Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NFL Thoughts: October 2012

(continued from my October Predictions here)

It's interesting to see that this division has the Pats, Jets, and Dolphins all tied at 2-2. At a glance you would believe that it will be a close race to the division title, but don't be fooled. The Patriots still own this division. They've just had troubles with the bird teams they've played, but in all fairness to them, the Ravens and the Cardinals are two of the toughest teams in the league right now. It goes to show that the Patriots aren't immortal right now, but they will pull it together and dominate, especially since they only have three legitimate contenders left on their schedule. The rest of their schedule is cake. The Jets are struggling just like I thought they would. In the last three weeks, their offense has scored a grand total of two touchdowns. If they want to make people believe they're competing they have to at least put up a fight against teams like the Niners and Steelers. It might be a long season for Jets fans. The Dolphins are a bit of a mystery right now. Yes they are 1-3, but two of those losses came in overtime and the third came against the Texans, a team that has blown through everyone so far. They could turn out to be the pesky team that everyone overlooks due to a poor record but that many teams have a problem getting through. I could also see them pulling off some major upsets and cause some headaches to teams trying to fight for a playoff spot or playoff positioning. Lastly, don't sleep on the Bills yet. They have a good cast of players right now. They have proven this past month that they aren't yet at a playoff caliber level, but when they are given mediocre opposition, they shouldn't have a very hard time. Lucky for them, most of their schedule includes mediocre teams, so they might sneak up on everyone by competing for a wild card spot.

Every year this race seems to come down to the Ravens versus Steelers and this year won't be any different. The Ravens pulling off a win against the Patriots gives them the head start in the race and with the Steelers falling to the Raiders before their bye week, the Ravens have the early edge and I anticipate it will be difficult for the Steelers to overtake them. Now every so often the Bengals insert themselves as a contender for this division crown and at 3-1 it appears that this year is another one of those years. However, their three wins come against the Browns, Jaguars, and Redskins. Next up they have the Dolphins and the Browns again. So they could be 5-1, but at that point they actually be challenged and the way I am seeing it, a Bengals collapse is almost certain. They could start out 5-1 and end up with only 6 or 7 wins on the season with the way their schedule is. But who knows, maybe this young team will take the next step and start competing. The Browns are the last team in this division and at 0-4, their season is already over. The one bright thing they have is Trenton Richardson. He will be a beast. But hopefully they can put a team around him.

No surprise here. The Texans are 4-0 and quite honestly I think the race for the division title is already over. The Texans have so many weapons right now that it will cause headaches for opposing coaches trying to gameplan for them. Focus on pass defense and they will kill you with running. Focus on run defense and they will kill you with passing. Lock down Andre Johnson and they will just throw to someone else (which makes it annoying to own him in my fantasy football league). Try to win in a shootout and their amazing defense will shut you down. The only race in this division will be the Colts, Jaguars, and Titans fighting for draft positioning at the end of the season. Andrew Luck was a good pickup for the Colts, but it'll take a while to build that team up again.

Ladies and gentleman, Peyton Manning is back! Last year the Broncos were riding on the pure luck joy ride of Tim Tebow, this year they have much more security with Peyton and should be able to pull off a divisional title and possibly even have a good playoff run. It won't be a walk in the park though because the Chargers are off to an electrifying start. This haven't always gone well with Phillip Rivers the last few years, but when he and the rest of the Chargers bring their A game, they are tough to beat. The Chiefs and the Raiders look to be the odd teams out this year in the AFC West after a tough chase by everyone last season. Things in Kansas City look especially bleak because rumors are already spreading that a quarterback change could be coming soon and that is never a good sign. The Raiders have been quite the interesting story the last several years. I think if they would just stick with a coach for longer than a year they could do good, but no. The interesting thing about this year for them, though is that even though they have been playing bad, I wouldn't completely count them out just yet. They have a really easy stretch in the middle of their schedule that could cause them to sneak up on the others in the division.

Just like I thought, this division is turning out to be a dog fight. I have confidence that the Giants can still pull out on top, though. They have a habit of waiting till the end of the season to turn on their motors. Right now it looks as if the Eagles will be the biggest competition. It's been very impressive the way they have pulled out a 3-1 start while playing so poorly. After being so turnover prone in their first three games and having that catch up to them in a blowout by the Cardinals, it looked like they were done for, but then they pulled it together and knocked of the Giants who were on fire the two games previous. If they can keep it together a divisional title is a big possibility, but that is a big if. RG3 looks like he will work out quite well for the Redskins as he is off to a great start to his career. I just don't know if this year is his year, but he looks like he will be a fun player to watch for many years to come. Then there is the Cowboys. The game against the Bears will surely spark the Tony Romo debate again. Is he a good quarterback? Sure. He is very talented at playing just good enough to keep his job, but if he can't stop throwing interceptions I really don't know how long he is going to last. Each year Cowboy fans are given the hope that this is the year Romo and the Cowboys make a playoff run, but each year they disappoint. This year is no different. I mean I know that the Bears are a good team with a great defense, but 5 interceptions is not acceptable.

This division comes with our first big surprise of the season. You have the Bears, the Lions, and the Packers all thought to be big powerhouses and who is on top? Well, the Bears are. But right up there in a tie with the Bears are the the Minnesota Vikings. Whowouldathunkit? And with that it's not just a scheduling fluke that they are on top. They have wins against the Niners and Lions. Adrian Peterson is looking like his normal self right now when no one expected him to after destroying his knee last season. And how about Christian Ponder? It was a big risk to select him with such a high draft pick a couple years back, but it looks like it may turn out good for the Vikings. Now do I think that the Vikings will keep this up and win the division? Actually I don't. I think the Packers will kick it into gear and the Bears will keep on rolling and those two will fight it out for the title. But I think the Vikings can challenge for a wild card spot. Speaking of the Bears, how about that Brandon Marshall? He gives the Bears a receiving game and the Bears with a receiving game is a really scary team. Finally, the Lions might be the biggest disappointment so far. It looks as if the Madden Curse has stuck again. No, Calvin Johnson isn't really being effected, but the rest of his team is. The defense was supposed to be better, but is worse. The running game hasn't got going and so everything relies on the passing game, making them one dimensional. But Matt Stafford, while he is getting passing yards, hasn't been good at getting passing touchdowns. If the Lions don't pick it up here quick, they may quickly find themselves out of the race

The story of this division is that of the Saints. All this drama over the offseason looks like it has completely destroyed them. I thought that they would struggle, but I didn't think that they would struggle this much. 0-4? And with their upcoming schedule, they could realistically be 0-7. What is the biggest lesson this teaches? Having a good head coach is essential to winning. Lose your head coach for the year and you will have a tough road ahead of you. The Saints desperately need Sean Payton back. But he ain't coming back, so they are in for a long year. I honestly think that they do have some fight in them though. As far as the playoffs go I think their season is over, but they will fight and they will win games. You won't see them with the number one pick in next year's draft. They showed some signs of life against the Packers last week, so that is a plus. As far as the rest of this division goes, nothing is a surprise. The Falcons have a great team and already have the division crown won. It'll be interesting to see if they can actually do something in the playoffs, though, because they have never been great in the playoffs. The Panthers and the Bucs struggling also isn't surprising. Those who thought Cam Newton would lead them to a Super Bowl win were foolish. Despite being good last year, he couldn't win them games and it looks like the same story this year. He has a lot of work to do.

This is where I admit that I was wrong. I originally predicted the Cardinals to be the worst team in the NFL. Oops. One month in and they have already equaled the win total that I predicted they would get. Despite that, though, I still think this is the Niners' division to lose. However, Niners and Cardinals games will become very fun to watch. The rest of the division ain't too shabby either. Jeff Fisher has his Rams playing decent. I think they will be right in the 7-8 win column like I predicted them to be. The Seahawks have also impressed, although I think they are the team that will get left in the dust. Their defense has been good, but their offense has lacked. Russell Wilson has impressed, but has also had his rookie moments and will continue to have them. They are 2-2 right now, but let's be honest. With that Packers game, they should really be 1-3. Close losses to divisional rivals Cardinals and Rams really hurts. And things don't get any easier for them. Will Pete Carroll be on the hotseat after the season? Or will he once again to just enough to keep his job? Only time will tell.

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