As the NFL reaches the halfway point of its season, there have been quite a few surprises. We all knew that the Washington Redskins wouldn’t tear it up this season, but even the Vegas odds makers couldn’t imagine that the Burgundy and Gold would screw up the way they have. Hands down, the Skins had the easiest first half schedule out of any NFL team. The Redskins first six opponents were all winless (an NFL Record), yet they lost four of those games. Need I say more? One major surprise was the Tennessee Titans. After an impressive 13-3 2008 season, the Titans are an abysmal 2-6 and probably the most disappointing team in the NFL to date. How about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? No one could have predicted that they would get their first win in week nine. At 8-0, the Saints have the city of New Orleans dancing in the streets. The Saints high-powered offense and stingy defense makes them “The Greatest Show on Turf” version 2.0. The solid play of the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are making strong cases of being for real. Although there are other NFL teams that have under and over achieved, the aforementioned teams stood out in my mind. With that being said, let’s go to my mid-season NFL report card:
Arizona Cardinals (5-3) C+ : The Cardinals are 4-0 on the road and 1-3 at home. In a weak NFC West, the defending NFC champs should win it’s division but the team’s inconsistent play at home could provide an early playoff exit.
Atlanta Falcons (5-3) C+ : The Falcons have slipped as of late but the team is still solid enough to make a playoff run. The team has quality wins over Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. Losing to New England, Dallas and New Orleans proves that the “Dirty Birds” aren’t champion contenders yet.
Baltimore Ravens (4-4) C-: The first three weeks of the season, the Baltimore Ravens looked like “World Beaters” with a stout offense and solid defensive play. Six weeks later, Baltimore is still enduring a huge reality check. The once dependable defense is showing no sign of life; the offensive is failing and if they don’t turn it around, the Ravens will be watching the playoffs from home.
Buffalo Bills (3-5) D: I have seven words…”GIVE TERRELL OWENS THE DAMN BALL PLEASE!”
Carolina Panthers (3-5) D: The Panthers are in a transition period. With five touchdowns passes, 13 interceptions and an injured chest, it’s clear that Jake Delhomme’s body is breaking down this season. At 3-5 in a tough NFC South Division, Carolina has just about a zero chance at winning a playoff spot this season.
Chicago Bears (4-4) C-: At 4-4, Chicago is still in the hunt for a playoff spot, but can Jay Cutler stay composed enough to guide the Bears there? Throwing 12 interceptions and getting sacked 19 times ain’t going to cut it champ!
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) B: Sunday’s big win over Baltimore has the Bengals operating on all cylinders despite being without the services of Chris Henry who is out for the season. Chad Ochocinco is holding his weight by putting up great numbers so far. If his production continues, number 85 will finish the season with almost 1300 yards receiving and double digit touchdown receptions. At the half-way point, Cincinnati owns the tie breaker over the 6-2 Steelers. They can sweep the season series next week in Pittsburgh.
Cleveland Browns (1-7) F: The Browns are leaning towards starting Brady Quinn against the struggling Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. This might be the start of something new for the Browns who are cellar dwellers in the AFC North. Too bad the Cleveland fans might not be able to watch the game on TV due to a blackout. The team is several thousand tickets from selling out Monday night’s game. The TV Blackout deadline is 8:30 pm Friday.
Dallas Cowboys (6-2) B+: No T.O.? No problem. Miles Austin to the rescue. I think the Cowboys have found a diamond in the rough. Austin is turning into a big play receiver and it was evident with the game winning TD catch against Philly. With that win against the Eagles, Dallas is on top of the NFC East and riding a four game win streak. During the streak, the interception machine Tony Romo has only one pick. With the defense beginning to gel and Austin’s explosiveness, Dallas is a true force in the NFC. Cowboy’s fans better hope that Romo can maintain it in the playoffs.
Denver Broncos (6-2) B: Monday night’s loss against Pittsburgh should motivate the Broncos to stay focus on the goal at hand, a championship. The fact that they play Washington next week and the Chargers are right on its heels should be motivation enough. Denver’s high powered defense as well as a stable offense should fuel this team to a division title and possibly a first round by in the playoffs.
Detroit Lions (1-7) F: If it weren’t for the generosity of the Washington Redskins, the Detroit Lions would be riding a 25 game losing streak dating back to the last game of the 2007 season. Losing five straight,barring the win over Washington, the Lions might’ve reach the 0-25 plateau. Can’t blame it on Matt Millen anymore.
Green Bay Packers (4-4) C-: Losing to a 0-7 Tampa team is bad enough but squandering a double digit lead in the forth quarter to an inferior team is totally unacceptable. The O-line is having a hard time protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers allowing him to be sacked 37 times so far this season. I guess the “Curse of Brett Favre” is in full effect. It’s time for the “Cheese Heads” to push the panic button.
Houston Texans (5-4) C+: Matt Schaub is currently the seventh rank quarterback in the NFL and tied for first in TD passes. His hot start along with league leading wide receiver Andre Johnson, the Texans’ offense is ranked third overall in the NFL. On the flip side, Houston’s defense is ranked 28th and that won’t bode well in trying to make a playoff push.
Indianapolis Colts (8-0) A: Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts continue to win games despite Tony Dungy’s departure from team. The undefeated Colts have a well balanced attack on both sides of the ball, ranking in the top 10 in both offense and defense. Not only can Indy score but through nine weeks, they allowed the fewest points in the NFL. Indianapolis will face its toughest test when they host their rival, New England on Sunday night.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) C-: The 4-4 record is deceptive. Wins over Tennessee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Houston and losses against Indianapolis, Arizona, Seattle and Tennessee shows that the Jaguars aren’t ready for the playoffs. Look for Jacksonville to be a .500 team at season’s end.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) F: The Chiefs are in total disarray from top to bottom and their schedule in the second half doesn’t get any better. With Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Cincy, Denver (twice), Buffalo and Cleveland coming up….I see a 3-13 finish in KC’s future.
Miami Dolphins (3-5) C: Six words…”SHUT UP AND PLAY JOEY PORTER!”
Minnesota Vikings (7-1) A-: How good is Brett Favre? This guy is back to being the gun slinger of old. The guy is 40 years old playing like he’s in his prime. Favre punk’d Green Bay, his old team on and off the field and Viking’s Nation has aspirations of a Super Bowl title. It’s doesn’t hurt that they have the human highlight reel in Adrian Peterson on the roster. This Vikings team will be hard to break come playoff time.
New England Patriots (6-2) B: A healthy Tom Brady, an inspired Randy Moss and a 2 game divisional lead equals another AFC East title. Look for the Pats to cruise in the second half of the season but come playoff time…business as usual.
New Orleans Saints (8-0) A+: By far the biggest surprise in the NFL is the Saints explosion on offense and defense. Drew Brees leadership on the field is in full effect as the Saints offense is operating like a well oiled machine, scoring at will. Coach Gregg Williams’ has the Saints defense believing in his system and as a result the defense is ranked seven spots higher from last year. I’m not predicting the Saints to go undefeated this season but don’t expect them to lose no more than two games this season.
New York Jets (4-4) C: New York came out the gate strong winning its first three games including an impressive win at home against the Patriots. Mark Sanchez was the hottest thing since Joe Namath. The beloved rookie was an easy fan favorite. Four losses out of five games later, the love affair is over and reality has settled in. What makes it more difficult is three of the four losses came from its two bottom divisional foes…one against Buffalo and two against Miami.
New York Giants (5-4) C-: The G-Men are falling from the sky. Like their city rivals NY Jets, the Giants started off great. At 5-0, New York looked to make a serious super bowl run. Dropping four games in a row, Giants fans have every reason to worry. Eli manning looks like a rookie, throwing six interceptions during the losing streak and the running game is non-existent. New York has a bye this week and I’m going to quote ESPN’s NFL analyst John Clayton and say… “If the Giants can’t fix their problems during the bye week, their season will go bye-bye”.
Oakland Raiders (2-6) D: “AL DAVIS NEEDS TO GIVE IT UP” …”SELL THE RAIDERS!!!!!”…What? I’m just saying what every Raiders fans is thinking.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) B: The super bowl champs looks solid. I knew that Troy Polamalu was great but I didn’t know how much he meant to that Steelers defense until he got hurt. While sideline with a knee injury, Pittsburgh’s defense looked pedestrian. Polamalu’s return jolted the Steelers’ D back to a top 5 ranking.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) B: Every time you want to believe the Eagles are legit, they disappoint so I will put it out there….as long as Donovan McNabb is the QB, the Eagles will never get over the hump.
St. Louis Rams (1-7) F: It seems like St. Louis has no desire to compete except for the number one draft pick in 2010.
Seattle Seahawks (3-5) D: It’s time for upper management to break this team up and start fresh. The once dominate team of the NFC West is now struggling to reach .500.
San Francisco 49ers (3-5) D: The 3-1 start had all of us believing that coach Mike Singletary’s 49ers would be a force in the NFC. After four consecutive loses, Singletary still have playoff aspirations. Not so fast coach! Let’s start by winning your next game.
San Diego Chargers (5-3) C+: San Diego got a huge confidence boost with a dramatic win over the Giants but if the Chargers want to catch the Broncos for division supremacy, they have to play better on both sides of the ball. Phillip Rivers will keep the team in games but the inconsistencies of running back LaDainian Tomlinson will hinder the team’s playoff push.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7) F: Well at least we know they won’t go 0-16. I don’t think the NFC could stand another winless team in the conference.
Tennessee Titans (2-6) F: Tennessee is 2-0 with Vince Young as the starting quarterback. I’m curious to see if he can turn the team around. What’s baffling is the fact that Coach Jeff Fisher kept soon to be 37 year old Kerry Collins under center for so long. It only proves to the critics that Collins 2008 season was nothing but a fluke.
Washington Redskins (2-6) F: The Redskins look like a team without passion with a quarterback in Jason Campbell that’s spooked. With all of the off-season issues and the fact that this is a contract year for Campbell, one would think that he would try everything in his power to shine. That’s far from the case. At times Campbell has the appearance of a “Deer in Headlights”. The organization has a reputation of a QB killer and Mr. Campbell is its next victim. The team’s horrific offense is incapable of complementing the defense and as a football fan; it’s frustrating to watch them. Look for more mediocrity in the Nation’s Capital.
By Keith Madyun