Well, let me start off by announcing that this truly has been the wildest, the weirdest, and the wackiest NFL season I have ever seen.
I learn something new every single week, and then the next week I learn that I really didn't know what I thought I knew. I can tell you right now that I have absolutely no clue who will win the league awards, what teams will make the playoffs, or even who will beat whom on any given week.
In no particular order, here are 50 of the most wacky facts about the 2008 National Football League.
1) Michael Turner is better than LaDainian Tomlinson. That's right, the man who set the single-season record for touchdowns in a season is now inferior to his former backup.
Turner, now an Atlanta Falcon, ranks third in the NFL with 597 rushing yards, while LT, suffering from the big toe injury "heard round the world," ranks 14th with 446 yards and is no longer the top offensive weapon on his own team.
2) Apparently there is only room for one healthy Roy Williams per team. After the former Detroit Lions wide receiver was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, Roy Williams the safety promptly broke his arm again and will miss the remainder of the season. Roy Williams the wide receiver caught zero passes in the blowout loss to the Rams.
3) The Detroit Lions. We thought we had seen it all from a team that has exactly one playoff win in the last 50 seasons. But this team is one of the the worst I've ever seen.
They have scored zero points in the first quarter all season. Meanwhile, they have allowed 54 points, including 21 in the first quarter of the first game of the season, to rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, a team many expected to win two or three games all season. Their quarterback is still learning the dimensions of the end zone, and the star wide receiver was traded to the Dallas Cowboys.
The highlight of the season for the team came in week four, during the bye week, when Detroit fired general manager Matt Millen, the man responsible for many of the team's failures since 2001.
4) Aaron Rodgers almost as good, as good, or even better than Brett Favre? The Green Bay Packers' quarterback has tossed 12 touchdown passes and only four interceptions in seven games. His 98.8 passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL, and he even ranks first among quarterbacks with three rushing touchdowns.
5) The Tennessee Titans' defense. Through six games, the Titans have allowed a league-low 66 points, a pace that would rank second in NFL history to the 2000 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Tackle Albert Haynesworth, safety Cortland Finnegan, and safety Michael Griffin all deserve consideration for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Remember these Titans.
6) Jason Campbell. Campbell has led the Redskins to a 5-2 record, including back-to-back road wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, both potential playoff teams. Campbell remains the only quarterback in the league to not throw an interception.
7) Greg Jennings. Who knew the third-year player could perform this well without Brett Favre? Jennings leads the NFL in receiving yards (685). His 18.5 yards per catch are first among players with 30 or more receptions, and his four touchdown catches tie for second in the NFL.
8) Dhani Jones. The 30-year-old linebacker currently ranks first in the NFL in tackles (65). Don't be fooled, though. His Cincinnati Bengals are 0-7 and spend the majority of the game on defense, allowing Dhani plenty of chances to rack up tackles. Jones has zero interceptions and zero sacks as well.
9) Kyle Orton. I would trust Kyle Orton as the quarterback for my team. There, I said it. The undrafted fourth-year quarterback entered his first year as a starter with low expectations. He has proved his doubters wrong, however, with 10 touchdown passes and only four interceptions through the first seven games of the season.
10) Kurt Warner. Give the two-time MVP his due. The 37-year-old ranks third in the NFL in passer rating and fourth in touchdown passes. Kurt has led the Cardinals to a 4-2 record, first place in the highly un-competitive NFC West.
11) Sebastian Janikowski. Wow, let's see if we can kill this guy. The Oakland Raiders' kicker is notorious for having the strongest leg in the NFL. This season, he has made field goals of 57 and 56 yards. The 57-yard field goal set the franchise record and was also the longest overtime field goal in NFL history.
In a game against San Diego, Janikowski attempted a 76-yard field goal before halftime, the longest field goal attempt in NFL history. The kick did travel about 65 yards in the air but was well short of the uprights.
12) The Seattle Seahawks. This is a franchise that wins the division every year—the past four, anyway. This year, they have one win and five losses. Their only win came against a team that had zero wins at the time.
Their quarterbacks (all three of them) have combined for as many yards passing in the past three games as Donovan McNabb had in the first half of the first game of the season.
They have had injuries to just about every wide receiver on the roster and have absolutely no chance of making the playoffs this year.
13) Matt Ryan. The third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, Ryan is the first rookie quarterback to win four of his first six games since Joe Ferguson in 1973.
He threw a 62-yard touchdown on his first NFL pass. He won in Green Bay. He led the Falcons to an improbable comeback against the Bears in week seven. He is the fourth highest paid player in the NFL. And his Falcons are 4-2 in 2008.
14) The silent Super Bowl champions. The New York Giants are 5-1 and in first place, but nobody cares. Brett Favre is the most popular quarterback in New York. The most attention the Giants have received was when they suffered a blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.
15) Every week, a new team is thought to be the top team in the NFL. We entered the season thinking that the Patriots were the best team. Then it changed to Dallas. Then Philly got in the mix. The Giants. Washington, even. Now Pittsburgh. And let's not forget about the undefeated Titans.
16) The Buffalo Bills are 5-1. Wait; what?
17) Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Matt Leinart. Where have you gone, 2006 NFL Draft studs?
18) Mr. I've-played-with-a-fractured-thumb-and-a-separated-throwing-shoulder calls Mr. Broken-pinky to offer condolences—and suggest that he grow a pair, put on his protective cup, lug his rear end out onto the playing field, and play.
19) Arguably the top three teams in the AFC in 2007—the Patriots, the Chargers, and the Colts—are a combined 10-9 this season. Not one would make the playoffs if the season ended now. All three have been decimated by injuries.
20) The Madden Curse might be ending. Brett Favre, after un-retiring and joining the Jets in late August, has thrown 13 touchdown passes, including six in one game against the Arizona Cardinals. He has the Jets in contention for a wild card spot. By the way, what made John Madden wait ten years to put Brett on the cover?
21) The Miami Dolphins are 2-4 and will likely miss the playoffs by several games. Their two wins this season: a blowout against the AFC champion New England Patriots and a pounding of the other AFC title team, the Chargers.
22) Dan Orlovsky threw a 96-yard touchdown. That's right, Mr. Orlovsky, one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, has already thrown a longer touchdown pass than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and Carson Palmer. Wild prediction: He will not throw more touchdown passes in his career than any of those six.
23) Who wants it: the NFC North? Green Bay, struggling to deal with Life Without Brett Favre: Year One, made a big statement in week one with a home Monday Night win over the Minnesota Vikings, a team picked by many to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
In week four, the Bears knocked off the Birds in Philly, while the Pack and the Vikings lost on the road.
But week five, the Packers lost a wild one at home to the Atlanta Falcons and their hotshot rookie quarterback, while the Minnesota Vikings vaulted back into the mix with a wild win in New Orleans.
However, the Bears missed a huge opportunity to grasp the NFC North lead with a walk-off loss in Atlanta in week six. Meanwhile, the Vikings stole one from the Lions, while the Pack climbed back to .500.
With both teams playing for a division lead in week seven, the Bears escaped Soldier Field with a wild win over the Vikes. However, the Pack upset the Colts to remain tied for first in the division. The fun continues, as all three contenders have a bye week this Sunday.
24) It could be argued that the two most valuable players in the league are for losing teams: Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers.
Brees has thrown 12 touchdowns and has kept the Saints together, despite a struggling Reggie Bush and injuries to Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey. Rivers leads the NFL in passer rating and touchdown passes.
The Chargers lost one game thanks to a bad call by a ref and another due to a defensive collapse on the last play of the game. Two plays separate the 'Bolts from a 5-2 record and the AFC West lead.
25) The Cincinnati Bungles. Remember this team from about eight years ago? They're backkkk. Cincinnati has lost all seven games in the 2008 season, including two by more than three scores. Carson Palmer has thrown three touchdown passes, and Chad "Remember Me" Ocho Cinco is suffering through the worst season of his career.
26) Dear Commissioner Goodell,
Would you please create a rule extending the end zone back another five yards or so? Mr. Orlovsky would like some more room around to run on plays from his own 1-yard line. Thank you for your cooperation.
Sincerely, the Detroit Lions
27) Pacman Jones got suspended again. Raise your hands if you predicted this one before the season begin. Yup, me too. This time, the former Titans star may receive a lifetime ban from the NFL.
28) The Dallas Cowboys' season is slowly falling apart. After a 3-0 start in which the 'Boys looked as strong as any team this millennium (excluding Brady's Bunch from last year), the Cowboys have lost three out of four games, with their only win a struggle versus the still-defeated Cincinnati Bengals.
The only thing more fun than watching Jerry Jones' facelift continuously fall is the thought of another season without a playoff win for Romo's 'Boys.
29) Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning. For about two weeks, we heard this time after time again.
Let me straighten this one out. Peyton Manning will likely shatter every passing record in NFL history. Eli Manning is an average quarterback, at best. Could we stop comparing the two? Peyton is better. Much, much better.
30) Dan Orlovsky ran out the back of the end zone. Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.
31) Tom Brady is truly the most indispensable player in the NFL. I think we all learned that when we watched Matt Cassel try to imitate the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Patriots might make the playoffs this season. They might even win the division. But they will not advance far into the playoffs. Not with Matt Cassel at quarterback.
32) Big-name running backs are silent this season.
Brian Westbrook has been suffering from a sprained ankle and two broken ribs, and, although he still has six touchdowns, he has only played about three and a quarter games. LT, the human scoring machine, has scored only four touchdowns, on a career-low 3.6 yards per carry. Willie Parker, the most important person in the Steelers' offense, has played in only three games and has just three touchdowns (all in game one).
33) Big-name quarterbacks are also silent this season.
Tom Brady has been out for the year since week one with a torn ACL. Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb are struggling to keep their teams at .500 this season. And Carson Palmer's Bengals are 0-7.
34) The Patriots can still play winning football. Despite losing Tom Brady and starting a below-average backup quarterback, the Pats stand at 4-2, currently second in the AFC East.
Injuries to Rodney Harrison and Laurence Maroney have decimated the Pats, and two games against the division-leading Buffalo Bills loom ahead.
35) Trick plays really do work. Just ask the Miami Dolphins. In a historic week three win versus the New England Patriots—the first regular-season loss by the Patriots since 2006—the Miami Dolphins scored four touchdowns on direct snaps to running back Ronnie Brown. Brown also threw a touchdown on a direct snap.
36) Miami Dolphins 38, New England Patriots 13. Many don't realize just how historic of a win this really was. The Dolphins won for the second time in 22 games. Meanwhile, the Patriots lost for the first time in 22 regular-season games, dating back to 2006. The Dolphins won their first road game since 2006. The Patriots lost their first home game since November 2006.
And it was the biggest margin of victory by an opposing team in Gillette Stadium ever.
37) Super Bowl rematch from two years ago. Chicago gets small portion of revenge on Indianapolis, wins 29-13.
38) DeSean Jackson. A punt return touchdown? We haven't seen this in Philly since the two Brians (Mitchell and then Westbrook). He has also made Philly almost forget about Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown...almost.
39) The NFC East: who wants it? Preseason predictions called for Dallas in the Super Bowl. Philly insisted that they were just as good. The Giants set out to defend their Super Bowl title, despite not even winning the division last year. Nobody gave the Redskins much of a chance.
Now Dallas is quickly falling apart and might need to win against Tampa Bay on Sunday to save their season. Philly just saved their season with a win in San Francisco and is right back in the hunt with a healthy Brian Westbrook. The Giants are 5-1 and still not receiving the credit they probably deserve, although they haven't played Dallas or Philly yet. Washington is 5-2 and can prove a lot with an upcoming Monday Night game against Pittsburgh.
40) Two-game streaks. Dallas went from the cream of the crop in the NFC to big playoff question mark. The Rams went from total jokes to sort of, almost, kinda back in the playoff hunt. The Broncos went from almost-certain favorites in the weak AFC West to playoff questionable, following back-to-back losses. And say what you want about them, but the Houston Texans are in the wild card hunt, following two straight wins.
41) Any given Sunday. Unlike baseball or basketball, in football, any given team can win on any given Sunday. 0-2 Miami won against 2-0 New England. 0-3 Kansas City beat 3-0 Denver. St. Louis (0-4) won at Washington (4-1). The 1-3 Cleveland Browns jumped back into the playoff hunt by clobbering the previously undefeated Super Bowl champion Giants (4-0) in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. And the 1-4 Rams laid a pounding on the Romo-less 'Boys (4-2).
42) Minnesota's special teams. The 3-4 Vikings would lead the NFC North with a 5-2 record if it weren't for special teams miscues. In seven games, the Vikings have given up five touchdowns on special teams. Will Blackmon's 76-yard punt-return touchdown proved to be the margin of victory in the opening game against the Pack.
The Vikes won in week five, despite Reggie Bush's record-tying two punt-return touchdowns. In week seven, the Bears won by seven, thanks to a blocked punt return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in the end zone.
43) Terrell Owens is not the big-name wide receiver in the headlines, thanks to the recent signing of Roy E. Williams from the winless Detroit Lions. Although Roy E. Williams caught zero passes against the Rams, he remains the big headline in Dallas, along with Romo and Pacman.
44) A lot of blowouts this year. A lot. Twenty-four games have been decided by 20 or more points. The biggest win of the season goes to the Super Bowl champions, who clobbered the pathetic Seahawks 44-6.
45) Coaches still call timeouts a tenth of a second before a kicker attempts a clutch field goal. Personally, I think this rule is stupid. If you want to freeze the kicker, call the timeout well before the play starts. Ken Whisenhunt of Arizona and Tom Cable of Oakland were burned by timeouts at the end of regulation, and yet each saw his team win in record-setting fashion in overtime (blocked punt return for a touchdown/57-yard field goal).
46) Dan Orlovsky ran out the back of the end zone...
47) DeSean Jackson cost himself his first NFL touchdown by throwing the ball down on the one-yard line in front of a record-setting audience on Monday Night Football against the rival Dallas Cowboys.
48) The top five teams in the NFL, by average margin of victory per game: the Titans, the Giants, the Steelers, the Bucs, and the Eagles. The five worst teams in the NFL, by margin of loss per game: the Chiefs, the Rams, the Lions, the Bengals, and the Seahawks.
49) Dumbest Coaching Move of the Year: Mike Nolan of San Francisco challenges David Akers' field goal, then asks the referee if he is allowed to challenge. No, Mike, you can't, and that's one of the big reasons why you lost your job.
50) Top 5 Games of the Year: 5) Denver 39, San Diego 38; 4) Indianapolis 31, Houston 27; 3) Minnesota 30, New Orleans 27; 2) Chicago 48, Minnesota 41; and 1) Dallas 41, Eagles 37.
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