a lot of passing yards due to multiple injuries in the secondary, but the pass rush has countered with key sacks in crucial situations. Philadelphia isn't winning big, but the Eagles are finding ways to win every week. 

For the second straight year, the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at the midway point. Credit to Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Record: 5-3
  • Grade: B

Somehow the Steelers are over. 500 despite being outgained in every game. In fact, they're the only team to have a winning record despite being outgained in each of the first eight games. Pittsburgh is winning in spite of the offense ranking 30th in points per possession and an offensive line that struggles to run block and protect Kenny Pickett (Steelers are 26th in yards per carry and 24th in pressure rate allowed per dropback). 

The Steelers have a defense that's second in the league in takeaways and a plus-eight turnover margin. Want to know why Pittsburgh is winning games? Those two factors are the reason. As bad as the offense is, the unit doesn't beat itself often. 

Pittsburgh will have a had time keeping this up in the second half. If the offense does improve, the Steelers will be very dangerous. 

San Francisco 49ers

  • Record: 5-3
  • Grade: B

The 49ers looked like the team to beat after dismantling the Cowboys a month ago, then proceeded to lose three straight. The glass slipper has fallen off Brock Purdy and the offense is overworking Christian McCaffrey, part of the reason why San Francisco has lost three straight. 

This roster is still one of the best in the league, and the pass rush added Chase Young to help out Nick Bosa even more. San Francisco has one of the most balanced offenses in football and is nearly impossible to beat if the 49ers get off to a good start. 

The second-half schedule is daunting, making the three-game losing streak even more critical. 

Seattle Seahawks

  • Record: 5-3
  • Grade: B

The blowout loss to the Ravens is a bad look for a team that is supposed to be a Super Bowl contender in the NFC, but Baltimore beats NFC teams like that on the regular. There is some concern regarding Geno Smith and his ability to lead the offense, one that should be better than 18th in points per possession.

The defense was coming around before the blowout in Baltimore, but the return of Leonard Williams should help a run defense that's 21st in yards per carry allowed. Devon Witherspoon is also emerging as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. 

The Seahawks continue to draft well and get the most out of young players, which is why they are in the hunt for the NFC West. The matchups with the 49ers will be interesting. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Record: 3-5
  • Grade: C-

Blowing a late lead to the Texans didn't help Todd Bowles and his future in Tampa Bay, which was murky entering the season anyway. The defense has been a major disappointment, ranking 30th in yards allowed per possession and 21st in points allowed per possession. 

The Buccaneers are on a four-game losing streak and the season appears to be spiraling out of control. Baker Mayfield has played well, yet the offense gets nothing out of the running game (32nd in yards per carry).

The schedule allows Tampa Bay to turn this season around, which will answer a lot of questions regarding the direction of the franchise. 

Tennessee Titans

  • Record: 3-5
  • Grade: C-

The Titans didn't trade away Derrick Henry at the deadline, but are moving forward toward seeing what Will Levis can do at quarterback in the wake of Ryan Tannehill's injury. The rest of the season is about seeing what Levis can do, especially with the Texans and Colts getting better this season. 

If the Titans could get more takeaways (32nd in NFL), it's likely they would have a better record. This is a hard team to gauge since Tennessee is so close to a rebuild. Let's see what this team does in the offseason. 

Washington Commanders

  • Record: 4-5
  • Grade: C

Just when Washington appears to be throwing the season, the Commanders get a tough win on the road and remain in the NFC playoff picture. Washington did the wise thing trading away Chase Young and Montez Sweat and getting Day 2 draft picks, especially with a defense that's 29th in points allowed per possession and 27th in points allowed per possession. 

Washington may actually have something in Sam Howell, as Eric Bieniemy has the offense toward the top half of the league -- with an offensive line that allows 11.1% of dropbacks to result in a sack (31st in NFL). 

This team isn't a lost cause, even if Ron Rivera's future is in jeopardy. Washington is competitive, but a new owner will bring in changes.