We have finally reached the midseason point in the NFL where every sports reporter acts like whoever the best teams are were their favorites from the start. Seriously, though, could anyone have predicted the high-scoring offense of the Pats? Would anyone believe that there are two undefeated teams thus far? And did anyone see the polar opposite happening with the Dolphins and Rams? I decided to do some digging to compare pre-season analysis with midseason results from some of the top sports analysts in the country.
Hot Teams: Patriots, Colts. Both teams are thus far undefeated, with the Pats dominating other teams by averaging 34 points a game. Randy Moss caught 5 TD passes in 3 games and coach Belichick doesn’t seem to have a problem running up the score. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl champ Colts lead by Peyton “I need more endorsements” Manning are quietly poising themselves for a repeat. They aren’t always winning pretty, but they are winning. Jeff Chihada, ESPN.com reporter, predicted this on the Pats: “The Patriots’ potential is limitless. At the very least, they should win the AFC East again this season. Where they go from there depends on how quickly they come together as a team.” The perfect storm game, Pats vs. Colts, takes place in week 9 in Indy. After that game, Indy has the easier schedule, facing only the Bolts in week 10 and the giant-killer Tennessee Titans at the end of the season, with Tom Brady looking ahead to the Steelers and Giants, both of which are also winning dominantly.
Not Teams:Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams. Both are floating 0-7. Although the Dolphins haven’t had a good year since the end of the Marino era, the Rams are a slight surprise, given their air-out attack and supreme running game from last year led by Stephen Jackson. No one knows what’s going on, but it won’t get any easier. The fins still have to face a surging Pittsburgh team and the Pats in their future, while the Rams have to eyeball the Steelers and the Packers. Sports Illustrated picked the fins to finish 5-11, while John Clayton of ESPN predicted the Rams would finish 2nd in their division.
“Surprise! We’re Still Here!” Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers. For the Steelers, a changing of the guard was going to be the true test. Mike Tomlin stepped up as head coach after Steel Town finally let go of Bill Cowher and his 15 years of service, complete with 1 Super Bowl ring. Although Mike Tomlin was part of the Steelers’ coaching staff, he’s only 35 years old. Yet the Steelers are 5 and 2 with a dominating offense and hard-hitting defense.
Meanwhile, every year that you think Brett Favre is about to retire, he surprises you with a brilliant play here or there, showing he still has the guns. However this year is different because the Packers are actually winning games with flair. Last year they finished a mediocre 8-8, losing their first 4 out of 5. This year the Pack attack has come out strong with one hiccup against the Bears. Who knew Favre still had it in him to inspire the youngsters? Scouts.com didn’t, predicting the Pack would finish 3rd in their division. They also saw the Steelers in the same spot. John Pasquarelli of ESPN said this about the Steelers: “While there are some playmakers (tailback Willie Parker, wide out Hines Ward, emerging wide receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Heath Miller), the offensive line is suspect.” Big Ben has been sacked an average of two times per game which is comparable in the NFL.
“Surprise! Surprise! Hey, Where’s the Party?”Teams: Bengals, Eagles and Chargers. The Bengals weren’t expected to win every game despite their passing game that could rival New England’s, but to show up mid season with only two wins? No wonder Chad Johnson has toned down his celebrations. The Eagles were even expected to be better than the Cowboys this year, yet they are at the bottom of the NFC East with not much wiggle room. And McNabb is still playing! The Chargers, though are really surprising people. Although the have been picking up wins lately, no one predicted that they start off 0-3. Every major sportswriter organization predicted them to finish first in their division, with Sports Illustrated showing them losing only to the New Orleans Saints in the big game.
The Dark Horse: Cleveland. This is my prediction: The Cleveland Browns will make a serious run for the Super Bowl. They are so far 4-3, but they face virtually no one other than the Steelers in their upcoming schedule. Even if the surprise Derek Anderson goes down, Brady Quinn is more than ready to head the helm. The Browns thus far are injury-free and are playing with no pressure. Upon reading the Browns preview from Sports Illustrated, nowhere in there was Derek Anderson mentioned. So far he’s tossed 17 touchdown passes, has only been sacked eight times and has thrown for 1700 yards. That’s more touchdown passes than Peyton Manning, and only 100 or so less yards.