When Tom Brady said earlier this month that there was a lot of “bad football” from what I’m watching, he probably had no idea his Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be evenly matched in the middle of this midseason debate.

The Buccaneers, who lost to the Baltimore Ravens 27-22 at home on Thursday night, were one of 15 teams to enter Week 8 at or within one game of .500, a large group of mediocrity that includes the Chicago Bears (3- 4), the Green Bay Packers (3-4) and both Super Bowl LVI participants — the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) and the Cincinnati Bengals (4-3).

That’s not an unusually large number of teams to hang around .500 after seven weeks. The average at this stage over the past decade is 13.2 teams with a high of 18 in 2017 and a low of 5 in 2020.

The points per game average entering this week is 43.4, the lowest since 2010. Scoring matters in the NFL. The rules have been changed over the years to favor offenses. Higher-scoring games usually lead to higher television ratings.

“We looked at it in different ways,” competition committee chairman Rich McKay told reporters at the NFL meetings earlier this month. “For every statistical review we’ve done, I’m not sure we’ve found a good answer.”

Of course, the “bad football” Brady was talking about included lesser-scoring slogs like the Bears’ 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders in Week 6 and the Indianapolis Colts’ 12-9 win over the Denver Broncos the week before this. . It was a prime-time snooze that some attributed to the lopsided game that can happen on Thursday nights.

What’s particularly interesting about the teams in the middle of the pack is that it includes seven clubs that objectively have a franchise quarterback. In the 8th week, this group includes:

4-3 record

  • Ravens (Lamar Jackson)
  • Bengals (Joe Burrow)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert)

3-3 entries

3-4 records

  • Arizona Cardinals (Kyler Murray)
  • Packers (Aaron Rodgers)
  • Buccaneers (Brady)

You can debate whether Murray belongs on the list of franchise quarterbacks, but the Cardinals certainly paid him when they signed him to a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension.

“Why the franchise QB isn’t as divisive as it usually is,” said one veteran staffer. “How do teams win so many games with good to below-average QBs? The only thing that sticks out to me is how many average to bad teams there are now.”

The group also has seven playoff teams starting in 2021: the Bengals, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Packers, New England Patriots (3-4), Rams and San Francisco 49ers (3-4). That’s what really makes the cluster of mediocrity stand out, because so many teams hovering around .500 had much higher expectations at the start of the season.

The Bengals appear poised to take off after scoring 30 and 35 points the past two weeks after a rough start for Barrow, who was intercepted four times in Week 1. The Buccaneers seem to have completely lost their cool. The Packers may have legitimate reasons to panic, and the Rams have offensive line issues that are tough to overcome with just one true weapon for Stafford in wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

The Chargers have been wracked by injuries. Jackson and the Ravens are trying to get by without much help at wide receiver and with a defense that isn’t up to its former standards. The Cardinals are hoping that the recent return of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from suspension will provide a spark for an offense that lacks identity.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants are 6-1 with Daniel Jones opting out of a five-year contract before the season. The New York Jets are 5-2 with Zach Wilson and Joe Flacco at quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles remain the only undefeated team in the league at 6-0, and quarterback Jalen Hurts is making important strides. The Minnesota Vikings lead the NFC North by 2 1/2 games at 5-1 with Kirk Cousins ​​at quarterback.

“Which teams that are playing well are actually doing what you expected?” one GM wrote. “Buffalo and Kansas City, and that’s the end of the list.”

Bears (3-4) can be encouraged to be where they are. The record isn’t an obvious indicator of progress, but three of the four losses have come in one-score games, and the Bears’ two fumbles by rookie Velus Jones Jr. have been perhaps the biggest surprise in the league.

Either way, the atmosphere at Halas Hall is positive, and the most important thing is that the young roster is gaining a ton of experience as the front office and coaching staff evaluate which players fit into the picture moving forward. Quarterback Justin Fields is having his best game of the season with 179 yards passing with one touchdown and 82 yards rushing and another score.

For general manager Ryan Pose and coach Matt Eberfluss, the Bears are exactly where they need to be as they follow the rebuilding plan that was laid out at the start of the offseason. If Fields continues to thrive, the wait time for tackles between the Bears will accelerate.

If the Bears can hit .500 next month — and they’re a 9½-point underdog heading into Dallas, with the Miami Dolphins likely favored at Soldier Field next week — that will be a positive sign.

“When you’re successful, you have to deal with it in a certain way,” Eberfluss said. “When you have difficulties, you have to deal with it in a certain way. When you become a mature competitor, you have the ability to fight them almost equally.

“Obviously when you win, all these other things happen, but when you win, it’s a distraction. There’s a lot of so-called hype about a win, two wins, three wins or whatever. When you’re in the middle of the season, you have to keep things in perspective.”

The Bears are in a good spot after dismantling the Patriots 33-14. They’re in a decent position and aren’t scrambling for answers like some of the teams around .500 that entered 2022 with high expectations. This is good for Poles and Eberflus.

Reconnaissance report

Micah Parsons, a strong linebacker for the Cowboys

Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.

Micah Parsons, 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, is in his second season with Dallas after being drafted 12th overall in 2021. The Cowboys moved up two spots from No. 10 and still got one pick after the Bears selected quarterback Justin Fields .

Parsons was named the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year and became the first Cowboys rookie to earn first-team All-Pro honors. He set a franchise record with 13 sacks and already has eight this season. He has three multi-sack games and leads the NFL with 36.

“Parsons is like Samuel L. Jackson at the end of Pulp Fiction when he asks for his wallet and it says ‘Bad Mother (expletive)’.” This is him,” said the scout. “What’s special about Parsons is that you can make an argument that, aside from Myles Garrett, he’s the most polished and disruptive edge rusher in the league, and he’s a linebacker. That’s how versatile he is.

“His traits are at such a high level that he can impact the pass from multiple levels of the defense, starting with him as a leader. He has an electric first step, is tough and quick with his hands, and has the lower body flexibility to drop and bend. His closing speed is ridiculous. He will run every quarterback in the league, including Justin Fields.

“Dan Quinn completely changed his profile as a coordinator from what he was in Atlanta and before that in Seattle with the Cover-3 and playing a zone defense and relying on the structure of the defense to win. He’s a lot more aggressive now, and they’ll plan their front with Parsons and use him from the second level as a blitzer.

“It’s one thing to prepare for a dominant rusher and chip, hold the tight ends and slide and move the pocket. Quinn can counter that and move Parsons, and that’s a problem. This made it a deadly weapon. I’d go after the rookie left Braxton Jones first. Check him out and see what goes up against the Bears, but whoever plays the right way, the Bears better have a plan. How will they adapt?”