The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Other Early Season NFL Trends That Won't Continue
The start of a new NFL season can be a lot like going on a blind date; you’re not exactly sure what to expect and first impressions can be deceiving.
Through eight weeks of the 2010 NFL season, there have been many surprises that even the most well informed NFL insiders could never have seen coming, which has made for some extremely exciting and unpredictable games thus far.
And while some early season trends figure to continue through the winter months, there are others that stand less of a chance than a pastry being in Rex Ryan’s presence for more than two consecutive minutes.
Perhaps some of these early season trends have been a product of favorable scheduling or simply because of a few lucky bounces, but as we move into the second half of the NFL regular season, it would be hard to see them continuing.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Contending in the NFC South
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Much to everyone’s surprise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have started the season 5-2 and are currently tied for first place in the NFC South.
Second-year quarterback, Josh Freeman, has made some huge strides and provides the Buccaneers with a great leader in the huddle who has not only proven that he can produce when the game is on the line, but he has also done a great job of limiting mistakes which can plague young quarterbacks.
In addition to Freeman, they sport one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, and the additions of rookies Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount have already paid big dividends.
While there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Buccaneers, their schedule has played a huge part in their early season success.
In fact, the five teams they’ve beaten this season have a combined record of 12-24, and the only teams they’ve played that have a winning record were the Saints and Steelers—who beat them soundly.
With a remaining schedule that features two games against Atlanta, another game at New Orleans and a meeting with the Ravens, it seems these youngsters will be coming back down to earth in the second half of the 2010 season.
There's little doubting the bright future that Josh Freeman and some of the good looking young players on this roster have in front on them, but they're not quite ready to compete with the likes of the Falcons or the Saints just yet.
The Philadelphia Eagles QB Controversy
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This has been one of the more interesting storylines of the 2010 season through eight weeks.
Kevin Kolb entered the season as the unquestioned starter, but after suffering a concussion at the hands of Clay Matthews during the first game of the season, Michael Vick showed everyone that he was once again ready to be the player who routinely lit up opposing defenses and left them gasping for air.
After Andy Reid flip-flopped about naming his starting quarterback more than his daily Burger King or McDonald’s for lunch debate, he finally said that Vick would be the starter.
Only to see him suffer a rib injury against the Washington Redskins that has kept him out of the better part of the Eagles last four games.
While Kevin Kolb has played decently in Vick’s absence, Reid has maintained that Vick will be the team’s starting quarterback in Week 9 after the Eagles bye.
It already seems fairly certain that Vick has entrenched himself as the Eagles starter for the rest of the 2010 season, but he will end all doubts of any controversy when he returns to the starting lineup against the Colts and continues to show why he was a former No. 1 overall pick and was recently considered one of the most explosive players in the NFL not too long ago.
The Buffalo Bills Being Winless
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The first seven games of the 2010 NFL season have been extremely unkind to the Buffalo Bills who have yet to chalk one up in the win column.
Not only are they the last team in the NFL that is still looking for a win but the Bills also have the worst run defense in the NFL and are giving up an average of 188 yards per game on the ground.
The team also released its opening day starting quarterback, Trent Edwards, just two games into the season in a move which clearly demonstrated how dire the Bill’s quarterback situation was entering the 2010 season.
Despite the fact that they have started the season with a record of 0-7, the Bills have been playing better football of late, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown that he can make this team competitive.
In Buffalo’s last two games, they have gone on the road and given two of the better teams in the AFC all they can handle, losing to both the Ravens and Chiefs in overtime.
While it’s obvious that this Buffalo team has many issues, they shouldn’t be searching for their first win of the season for too much longer.
Fitzpatrick’s play at quarterback has energized the offense and should allow them to grab a win perhaps as soon as the next two weeks when they welcome the Bears and Lions to Buffalo.
The Dolphins and Panthers Running Games Struggling
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The Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers have two of the best backfield tandems in the NFL but you wouldn’t know that judging from their performance through the first seven games of the 2010 NFL season.
In fact, none of the four running backs on either team has had a 100-yard rushing day thus far and neither team is even in the top 15 in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
In Carolina, it seems that ineffective quarterback play has doomed the running game as Jimmy Clausen looked lost and overmatched during his first four NFL starts.
However, John Fox has wised up and gone back to Matt Moore who is currently the better option at quarterback for the Panthers and should at least make some defensive coordinators think twice about stacking the box to try and contain Williams and Stewart.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have had some tough early season matchups against some very good run defenses including the Vikings, Jets and Steelers.
Both teams should have more success running the ball in the second half of the season, simply because Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are all very good running backs who have proven track records of success in the NFL.
Max Hall Starting at Quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals
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We all knew the Cardinals quarterback situation wouldn’t be pretty this year, but most people didn’t think they would resort to starting Max Hall, an undrafted rookie, in the wake of the Matt Leinart saga.
But after Derek Anderson struggled through the first few weeks of the 2010 season, Ken Whisenhunt opted to go with Hall, who most people had never heard of before he was given the Cardinals starting quarterback job in Week 5.
The Max Hall era actually started out pretty well in Arizona when they upset the defending champion New Orleans Saints, although the offense could muster just 194 total yards and won the game thanks to two defensive touchdowns and a Levi Brown fumble recovery in the end zone.
Since that game, Hall is just 12-32 for 107 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, and the Cardinals have lost both games.
In this past weekend’s loss to the Buccaneers, Hall was replaced by Derek Anderson in the second quarter after he threw two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns.
Heading into Week 9, Ken Whisenhunt has yet to announce who the Cardinals starting quarterback will be, but it's difficult to see Hall getting another opportunity after showing that he’s clearly not ready for the NFL, and although Derek Anderson isn’t exactly Peyton Manning, he’s absolutely the better option for Arizona at this point.
The Detroit Lions Losing Close Games
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Through seven games of the 2010 season, the Detroit Lions have been on the wrong end of some tough losses.
This includes that heartbreaking loss to the Bears in the first game of the season and some close games against the Eagles, Packers and Giants where the Lions mounted fourth quarter comebacks only to come up short in the final minutes.
When looking at a young team like the Lions, there will be a fair amount of growing pains that these inexperienced players will have to endure before they can figure out how to win games consistently.
But with the return of Matthew Stafford at quarterback as well as the continuing maturation of Jahvid Best, Brandon Pettigrew, Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson staking his claim as one of the best receivers in the NFL, you have a talented core of players who should be able to build off their early season let-downs.
As the second half of the season rolls around, expect to see this young Lions team on the other side of those close games, as they continue to mature and get better in the clutch.
Terrell Owens Behaving in Cincinnati
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One of the biggest surprises of the first half of the 2010 season has been how little we’ve heard about Terrell Owens aside from his play on the football field.
Throughout his career, Owens has been known to harangue coaches, quarterbacks and anyone else unlucky enough to be within earshot of the loudmouthed wide receiver. His behavior often takes a turn for the worse when his team starts losing or when he isn’t getting the ball.
And while the Bengals currently sport a disappointing 2-5 record, Carson Palmer seems to have quelled Terrell’s antics up to this point by consistently looking his way to the tune of 45 catches for 629 yards and five touchdowns through seven games.
Considering that the Bengals play in the same division as the Steelers and Ravens, it should only be a matter of time before Owens realizes his team won’t be making the playoffs, and then, all it will take for another epic sideline outburst or press conference is for Palmer to miss an open Owens on a go route.
Owens does seem to have changed from his days in Philadelphia and Dallas, but he’s still a fiery personality who isn’t afraid to let people know exactly how he feels.
Chris Johnson Averaging under Five Yards per Carry
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At the start of the 2010 season, everyone was buzzing about how many yards Chris Johnson was going to put up, and Johnson himself even stated that he was gunning for Eric Dickerson’s all-time single season rushing record.
But through eight games, Johnson has posted 721 rushing yards as well as eight touchdowns which are good numbers, but for a player who came into the season with such lofty expectations, it’s not quite what we expected.
Even more unexpected has been Johnson’s 4.1 yards per carry which is a full yard and half less than he averaged in 2009 when he seemed to break long runs every other play.
In 2010, Johnson has been the focal point of every defense he has faced as they have decided to make Vince Young and the Titans passing attack beat them rather than allow Johnson to run wild.
CJ has also faced some of the best rushing defenses in the league in his first eight games, going up against the Steelers, Giants and Chargers all of whom held the All-Pro runner to under four yards per carry.
Even though Johnson has gotten out to a slow start by his incredibly high standards, he’s a 70-yard touchdown waiting to happen anytime he touches the ball, and it doesn’t hurt that he plays a porous Colt rushing defense twice in his last eight games.