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Fact, Fiction and Farce Heading into NFL Week 10

Richard LangfordCorrespondent INovember 8, 2012

Fact, Fiction and Farce Heading into NFL Week 10

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    Fact: The second half of the season is just getting underway.

    Fiction: There is no cause for concern over the Giants' passing woes.

    Farce: The job security of anyone involved with locking Jerry Jones out of the locker room.

    The worst part about a 17-week season is that there is not a clear midway point. Does the NFL have no concern for people trying to do first-half awards?

    So I'm calling this the halfway point, and this week's edition of Fact, Fiction and Farce will end with a first-half wrap-up as I identify the best team, linebacker and player in football.

Rex Ryan Is Overrated

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    Verdict: False

    Even inside the poll that asserted that Rex Ryan was the league's most overrated coach, that title makes no sense.

    If you haven't seen it, in a midseason Sporting News player poll, which comes to us via Business Week, Jets coach Rex Ryan was voted the most overrated among his peers.

    But get this, in the same poll, Tim Tebow was voted as the most overrated player and Mark Sanchez the second-most overrated player.

    It's not like Sanchez is getting a lot of praise this season, for him to be voted the second-most overrated, he has to be supremely terrible.

    So the poll essentially acknowledges that Ryan is working with a terrible starting quarterback and an insanely overrated punt protector/epic distraction in Tim Tebow.

    In light of that, is 3-5 terrible? If you don't think so yet, there's more.

    The Jets lost their best player in Darrelle Revis and their best receiver in Santonio Holmes for the season to injury. 

    This is a team that is essentially playing without a single big-time impact player. What is Ryan supposed to do? 

    I get that Ryan gets a ton of media attention, but he is doing an excellent job keeping this patchwork group competitive.

It Is Time to Back off Michael Vick?

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    Verdict: Fact

    To be honest with everyone, if I were Michael Vick, after about the eighth consecutive play getting buried into the turf last Monday night against the Saints, I would have been telling the training staff that I strained my eyelid or something and could no longer play.

    I can't recall seeing a quarterback get hit more often in a game. Vick had to be counting his blessings when he completed a handoff without hitting the turf. He is taking the heaviest beating of any quarterback in the NFL.

    He has been sacked 27 times and hit a league-worst 71 times. I don't know how he can still sit up, let alone play football.

    It's not going to get any better for him, either. As ESPN reported, right tackle Todd Herremans has been placed on injured reserve, and he was one of the few pieces of the line that was working. Let's not all forget that he is the blind-side protector for the left-handed Vick.

    Look, Vick hasn't looked quite right all year, and he has coughed the ball up way too often, but he is in an impossible situation, and it is admirable he is even still playing.

The Minnesota Vikings Will Make the Playoffs

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    Verdict: Fiction

    The Vikings need to begin to Christian Ponder their plan for next season because this one is going nowhere. After a fast start, the Vikings are sinking, and their eternally lost-in-thought quarterback is a big reason why.

    Minnesota is 5-4 and right in the thick of the playoff race, but it has lost three of its last four and the losing ways are going to continue.

    The defense has lost its edge. After allowing just under 16 points per game over the first five games, it has allowed 29.4 over its last four.

    And with Ponder playing like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, the Vikings can't win with a defense like that.

    After a sizzling start, Ponder has been regressing at breakneck speed. He hasn't had a game where he's thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in his last five, and after being insanely efficient to start the year, Ponder hasn't completed more than 54.3 percent of his passes in any of his last three games.

    The limited passing attack of the Vikings has been figured out, and Ponder now looks completely lost in the pocket, where he once looked so poised.

    The Vikings will not be able to overcome this.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Offensive Line Makes Them Super Bowl Contenders

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    Verdict: Fact

    It's been a while since the Steelers' offensive line was not a weakness, and it looked like it was going to be this year.

    As ESPN's Jamison Hensley points out, the Steelers' rushing attack "got off to its worst start in 62 years."

    Now, they have had a 100-yard rusher in each of their last three games, and the team's best running back, Rashard Mendenhall, was not one of those rushers. They can thank the offensive line for that.

    These guys are doing it with physical dominance. As Hensley also points out, over the last three games, Pittsburgh running backs have gotten hit in the backfield 7.7 percent fewer times than over the start of the season. 

    This same group has not been as effective in the pass game, but it is allowing sacks on almost two percent fewer drop-backs than last season.

    The improvement of the offensive line makes this a balanced offense, and it gives them the option of putting together time-consuming drives on the ground when it has a lead, and we all know how important that is come playoff time.

    With the improvements of the offensive line, the Steelers are quickly turning into one of the most balanced teams in football.

Kansas City Chiefs Have to Clean House

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    Verdict: Fact

    The Chiefs are lost at sea. 

    Prior to the season, they gave corner Stanford Routt a three-year, $18 million deal with $6 million guaranteed. After Week 9 of the season, they cut him.

    The move doesn't make much sense, either. He was not playing terribly. He started seven games, and the Chiefs felt he was good enough to give him such a nice contract in the first place. They gain nothing but a roster spot by cutting him. Are we to believe he is the worst player on this terrible team?

    Whatever the reason for the move, it is clearly a huge black eye for GM Scott Pioli, and his team's injuries are mounting like he was trying to play himself.

    The terrible quarterback situation of this team is on Pioli. The head coach that seems completely overwhelmed is on Pioli, as are the bad draft picks like Tyson Jackson.

    Just two seasons ago, Pioli appeared to have this franchise on the right path, and now the Chiefs are the worst team in the league, as his moves are backfiring with greater severity.

    Pioli needs to go, and the new GM is going to have a lot to do. Romeo Crennel and his staff have to go. They desperately need a franchise quarterback. They have to figure out what to do with impending free agent Dwayne Bowe, and they need position upgrades all over the field.

    It is time to start over in Kansas City.

The Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl Hopes

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    Verdict: Farce

    The Atlanta Falcons are not as good as their perfect record suggests, and they are ill-suited for the playoffs. 

    This team is 24th in rushing yards and 25th in rushing yards allowed, and at 4.9 yards per carry, they are 30th. That is not the basis for playoff greatness.

    While the NFL has increasingly become a passing league, balance is essential in playoff games, and Atlanta's terrible rush defense will be exploited in the playoffs.

    Football Outsiders has the Falcons ninth in DVOA rankings, which measure overall team efficiency, and they actually have the fourth-worst DVOA of any 8-0 or 7-1 team since 1991. 

    There is also Matt Ryan's winless playoff record and that the Falcons last year managed just two points to the Giants in a playoff loss a season ago. 

    This team is in a great position to claim home-field advantage for the playoffs, but not even that can save the Falcons. They will run into a playoff team that beats them up on the ground and keeps their one-dimensional offense off the field.

Adrian Peterson Is a Freak of Nature

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    Verdict: Fact

    Are we sure Adrian Peterson is human?

    Running backs are supposed to be struggling to get on the field less than a year after blowing out their knee, and AP leads the league in rushing with 952 yards.

    He is plowing over, cutting around and blowing by defenders like no one else in the league. As Pro Football Focus points out, Peterson leads the league with runs of more than 15 yards.

    This should not be happening. AP's 5.7 yards per carry this season is actually higher than any mark he has turned in for any season in his spectacular career, and he is only getting better.

    His most productive games on the ground have come in the last three, and as we pointed out, he is doing that while the passing game has been terrible.

    We are witnessing a freak of nature at work.

Von Miller Is the Best LB in the League

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    Verdict: Fact

    Von Miller is making big strides in his second season, which is saying a lot since he was great as a rookie.

    Miller's game has become far more complete. This guy isn't just a pass-rusher,

    He is making plays all over the field, and he can be counted on in the run game or in coverage when he is not rushing the passer, and his pass rushing has been amazing. 

    Pro Football Focus points out that he leads the league with a 15.6 PRP, which measures his sacks, hits and hurries per pass rush attempt. In fact, he gets one of those key pass rushing stats on better than one-fifth of the times he rushes the passer. 

    There is no other linebacker who makes as much of an impact on a game as Miller.

J.J. Watt Is the First Half MVP

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    Verdict: Fact

    As valuable as Von Miller is, he has nothing on J.J. Watt.

    Watt is an end in a 3-4 system. He is not supposed to be putting up elite sack numbers, but here he is leading the NFL with 10.5 sacks.

    That is not his only impact in the pass game, either. At 10, he's already equaled the NFL record for passes blocked for a season (per Pro Football Focus).

    Watt's prowess in the pass game alone is enough to warrant Defensive Player of the Year honors, but the dude is great against the run as well. He is an elite player every down.

    He also brings it every game. In only one game did he not record at least half a sack.

    Watt demands extra blockers on every play and is still making plays. This makes the job of everyone else on the defense easier, and it sets the tone for his elite team. Watt's value thus far this season has gone unmatched. 

The New England Patriots Are the Best Team in Football

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    Verdict: Fact

    The Patriots haven't been the best team in football over the first half of the season, but they will be by the end.

    This offense is good enough to push defensive coordinators into retirement. They are very balanced, as both the run and pass games are elite.

    They are fifth in passing and fourth in rushing. They have a stable of running backs that works in any situation and Stevan Ridley has game-changing talent.

    They also have Tom Brady directing a deadly and improving passing attack.

    The Patriots are second in Football Outsider's DVOA rankings, first in offense, 17th in defense and eighth in special teams.

    Defensively, this team has been solid against the rush, ranking eighth in the league. It is ranked a far lower 28th in passing yards allowed, but it was 31st last year, and that didn't keep it from the Super Bowl.

    At 5-3, the Patriots have far from the league's best record, but this team had to incorporate many new parts into its starting lineup, and it is rapidly improving. The Patriots have won four of their last five, and Bill Belichick knows how to get his team to peak at the right time.

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