(Much of this post was composed before the Chargers/Raiders game that occurred last night. This will feature records after Week 9.)
Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. We're halfway through already? That's too scary.
Let's take a look at the standings for this year's midway point in the NFL:
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
Three-way tie. (omfg)
New England Patriots (5-3) - Am I shocked about this one? Well...sort of. After losing two straight games to the Steelers and the Giants, Brady and the crew look daunting as always, but the defense has some holes to mend after two straight mishaps. Will they be the usual contenders? They should be. Their schedule looks to give the defense some time to recover.
New York Jets (5-3) - As for these polar opposites of the Pats, their defense has been excellent over their eight games, but the offense hasn't been at their strongest at all. Mark Sanchez has an inconsistent groove, and their running game wasn't what it used to be (what happened, LT?). With a roller coaster year so far, it may only go downhill for these green guys.
Buffalo Bills (5-3) - Wowwowweewow. Personally, I am shocked. This is usually the team you don't hear about all that often because they're usually sub-par among the rest of the teams in the AFC. However, this year could definitely be their year, as they've been shocking against big powerhouse teams like the Patriots. I like their chances. Here's hoping that their defense doesn't decide to start letting victories slip by toward the end. These guys by far have one of the easiest second half schedules in the league, and it would hurt to see them choke now.
Miami Dolphins (1-7) - One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...ha. It's not like they make terrible showings or anything--they just come up short constantly. Even though they made an absolute killing this past week to the Chiefs (which is no big shock), things aren't looking as strong for them in the long run. They may be good front-runners for the spoiler though, don'tcha think?
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) - Wow, there is no such thing as the run when it comes to their defense. That's fantastic. Although Andy Dalton isn't an "elite quarterback" per se, they make lemonade out of lemons each week. They didn't exactly have the hardest schedule over the nine-week period, so they will certainly be tested during their second half of the season.
Baltimore Ravens (6-2) - The Ravens, as usual, have had a stellar defense with guys like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. As for offense, Joe Flacco will often be the man on the spot when it comes to the decision-making. With flexible choices through runners and receivers, possibilities are endless for this team. By the way, they like to beat the Steelers just like last week. All of this last minute stuff they've been doing over the past few weeks have been quite exciting, I'll tell you that much.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) - I'm gonna get flack for saying this, but this team is often out-of-sync. In the case of offense, Roethlisberger can really turn it on at times, but sometimes the defense doesn't support the good offensive bursts. It can then go the other way around; the defense can be super awesome, but then the offense may come up short and then Suisham blows a super easy kick. This team will need couples therapy if they want to return to the playoffs and make a good showing this year.
Cleveland Browns (3-5) - Can they stop the pass? Oh heck yes. Can they stop the run? Oh heck no. With a weaker offensive squad, a lot of their games are going to look like a big low-scoring struggle (the 6-3 win over the Seahawks was the best game ever...just kidding). They will mainly have divisional matches coming up, and since they're all defensive powerhouses, things could get really sour for the Brownies.
Houston Texans (6-3) - These guys really have the potential to actually make it super far this year. The only issue for them is having the possibility of burning out once Week 10 rolls around. They've been making a great showing with Matt Schaub in the lead role at QB and with Arian Foster playing the role of "godsend." Their defense has also been fantastic, but there will be that one game where they'll make a costly mistake and it'll make them look like just an average team. Don't let the "wrong place at the wrong time" statistic fool you--they could be Super Bowl contenders come Week 17.
Tennessee Titans (4-4) - At .500, they're about as average as you could possibly get in the NFL. With stats that are ranked in the middle all down the line in the whole league (except for rushing, but that's beside the point), it can go either here or there for these guys. What can I say? Matt Hasslebeck could either have a good run with these guys and constantly make a good showing...it just depends on what the rest of the team will do at that time.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) - Here, my children, is statistically the worst offense in the NFL. The only thing keeping them alive at this point is Maurice Jones-Drew, their surprisingly strong defense, and their times of upsetting the opposition; I mean, that only really happened once against Baltimore, but that was huge. There's not much to say about these guys except they need a quarterback in the worst way. It's so sad. I want these guys to do well, it's just that their QB area is the equivalent of the next team I'm about to talk about...
Indianapolis Colts (0-9) - Wait a minute...they're the basement team I have to talk about this year????? I guess it's rather obvious that no Peyton Manning equals no winning season. Don't get me wrong, they've come close several times, but they never get the job done. There's no point in seeing Manning whatsoever this year. If he's back, I'll be severely disappointed...just finish the season out, guys. That's all.
Again, I did this before the Thursday night game. Thanks for screwing with my post, NFL Network.
Another three-way, eh? For some reason, this doesn't look as impressive...
San Diego Chargers (4-4) - Remember what I said about the Steelers? It's exactly the same for these guys. They have the potential to be really great; Philip Rivers is really rocking the quarterback role, and the defense has their shining times. Although they're at .500, the games they've lost have been close, so that means they haven't really been giving up in the usual ways. Did their game against Oakland stay that way yesterday?
Kansas City Chiefs (4-4) - Why do these guys like to fall asleep during certain games? It's almost as if they like to get spanked sometimes. I never thought Matt Cassel was a good lead, and well...there's never that much team chemistry showing out on the field. Think Jonathan Baldwin, kids. Can they look like a gelled team for the rest of the season? I say nay. It's just not happening.
Oakland Raiders (4-4) - These guys would look so much more impressive if the defense didn't like to scare everyone with high-scoring games. With a shaky quarterback position in tow, we'll see what Carson Palmer can deliver for the future. I like the rushing with Darrius Heyward-Bey in the lead spot for that.
Denver Broncos (3-5) - Warning: Tim Tebow will not be the person to "save" this team. It's not because he's a Born-Again Christian (there, I said it, now leave me alone). The defense is not that good, and that is why Denver is having a hard time. The management has been so poor that so many other things could have been done to this team during a game so that they wouldn't let certain losses slip through their fingers. Just sayin'. I'm gonna go and "Tebow" as I feed the dogs.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
New York Giants (6-2) - Me thinks that since Peyton is not around this season, there's hardly any pressure on Eli Manning, who is having one of the best seasons of his career. However, the G-Men have a really, really tough schedule ahead of them, so the defense will definitely be tested against some of the stronger offenses in the league. I will admit that I feel bad because this team has a good playoff shot, but could be severely upset if they don't remain strong in the second half.
Dallas Cowboys (4-4) - The only really bad blip on this team's radar is their slaughtering to the Eagles back in Week 8. Aside from this, their offense has been really effective with Tony Romo (with punctured lung action!) in QB and with rookie DeMarco Murray running away with stellar numbers at RB. All that needs to be avoided is injury from this point on and they could take the Wild Card no problem.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) - Some "dream team," eh? The defense is good on paper but is not jelling the way they should. Michael Vick might be great in the leadership role right now but he does not mix the pass with the run because he can't throw as well as the average QB. Speaking of the run, the rushing game is fantastic. LeSean--err, "Shady" McCoy is running these guys to the top in the league in rushing yardage per game. That's the only stable thing going for them at this point.
Washington Redskins (3-5) - Ouch. What the heck happened to their offense? After McNabb's exit, they've had two QB's (Grossman and Beck) that have been hot and cold for these guys. If the defense was as shaky as the offense, I'd be calling these guys the Colts of the NFC. Dead serious. The offense is not very strong at all. That needs fixing and fast.
Green Bay Packers (8-0) - Now that's what I'm talking about for a reigning Super Bowl-winning team. Aaron Rodgers is having a fantastic year, and he's putting up massive points for an undefeated team that is a massive force to be reckoned with. However, we're somewhat lucky that the offense has been on fire, because the defense is having a hard time keeping up with the opposing offensive passing game. I'd love to see the streak keep strong, but the defense is going to make that difficult.
Detroit Lions (6-2) - Here's another team that is absolutely scaring the crap out of me. Matt Stafford: most underrated QB right now. And their defense...oh man, when was the last time their defense was actually this good? I mean, they're having the "holey syndrome" where they're having issues with the run, but if you eliminate that from the mix, these guys will have a postseason in their sights as a Wild Card team. Ku-dos.
Chicago Bears (5-3) - These guys will have their little problems here and there, but they're making a good run as far as I'm concerned. Matt Forte is a beast in the rushing game, and Cutler has a safety issue with his offensive line. He will get fumed at times when he is not blocked. I think back to Week 2 against the Saints in that case. Hey da Bears, don't let the little things make you come up short.
Minnesota Vikings (2-6) - I'd like to hold an open forum here: who still thinks that Donovan McNabb should be a starting QB? He's been quite painful to watch unless if he hands off to Percy Harvin or Adrian Peterson. The defense makes me nervous too. Final answer: just finish the season out without needing to fire/beat the snot out of anyone.
New Orleans Saints (6-3) - Oh Drew Brees, my fantasy starting QB...you're the man--wait. Sorry...the team itself. Anyway, the Saints defense can be very hot and cold these days. You can see them hold a winless team to a touchdown (the Colts) and then the week after they'll gift-wrap 31 points to a then-winless squad (the Rams). Offense, stay classy. I like you guys. Everyone pretty much expects your offense to be top-10. I do, at least. Thanks for keeping my team a manageable 4-5, Brees.
Atlanta Falcons (5-3) - Oh Matt Ryan...my backup QB--crap, I did it again. If you look at the team on paper, they don't exactly look like the strongest squad, but they will make it happen. One side of the pigskin picks up after another when things go sour, and I like that. That's what teamwork is all about. Will they make it far? I'd like to see it happen, but I don't think the cute act is going to go much farther than this. "Easy" teams could really make them suffer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) - Don't get me wrong, these guys have deserved every single one of their wins, but aside from that, I'm not overly impressed with their team as a whole. Their defense has a few holes in it, and Josh Freeman can have his problems every once in a while. Yeah, you can take what I say as a grain of salt because they can surprise anyone on any given Sunday, but that's almost like flipping a coin.
Carolina Panthers (2-6) - From the looks of this team, why does it look like Cam Newton and Steve Smith are the only people on the Carolina offense? That's just...bad. Newton keeps putting up monster numbers and the offensive and defensive lines just look at it and go, "That's nice. We'll challenge you even more now." The running D is horrible, and it just makes a QB with promise look like some dude named Tim Tebow. Dead serious.
San Francisco 49ers (7-1) - SHOCKED AGAIN. Wow. They look like GODS in this division. Why? Deeeeee-FENSE. Alex Smith and crew on the offense aren't exactly the best in the league, but Frank Gore is keeping that line bearable for me. The defensive line (to me) is statistically the best defense in the NFC, and if the offense steps it up, they could have one heck of a run against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Packers.
Seattle Seahawks (2-6) - You look at the 49ers and then there's a cliff with three teams in it. Seattle is one of those teams that have a numerous amount of shortcomings. I never really thought Tavaris Jackson was a strong QB. In short, I still think this team is hungover from beating the Rams and the favorited Saints last year in the playoffs. Good season, boys.
Arizona Cardinals (2-6) - You're trying, Kevin Kolb, I know you are. You guys are only making good showings against teams poorer than you, and that's...just, really bad. The only shining points on this team are Early Doucet and Larry Fitzgerald at WR, and that's saying everything there. Give them the ball and points might be involved with that. End of story.
St. Louis Rams (1-7) - Weren't these guys supposed to be good this year too? I was just wondering because everyone seems to hype the Rams year in and year out and they disappoint. Sam Bradford dropped off after his rookie year and then that was pretty much it. I feel bad for you, guys. Just enjoy your World Series victory.
And that just about does it for me here. It seems like this year is going to shock, surprise, and make you go, "wow, seriously?"
I like it that way.
Check back around the new year for the final results of this awesome season!
PS - Go listen to Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You." You will not be sorry.