Gridiron Gab’s First Half Grades – AFC

Larry Johnson has the Chiefs at 4-3 

Roughly half of the 2007 National Football League season is in the books, and with it comes time to give out some grades. We’ll start with the American Football Conference, which braces for the biggest game of the season Sunday between the Pats and Colts in Indy.

AFC East

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New England A+ : I really don’t know what the Pats can do better. They have a QB that has thrown for 30 TD’s already, lead the league in every major offensive category, and on defense have only allowed 127 points, and have blown out every team they have played. Can they get any better?

Buffalo Bills C : The Bills started the season at 0-3, and in those games only scored 24 total points. Since then they have gone 3-1, and should have beaten the Cowboys on Monday night back in week four. Trent Edwards looks like he may be the answer at QB, and this team has quietly turned its season around in a year where .500 would be considered a moral victory.

New York Jets F : The magic of Eric Mangini is gone, and after going 10-6 last year this team is already at 1-7. A QB change had to be made, and Mangini did it this week coming up with Kellen Clemens ready to take the ball under center. The defense has under performed, and the O-line has not done enough for free agent RB Thomas Jones. Five wins may be a stretch here.

Miami F : Another team that has hit rock bottom, and now with their best offensive playmaker, Ronnie Brown, gone for the year, points will be hard to come by. The defense has been brutal, and someone needs to tell Joey Porter to not open his mouth anymore. One thing to watch in the second half is some playing time for rookie QB John Beck, and the increased play of first-round pick Ted Ginn Jr.

AFC North

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Pittsburgh A- : The Steelers, after a year off, are back. New coach Mike Tomlin has installed a new vision in his team, and they have responded. The offense is showing a solid balance in run and pass, and the defense very well may be the best in the league. They lead the division by a game, but with games vs Baltimore and Cleveland next at home, they could wrap the division up early.

Cleveland B : How bout them Brownies?! After an opening day loss 34-7 to the Steelers, the Browns have turned their season around. They gave the ball to QB Derek Anderson, and he has responded with an outstanding season. They have playmakers on offense, and can score with just about anyone. The problem – the defense. This unit is going to be the reason they miss the playoffs in 2007, as they can’t stop anyone right now.

Baltimore C+ : Coming off a 13-win season, the Ravens are 4-3 and need to start winning again. They have lost to three teams that they are talent wise better than – the Bengals, Browns and Bills. The offense has shown lapses, and the defense has not been as disruptive as in years past. Their Monday night game in Pittsburgh this week will tell us a lot.

Cincinnati D- : The Bengals are a mess, and for the first time in a LONG time, they are the worst team in the state. They have no defense, and the offense can’t keep up and tends to bicker to much among themselves and the officials. At 2-5 the wheels are already coming off, and may just for the rest of the 2007 season.

AFC South

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Indianapolis A+ : Indy, much like the Pats, are a machine, and there does not seem to be any signs of them slowing down. They are better than last season when they won the Super Bowl, and the defense with Bob Sanders seems to be one of the most improved units in the game in 2007. Peyton Manning is playing at a high level, and the running game seems solid. Can they hang with the Pats? We’ll find out Sunday.

Tennessee B : The Titans defense has been off the charts in 2007, and their run defense has been one of the surprises of the league. Vince Young is clearly not 100 percent, and they have struggled their last two home games in wins over the Falcons and Raiders. Nevertheless, this team is playing well enough to be thinking about playing past week 17.

Jacksonville B: Jack Del Rio made headlines when he sent Byron Leftwich packing a week before the season started, but its paid off with David Garrard. Now another test comes with Garrard hurt and them having to play Quinn Gray. So far so good with a win in Tampa. The running game needs to continue to lead the offense, and the defense at 15th in the league can get better.

Houston C : This is an exciting, young team that looked like they could have had a bright 2007, but then they were hit hard with injuries, and they can’t seem to hold on to the football. Another downer is that they have gotten next to nothing from free agent RB Ahman Green, and that has not helped the offense much. Look for some more growing pains but a bright outlook for 08.

AFC West

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Kansas City B- : The way things started for the Chiefs, it’s kind of hard to believe they are 4-3 and first in the division tied with SD. They started 0-2, and didn’t exactly shine in their home opener in week three vs the Vikings. Then came the game in San Diego, where they found some offense and shocked the Chargers. Since then, they have played better as Larry Johnson is getting his legs and the defense is playing better than many thought.

San Diego C+ : It has not been the best of starts for new coach Norv Turner, but at least it looks as if the Chargers are starting to find their stride. They have played well in their last three wins since starting 1-3, and could be one of those dangerous teams you have to prepare for in the second half of the year. This team has too much talent not to win 11-12 games.

Denver C- : After starting 2-0, the Broncos have lost 4 of 5, and both sides of the ball has been to blame in the streak. Their defense has been gashed in each of the losses for big plays (see Monday night vs Green Bay), and the offense has had moments of falling asleep at the wheel. The running game is a big problem with Travis Henry having on and off the field issues, and Jay Cutler needs to keep developing.

Oakland D : Yes, the Raiders are better than last year, but no, they are not even close to being one of the better teams in the conference. After starting 2-2, the Raiders have gone back to being well, the Raiders. Daunte Culpepper is not the answer at QB, and the running game, which carried them to a 2-2 record, is now not getting the job done either. How about 14 penalties on Sunday in a winnable game in Tennessee? Look for some snaps for #1 pick JaMarcus Russell in the second half of 2007.


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