Most of my attention has been focused on the baseball playoffs for the past month. So now, I will take a look at where the NFL stands at midseason.
There are still two undefeated teams: The Colts and the Saints. The Colts aren’t really a huge surprise since this is the third time in the past five years they’ve started 8-0 and with Peyton Manning, they’re always a title contender. The Saints are more of a surprise, since everyone thought they’d have a good offense, but their defense has far surpassed expectations. I had picked them to finish third in their division and miss the playoffs, but I guess I was wrong about that.
Actually, I was wrong about quite a bit, which isn’t all that surprising. And honestly, for many teams, it’s still too early too tell how good they’ll ultimately be. Unless a team is completely buried (and there are quite a few like that out there) the season doesn’t really start to pan out until after Thanksgiving.
Keeping that in mind, at the halfway point, what was I right about?
I correctly predicted the Tampa Bay Bucs, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cleveland Browns would be awful. This prediction isn’t that impressive since it was fairly obvious that those teams would suck. I also predicted the Bears would disappoint and the Cardinals would have trouble sustaining their Super Bowl success. I thought the Titans would slip as well, although not as much as they have. And I correctly pegged the Redskins as being a bad team, although I never imagined they would be this bad.
Between their “black hearted” owner, their incompetent GM, and their unqualified coach, the Redskins may be the worst run franchise in the NFL right now. I used to revel in delight at the suffering of Redskins fans, but they’ve become so depressed, I can’t even take much joy out of it. The worst part for Redskins fans is the lack of hope. It’s one thing to be a bad team, but the Redskins are a bad, old, expensive team. It’s hard to identify more than one or two players who might be considered “rising talents.”
Now then, what did I get wrong?
It might be early, but my Super Bowl pick of Ravens vs. Packers probably won’t happen. While both teams still have a shot at the playoffs, neither has looked championship caliber. When picking the Packers, I failed (as many prognosticators do) to take into account their poor offensive line. As for the Ravens, their offense has been strong, but the defense has been surprisingly vulnerable. Of the two teams, I think the Ravens have a better shot at getting to the championship game.
Other teams I overrated:
The New York Giants – It’s clear that without Plaxico Burress, Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback. Their defense has been surprisingly soft as well.
Seattle Seahawks – This team can’t seem to stay healthy.
Oakland Raiders – I thought they might not be horrible. They are. How did the Eagles lose to them?
Buffalo Bills – The most surprising thing is how T.O. hasn’t really made an impact one way or another.
And on the other hand, some other teams I underrated:
Cincinnati Bengals – Maybe Carson Palmer is finally fully healthy?
Denver Broncos – There’s reason to suspect that they’ve been lucky more than good though, and that their luck may be running out.
San Franciso 49ers – Not a great team, but certainly improved.
Minnesota Vikings – OK, so Brett Favre has worked out for them…so far. Keep in mind he had a good first half of the season in 2008 too. Let’s see how he does down the stretch. Although working in his favor is the fact that he might get to play playoff games only in domes which would help him considerably.
As for the state of the NFC East…
Despite their recent shoddy play, I’m not ruling the Giants out of contention. I’ve seen teams look worse than they have at midseason and still be able to pull it together.
The Cowboys are currently in first place after they beat the Eagles on Monday night. Then again, that win had as much to do with poor coaching decisions by Andy Reid, poor execution by the Eagles, and some insanely bad calls by the refs. Everyone seems ready to say that Tony Romo has turned a corner and is now ready to be an elite QB. Once again, people trip over themselves to praise this guy. Why don’t we wait and see how he does in December and January where he’s been a complete failure over the past three years?
And then there’s the Eagles. They’re 5-3 at midseason, which looks good enough, but considering their easy schedule thus far, they should really be 6-2 at the worst. On their good weeks, they’re making big plays all over the field, highlighted by DeSean Jackson’s long catches. However, it’s becoming very clear that unless they score on a big play, they don’t seem to be able to sustain a drive.
The biggest problem has been the absence of Brian Westbrook. He’s been injured and missed several games with both an ankle injury and a concussion. Rookie backup LeSean McCoy has played well, but has also played like a rookie at times and made key mistakes. Unless Westbrook can get back to being a reliable player, the Eagles may continue to suffer some offensive outages.
Is there hope? Sure. Like I said, nobody in the division has really stepped up, so a playoff spot is there for the taking. There are also some reasons for optimism: Andy Reid teams tend to play better in the second half of the year; since trading for LB Will Witherspoon the defense has looked much better; and hopefully as the season progresses, the Eagles young offensive players will mature. As for QB Donovan McNabb, maybe he’ll shake the inconsistency that’s plagued him this year (and to be fair, that might be related to the broken rub he suffered in week one), but then again, this is Donovan McNabb we’re talking about. He’s going to have some games where he looks great, and he’s going to have some games where he makes inexplicable decisions and is horrifically inaccurate.
In the end, I think the Eagles finish 10-6 and get a playoff spot. It might be a division title (and probably the NFC’s 3rd seed) or it might be a Wild Card. It will probably depend on how the other teams in the division do.
Of course, I might just be as wrong about all of this as I was in my season preview.