The purpose of a report card — as it is used in educational systems and institutions — is to give standing to the individual’s place within the larger whole. This standing becomes a marker, a true delineating factor in determining how well the student did in a given amount of time, usually referred to as a quarter, advisory, nine-weeks, maybe even semester. And while these report cards are done from small fragments of time, the impact of its judgment can be both a catalyst for continued growth, a call to do better, or a charge to remain perennial if that is indeed where the individual stands.
And so, getting a report card is both an exciting and anxious occurrence because it tells you where you’re at and you’re forced to see yourself for who you really are, and not how you envision yourself to be: this is for any student, or adult, individual, and even a team, and it goes for any content that must be shown in application -- be it test or game. This brings us to what this missive is really about -- The NFL Report Card for 2018 and where the teams that make-up the league stand as the season comes down to the final games before the playoffs begin and, of course, the Super Bowl.
Satisfactory (Grade - C)
The Indianapolis Colts are impressive. And they have been for most of the season. The Colts’ success is multifaceted – Andrew Luck is back from his injury with reinvigorated play, the offensive line is sturdy, and Darius Leonard is front and center for Defensive Rookie of the Year and the monster heading up the Colt’s defense this season.
Look, the Colts started very cold this season (1-5) but over the course of the season, they’ve seemed to have found their legs – literally – and other parts that have helped to better them this season. The Indianapolis Colts are a formidable force having riddled off seven wins in their last eight games. And how did they go about building such a record after their abysmal start. Solid offense and an equally solid defense that is 12th in sack percentage. Combined with good pass protection for Andrew Luck that has aided in building the offensive prowess and threat, the Colts are a decent team, and have room to grow.
Steadily Climbing (Grade - B)
Arguably, the Los Angeles Chargers may be the most spurious and dangerous team in the league going into the playoffs. And what that means is that they are on the brink, the very cusp of threatening for that best team in the league claim. Philip Rivers is having a great year and so is his receivers and all of that is due to great game plan execution and play.
The first half of the season was the Chargers best since Ladainian Tomlinson’s amazing year in 2006 where they went 14-2. This year, despite some injuries, the team has gelled together and truthfully the offense is really putting in work. Leading the way is Phillip Rivers, who is having an incredible year with close to 4,000 yards passing and over 30 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions, not to mention that the Chargers arguably has one of the top coverage units this year.
Slippery Slope (Grade - D)
Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions have been very much like, well, the Detroit Lions. Despite having a pretty decent quarterback in Matthew Stafford, who has been fairly consistent and always on the bubble of a breakout year, the problem persists within the stagnancy of play – the Lions just do not have what it takes to pull through, to get the job done, despite talent, which ultimately leads to execution.
But more than that, there are specific things that are needed for execution to take place. For one, the Lions need help in the secondary. They have potential, possibly on the cusp of something that is decent, but there’s just something lacking. What else is lacking is depth, explosion in offense, and pass help. These are the sole reasons why they are stuck at “D,” because they just have not hurdled that bar that solidifies them as stable.
Slacking (Grade F)
At this point, the Arizona Cardinals sit at the bottom of their division and with the loathsome record of 3-11. With that record, comes a host of problems and the reason behind those problems, which ultimately lead to the below sputtering of both the offense and defense. We can honestly begin with the run – the Cardinals cannot stop the run and easily give up big plays. In addition to not being able to stop oncoming offenses, the Cardinals’ own offense, led by Josh Rosen, is turnover prone, a serious problem for any team, and combine that with horrible pass protection and you definitely have a one to punch for potential disaster, which is where the Cardinals find themselves.
The culmination of the Arizona Cardinals problems, however, lies in missed opportunities that occur over and over again: third-down conversions are little to nil, and it is missed progression that consistently causes this team to fail. It is also this attribute along with others that must be seriously looked at in the offseason in order to remedy their position as a team.
Sitting at 12-2, it is incredibly hard to argue that the New Orleans Saints are not the best team in the NFL. But what makes them the best team is something that can be argued, but only to a certain level of variation. What the Saints ultimately did right this year is play defense. In 2009, when they won the Super Bowl, the team relied on Drew Brees’ arm and the offense to carry them. Now, in the setting sun of Drew Brees’ career, in the waning moments of past extraordinary play, there’s a kind of relief that is taking place behind the helm of the offensive line that only shows and proves how intricately and intimately connected the offense is to the defense as one relieves and even revives the other.
The New Orleans Saints have done a lot of things right this year, dismantling teams with both their offense and their defense. It is still by far Drew Brees’ team, but the quarterback has become more of a manager and allows for the skill sets and pristine, nearly perfect, coaching and then execution of the plays to facilitate the success. This is what football is about, parts of a whole, whole-heartedly functioning to make up the whole. The Saints are reveling in their own play while we also watch with great anticipation of what comes next.