Good heavens, the year keeps going faster and faster. I remember standing at work on the Sunday of Week 1 going: "Where is every--oh wait, it's Sunday" about two months ago, but it actually felt like I only said that two weeks ago instead. But they do say that time flies when you're having fun, am I right?
In talking about all of the things that happened, we've seen suspensions, controversies, changes in coaching, and a lot of shifting of the team leaders. While the last thing I mentioned isn't any cause for panic, the stuff before that definitely through a boatload of flies into a tiny jar of ointment, and it was PRETTY DARNED GROSS.
|LOOK AT THIS. LOOK. AT. THIS. TERRIFYINGLY GROSS.|
Anyway... Let's take a look at what's been going on along the gridiron. That's the real reason why we're here, right?
NFL MIDSEASON SLANT
(NOTE: These standings are as of Week 9. This does not include the results of the Saints/Panthers game that occurred on Thursday night.)
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
New England Patriots (6-2) - After what seemed like this season would be laughable for the Pats, things have certainly kicked into fourth gear. After each defeat, they seem to bounce back and practically kill the team in the following week. They're sleeping giants, that's for sure, and when you have the Brady/Gronk combo, things could be ugly for the opposition.
Buffalo Bills (5-3) - Hey hey! I'm not used to seeing this. However, there seems to be trouble in paradise in the running back department as far as injury. Plus, Kyle Orton has had a bit of an issue adjusting to his new squad. But don't fret, we're seeing one of the stronger defenses in the AFC, and with a stronger lineup toward the end of the season, they will certainly be tested. I'd love to see them make it a little further than usual.
Miami Dolphins (4-3) - The Dolphins have a very underrated defense, especially when they've rocked against some of the strongest offensive teams so far. The offense may have issues in catching up, but if they stay steady against some average defenses coming up, it should be enough of a momentum boost for the weeks to come.
New York Jets (1-6) - You cannot blame Mark Sanchez on this crap this year. The only strong point is their defense; the rest of them have been absolutely weak. Geno Smith's welcome has been rotted out, and the special teams is ridiculous to the max. Are we seeing the end of the Rex Ryan era? Most likely.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1) - Oh my God, I hate this tie business, you guys. Anyway, I would have thought that with Marvin Lewis at the helm, we might see a stronger defense, but it looks like I'm wrong here. Anyway, Andy Dalton is having a field day at his position with loads of eligible (and effective) receiving. Things can only get better from here in that department.
Baltimore Ravens (5-3) - There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Flacco is making incredibly strong outings this year. Each loss has been a hard one so far (they never figured out Cincy), and if those are thrown to the side, we could see real contenders on this end from here on out. The one thorn in their side could be the pass rush, as the next few games feature powerhouse QB's. However, the rest should be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) - They've certainly made a statement in this past week that they can still roll on with the squad they have. However, you can certainly tell that this is barely half the team that it once was nearly a decade ago. The defense is far from an steel curtain, but Mr. Ben Roethlisberger wants you to forget that with this power in the pocket. Their schedule doesn't look too shabby either. The Steelers can make teams mighty nervous after this.
Cleveland Browns (4-3) - Fact: Cleveland never catches a break--ever. Brian Hoyer and company have had a lot of luck going into the halfway point of the season, as many of their games have been close and down to the wire. Special teams have been their greatest strength for sure. The only problem is their issues against the run. If nobody runs hog wild on them, we could see a really close race in the AFC North.
Indianapolis Colts (5-3) - I can officially say "Peyton who?" Andrew Luck is certainly proving his worth as a #1 pick quarterback, especially with his efficiency in the pocket. The defense leaves much to be desired, but when you have a stellar quarterback and two strong running backs in Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, you can't go wrong.
Houston Texans (4-4) - A hard-hitting defense and another great season from Arian Foster is keeping the Texans afloat for the most part. However, both sides can be inconsistent, and Fitzpatrick at the lead in QB isn't exactly the strongest thing in the world--especially after his woes in Buffalo. However, their bye is approaching soon. It could be the recharge they need to make a run for the South title.
Tennessee Titans (2-6) - There's a lot on this team that leaves much to be desired. You can easily tell that this is a time for rebuilding. The injury bug has really stalled this period too, as many people were out of action early on in the season. As long as the crew keeps healthy, they should be able to recover. However, it may be too little, too late.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) - I could say this and end it here: "No shock. Moving along..." But I won't do that here. This whole organization is in desperate need of repair and it doesn't look like there's any sort of relief in sight. With the one little shining moment in their victory against the Browns in Week 7, their endless injuries and the lack of hope in management is a recipe for a poor end to the season. Godspeed, Jags.
Denver Broncos (6-1) - Weed is not a performance enhancer. But when you have an offense led by record-breaker Peyton Manning, you really don't need much else, now do you? While they have had problems here and there with the rush, the tone set by the rest of the team is more than enough to take them to another Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers (5-3) - These guys are in the thick of it once again by being scrappy and relentless on offense. Philip Rivers is an underrated quarterback with numerous options, and to be honest, that is the go-to due to a slight weakness on the rush. Throw in a defense that kills on pass yardage and you've got a good chance to see the Bolts play more in January.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) - Sorry, guys, people are still hung over after their heartbreaking defeat in the World Series. However, there might not be the same amount of heartbreak this year. They're more or less "pacing themselves" this year (obviously), and it is evident in an offense that is slowly gaining a stride. The defense is about as strong as they were last year, and that's a good sign as well.
Oakland Raiders (0-7) - Remember what I almost said about Jacksonville above? I could do that here too, but no. If there is one franchise that needs an even bigger fixing, this is the winner. All routes of failure are breaking the laws of science and possibly destroying the Black Hole in Oakland. When one side is strong, the other side seemingly sucks, and lack of synchronicity definitely shows here.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
Dallas Cowboys (6-2) - They looked scary up until this week. The biggest shining diamond on this team has been, without a doubt, DeMarco Murray. Blowing by defenses has been his forte, and with the skeptics still being skeptical about Tony Romo's overall ability, all systems have been go for the Cowboys making a good run this season.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) - In what is a different scene on the team this year, it appears that the defense is doing extremely well while Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy aren't producing the same kind of results that they were last year. However, this could change. The new addition in Darren Sproles has worked for them, and a team getting used to speedy possession is working in small steps. Could we see a Super Bowl in the cards for them this year?
New York Giants (3-4) - I won't lie, these guys looked like crap in so many ways in the first half of the season. Don't get me wrong, there were some great moments, but the inconsistency is such an eyesore. Plus, a loss in Victor Cruz isn't exactly the best thing to happen to the team's morale. Their woes on both ends could continue for the second half of the season.
Washington Redskins (3-5) - Sooooo... RG3 is gone again. However, this doesn't mean that second stringer Kirk Cousins is going to be flimsy. Not everything is going right in this area, especially with the team name and such. In a very heated division, with a difficult schedule in the second half, things might just go downhill for the people in DC.
Detroit Lions (6-2) - Holy crap, Golden Tate. Oh, and holy crap, defense. The Lions look like true contenders all across the board in the NFC. The offense might be shaky at times, especially with injuries and problems with the run, but as long as the defense stays healthy, we could see some fireworks.
Green Bay Packers (5-3) - Their defense totally sucks with the run, but it's clear that we have Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers, and the offense is totally making up for the suffering on the other side of the ball. Eddy Lacy and the others on the receiving end are totally turning it up for the team, and this should be able to help them drive into late January.
Chicago Bears (3-5) - Jay Cutler and company aren't exactly having a terrible year, per se, but it could be much worse. The defense has had struggles as of late, and there have been tough breaks all throughout the season so far on offense. Their latest lashing against New England didn't help them very much. With divisional games to end out their season, it's all or nothing.
Minnesota Vikings (3-5) - When the Vikings want to score, they most certainly will. However, that's about it. The defense can only handle so much, and without Adrian Peterson to help them out on offense, things have been incredibly inconsistent.
(Ladies and gentlemen, this is my fifth NFL Midseason Slant. In my time writing in this blog, I have never seen a division that was as toilet-worthy as this. What the actual flip.)
Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) - Injuries have really plagued this team, and to be honest, the stats on these guys really don't show how much effort these guys are putting into every game. Cam Newton is still a heck of a quarterback, being dual in the run and pass. Too bad that there are times in which he doesn't have an option, and the defenses have a difficult time adjusting to plays from the opposition. Again, they look decent on paper, but sometimes that makes no difference.
New Orleans Saints (3-4) - When you have a strong offense, you tend to want to point the finger at the defense and special teams. This isn't the case, believe it or not. A lot of it is coming up short and not being able to capitalize on opportunity. Games that should have been won weren't, and except for one or two games, the Saints look like they can't be contenders. But in a division like this, anything is possible. Just...stay healthy, offense. Keep doing what you're doing.
Atlanta Falcons (2-6) - How? You have a relatively good offense with a slough of talent in QB and in wide receivers, but they can struggle. Plus, blowing leads have been the name of the game for the Falcons, and with a very hole-y defense, this record is expected for a team that almost seemingly lets opportunities go once the second half rolls around. The second half is their redemption time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) - Professional football in the state of Florida (save Miami) makes me sad. I put up with this crap last year when both the Bucs and Jags were 0-8, and it almost seems like a return to Los Angeles may be imminent. Statistically, they have one of the weakest defenses in the NFL, and they have such an inability to move up the field. Things can only get worse from here.
Arizona Cardinals (6-1) - Everything really seems to be working here in 'Zona. The big story here is the fact that they can make huge plays, capitalize on mistakes, and come in the clutch. A team that stays hot in that area can't burn out very easily. Carson Palmer has numerous options in the pocket. Defenses are making the run look stupid, and a lot of the teams they have faced as of late specialize in it. Looks to be the same way for the future. This should be fun.
San Francisco 49ers (4-3) - It's the same old story with the defense, which isn't a bad thing. The only problem with Frisco is their options on offense, almost like Kaepernick has a problem with seeing the field and making clear plays. Once the team gets back to form in the health sector, we could see a good second half surge from these guys.
Seattle Seahawks (4-3) - Yes, they won the Super Bowl last season. So what? The offense isn't making as many big plays as they did last year (which, in fact, they were golden in that area last year), but that isn't necessarily a reason for alarm. If they can still roll with the tough customers, they shouldn't have any problems keeping a lead and fighting back. Hey, 12th man, they might need you even more this year to keep the reputation.
St. Louis Rams (2-5) - The struggles seemingly continue for these guys. Their season hasn't been a complete disaster--they've kept up with a lot of contending teams, but it seems like what they do isn't exactly enough. So don't let stats and standings fool you. They're just rather unlucky with where they are right now. If there's one team that can play a spoiler from here on out, the Rams could be the kings of this area.
Well, we're halfway there (maybe living on a prayer) but we've yet to see the best from these teams in the NFL. Hopefully there won't be any more ridiculous media events for the next two months--especially involving couples costumes of Ray Rice and his wife. Again, I could go on forever about this stuff.
I'll see y'all in this area NEXT YEAR...which at this rate, will be in about a week and a half. Ha ha ha
The times, they are a'changing...unless you're the New England Patriots.