Spotlighting the Biggest Trends Midway Through the NFL Season
Trends rule the NFL.
Every season, we notice trends—and miss others—that can give us insight into the future or are merely interesting to note. Whether it is a tight end revolution or a precipitous change in base-defensive alignments, the NFL can be as trendy as Hollywood fashion at times.
What are some of this season's trends? Click through to find out.
The Rookie Quarterback Storm
It was not difficult to predict the success of the 2012 NFL draft's top two picks.
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have delivered on their promise already, even if those deliveries have not translated to many victories thus far. Griffin has been particularly dynamic, playing well enough to legitimately enter the MVP conversation.
Luck has not been as amazing, but he has been quite good for the Colts.
What was more difficult to gauge was the initial success other rookie quarterbacks might have. None of the remaining three rookie starters at the position—Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson—were guaranteed their respective first-string jobs heading into the preseason.
All three performed well enough to earn the top spot—though Weeden might have had an easier path to the gig—and all have blossomed early to varying degrees.
When the dust settles in a few years, the 2012 draft class might be the best one since 1983. They are off to a good start.
Rarely does a team that wins free agency go on to wild success the following season. Last year's "Dream Team" in Philadelphia might have been a prime example, but it seems we need a reminder every season.
While many predicted an improvement for the Bills—including yours truly—after landing free agency's biggest defensive prize in Mario Williams, the on-field results have been absolutely disastrous.
The same can be said for many free-agent acquisitions thus far this season. Pierre Garçon was signed to a big contract in Washington only to disappear with a foot injury after one good game. While it may be unfair to count an injured player among the free-agent flops, he is merely another example.
About the only big-time free-agent acquisitions that have made significant impacts are Peyton Manning and Vincent Jackson, and their teams are in dogfights within their divisions right now.
Fantasy Scoring Down
Last season, we saw an unprecedented scoring boom in the fantasy football realm. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees led the onslaught, as defenses appeared ill-prepared to start the season after the lockout severely shortened offseason and preseason activities.
How has fantasy scoring held up from year to year? At this point, all offensive players totaled 13,585 standard fantasy points. This season, going into the Thursday night tilt in Minnesota, the figure was down to 13,321 points, a 264-point drop-off from a year ago.
Doug Martin, Josh Freeman and Adrian Peterson did their best to bridge that gap, but scoring is certainly down on the whole.
That might not seem like a lot when taking into consideration there are hundreds of players tallying fantasy scores, but the vast majority of them have scored in the single digits through seven games.
It seems that defenses have indeed bounced back this season. The downturn in fantasy scoring is highlighted by poorly performing dynamos thus far. Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and LeSean McCoy are some examples of guys whose fantasy performances have fallen short of expectations.
Even Rodgers got off to a poor start before turning it on in recent weeks.
Conventional wisdom has been turned on its head this season when it comes to our perception of injuries and timetables for return.
Bucs activate Da'Quan Bowers for tonight's game. That was fast. Six months Achilles tear comeback.—NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL), October 25, 2012
Tweets like that have been seen with regard to a multitude of players. Terrell Suggs recently returned from the same injury in the same amount of time, playing a fantastic game against the Texans in his first action of the season.
Of course, the poster child for miraculous recoveries is none other than the Purple Jesus: Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings running back tore his ACL and MCL at the end of December in 2011—nine months before the next season began. No matter to "All Day," who came back and is running better than ever.
Rashard Mendenhall had a similarly quick recovery, though the Steelers brought him along a bit more slowly.
Modern medicine is truly a marvel. At what point will we stop marveling at the quick turnaround for some of these injuries?
Liz, Frank and Plantar
They are an underrated part of the game—it is called "foot" ball, after all—and there have been a rash of foot injuries this season. Lisfranc injuries have been particularly problematic this season, much like oblique injuries seemed to plague professional baseball players last season.
Mike Freeman of CBS Sports took notice earlier this season:
It has been one of the more unusual stories in sports: the rash of Lisfranc injuries suffered by NFL players this month.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury. Runner Cedric Benson suffered the same issue, as did Carolina center Ryan Kalil. All of those injuries happened within the span of about a week or so. Last year, Matt Schaub had the same injury, and in 2007, so did Dwight Freeney.
This is an amazing thing, actually. The prevailing belief is that the rash of Lisfranc injuries is total coincidence. I'm in that camp, as are doctors and league people I've spoken to.
Lisfranc injuries are not the only malady sweeping the feet of NFL players this season; the plantar fascia has joined the fray.
Pierre Garçon has been out since Week 1 with a torn tendon in that area. Sean Lee was recently put on injured reserve for a more severe version of the injury.
The Jaguars are holding out hope that Maurice Jones-Drew's foot injury is not season-ending.
When will the madness end?