One Thing Indianapolis Colts and Each NFL Loser Can Smile About in 2011
At the halfway point of the season there are an alarming nine teams with two wins or fewer.
Some fans may be thinking about packing it in for the season in order to spare themselves the agony of having to watch their team's downward spiral.
But all is not lost, underdogs. There may still be at least one reason to pay attention this season—and it's for more than just the train wreck.
Indianapolis Colts: Losing Is Good Luck
Even in the midst of a truly awful season, the Indianapolis Colts should be smiling about their chances of drafting Andrew Luck No. 1 overall.
After their many, many weeks of suffering, Colts fans may finally learn what it's like to have the next big thing lead their franchise to a decade of dominance.
Oh, wait. That's right—they're the only ones who know what that's like.
There is no justice.
There has been some skepticism about Peyton Manning's chances of returning from a serious neck injury, so drafting his successor has become urgent. Even if he is able to return, the Colts may find it difficult to pass on a commodity like Luck.
And even if they think Peyton has another four elite years in the tank, Luck clearly represents the best pure value of any player in the draft.
If the Colts lose the race to the bottom, they will still find themselves in a very unique position come draft day. Drafting a lottery pick for Peyton Manning to play with is something Colts fans have yet to be spoiled with.
Minnesota Vikings: Pre-Ponderance
While the Minnesota Vikings are still smarting over their sharp decline, fans must be smiling a little more each week that Christian Ponder starts. He hasn't been spectacular, but every game he has shown improvement, posting lines of 99, 219 and 236 yards in his three starts.
Few thought Ponder would be ready this early, but the Vikings need to turn the page sooner rather than later, and he has shown adaptability so far.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton
Two words: Cam Newton.
The future is bright for the Carolina Panthers. Newton is completing better than 60 percent of his passes through the first eight games of his career, and is on pace for 4,786 yards at the halfway mark.
And that's not even beginning to talk about his physical play.
Denver Broncos: Getting "Tebowed"
Denver Broncos fans got their wish: Tim Tebow is the man under center, so everyone should have plenty of reason to smile.
Or laugh. Or laugh at. Or get laughed at. What's the difference?
When the Detroit Lions' Stephen Tulloch "Tebowed" (mocking Tebow's trademark prayer) after sacking the celebrity quarterback, he opened the floodgates to an Internet sensation.
Now every one is Tebowing all over the country in obscure places and posting the pictures online.
Even some Denver fans have begun mocking the pose. Except when they do it they're probably praying for a better quarterback.
Arizona Cardinals: Beanie Wells
Beanie Wells is in the midst of a breakout season for the Arizona Cardinals. He is on pace for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, averaging a career-best 4.5 yards per carry and has already equaled his career high in touchdowns (seven).
Wells admitted Sunday that his lingering knee issues would most likely continue to bother him throughout the season, which could dash some of those heightened expectations.
But when there's not much else to be thankful for in Arizona, be thankful for Beanie Wells showing up and living up to the hype.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive Perseverance
Things are turning ugly on the Jacksonville Jaguars offense, but thanks to a mostly stalwart defense they manage to make most games watchable.
Jacksonville is 13th in total defense, seventh in yards allowed per game and eighth in passing yards allowed per game. As with Seattle, these figures are likely inflated due to lopsided time of possession in the opponent's favor.
St. Louis Rams: The Imperishable Steven Jackson
We can all appreciate a guy like Steven Jackson. He's a powerhouse that just won't quit.
Every year he almost seems to fall off the radar playing for struggling St. Louis Rams teams. But whenever you bother to look, there he is—pounding away, never seeming to lose a step or an ounce of that uncanny strength.
Jackson is averaging a career-best 5.3 yards per carry this season, and was instrumental in the Rams' upset over the Saints last week—rushing for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami Dolphins: Something's Got To Give
The Miami Dolphins are hot on Andrew Luck's trail as well.
They, on the other hand, may have forgotten what it was like to have the best player in the game. It's been 12 years since Dan Marino retired.
The only thing in their way to the league's worst record is, ironically, their impotent coach, Tony Sparano.
Sparano may not be able to coach this team to respectability, but don't count him among those looking towards the draft. If he doesn't successfully spoil Miami's bid for Luck, he won't be around to see it.
The way things appear to be going, it's hard to envision him saving his job regardless. Especially when several recent reports have linked the Dolphins to Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher as possible coaching candidates. Expect the coveted, selective coaches to keep close attention to the draft order.
Andrew Luck makes for a very attractive destination.
Seattle Seahawks: Good Things To Come on Defense
While the Seattle Seahawks continue to struggle to win games, Seahawk fans have still been treated to an impressive young defense all season.
Even with major injuries at cornerback and the lack of a consistent pass rush, the Seahawks are 11th in total defense and are fourth in interceptions with eight.
Their biggest strength is against the run, having now limited teams to under four yards per carry in 10 consecutive games dating back to last season (including two playoff games). This season has been good enough to earn them the eighth-best rushing defense in the league statistically.
But if you consider the fact that Seattle's offense has gone AWOL at several points this season it's a miracle their defense isn't ranked last in the league. The fact they are carrying this team is both a testament to their stubborn will and burgeoning ability.