As the NFL’S 100th year is more or less half at the half way point, the Ninety Nine Yards team give their thoughts on who has impressed the most so far.
STUART TAYLOR – 49ers DC Robert Saleh
After Sundays round of fixtures the San Francisco 49ers remain the lone undefeated team in the NFC. Having offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan at the helm has undoubtedly contributed, but it has been on the defensive side of the ball that the Niners have shone.
Off-season additions Dee Ford and Nick Bosa have been a roaring success, with Bosa in particular looking every inch a stellar number 2 draft pick. Arik Armstead and DJ Jones have stepped up to the plate. They, along with linebackers Kwon Alexander, Frank Warner and Dre Greenlaw, have combined to give the Niners a ferocious front 7. They have combined for 27 sacks and allowed a paltry 9.6 points per game average.
Following a couple of difficult years, Saleh has now put it all together and has the Niners in good shape as they head into a tough closing schedule.
CLARA LILLEY – The Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions currently sit third in the hyper-competitive NFC East, having only won 3 games. Yet, their box score isn’t telling the full picture, and their competitiveness after their 2018 losing season is palpable. The Lions are a well-coached, talent filled team that have been dealt an unlucky hand so far. They held division leaders Green Bay to two points in their week 6 loss after an unfortunate call. They have scored more than 30 points in 3 games. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay is performing like Lions legend Calvin Johnson, with 6 touchdowns in 7 games.
Detroit also have an overlooked quarterback at the helm. Matthew Stafford isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. He is enjoying one of the best seasons of a perennially underrated career. This season he became the fastest player to reach 40,000 passing yards, surpassing legends Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana. He ranks higher than Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson in ESPNs QBR. Beyond the numbers, he’s an integral part of the locker room. He continues to show characteristics of a true leader. Head coach Matt Patricia can’t contain his admiration, either: “You just have to love the guy. You have to love how hard he works, how he battles, and you have to love how tough he is.”. It’s hard not to agree.
OWAIN JONES – Kyle Allen
Kyle Allen has exceeded all expectations this season. A mere backup before Cam Newton became injured, no one believed Allen could go 4-1 and potentially take over the starting spot.
Some may not have heard of Allen before Newton’s injury, but his productivity and leadership have made his story one to follow across the NFL.
BRYAN DICKIE – Jon Gruden and the Raiders
This may be a surprise to many but who’s surprised me the most is Jon Gruden and the Raiders. Following a questionable first season and a more than disruptive summer, there were few who thought ghe second year of fhe Gruden project would bear much fruit.
Following the turbulent offseason and with what many saw as a weak roster, many predicted a 4-5 win season for the Silver & Black. At the start of the season bookmakers had the Raiders ranked tied 27th, with odds of 200/1.
Yet at the half way point the Raiders already on the way equal last years total, with 3 wins already. They are moving the ball well, and protecting Derek Carr. He has only been sacked 8 times this year.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders progress throughout the rest of the season However, they are in a position to head to Las Vegas next year in pretty good shape.
MAX HILLMAN – Jacoby Brissett
After the Colts had a good season last season expectations were high for 2019. However, Andrew Luck’s shock retirement changed all that. It felt like the Colts were immediately written off and everyone doubted Brissett, even though he had shown his capabilities in the past.
They started 2-2 in a fairly rocky start but have found their feet with Brissett under centre and now head the division after half the season, to the suprise of everyone.
ADAM BARTON – Matt LaFleur
Mike McCarthy disappointed as Packers coach in his latter years but no one expected the unknown LaFleur to start 7-1 in his first half season. Green Bay are right in the mix in a loaded NFC and lead a challenging division.
LaFleur has got both Aarons, Rodgers & Jones, playing well despite limited receiving options On top of that the defence is playing well.
Green Bay bounced back from a loss to the Eagles and have now won four on the bounce. If this is how LaFleur’s reign starts, Aaron Rodgers could have quite the career swansong.
Title image:Barstool sports