The Good: AFC
1. As predicted, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are well on their way to taking yet another AFC East crown with relative ease. Since their Week 2 loss to the upstart Jets, the Pats have looked very much like the perennial playoff team we’re used to seeing. Their true test of whether they are completely back as contenders comes Sunday night against the undefeated Colts. But even if they lose that game, it’s still hard to see them lose their division. It would take a collapse much like the Jets had last year, but let’s be serious. If anyone truly believes the Golden Boy is going to let his team falter, then stand up and show yourself because I’d like to examine your brain. Yet again, Tom Brady, the bane of my existence, will guide the Pats to a deep playoff run.
2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the T.O. in Buffalo situation doesn’t seem to be working at all, which I feared at the beginning of the year, and is why I picked them to finish dead last in the AFC East. Through eight games, Owens has been limited to 15 catches for 215 yards with one TD… wow. Yet Trent Edwards has somehow managed to avoid his primadonna wideout’s venom so far. However, if this trend continues, expect to be hearing from ESPN’s favorite disgruntled WR very soon. Get Ed Werder on the next flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Buffalo.
3. The Indianapolis Colts remain the class of the AFC South, especially after pulling out a 20-17 win over the Texans today. At 8-0, it’s only a matter of time before the Colts clinch the division and start playing Jim Sorgi and a plethora of other reserves in Week 14. It’s amazing how consistently dominant the Colts have been since Peyton Manning took the franchise reins in 1999. Staying in this division, the Houston Texans, despite the loss, seem to be in decent position to make the playoffs as a wild card. As long as they can avoid some of the baffling losses they’ve had in the past, they should be able to get to 9-10 wins and sneak into the postseason.
The Bad: AFC
1. The Cincinnati Bengals are 6-2 and leading the AFC North. I predicted said Bungles to finish 5-11 this year. It’s partly luck that they are where they are, but it’s also partly bad luck that they aren’t 7-1 given their Week 1 loss to Denver. Cedric Benson has been a massive surprise on offense, giving Carson Palmer the complement that he hasn’t had since Rudi Johnson’s sudden decline and subsequent exiling to Detroit. If the Bengals have staying power, then I look for this team to finish with 11 wins and potentially win the AFC North, meaning either Pittsburgh or Baltimore is staying home this year for the playoffs.
2. Well, I was right about the Tennessee Titans taking a step back this year. Except they have taken several hundred steps back, to 2-6, even with back-to-back wins, thanks to Chris Johnson getting going in a big way. Vince Young has replaced Kerry Collins, playoff hopes seem bleak at best, and we even had Jeff Fisher donning a Peyton Manning jersey because he “wanted to feel what it was like to be a winner.” This team’s got issues, but should manage to finish with 5-6 wins and regroup for 2010.
3. Who are these Denver Broncos, and since when do teams in complete disarray perform well on the field? (see Raiders, Oakland). At 6-1 going into their Monday Night showdown with Pittsburgh, we have to say the Broncos are for real, even if I can’t figure out how they’re winning games. I still think San Diego is going to win this division, and I really think Denver should have lost in Cincy and at home to New England, yet Kyle Orton continues to win like he’s still in Chicago. I guess it’s poetic justice in the sense that Orton has outperformed Jay Cutler, but other than that I just don’t get how this team hasn’t completely melted down yet.
The Good: NFC
1. Brett Favre is as good as advertised for the Minnesota Vikings, who at 7-1 look poised to run away with the NFC North. Jared Allen has looked completely revitalized and Adrian Peterson is making Favre look like the All Pro QB he was in his prime. I really hope that we get to see these guys play the New Orleans Saints for the NFC title. That would be one helluva game.
2. The NFC East remains the toughest division to call in all the NFL. After a 5-0 start, the New York Giants have fallen way back to Earth and are almost .500 at 5-4. Meanwhile, after looking like they were going nowhere fast, the Dallas Cowboys are leading the pack at 6-2, scoring a big win in Philadelphia earlier tonight. The Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants will certainly take advantage of playing the Redskins, so it should come down to head-to-head battles between the three teams.
3. The worst teams in the NFL still reside in the NFC. The Rams, Lions, and Buccaneers’ seasons are already over, as all three stand at 1-7. The question at this point is will these teams continue to play hard for the final eight games, or think better of it and just throw away contests to try and get the first pick? It’s never fun to have to look at it that way, but it’s a cruel reality in St. Louis, Detroit, and Tampa Bay this year.
The Bad: NFC
1. Who Dat? Apparently “Dat” is the New Orleans Saints, led by Drew Brees, a solid rushing attack, and a better than advertised defense. The Saints are 8-0, and unless they do the unthinkable and lose every game from here out, they will not finish 8-8 as I originally thought. The Saints have separated themselves from the pack and hold a three game lead over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South. With games left against their division opponents, they should have very little trouble getting to 11 wins. How many beyond that remains to be seen, but if they get to 10 or 11-0, you know that Mercury Morris and the ‘72 Dolphins are going to be getting thirsty for their champagne.
2. The Eagles are definitely not a 12-win team this year and with the loss to the Cowboys tonight, might not even make the playoffs. The team just has too many issues on the offensive line and too many young skill position players to win big games, which showed tonight. To complicate things further, Brian Westbrook’s concussion took the main cog out of the Philly offense, which means it’ll be on LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver to get the job done, which they failed to do tonight.
That just about does it for the things that are either surprisingly spot-on or just way off mark for me in the first half of the season. If I missed anything or if you just want to nitpick a bit, then go right ahead. Look back for picks for Week 10 on Thursday or Friday.