The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

NFL midseason grades: AFC

Conference more open
Patrick Mahomes holding the NFL MVP Award

NFL teams have played roughly 50% of their schedules for the 2023 NFL season. In the AFC, two teams seem poised to run away with division; one division has every team holding a winning record, and the final division has two teams in a dogfight to win. 

There is no clear realistic favorite to come out of the AFC at this point, with several teams looking like they could run the table to represent the Conference in the Super Bowl. 

Miami Dolphins: B+ 

In their wins, the Dolphins look like the best offense in the league; in their losses, their flaws shine bright. A 6-0 record against losing teams and 0-3 against winning teams point to a team that does not lose to anyone they should not lose to but is not experienced enough collectively to beat the big dogs. 

That recipe is disastrous for postseason play, but they have half a season to figure that out. Mike McDaniel is one of the most fun coaches in the league and schematically operates a complex but effective offense.

Tyreek Hill has been one of the statistically dominant players in the NFL, already having 69 receptions for 1,076 yards and eight TDs despite playing in just nine games. He has the potential for a 100-catch, 2,000-yard season and an offensive player of the year trophy in his trophy case by season’s end. 

Buffalo Bills: C+ 

Buffalo is 5-4 and should likely be in a position to secure a Wild Card spot by the end of the regular season, but this team has way too high of expectations not to be in the division lead. Josh Allen has thrown for 2,423 yards, 18 TDs and nine interceptions, completing 71.3% of his passes for a rating of 99.3

Most of the struggles have not been on him, but just unlucky results. The Bills’ four losses have been one-score games and they could very well be an undefeated team right now. The division is well in reach, but more one-score losses could mean the team just does not have a clutch factor. 

New York Jets: C+ 

Aaron Rodgers’ injury felt like it had ruined the Jets’ season, and to an extent, it has. Riding the momentum of one of the talented defenses in the league, the Jets have played close in every single game, win or loss. 

Zach Wilson, as a game manager, has been far from perfect, but unlike 2022, he really is not losing the team games. If Rodgers is able to return as quickly as he is somehow on pace to, the Jets could potentially sneak into the playoffs as the final team, but it is still highly unlikely. 

New England Patriots: D 

Both Bill Belichick and Mac Jones needed to use 2023 as a prove-it year, as insane as that is for a Hall of Fame-coach like Belichick. Jones, on the other hand, has proven that he is not an NFL starter in terms of talent. 

He has just 1,861 yards and 10 TDs and nine interceptions while completing just 64.8% of his passes. He is not elite in terms of talent and is struggling to even be a serviceable game manager. The Patriots season is over; they lack offensive talent, and it is time for Belichick to step down from the front office if the team wants to find success in the future. 

Kansas City Chiefs: A 

Despite losing offensive firepower in the offseason and oftentimes the offense feeling like it boils down to backyard football between Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the Chiefs are 7-2 and firmly in first place in the AFC West. 

Mahomes has a QB rating of 96.7 and has thrown 17 TDs. It will not be the best season of his career, but it is far from a bad year for the generational QB. 

Kelce has dominated headlines with his documented relationship with the sensation that is Taylor Swift, for better or for worse, but there has been no distraction for the team and they looked like they could be a team to realistically win out in the AFC. 

Los Angeles Chargers: C+ 

Justin Herbert has some fantastic talent, but for whatever reason, the team has failed to find success. A 4-4 record is not a step forward from 2022 and the team could go either way in the second half. 

They are always a team that could find a spark and go on a winning streak, but they also could very easily flame out and go 2-6 the rest of the way. Herbert has 13 TDs to just four interceptions, Keenan Allen has 62 receptions for 720 yards, but the running game has been lackluster. 

Las Vegas Raiders: C- 

Firing Josh McDaniels was the right decision. The timing was wrong. They should have done it before the season even started. Holding onto Davante Adams just for him to get less than five receptions in four of the nine games makes little sense.

McDaniels and former QB Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to fail to find the respect of the locker room and that was evident by their early struggles. 

The Raiders are clearly behind the Chiefs and Chargers, and the focus should be on the future and finding a better QB. 

Denver Broncos: D 

Making their 3-5 record so much worse is the memory of Sean Payton being so confident that Nathaniel Hackett was the problem. Payton has done an embarrassing job with the Broncos and his battle with Russell Wilson for leadership has been hilarious from an outside perspective. 

Wilson has certainly been better under Payton in 2023, holding a 16–4 TD to INT-ratio, but the team is still struggling. 

The worst part of the season was absolutely letting the Dolphins score a near-record 70 points, so it really cannot get much worse for the team, hopefully. 

Baltimore Ravens: A

Baltimore is the current favorite to win the AFC, albeit by a slim margin. Dominating the Seahawks 37-3 and beating the Lions 38-6 proved not only they are good, but the margin between the NFC and AFC is scary. 

Lamar Jackson is not his MVP-level self, but he could be, which makes the Ravens much scarier with that in mind. He is the key to the success of the team; if he cannot grow as a player, they will be taken out early in the playoffs. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: B- 

Somehow, the Steelers win every single ugly game. Kenny Pickett is not an elite QB, far from it, actually. But, it is hard to deny the pure Steeler success of winning games. It would be fair to assume the team somehow avoids a losing season yet again but finished 9-8 and misses the playoffs. 

Cleveland Browns: C+ 

Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Shelby Harris and more. The Browns defense is the best in the NFL. Despite Deshaun Watson being below-average and being hurt several times already, the offense just has to not suck for the Browns to succeed. 

But the offense sucks. Watson will likely be a big part of the team’s downfall if they do make the postseason, no Nick Chubb makes the rushing game far worse, and the offense has flamed out several times this season. 

Cincinnati Bengals: B+ 

Once Joe Burrow got over his calf issues, the Bengals dominated. With four straight wins, including wins over the 49ers, Seahawks, and Bills, Cincinnati is on fire right now. The AFC North is tight, but the Bengals are a proven team that looks better than the Steelers and Browns.

Burrow has 12 TDs to four interceptions and has thrown for 1,861 yards. Tee Higgins has not been great, but he is still a fantastic second option; Tyler Boyd is also good, and Ja’Marr Chase is fantastic. 

The offensive weapons will get this team over the hump and into the postseason, barring any injuries. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+ 

The AFC South is the Jaguars. They hold their own destiny. Trevor Lawrence has grown into a very good QB after a few up-and-down seasons and the defense has also grown. 

Overall, it has been a good season, but nothing too special. 

Houston Texans: A 

Like the complete opposite of the Panthers, the Texas rookie QB has looked great. Houston has played well above exceptions and their future looks very bright, which is all you can ask for in year one of a new QB.

CJ Stroud has thrown for 2,270 yards, 14 TDs and just a single interception. His anticipation with his throws is well beyond his experience. He has beat the Ohio State NFL QB allegations. Nothing else. Things look great. 

Indianapolis Colts: B- 

Anthony Richardson’s injury is disappointing, but Gardner Minshew is fun (Go Cougs!). With or without Richardson, the Colts were not expected to compete for a playoff spot, so the team is all about showing off talent and seeing what will stick moving forward. 

Some players look like they will be a part of the playoff future and Minshew is fighting for a shot as an NFL QB, so it certainly has been a fun season with no expectations, therefore a B- grade suffices. 

Tennessee Titans: D 

Ryan Tannehill has not been the guy for a while, and the Titans finally potentially found the guy in Will Levis. Levis has unlocked a new level for the Titans offense, but it has only been two games, so time will tell the full story. 

Derrick Henry is not going to run for 2,000 yards again, but his 4.4 yards per rush is strong. The team has found depth in their attack with Levis. Things could easily get better, but their 3-5 record is below expectations. 

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About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
GRACIE ROGERS, Evergreen Illustration editor
Gracie Rogers is a graphic illustrator for the Daily Evergreen. She is a senior Digital Technology & Culture major from Pullman, Washington. Gracie started working for the Daily Evergreen back in Spring 2022.