As the NFL has reached the halfway point of the season, give or take a few bye teams, it's as good a time as any to look at the pleasant surprises and total disappointments of the first half of the year.
Getting into the Halloween spirit, let's take a gander at some of the Tricks and Treats of the first half of the NFL season.
What rhymes with Trick? Yes, that's Michael Vick. Vick has been one of the absolute biggest Tricks of the NFL season, making Eagles fans go crazy with his questionable decisions and subpar ball security. Vick has thrown eight interceptions and has been credited with five lost fumbles on the season, and the Eagles have only played seven games!
To be fair, Vick has led the Eagles on several comeback drives this season, but those came in games Philadelphia had no business being behind in the first place. Vick's offensive line has been decimated by injuries to some starters, with others being completely ineffective. Maybe you can't blame Vick for being such a haunting Trick for Eagles fans, yet still, his time as the starter these last two years has been a lot of Tricks, with very few Treats.
Staying in the division, Vick may not even be the NFC East's biggest Trick. Tony Romo has thrown 13 interceptions and has 15 total turnovers through seven games. Sure, some of the interceptions may not have been his fault, but receivers running the wrong routes or balls being deflected don't help a quarterback who is already on thin ice in a town that demands excellence.
It may be unfair to call Romo a bigger trick than Vick. He has a completion percentage close to 66 percent, good for seventh in the NFL. Still, the Dallas ranks 25th in the NFL in scoring and his nine touchdowns passes through seven games is not going to get that average up anytime soon.
Heading into the season, some people thought Romo may be the best quarterback in his division. Halfway through the year, he's battling to avoid being the worst. That's as big a Trick as they come.
It's easy to run down a list of quarterbacks to fill out the Trick list, but some of them probably don't deserve to be there because, frankly, they weren't tricking anyone this year. Matt Cassel has been horrible, something nearly every NFL pundit saw coming.
The two-headed monster in New York has been a laughable excuse for a quarterback situation. If Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow were Halloween giveaways, Sanchez would be a box of raisins and Tebow would be that stupid bag of pennies your old shut-in neighbor always gives out. They weren't even particularly shiny ones, either. What is a little kid going to do with a bag of pennies?!? Rex Ryan sure hasn't figured it out.
Of course, the most polarizing Trick on the list would have to be Cam Newton, who is presiding over one of the worst offenses in the league. Carolina is 20th in the league in yards per game and 26th in points per game, a far cry from where fans expected the Panthers offense to be this season.
In fact, you can add Carolina running backs to the list as well. DeAngelo Williams has just 210 yards on the season, while Jonathan Stewart has even fewer, totaling 184. Newton actually has more than both of them, with 310 through seven games. As a team, Carolina is 13th in the league in both yards per carry and yards per game. They have been a big, disappointing Trick.
The biggest Trick to this point in the season may be a bigger Trick than Vick or Romo or Newton or anyone else on the list. Calvin Johnson may be called Megatron, but he's been dressed up like someone else all season.
Johnson has 41 receptions for 638 yards this season, by no means paltry numbers for a wide receiver. That said, he has just one touchdown reception on the year. After scoring 16 last season, one trip to the end zone is certainly a Trick that no Lions fans—or fantasy owners—want him to keep performing.
Johnson's lone touchdown reception came on a pass from backup Shaun Hill. He has just one game with double-digit receptions—the game Hill came in to replace Matthew Stafford—and in his last four games, Johnson has just one with more than five catches or over 55 yards receiving.
Megatron isn't just a Halloween Trick, he's a total nightmare.
So, how can we get those frightful seasons out of our heads? With some Treats of course!
The first treat of the 2012 NFL season is an assortment, like those giant bags of Skittles and Starburst and Nerds where you take out all the good stuff and leave your visitors with nothing but junk you don't like.
In the 2012 NFL rookie class of quarterbacks, there isn't that much junk not to like. Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck have already lived up to the hype, just halfway through their first seasons.
Griffin has 14 total touchdowns and has accounted for more than 2,250 yards through the air and on the ground. Luck's numbers haven't been quite as good, but he does have over 2,000 yards combined with 11 total touchdowns. Most importantly for both the Redskins and the Colts, the teams are competitive and, frankly, may scare a few teams ahead of them in the standings.
While certainly the most high profile, Griffin and Luck aren't the only two rookie signal-callers who are looking like Treats this year. Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson are proving their detractors wrong this season. If that can continue, it would be the ultimate Treat for their fans.
Speaking of the ultimate Treat, it has to be the guy in Denver this season. Peyton Manning is halfway to being the NFL's MVP, while his brother Eli has been no slouch in his own right, leading the Giants to a 6-2 record with late-game heroics that are becoming his staple. Ben Roethlisberger has also been a big Treat in Pittsburgh, as the remodeled offense continues to thrive by passing the ball on essentially every single down. With every running back on the roster playing on one leg, if playing at all, much of the load has fallen on Roethlisberger, who has done his best to deliver.
There are other Treats, for sure. Doug Martin has been a treat in Tampa, perhaps eclipsed only by Alfred Morris in Washington.
If you want to talk running back Treats, though, there's a giant purple defense-eater in Minnesota who is the biggest Treat of the season. Adrian Peterson is back.
Peterson leads the NFL in yards per carry and total rushing yards. He has not missed a beat all season after recovering from knee surgery that had people wondering if he'd even contribute until halfway through the year. Most importantly, Peterson has the Vikings back contending again, which is the biggest Treat for Minnesotans of all.
Let's not forget his teammate up north, either. Percy Harvin has struggled to stay healthy as well and, like Peterson, has led the Minnesota resurgence this season. Harvin leads the league in receptions and is 10th in yards per game. Harvin has three receiving touchdowns on the season to go with one rushing TD (on 18 carries for 72 yards) and boasts a 35.7-yard-per-kick-return average, buoyed by a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
There are a lot of other Tricks and Treats so far this season. Surely the 49ers and Bears defensive units deserve more praise as Tricks and undoubtedly more struggling quarterbacks—Philip Rivers, I look in your general direction—are bigger Tricks than earlier suggested.
Still, this is a good list of some of the best and worst so far this year. Promise you won't get any of them stuck in your teeth.
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