NFL Nears Midpoint; Races Take Shape
The NFL is flying through a season that seems to be serving as a changing of the guard.
Many of the top teams are struggling, while last years' losers are moving up in the standings. The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East by one game over Philadelphia after beating them on the road last week. One of the reasons was surely Michael Vick's latest injury, as he'll never last a whole season as a starter. Washington has struggled because Robert Griffin III was not ready early in the season. The Giants, of course, have been the most disappointing team of all, finally getting their first win Monday night against putrid Minnesota.
Green Bay is in its usual spot in the NFC North with banged up Detroit and Chicago right behind. The Bears will drop in the standings now that Jay Culter is out at least a month, but no team will fall so far as to challenge Minnesota for a bottom-feeding finish. The Falcons were supposed to get to the Super Bowl this season, but they're not only three games behind the Saints, they also trail the so-so -- ie- 3-3 -- Carolina Panthers. Then there's Tampa Bay and Greg Schiano, who by now wishes he would have stayed at Rutgers. San Francisco and Seattle are still the two best teams in the NFC, and they'll battle it out all year to see who wins the West.
Who would have thought the Jets would be the toast of New York? They're only one game behind the Patriots in the AFC East. Miami and Buffalo are improved but not there yet. Pittsburgh started 0-4 but is now creeping back in the AFC Central race, winning their last two games. That probably tells us more about the division than it does the Steelers. They already have four losses, as do the Ravens and Browns, all two back of the first-place Bengals. Andrew Luck bested Peyton Manning last week in their big battle in Indianapolis to pad the Colts' lead in the AFC South. Houston, another early favorite, has slipped to 2-5 and now must play without defensive star Brian Cushing for the remainder of the season.
The biggest surprise of the season is the 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs under coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs won only two games last season but have done everything right this year. They now lead the Broncos by one game in the AFC West. Oakland and San Diego can beat any team on a given day but aren't ready to contend as of yet. Feel free to repeat that sentence for the next few years.
There are no marquée matchups this coming week, but Miami at New England is a big game for their division. There's also Dallas at Detroit, where Dez Bryant can really see if he is as good as he thinks he is compared to the Megarton. And Washington picked the wrong time to visit Denver. Mike Shanahan's homecoming will be overshadowed by an angry Bronco squad that has no intention of losing two in a row.