Grading every NFL team after 11 weeks

The first half of the NFL season has been full of surprises, great performances — and some play that hasn’t been so great. Through 11 weeks, here’s a look at the grades for all 32 teams.


Arizona Cardinals: A-

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The Cardinals have made a leap in Kyler Murray’s third year, ranking in fourth per game despite Murray’s absence in two games. However, it’s the defense that has made the biggest leap in 2021, as Vance Joseph’s crew has allowed only 18.9 points per game. Injuries threaten the team, with J.J. Watt likely out for the year and DeAndre Hopkins on the mend, but the Cardinals in the thick of the NFC race.


Atlanta Falcons: C-

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The Falcons didn’t do much to improve in the offseason, so we expected further decline. That’s been the case, especially with a defense that’s allowed 29 points per game, but there have been a few bright spots. Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts looks like the real deal, and veteran slasher Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of the best stories of 2021. With Matt Ryan continuing to play at a high level, the squad isn’t that far away if they can be aggressive in free agency.


Baltimore Ravens: B+

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It’s difficult to imagine a team suffering more major injuries before Week 1, including Baltimore’s top three running backs and cornerback Marcus Peters. Somehow they’ve managed to be one of the top AFC teams, winning in any way you can think of, including a record-breaking field goal by Justin Tucker at Detroit. The offense has done just enough with Lamar Jackson, though his struggles against zero blitz in Week 10 are concerning.


Buffalo Bills: A

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Other than a bizarre slip-up against Jacksonville, it’s hard to find fault in Buffalo’s early season. The offense has continued to be elite, averaging 31 points per game, and the defense has made a full rebound and then some with only 15 points allowed per game. Josh Allen isn’t repeating his breakout 2020 season, but the offense is getting more than enough production as they enter the final stretch as Super Bowl favorites.


Carolina Panthers: C

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Some questioned the Panthers moving on from Teddy Bridgewater in favor of Sam Darnold in the offseason, and sure enough, the move was a disaster. Now with Darnold sidelined, the Panther shave brought back Cam Newton, and have a real shot to make the playoffs at 5-5. They’ve managed their wins with the help of an elite, rebuilt defense, averaging 19 points allowed per game. With Newton’s addition and the return of Christian McCaffrey from injury, a Wild Card spot is within reach.


Chicago Bears: C-

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Matt Nagy’s insistence on starting Andy Dalton predictably didn’t go well, and he eventually turned to rookie Justin Fields. There have been some major hiccups, but Fields has made clear progress recently as the offense tries to get out of the cellar. While they haven’t been helped by the offense, the defensive side of the ball has been a disappointment, allowing 25 points per game and trying to overcome major injuries like Khalil Mack.


Cincinnati Bengals: C+

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Cincinnati has gone offense-heavy in recent drafts, so it’s a relief that they have something to show for it this season. The offense ranks in the top 10 in points, with Joe Burrow rebounding from a knee injury and Ja’Marr Chase looking like the clear Offensive Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, the unit has also been inconsistent, along with an offense that has struggled against the pass. A 5-4 record still shows major improvement, but the team has left some meat on the bone.


Cleveland Browns: D+

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Cleveland has suffered through injuries and drama through the first half of the season, but that still doesn’t excuse a 5-5 record with the elite talent they possess. Baker Mayfield’s play has been mediocre while he plays through multiple injuries, and his weapons have also struggled to stay healthy. The defense is the bigger concern, as the investments in the secondary have still yet to pay off with a unit that’s allowed 24 points per game.


Dallas Cowboys: A-

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What a difference Dak Prescott can make. Now healthy, the offense has been the best in the NFL. The defense has been the big surprise, with new coordinator Dan Quinn making his mark and the unit seeing breakout seasons from rookie linebacker Micah Parsons and second-year corner Trevon Diggs. Jerry Jones’ dream of a return to the Super Bowl is well within reach.


Denver Broncos: C

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It’s difficult to know what to make of the Broncos at 5-5 through 10 weeks with big wins and bad losses. Just as the team took a giant leap forward by blowing out the Cowboys in Dallas, they returned home to get blown out by Philadelphia. Not surprisingly, Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been the answer at quarterback, as the offense has averaged only 20 points per game. The defense does rank fourth in points allowed, but took a self-inflicted wound when they traded Von Miller at the deadline.


Detroit Lions: F

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After trading Matthew Stafford and spending almost nothing in free agency, the Lions were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL again. It’s clear the prognosticators were right, with only a tie against a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers team to show for their first 10 weeks. Jared Goff was been atrocious, albeit without much help, but the defense has allowed the second-most points per game in the league.


Green Bay Packers: A-

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The Packers have been to back-to-back NFC Championships, and have the potential to go even further this year based on how well the defense has played. They rank third-best in points allowed, recently shutting down the Chiefs and Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers has also played well, though his season was disrupted after testing positive for COVID-19 in Week 9. Big games down the stretch against the Rams and Ravens could ultimately show the team’s potential.


Houston Texans: D-

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Houston rightfully blew up the roster in the offseason, and the impacts show. After beating Jacksonville in Week 1, the team hasn’t added to the win column. They do deserve credit for playing hard and coming close a few times, and they could get more stability with Tyrod Taylor back from injury.


Indianapolis Colts: C-

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While the Colts are still in the playoff race and have won four of their last five games entering Week 11, it’s been a year of missed opportunities. The team came up short in close losses against the Rams, Ravens, and Titans, and the defense has been in the middle of the pack for much of the year. Carson Wentz has shown a rebound this season with his new team, but questionable decisions have hurt the team in key situations.


Jacksonville Jaguars: D+

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The Jags have played ugly, but they’ve still mustered two wins, including a miracle 9-6 victory over Buffalo in Week 9. Trevor Lawrence has looked like a rookie much of the time, but it’s clear the team has made progress recently, especially on defense. There are still legitimate questions about the Urban Meyer experiment, but there are opportunities to end the year on a high note with matchups against Atlanta, Houston, and the Jets remaining.


Kansas City Chiefs: C

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The Chiefs were favored to win the Super Bowl entering the year, which made their slow start that much more frustrating. The defense showed historic futility early in the year, followed by Patrick Mahomes’ slump recently. Somehow the team still leads the AFC West through 10 weeks, and seemingly righted the ship against the Raiders. They’re set for a big test vs. Dallas before a much easier schedule down the stretch that includes four division games.


Las Vegas Raiders: C

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The Raiders have managed to stay in contention until the stretch run over the last few years, and it appears that trend will continue this season. They at least have a more valid excuse in 2021, with the shocking firing of Jon Gruden, followed by the release of former first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette. Derek Carr has held the team together, but it would take a Herculean effort to save the season with a brutal stretch run that includes the Bengals, Cowboys, Chiefs, Browns, and Colts.


Los Angeles Chargers: C

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New head coach Brandon Staley began his career 4-1 and had statheads fawning over his aggressiveness. The team has been in a free fall since then, losing three of four games as the defense has been exposed. Justin Herbert has continued to be a bright spot, and the Chargers do remain in the AFC West race despite their recent struggles.


Los Angeles Rams: B

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The Rams looked like the team of destiny early in the year of Matthew Stafford’s elite play, but they apparently read too many press clippings judging by the way they’ve struggled recently against the Titans and 49ers. The loss of Robert Woods for the season to a knee injury could be offset by the addition of Odell Beckham, and the team hopes Von Miller makes the pass rush even more dominant. After their recent losses, the bigger concern is that the team could be forced to go on the road in the playoffs.


Miami Dolphins: D

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Miami exceeded expectations in Brian Flores’ first two seasons, but it hasn’t come as easy for him this year. The offense has struggled with Tua Tagovailoa missing time to injury, and the defense has regressed after losing talent in the offseason. A masterful game plan helped the Dolphins shock Baltimore in Week 10, and the team does have hope for keeping their winning streak going with an easy upcoming schedule.


Minnesota Vikings: D+

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It’s been the same old story for the Vikings as last season, with a disappointing defense and a squad that has often folded late in games. Head coach Mike Zimmer could be fighting for his job with a team that’s outside the playoff picture in the NFC, as the defense has aged quickly. Unfortunately, the elite offensive talent hasn’t been able to bail out the defense, scoring only 24.6 points per game.


New England Patriots: A-

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Rapid improvement was expected from the Patriots after an offseason of aggressive moves, but even the most optimistic fans couldn’t have expected the team to return to contention so quickly. The defense has returned to elite status, allowing only 16 points per game, and Mac Jones has been spectacular for a rookie quarterback. The team still has a shot to win the AFC East with two games against the rival Bills remaining.


New Orleans Saints: B

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The Saints have suffered back-to-back losses since Jameis Winston’s season-ending knee injury, as their legitimacy as a contender is tested. The defense continues to play well, averaging fewer than 20 points per game, but the offense has been in shambles with Trevor Siemian under center and Alvin Kamara sidelined. Sean Payton has proven he can make the most of any quarterback’s ability, but it’s asking a lot of the team to stick it out.


New York Giants: D

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It’s hard to see how the Giants have progressed this year, which is bad news for Daniel Jones and head coach Joe Judge. While the team has won two of three games, the offense remains near the bottom of the league. The hope is that the return of Saquon Barkley and banged-up wideouts will get the unit moving, but the team could be headed toward another revamp.


New York Jets: D-

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We knew 2021 would be a long year for the Jets, but it’s been even more painful than anticipated. Despite the addition of defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh, the defense has allowed the most points per game in the NFL. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson looked overmatched as the starter, and might not return to the lineup this season. Improbable wins against the Titans and Bengals are the only bright spots so far.


Philadelphia Eagles: C-

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Questions remain for starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, but the Eagles offense has made nice progress, averaging 26 points per game. The team has to be thrilled with what they’ve seen from rookie wideout DeVonta Smith, and recent wins against the Lions and Broncos have put the team somewhat in contention.


Pittsburgh Steelers: C+

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After beginning the season 1-3, the Steelers rolled off four consecutive wins in close fashion. Their progress was halted by Ben Roethlisberger’s absence and an embarrassing tie against the Lions, but the team remains in contention under Mike Tomlin. As expected, the offense has been anemic after revamping the offensive line, but rookie running back Najee Harris has shown flashes and the defense continues to play at a high level.


San Francisco 49ers: C-

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It’s hard to know what to make of these 49ers after 10 weeks. After beginning the year with two wins, they lost five of six, including an embarrassing home loss against the Cardinals with Kyler Murray sidelined. They rebounded to blowout the Rams, but the playoffs will be a tall task after the hole that the team has dug. They have seen mediocrity on both sides of the ball and If the team fails to finish .500, Kyle Shanahan could be on the hot seat.


Seattle Seahawks: D

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Seattle has a valid excuse for their 3-6 start with Russell Wilson missed significant time, but the squad was only 2-3 in the first five games with Wilson in the lineup. The offense hasn’t been up to snuff no matter who the quarterback is while the defense has been ravaged against the pass. They must turn things around quickly.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+

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The defending Super Bowl Champs have mostly looked like the same team, with an elite offense that’s averaged 31 points per game and a defense that’s suffocated the run game. However, the banged-up secondary remains a major concern, and the team has suffered back-to-back losses with Tom Brady turning over the ball too often. The returns of Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown from injury should help reverse that recent trend.


Tennessee Titans: A

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The Titans have the advantage of playing in arguably the worst division in football, but that shouldn’t give any less value for what they’ve accomplished so far. The team had six consecutive wins, including two wins without Derrick Henry against NFC contenders. Ryan Tannehill continues to be efficient, and the defense has done just enough. The team is just trying to hang on, with the strong possibility that Henry returns from his foot injury in the playoffs.


Washington Football Team: D

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Washington claimed a very bad NFC East division last year, but it doesn’t look like they will luck into a playoff spot this year. The loss of Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 hurt the offense, but it’s the defense that’s been the biggest disappointment. Despite elite talent, Washington has allowed the fifth-most points per game, and recently lost Chase Young for the season. The team will need to address the quarterback and perhaps also the defensive coaching staff when the season concludes.

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