The halfway mark of the NFL season
Here's a few of my notes:
- The Bengals have already won 2 more games this year than I had predicted they'd win all year. This is due part to the emergence of rookie QB Andy Dalton, who has put together a solid first half. He's developed a pretty good on-field relationship with fellow rookie A.J. Green, who is leading all rookie receivers with 33 receptions, 516 yards and 5 touchdowns. That actually puts him amongst the top 15 receivers in the league.
- Barring a major setback, the Bills are going to far outweigh my expectations as well, though I can't see them doing much in the playoffs. They have a very opportunistic defense that capitalizes on mistakes, but good teams don't make a lot of mistakes in the playoffs.
- The Colts haven't had great D for as long as I can remember, but now with Peyton Manning not playing all year, they've been exposed for being even worse than most fans have feared all along. They're surrendering up a mind-blowing 31.5 points per game.
- The wildcard race in the AFC should be interesting. I assume they will both come out of either the East or North, and it'll be between the Jets, Bills, Ravens and Bengals.
- The biggest surprise in the NFC has been, for me, the 49ers. I had them pegged for a horrible season but they're defense has been shutting everyone down, particularly their run defense. They also have, as a result of several mediocre season recently, an incredibly easy schedule which could easily have them finishing the year 11-5. The West is terrible though, the 49ers are 6-1 and the next closest is Seattle at 2-5. The 49ers do not face the Packers in the regular season, but I could see this being an interesting matchup in the playoffs, because the Packers simply don't bother to run the football.
- I thought the Saints would be better than they have been. They're 5-3, but something seems off. They're not as good as I thought they'd be. Could be due to Mark Ingram not being nearly as good as I'd hoped.
- The Lions are a strong team, but it feels constantly like local fans are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Detroit, as a city and community, needs the Lions to succeed after falling into some pretty hard times. One thing that is encouraging though, is that they have a strong young nucleus of guys that could see them being competitive for the next 3-4 years.
- The biggest surprise from a player perspective has been Cam Newton. I thought he'd be a bum. He's actually quite good. Things will likely change for him next year as teams will have more tape on him, but he's shown to have a big arm and has great mobility. Younger QBs tend to excel with the help of huge receivers but Steve Smith is tiny and Cam hasn't missed a beat