Week 8 has come and gone and we have reached the midway point in the 2010 NFL season.
This season has been filled with surprises. Five teams from last year's playoffs are under .500, and teams like the Rams, Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders are contending for playoff spots. Even teams like the Lions and Browns are giving opponents a run for their money on a weekly basis.
Parity in the NFL this season has fans all over-excited about their teams’ chances. For the midway rankings, I will give more detail about each team, and indicate who I believe will be division and wild-card winners.
Previous team ranking in ( ).
1. New York Giants (3)
By pure default, the Giants move from No. 3 to No. 1 this week and they did so while enjoying a bye week. The Giants sit at 5-2 and atop their division at the midway point of the season. After back-to-back embarrassing losses to the Colts and Titans, the G-Men have rebounded by winning their next four games in a row by a total of 120-68. They can take control of the NFC East as they have two very winnable games coming out of their bye and two of their next three games overall against divisional opponents. NFC East Division Champ.
2. New England Patriots (5)
Despite not cracking the top 16 in overall offense or defense, the Patriots sit at 6-1 and atop their division as we head into November. They should get a win this week against the Browns, but after five of their next six games are against the Steelers, Colts, Jets, Bears and Packers, with a resurgent Lions team mixed in there. Trading Randy Moss actually seems to have helped them, especially considering he only caught one pass against them this past week. AFC Wild Card.
3. Indianapolis Colts (3)
The Colts sit in first place in the tight AFC South at 5-2, slightly ahead of the Titans. This team doesn’t seem to be the juggernaut we’ve become accustomed to, but give Peyton Manning enough time in the pocket and he is going to find an open receiver. It seems as if the knock on Indy is they need to find a consistent running game, but they seem to be just fine without one. We’ll see how important their running game is come playoff time. AFC South Division Champ.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1)
The Steelers fell from No. 1 this week with a loss to the defending champions but remain tied for the division lead at 5-2. They play a fairly tough schedule up through the first week of December, but three of their final four games are against bad teams. The Steeler D is as vicious as ever and once again they appear to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. AFC North Champ.
5. New York Jets (2)
The Jets had their five game winning streak snapped this week at home against the Packers. It wasn’t losing that was the biggest surprise, it was the fact that New York was coming off of a bye and got shut out, that was the surprise. Their defense is as stingy as ever, but the Packers defensive schemes really confused the Jets all day. New York is still one of the best teams in the AFC and have proven that all year. The biggest question is will LaDainian Tomlinson be able to play at a high level for the rest of the season. AFC Wild Card.
6. Baltimore Ravens (6)
The Ravens are tied for first with a record of 5-2, but are just eight points away from being undefeated. In fact, six of their seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less. There is no reason to expect that to change as the Ravens face a very tough schedule from now until Christmas, as they face only one team between now and then that is under .500. Miss playoffs.
7. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have surprised some people by starting off 5-2 this season. However, only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record. They have six games remaining against teams with a winning schedule, so don’t be surprised if the Falcons begin to fade out of playoff contention entirely. Their season rests solely on their ability to play defense. NFC Wild Card.
8. New Orleans Saints (15)
Everyone is worried about the Saints, but I can’t figure out why. Yes, they’ve played a relatively soft schedule and have 3 losses, but they are ninth overall in offense and third overall in defense. Losing Reggie Bush was a big blow but this team should rebound and be favored to win the NFC South. They don’t face an overly tough opponent until the go on the road to play the Ravens on December 19th. By then, they may have a playoff spot already locked up. NFC South Division Champ.
9. Green Bay Packers (13)
Winning at home against the Vikings was big for the Packers. Winning on the road and shutting out the Jets, well that was just downright impressive. The offense hasn’t clicked like it did last season, but that’s expected when you lose your starting running back, starting tight-end and your No. 2 wide receiver is 35 years old and slowed by a quad injury. The Packers lead their division over Chicago and face the Cowboys on Sunday night this week, followed by a Week 10 bye. Their season will be determined after their bye as they play four of their next five games on the road. NFC North Division Champ.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (10)
The Eagles are coming off their bye this week at 4-3. They have exactly zero games left this year that you can chalk up as easy wins. Their remaining schedule is as follows: Colts, Redskins, Giants, Bears, Texans, Cowboys, Giants, Vikings, Cowboys. Sure a few of those teams are struggling, but can you say for sure that the Eagles will win any of those games? I say no, and with the weekly quarterback controversy in Philly, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the Eagles will do in the second half of the season. NFC Wild Card.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (11)
The Chiefs continue to impress people with their 5-2 record, but they have yet to beat a team that is over .500. However, it’s possible every team they face from here on out could be under .500, which means we should expect the Chiefs to continue their winning ways. They don’t really have a superstar on either side of the ball, but they continue to beat bad teams which is what a playoff team is supposed to do. AFC West Division Champ.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17)
Maybe Raheem Morris is on to something when he says the Bucs are the best team in the NFC. Then again, they’ve only faced two teams with records over .500 and lost those two games by a combined score of 69-13 (and did I mention those two games were home games?). There is no question the Bucs have improved since last year, but let’s give it a little more time before we even consider them a playoff contender. Miss playoffs.
13. Tennessee Titans (8)
The Titans started off 0-6 last year and came very close to the playoffs. This year, they started 5-2 and very likely may miss the playoffs. They sit at 5-3 at the midway point with a tough eight game schedule remaining after the week 9 bye. Considering they still have to face Houston and Indianapolis twice each, I don’t like their odds of playing in January. Miss playoffs.
14. Chicago Bears (14)
The Bears come off their bye this week and face the Bills in Ontario, and they absolutely must get a win because their final eight game schedule is among the toughest in the NFL. Their offensive line absolutely must get it together or quarterback Jay Cutler will not finish the season. Assuming they do so, their Week 17 game against the Packers could have a playoff spot riding on it. Miss playoffs.
15. Miami Dolphins (16)
The Dolphins are a tough team to figure out. They are 4-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. This is a good trend considering if they make the playoffs they almost certainly will be on the road. However, of their four road wins, only one game against a team over .500, and it was an injury-riddled Packers team at that. The fact that they gave up 72 points at home in back-to-back weeks against the Jets and Patriots is concerning. They need to be more consistent on both sides of the ball. Miss playoffs.
16. Washington Redskins (9)
Disaster is looming in Washington as head coach Mike Shanahan pulled starting quarterback Donovan McNabb out of the game in the final minutes in favor of backup Rex Grossman when the 'Skins were down by just five points. Grossman promptly came in and turned the ball over which was returned for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach. Shanahan defended his move by saying he didn’t think McNabb’s cardiovascular endurance would hold up for a two-minute drill. Apparently Shanahan would rather go with a quarterback that hasn’t played all season, has never won a big game in his life and has more career interceptions than touchdowns, than a quarterback that has led his (former) team to five NFC Championship games. Nice move, coach. Miss playoffs.
17. Houston Texans (12)
It is starting to feel like Groundhog Day with the Texans. Every year I think it’s their year to make the playoffs, they tease me with some incredible offensive outbursts, and as the year moves along, their defense gets worse and worse and they miss the playoffs. This season is turning out to be no different. If they are going to get over the hump and make the postseason this year, it has got to start on defense. They still have a chance as they sit at 4-3 and face a manageable schedule for the rest of the season. Miss playoffs.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (20)
Every time you think this team is finished, they light up the scoreboard for 30+ points and put themselves back on the bubble of playoff teams. They have a bye this week and face a tough schedule in the final eight weeks. The Jags have four losses this year, all of them by 22 points or more. I’m not sure what to make of that, especially considering they beat the Colts. All I can say is when they lose, they lose in style. Miss playoffs.
19. Oakland Raiders (21)
Fifty-nine points against a bad Denver team last week? Maybe that was an aberration. Thirty-three points against an average Seahawks team this week? Maybe this team is finally headed in the right direction. Let’s see how they do against a pretty good Chiefs team next week before their bye in Week 10. They could really use a win because after their bye they play a rough schedule. Miss playoffs.
20. St. Louis Rams (23)
I don’t think anyone realizes just how good the Rams might be. They were a 1-15 team last year. They drafted a franchise quarterback this year and have a stud running back. But after that, they have almost nothing. They sit at 4-4 after eight games, but three of their four losses came by a total of seven points. This team could arguably be 7-1, and no matter how awful their division is, that is something to be proud of. I see no reason that this team couldn’t make the playoffs, even with a below average record. NFC West Division Champ.
21. Seattle Seahawks (18)
Seattle is 4-3 under new coach Pete Carroll, but have yet to be very consistent. Outside of one two-week stretch, the Seahawks scoring has fluctuated by 19 points or more on a weekly basis. Considering they only scored three points this week against Oakland, I would say that’s a good sign as they face the Giants this week. However my gut tells me that they won’t be scoring 22 or more total points against that defense. Miss playoffs.
22. San Diego Chargers (26)
San Diego is 3-5 and on the verge of irrelevancy for 2010. They are 0-2 within their division but still have time to make up ground. However, when a team is ranked No. 1 overall for offense and defense and is just 3-5, you wonder what else they have to do to win games. They need to win at Houston this week as they have a week off after that. They have a fairly favorable schedule the rest of the way and in a relatively weak division, anything can happen. Miss playoffs.
23. Minnesota Vikings (19)
The fact that Minnesota lost to New England wasn’t a total shocker. However, the fact that the Vikes cut Moss just weeks after trading him was completely and totally mind blowing. At 2-5, the Vikings season is on the verge of being over and one has to wonder how long Brad Childress will continue to have a job. The only thing we know for sure about the Vikings is that No. 4 is going to suit up and give everything he’s got for the next nine weeks. Miss playoffs.
24. Cleveland Browns (24)
The Browns are 2-5 and will once again be watching the playoffs on television this. However, they are indeed much improved and no longer are an automatic win for anyone on their schedule. I expect them to start rookie Colt McCoy the rest of the season to see what kind of player he is and whether or not he has a bright future in the NFL. Miss playoffs.
25. Detroit Lions (29)
The Lions have scored more points than anyone in the NFC North. They’ve also allowed more points than anyone in the division, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Their defensive line is improving every week and it is clear that, when healthy, Matthew Stafford is going to be an elite quarterback in this league. Pair him with perhaps the most gifted wide receiver in football, and you have an electric combination. The Lions have just two wins so far this season, but if they stay healthy, I think they could legitimately win seven or eight games and play spoiler to a lot of playoff teams. Miss playoffs.
26. Arizona Cardinals (22)
I think we’ve seen the end of Max Hall for a while. In fact, Arizona fans have probably had enough of both of the Cardinals’ QBs this season. It took the Cardinals until the fourth quarter of their last game to throw their first touchdown pass for the month of October. With Kurt Warner at the helm, it took the Cards about three series of their first game of a month to score a passing touchdown. They play in a weak division, but this team is going to struggle to get wins. Miss playoffs.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (25)
The Bengals have lost four in a row, but all by one possession. They have a chance in most games but they just aren’t finishing. A 2-5 record isn’t always a playoff deal breaker, but when five or your next six games are against the Steelers (x2), Jets, Colts and Saints, you might as well start preparing for next season. The only remaining question left is whether or not Carson Palmer will continue to start or if Marvin Lewis will bench him. Miss playoffs.
28. San Francisco 49ers (31)
The 49ers are probably the biggest disappointment of the season up to this point. For a while, it looked as despite their putrid start, they still had a good chance to make the playoffs based on a weak schedule. However as time goes by their remaining schedule is getting tougher. The Packers, Rams and Chargers are all playing better and the Bucs are 5-2 and continue to beat bad teams. It doesn’t look good for San Francisco, but if they can turn around and get the offense clicking, anything is possible in the NFC West. Miss playoffs.
29. Denver Broncos (27)
The Broncos have a bye this week and have all sorts of time to reflect upon their current four game losing streak. They play two divisional games coming out of the bye and both are must win games if they have any desire to play meaning football in December. They started last year winning six games in a row, and since then have won four out of 18. Josh McDaniels’ job security is all but gone. Miss playoffs.
30. Dallas Cowboys (28)
In case you haven’t heard, the Cowboys are 1-6 and a complete wreck. Dallas was the team of choice in the pre-season to reach the Super Bowl in the NFC and now appear as a favorite to have a top three draft pick next year. Losing Tony Romo for an extended period isn’t going to help them, but they’ve given up 134 points in their past four games and that simply isn’t going to get it done in the NFL. Nonetheless, expect them to come out and give Green Bay all they can handle this week as they face off on Sunday Night Football. Miss playoffs.
31. Carolina Panthers (30)
The Panthers are 1-6 and most of their problems are on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve had virtually no running attack and they have not gotten good quarterback play from either Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen. Their defense has played well, only giving up more than 20 points twice all season. I don’t see them winning many more games as they face a brutal schedule in the second half of the season. Might as well throw Clausen back out there and see what he’s got. Miss playoffs.
32. Buffalo Bills (32)
Two straight weeks the Bills came so close to getting their first win. In fact, for a few seconds it appeared as if they did get a win against the Chiefs as kicker Ryan Lindell kicked a game winning field goal, only to find out the Chiefs had called timeout right before the snap. Lindell got another chance, and just missed, keeping the game tied. The Bills ended up losing in overtime. They became just the fourth team ever to lose overtime road games in back to back weeks. The Bills have played much better the past two weeks and have showed signs they are not packing it in. They play a tough schedule to end the season but they face a couple of teams they have a chance of winning against. Miss playoffs.