Typical NFL also-rans surge toward playoff position in topsy-turvy season

by Andrew Wright
NFL Season

In this tumultuous NFL season, there is a growing possibility of witnessing a first-time Super Bowl contender, something that hasn’t occurred since the 2008 season when Arizona entered the fray as the 28th franchise to grace the grandest stage of them all.

Currently, there are four franchises with no Super Bowl appearances in their history, and remarkably, all of them are enjoying winning records and remarkable starts to their campaigns.

Leading the pack are the Detroit Lions, standing at 8-2. This marks the first time since 1962 that they have secured at least eight victories in their first ten games. Despite their historical success as NFL champions in 1957, they’ve only managed a solitary playoff win since, dating back to nearly a decade before the inception of the Super Bowl in 1966.

The Cleveland Browns are next in line, having endured the longest drought without a division title, last tasting success in 1989. Since their revival as an expansion team in 1999, they’ve only celebrated a single playoff victory. Their current record of 7-3 matches their best start after ten games, a feat last achieved in 1994 under the guidance of coach Bill Belichick.

Then, there’s the Houston Texans, who have never progressed beyond the divisional round since their entry into the league in 2002. However, their fortunes seem to be shifting with the emergence of rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, and they are looking increasingly like strong contenders with a 6-4 record.

What makes this season truly unique is that all four of these historically star-crossed franchises currently boast winning records simultaneously, a situation unprecedented in NFL history. In fact, there has never been a season where more than two of these franchises made it to the playoffs.

On a separate note, the Kansas City Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes, find themselves in a rare second-half slump. They’ve gone three consecutive games without scoring a single point in the second half, a drought unparalleled since at least 1991. This stark contrast to Mahomes’ early years as a quarterback when they were held scoreless in the second half only twice.

Only two teams in the past three decades have managed to make the playoffs after experiencing a three-game second-half scoring drought, and both of them ended up as Super Bowl champions: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 2015 Denver Broncos. For the season, the Chiefs have amassed a meager 53 points in the second half, ranking among the lowest in the past ten seasons.

Shifting our focus to rookie quarterbacks, Cleveland’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the New York Giants’ Tommy DeVito have recently joined the ranks of rookie QBs with winning starts this season. Their success brings the total number of rookie quarterbacks with wins this season to nine, the highest in a non-replacement player season since records began in 1950. DeVito’s performance, in particular, stood out as he managed to throw three touchdown passes and posted an impressive 137.7 passer rating despite facing a daunting nine sacks against Washington.

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s Brock Purdy is in the midst of one of the most efficient two-game stretches ever for an NFL quarterback. Over the past two weeks, Purdy has completed 40 of 51 passes for 629 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions, and an outstanding 157.3 passer rating. This marks the highest passer rating ever recorded in a two-start stretch. He joins a select group of seven players who achieved a passer rating of at least 145 in two consecutive games with at least 20 attempts, the first to do so since Drew Brees in 2018. Purdy’s perfect 158.3 passer rating in a recent game places him in elite company, sharing the distinction with Joe Montana as the only 49ers quarterbacks to achieve such a feat in a game with at least 15 pass attempts.

Finally, Dallas cornerback DaRon Bland has proven to be a scoring sensation, tying an NFL record by returning his fourth interception for a touchdown in a single season. This puts him in the esteemed company of Eric Allen (1993), Jim Kearney (1972), and Hall of Famer Ken Houston (1971) as the only players in NFL history to achieve this remarkable feat in a season. With seven more games to play, Bland has the opportunity to claim this record for himself. In a captivating twist, Bland has matched the touchdown count of top-tier pass catchers like Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins. His four touchdowns on interception returns surpass the entire wide receiver groups of the Jets and Browns, both of which have only managed three touchdowns collectively.

In conclusion, the 2023 NFL season has brought unexpected twists and turns, with historically underachieving franchises rising to prominence and notable shifts in quarterback performance, making it a season to remember for football enthusiasts and serious analysts alike.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NFL Season

What is the significance of this NFL season?

This NFL season is significant due to the possibility of witnessing a first-time Super Bowl contender, a rare occurrence since 2008.

Which four franchises are currently in focus for their playoff potential?

The four franchises in the spotlight are the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans, all of whom have historically lacked Super Bowl appearances.

How are the Detroit Lions performing this season?

The Detroit Lions are in their best shape since 1962, boasting an 8-2 record, their strongest start in decades.

What is the historical context for the Cleveland Browns?

The Cleveland Browns have endured the longest division title drought, last winning in 1989, and have only secured one playoff win since their 1999 revival.

What is unique about this NFL season regarding these four franchises?

This season marks the first time that all four historically star-crossed franchises have winning records simultaneously, a historic occurrence in the NFL.

What is the concerning trend for the Kansas City Chiefs?

The Kansas City Chiefs are facing a second-half scoring slump, going three consecutive games without scoring a point in the second half, a rare occurrence for them.

How does this season compare in terms of rookie quarterbacks?

This season has seen a surge in rookie quarterbacks with winning starts, with nine such quarterbacks achieving victories, the highest in non-replacement player seasons since 1950.

Who stands out among rookie quarterbacks?

Cleveland’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the New York Giants’ Tommy DeVito are among the standout rookie quarterbacks, with DeVito posting an impressive performance despite facing nine sacks.

What makes San Francisco’s Brock Purdy noteworthy?

Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers has had an incredibly efficient two-game stretch, boasting impressive stats, including a perfect passer rating, making him a standout quarterback.

Who holds the record for interception returns for touchdowns this season?

Dallas cornerback DaRon Bland has tied an NFL record by returning his fourth interception for a touchdown this season, placing him in prestigious company.

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FootballGuru November 23, 2023 - 1:05 pm

Chiefs in big slump! No score in 2nd half?! History! Rookie QBs on fire, exciting stuff. Bland’s INTs rock!

NFLFan123 November 23, 2023 - 8:51 pm

wow, dis NFL season is cray-cray! new teams in suprbowl? lions doin’ bettr than in ages! go browns!

StatsNerd November 23, 2023 - 11:55 pm

This NFL season is lit! Crazy rookie QBs, and Purdy’s on fire. Bland’s INT record, history in making.


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