Seeing as we’re barely a month into the 2019 NFL season, most teams are still in an identity crisis. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, started the season 3-0 with a healthy lead in their division. But after two straight losses to NFC powerhouses, it’s hard to label them as a contender or pretender right now.
The same goes for the 2-1-1 Detroit Lions. They’ve competed with every team they’ve played thus far, but their standing in the conference is still very much up in the air. They only have one win against an NFC opponent and haven’t even played a divisional opponent yet.
So how do the rest of Detroit’s opponents look? Let’s see how Week 5 affected the outlook of their remaining schedule.
Week 6 at Packers (4-1) — Beat Cowboys, 34,24
The Packers had a statement game and now have to be considered one of the NFC’s best teams. They’re 2-0 in the division, they’ve picked up two road wins already, and the only blemish on their record is a loss to a respectable Eagles team—a game where they had a great chance to tie late.
Their offense is finally starting to come together with Aaron Jones as the centerpiece, and their defense remains under-appreciated by many. It’s still too early to call anybody “For real,” but the Packers are close.
A week after Minnesota was on the verge of a complete meltdown, they rebounded in nice fashion against the surging Giants. Kirk Cousins went from “huge waste of money” to one of the top performers of the week, completing 22-of-27 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
Combined with Dalvin Cook, one of the league’s best running backs, this Vikings offense finally found some success... for a week.
Week 8 vs. Giants (2-3) — Loss to Vikings, 10-28
The Daniel Jones hype machine slowed significantly at the hands of an actual NFL defense. Jones averaged just 4.8 yards per pass attempt, as the Giants could only muster 211 yards of total offense. As for Golden Tate’s Giants debut: he could only muster a measly 13 yards on three catches.
The Raiders looked impressive in London, taking it to the Bears in every phase of the game. They out-rushed Chicago by 127 yards. They out-sacked Chicago 4-to-0. They made Chase Daniel look like the backup quarterback he is.
Of course, the Raiders were also extremely self destructive in this one. They turned the ball over twice: once as they were about to score a touchdown, and another as Derek Carr attempted to pitch the ball to an unaware running back. Their mental mistakes nearly cost them a game they physically dominated for four quarters.
Week 10 at Bears (3-2) — Loss to Raiders, 21-24
It’s not every day that you see the Bears get bested at their own game plan. The defense that has made this team so dangerous was consistently gashed on the ground by rookie running back Josh Jacobs. Derek Carr completed 78 percent of his passes.
To be completely honest, I have never seen this Bears defense look so vulnerable. We’ll see if they can rebound after their bye week. But for now, Bears nation seems to be in a bit of a panic:
Week 11 vs. Cowboys (3-2) — Loss to Packers, 24-34
Dak Prescott looked flustered by a swarming Packers pass rush, as the Cowboys quickly fell behind the Packers and had to move away from Ezekiel Elliott. That’s never a good blueprint for Dallas and it showed. Their defense was embarrassed by Aaron Jones, and while their offense tried its best to mount a comeback, it was never in the cards for Dallas, who have forced fans to reconsider their Super Bowl aspirations.
Week 12 vs. Washington (0-5) — Loss to Patriots, 7-33
Washington became the first team to fire its head coach after being outscored 151-73 in their first five games. Their rookie quarterback is a mess. Their defense is among the league’s worst, and there is no sign of this team pulling out of a tailspin.
Week 13 vs. Bears (3-2) — Loss to Raiders, 21-24
Week 14 at Vikings (3-2) — Beat Giants, 28-10
After a rough start to the year, the Bucs are starting to look like a team that could have a shot at a wild card this year. Though they lost in New Orleans this week, they hung with the Saints for much of this game.
Jameis Winston has settled down quite a bit, too:
First two games: 2 TDs, 3 INTs
Last three games: 9 TDs, 2 INTs
Their defense is still a bit of a concern, allowing Teddy Bridgewater to throw all over them on Sunday, but this team could potentially give Detroit trouble if they’re still in the playoff hunt in mid-December.
All week, I heard analysts say that the Broncos’ 0-4 record was a little misleading. Joe Flacco had been playing well, the defense had shown signs of being very good, and they were robbed of wins against the Bears and Jaguars.
They proved there was some truth to that, as they held off a good—but beat up—Chargers team on the road. Their defense forced three turnovers and Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 175 rushing yards on just 28 carries.
They’ve got a long road to pull themselves out of that 0-4 hole, but don’t count them out of a weak AFC quite yet.
Week 17 vs. Packers (4-1) — Beat Cowboys 34-24