Jake’s Takes: Analyzing The Overachievers and Underachievers This Season

October 20, 2023

Jake’s Takes: Analyzing The Overachievers and Underachievers This Season

Somehow, we’re already heading into Week 7 of the 2023 NFL season, which kicked off Thursday night with a matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New Orleans Saints. This season has been an exciting one for me personally. Nearing the midway point, I thought Jake’s Takes this week might provide an interesting time to look at a few of the biggest overachieving and underachieving teams to grace the gridiron this season.

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Overachieving: The Detroit Lions

 The Lions were preseason/offseason darlings this year. Jared Goff looked good last season and was expected to take a step forward by involving Jameson Williams more in the offense. The Lions took an explosive receiving back in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft in Jahmyr Gibbs, further adding to an already talented offensive arsenal of weapons. They then went out and got former Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery to complete their RB room.

The early results have been incredibly positive. The Lions are 5-1, with their only loss being a 6-point defeat to the Seattle Seahawks. Jared Goff has completed nearly 70% of his passes with 11 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions. Montgomery and Gibbs have rushed for over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown has continued his ascension into the Tier 1 of WR1s. Perhaps most impressive has been the emergence of rookie TE Sam LaPorta, whom I noted in the preseason as one of my 10 Rookies to watch this season. Lest we forget, the Lions defense has also been much improved. Aidan Hutchinson continues to look great, amassing 4.5 sacks this season already. 2nd round rookie DB Brian Branch has also impressed.

A key part of the Lions offensive success has been offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who Huddle has ranked as the most valuable offensive coordinator in the league. While head coaches Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel receive tons of praise for putting together a great offense without a top quarterback, Ben Johnson has quietly done the same with less fanfare. Expect him to get plenty of looks for head coaching jobs once the season ends.

Underachieving: The Denver Broncos

Yes, the Broncos were bad last season, but somehow this iteration of the Broncos feels even worse? After trading draft capital to get former New Orleans Saints HC Sean Payton (who publicly trashed the efforts the former Broncos HC Nathaniel Hackett), the expectation was that the Broncos would at least field a winning football team. Instead, the team is 1-5, looking at potentially trading their best players. 

Russell Wilson has improved from Y1 in Denver to Y2, but he’s only averaging 217.5 passing yards per game. Jerry Jeudy hasn’t remotely resembled the talented wideout taken in the first round a few years back. His name has been tossed around in trade conversations as well. But the real atrocity is the defense. 

The Broncos are allowing a mind-numbing 440 yards and 33.3 points per game, highlighted by a 70-piece they gave up to the Miami Dolphins earlier this season. This team stinks and there’s very little optimism for them in the near future. From a trading perspective, the Broncos defense has been downgraded the most of any unit since the start of the season. Last year they were one of the best defenses in the league, so heading into the season they were expected to be above average. Instead they've only played one good game on the season, which was last Thursday against the Chiefs.

Overachieving: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When we looked at the AFC South at the beginning of the season, most teams would’ve picked the New Orleans Saints or Atlanta Falcons to finish in first. Through six weeks, it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are leading the charge at 3-2. Despite Tom Brady’s retirement, the Bucs have been solid offensively because of… Baker Mayfield? The former first overall draft pick, on his fourth team in 3 years, has been solid at the QB position for Tampa Bay. He’s completing a career high 65% of his passes, with 7 touchdowns against 3 interceptions while only being sacked 5 times in 5 games.

Yes, Baker can lean on one of the NFL’s best WR duos in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But his stability at QB has allowed the Bucs more freedom than one would’ve thought in the offseason. With a defense that’s in the top-half of the league in yards allowed per game and top-10 in points allowed, the Bucs have absolutely overachieved this season.

The Buccaneers may currently lead their division, but it's also clearly the worst division in football. If Baker is able to keep up his level of play for the whole season, Huddle still expects the Bucs to still be decent sized home underdogs on wildcard weekend.

Underachieving: The Los Angeles Chargers 

At this point, you can pencil the Chargers into an underachieving slot on this list every year. Justin Herbert will be one of the highest paid QBs in the league next year. They have one of the best all-around RBs in football. They have an elite WR in Keenan Allen. They spent a first round pick on another big body WR in Quentin Johnston. The defense is loaded with big-name playmakers like Derwin James, Joey Bosa, and Khalil Mack.

Despite all of that, the Chargers are 2-3 and in third place in the AFC West. That defense is terrible — the only team allowing more yards per game is the Denver Broncos. Yes, they lost to an offensive powerhouse in Miami, but they also lost humiliatingly to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. They barely beat Minnesota (another underperforming team) in Week 3. 

Chargers HC Brandon Staley has to be on one of the hottest seats in all of football. He is frequently questioned for his decision making, but at least the Chargers went 9-8 in Y1 of his tenure and 10-7 last year. A regression or losing record despite all the highly paid pieces this year could cost him his job. 

If the Chargers do move on from Staley at the end of the year (or during the season), Lion's OC Ben Johnson would be a perfect fit to help Herbert live up to the contract he signed in the offseason.

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