"Head 'em off at the pass?! I HATE THAT CLICHE!"If you never saw Blazing Saddles, you should. It's a fantastic movie, and I actually got someone to like it once.
We've seen a lot of trades, changes, and fresh looks in the NFL this offseason. Change is a good thing. Sometimes, you'll see some controversy and a lot of jokes thrown in one's way; however, that comes with the territory.
The one thing I've noticed about these standings is that I felt like I just looked over an NBA season--there are teams in the league that are really, really good, and then there are teams that are really, REALLY terrible. Those thoughts aside, let's take a brief look at each NFL team and see what's going right and going wrong with them.
You ready to go?
NFL MIDSEASON SLANT
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
New England Patriots (7-2) - We've come to expect this season in and season out. As the old saying goes: "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." Each side of the ball has kicked in and led to some pretty close victories. While they haven't faced the toughest of competitors in the first half, things should be expected to kick up in the coming weeks. This won't be an cakewalk for the Pats, even though they look as formidable as ever.
New York Jets (5-4) - For a rookie season, Geno Smith isn't doing too badly. That's a pretty good sign, considering how much the fans desperately wanted a change in the QB position. Amid their struggles and the plethora of injuries that have affected them, their defense is helping them win games, and that isn't a terrible thing. I just hate seeing Jets fans like Hank Azaria on Twitter saying something like "I hate when they win--it gives Jets fans hope." It seems like everyone's expecting the worst this second half; don't be silly, you people! This second half looks pretty good!
[Fun fact: I said "butt fumble" to end an argument over whether Alex Smith was better than Mark Sanchez at a Madden NFL 25 midnight release. I think I made my point that night.]
Miami Dolphins (4-4) - Things have taken a steep drop in certain departments for the Dolphins this season. Tannehill hasn't been having an easy time in the pocket. While they've been scoring, the ball-handling hasn't been all that great, and possessions are suffering a bit. There may be some looming problems within the staff, so things could be a little rocky and bleed onto the field in the coming weeks.
[I'll talk about Incognito at some point. Not right now.]
Buffalo Bills (3-6) - The more and more I do these Slants, the more and more I feel for these guys. Injuries and heartbreaking losses have been the forte for these guys. Even though the offense looks pretty good statistically, they've had a really tough first half with some of the stronger offensive lineups. Things look a little easier down the stretch, but truthfully, this is when the offense is going to get their ultimate test.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) - The AFC North has officially been flipped upside-down, and seeing the Bengals up top looks pretty cool. Andy Dalton is doing extremely well with what he's been given, and I like what the defense has to offer; they're the top 10 in just about every category in the whole league. With a well-deserved Bye coming toward the end, they should get just enough rest to make a final push in the playoffs. That is pretty nice to see.
Cleveland Browns (4-5) - Brandon Weeden is a scrappy quarterback, but this isn't the strongest team I have ever seen. Don't get me wrong--the defense looks pretty promising, but there are still a lot of things that have to be learned, and Weeden doesn't look like the kind of guy that is capable of learning tricks at this stage. They say defense wins games, but we need to have some cooperation on both points.
Baltimore Ravens (3-5) - With the way things have been going for these guys, I pretty much forgot that they won the Super Bowl in February. The fact that they haven't played a lot at home may have made a slight difference, but Flacco and company are a shade of what they were a few months ago. Sure, there have been a lot of personnel changes in the offseason, but excuses are excuses, if you know what I mean. Let's hope the home-field advantage helps their cause with everything else going on in this second half.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6) - What on Earth happened here? I knew the team looked shaky from the start, but I had no idea it was going to be this bad. While Roethlisberger looks as good as he usually does, everything else looks like a train wreck, including the defense--and you know that's bad if the defense looks like dung. Numerous injury woes, including ones to the defense, is going to take a toll considering the kind of teams they will be facing in the second half of the season.
[I think it's time to put your Terrible Towel away, Andrew. You're done.]
Indianapolis Colts (6-2) - While the Colts like to rack up the points, the defense has their times of keeping the bargain up with holding the opposition down as well. The Luck/Wayne combo has some pretty sweet moves on the field, and while the defense gives up a bit of yardage at times, they come in the clutch. We've got a delicate balance here, so let's hope that we see some consistency in the second half with an easier schedule in tow.
Tennessee Titans (4-4) - We've seen a bit of a skid in October from these guys, but should we fear? Not necessarily. Their defense might see some challenges soon enough, but we need to start seeing some work from the offense in order to make a run toward anything. Especially since the defense has had some scares in the injury department, we're going to need some help on the other side.
Houston Texans (2-6) - They've lost six straight. That should explain enough here. Plus, the loss of Matt Schaub has caused the offense to do some awkward things, although Case Keenum has been making an effort to make a decent impact. The Texans defense doesn't look nearly as strong as they once did, as they're giving up points left and right. They had some grit last season; that was the past. It's time for some healing in this squad.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) - Just like another team in the NFC (who we'll get to later), we saw this coming. There hasn't been many promising things coming out of this team. It's a party when they score more than 14 points, but that's usually when the defense falls asleep, and the scoring doesn't happen very often, yadda yadda yadda. It's only going to be an uphill struggle for these guys.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) - I normally don't do this, but I'm doing this now.... LOL ... There. New management means shockers all-around. This team has some flaws, yes indeed, but they do some crazy theatrics to get them on top by the end of each game. While they'll be away from home for most of the second half, all eyes will be on them to see whether holes are going to be seen in this team. Teamwork among either side of the ball is going to be important for them.
Denver Broncos (7-1) - You know things are going down when Peyton Manning is on fire. You saw that from the start in Week 1. These guys just score a lot of flippin' points, and it is usually enough considering that there are times when the Broncos' defense doesn't always show up to the game. However, that's the least of their worries. If the offense holds up, this team will not be able to do any wrong come January.
San Diego Chargers (4-4) - Win, loss, win, loss. We like to flip-flop here. Philip Rivers has been turning it up as of late; however, the record isn't really evident of that, as the defensive line and special teams haven't been holding up very well. The Bolts back at home should help, especially since inconsistency exists with the crew, and they're going to have some pretty intense competition going on in the second half.
Oakland Raiders (3-5) - While this team isn't having any massive problems, injuries and other freak accidents have reared their ugly head in the black hole land. One of the stronger points of this team is their running game, as both Rashad Jennings and Terrell Pryor are putting on great displays each week. Too bad the receivers can't follow suit with that. On the other hand, the defense is doing what they can to back their woes up on the receiving end.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) - The 'Boys looked rather shaky in the first two weeks, but things have gotten back into form as of late. I don't really dig their defense all that much, but it has held up enough for first place glory in the NFC East. Hey Tony Romo, looking good there, bro. Hey injury list, looking flippin' filled there, bro. With a second half schedule that's as two-faced as Two-Face himself, we could see a lot of different sides of the Cowboys staff within the next two months.
Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) - Flip-flopping quarterbacks and a fresh face as a head coach has been the rage in Philly, but this team hasn't been consistent. The defense has had a lot of issues over the past couple of weeks, and copious amounts of injuries haven't been helping much at all. However, Nick Foles' latest display in Oakland has been a huge boost in morale. The biggest question lies here: are they going to start winning at home? If they can, a big change could be coming soon.
Washington Redskins (3-5) - The duo of Alfred Morris and the bionic RGIII has shown some fire in the first half, but nothing stands out on the other side of the ball. Being near the bottom of the barrel in points allowed, efforts need to be made to keep the offense from working too hard. They've been working hard enough as of late, winning three of the last five games, but more has to be done with a rougher schedule up ahead.
New York Giants (2-6) - They were the laughingstock of the NFC East up until two weeks ago. Eli Manning has had a pretty rotten run so far, and slowly but surely things are looking a little better for him. Recently coming off of a Bye week, they're hoping to ride momentum from their previous two wins. Is it going to keep Manning from turning the ball over? Let's hope so. They could really use it after the rotten luck the whole team has had this first half.
[Oh boy, I'm dealing with another three-way tie here.]
Detroit Lions (5-3) - Matt Stafford has been having a great year so far (better than usual), and although the defense isn't as fearful as it was last year, it has been enough to keep Lions fans hungry for a playoff spot. Fresh from a Bye week, we should see some more offensive explosions in this second half. Heheh--Megatron....explosions.
Chicago Bears (5-3) - 'Da Bears' special teams is highly underrated. Helping the offense along with points, things have been keeping up relatively well this season. On the other side of the coin, the defense doesn't look too good at all. Things are getting a little too close in games, and there could be issues if there aren't any major executive decisions made by coaching or an unsung hero on the field. A lot of divisional matches will be coming up with them. Get ready for a roller coaster ride.
Green Bay Packers (5-3) - Things may look good standings-wise, but with Aaron Rodgers out with an injury for a few weeks, this could test the rest of the offense. Aside from last week's hiccup in Chicago, the Packs have had a tough time dealing with some formidable defensive forces, showing a bit of vulnerability on the offensive side. Going back to Rodgers' injury, things could get ugly really fast unless Seneca Wallace can help the team out, unless the defense has something better in mind...
Minnesota Vikings (1-7) - Getting this out of the way now: From an outsider's view, Adrian Peterson is the only thing going right with the Vikings. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, their defense is the pits and it is in desperate need of repair. Numerous injuries all around the team have them in shambles as well. Christian Ponder might have to question his ability as a quarterback at this point, because things do not look good for this team in the offensive department from here on out.
New Orleans Saints (6-2) - Gotta love how Drew Brees throws for 300+ yards almost every single game. Considering how there are many divisional matchups with weaker defenses (aside from Carolina), we could be seeing more fireworks from the offense and an eventual playoff berth. What's that? You wanted to hear about the defense too? WHO DAT. They're just as scary-looking! The upset losses have been a hiccup, but we're looking at a very strong team here.
Carolina Panthers (5-3) - Well, this is refreshing. It seems like Cam Newton is finding his stride in this offense, and the defense is looking better than it has in years' past. In fact, they're second in the NFL in points allowed and rush yardage allowed. That's incredibly strong, and it's going to come in handy with a second half filled with strong offensive forces like the Saints and Patriots. I'm looking forward to seeing how they hold up. It could determine their worth in January.
Atlanta Falcons (2-6) - Injuries are crippling this team, and it is showing. We've seen a lot of woes on the defensive end, it it has been eating the Falcons' offense alive. Even though Matt Ryan has been having great stats in passing yards, it hasn't been enough to give them any effective wins. With some upcoming returns such as wide receiver Roddy White, we're hoping to see some normalcy in the team in the second half.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) - If you were wondering who that other team was that I was referring to above, here you are. We've had a lot of lesser-known names on this team, and truthfully, it's been hurting them. We've had some strong showings from the offense, but it doesn't seem like there is any good chemistry among anyone else on the squad. They have an easy-looking schedule in the second half, but that doesn't really mean much with the displays they have shown so far.
Seattle Seahawks (8-1) - This team is fun to watch. Their defense is fantastic, and Marshawn Lynch gets better and better with each season. We've seen some close games with these guys, but if they stay healthy and keep up their strong forts in the O-and D-Lines, we're going to have a super-strong playoff contender. My only concern is to see a more well-rounded offense. Here's looking at you, Russ.
San Francisco 49ers (6-2) - In his first full season as starting QB, Colin Kaepernick isn't doing too badly. Thing is, we're seeing a bit of a trend: run the ball all the way or wait until third down, and then try a pass play. It's simple. We're seeing a Mike Vick-like trend from the Niners' offense, while the defense has been holding down the opposition. This isn't a bad thing. However, it might not be enough for a Wild Card spot. More faith in the pass means better results.
Arizona Cardinals (4-4) - While a Carson Palmer-led offense looks promising, it doesn't look nearly as consistent as the Cards' defense. Aside from Week 1, we've seen victories from lesser-deserving teams, and that isn't much of a good thing. Once they start shocking the stronger teams, we could be talking about a spoiler in this spot.
St. Louis Rams (3-6) - These guys looked pretty good at the start and then they hit this speed bump and everything exploded in a cartoon fashion. An injury-ridden offense has been the catalyst for this, and numerous divisional matches could be a recipe for disappointment for Rams fans. Mr. Bradford, you're doing all you can. Mr. Jeff Fisher, coaching might be a little different from running a front office. Time to go back to 1999 brain mode.
Ah, now that was fun. The next two months should be an interesting bum rush of football and divisional rivalries. Hopefully any controversies and issues going on right now will cease, because truthfully, all I wanna see is some football.
All the best to y'all, and see you in January.