NFL: First Half Recap

So we’ve seen week 8 come and go, marking the unofficial halfway point of the season.

Sure some teams have already taken their bye, meaning they’ve only played 7 of their 16 game scheduled, but many have played 8.  So I figured I’d take a look back at my picks for the major awards and who was gonna win it all, and tell you who really won the 1st half of the season.

My Pre-season Division and Wild Card Winners

  • NFC: New York, Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta, Dallas & New Orleans

Clearly I, was very off when I picked the Falcons and Giants to win their divisions.  Sure it could still happen, but it’s very unlikely as they sit in 3rd and 4th respectively.  But Seattle and Green Bay are both sitting pretty atop their respective divisions, and while Dallas and New Orleans aren’t wildcard times, they of course lead their divisions and would be playoff teams, as I thought they would be. I think the easiest division for me to pick had been the North.  But this has become of the of the bigger surprises for me, with both Detroit and Chicago right there heading into the second half.  The Saints, who I thought would be in a dog-fight with the Falcons all year for the South are coasting right now, but as we all know, a lot can happen in a short amount of time in the NFL.  If the playoffs started today, 4 of my 6 pick would make the playoffs.

  • AFC: Patriots, Denver, Baltimore, Houston, Cincinnati, and Indy

Here’s another case of getting the teams right (for the most part), just not picking them high enough.  Let’s talk about Indianapolis, who are showing they are a legit Superbowl contender, having knocked off three of the best teams in the league (Denver, Seattle and San Francisco), and easily at that.  I had them winning the a wild card spot, so I wasn’t really off, but I never thought they’d do this well again.  A lot of their success last year came in 4th quarter comebacks, something I didn’t see them replicating.  Denver I’m not wrong about, but my biggest shock might be in Kansas City.  I knew the Chiefs would be improved, never did I think they’d lead this division.  I figured they’d battle for a wild card.  But here they are the last undefeated team standing.  The Pats hold a slim lead, but things can change quickly if they’re not careful.  Baltimore and Houston have been big disappoints, while the Bengals defense has given them a nice lead in the North.  Just like in the NFC, 4 of my 6 picks would make the playoffs if they started today.

  • My AFC and NFC Championship games probably won’t end up quite the way I picked them, but my Superbowl pick of Denver over Seattle (sure call it chalk) does remain as a real possibility.

And how about my pre-season award winners?  Here is how some of my picks have changed.

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

  • I picked Texans Wide-receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Packers Running Back Eddie Lacy, who I put down as an honorable mention.  He’s given the Packers another option on offense, which just makes them more dangerous.

Offensive Player of the Year:

  • I picked Lions WR Calvin Johnson.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Broncos QB Peyton Manning, another pre-season honorable mention by me.  How could he not be the guy right now? Look at his stats: 29 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He’s completing nearly 72% of his passes and has only been sacked 11 times in 8 games.  Sure he’s got a lot of weapons but he’s also finding them and making all the throws.  But to be fair to Megatron, he’s having an insane year yet again.

Defensive Player of the Year:

  • I picked Bengals Defensive Tackle Geno Atkins.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to the Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali.  This guy has done a little bit of everything.  4 forced fumbles, 23 tackles, a pick 6 and 9 sacks.
  • Other possibilities: Bills MLB Kiko Alonso, Seahawks CB Earl Thomas or Chiefs OLB Justin Houston.

Most Valuable Player:

  • I picked Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Colts QB Andrew Luck.  This guy has shown he was the right guy to take number 1 last year.  He can outplay the best of them, and can put early game struggles behind him to help his team late.  His numbers aren’t flashy, but he takes care of the ball and is a true leader.
  • Other possibilities: Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Lions WR Calvin Johnson.

Coach of the Year:

  • I picked Seahawks Pete Carroll.  After a half of football, my vote would now go to Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid.  When you turn a 2 win team into an undefeated team halfway through the season, you’re going to be considered for awards.
  • Other possibilities: Bengals Marvin Lewis, Colts Chuck Pagano and Panthers Juan Rivera.

And finally my biggest surprises good and bad of the first half.

Biggest Disappointment – Team

  • Houston Texans: This is a team I saw as one of the last two standing in the AFC.  With a running back tandem like Arian Foster and Ben Tate, with a very good defense that got back Brian Cushing to play along side last year’s defensive player of the year in JJ Watt, I thought it was time for this team to take that next step.  But Matt Schaub has regressed, and is now injured, and TJ Yates didn’t do much better backing him up.
  • Dis-Honorable Mention: New York Giants – They collapsed in the 2nd half of 2012, and have carried that bad play into 2013.  Injuries have ravaged the o-line, secondary and running back position, but they still have too many weapons to be just 2-6 in the first half.

Biggest Disappointment – Offensive Player

  • Ravens RB Ray Rice: This is a guy who is usually atop the rushing yards leader board.  But a year removed from helping his team win the Superbowl, Rice hasn’t done much to help his team, and it’s a big reason why they’re just a 2-win team coming out of their bye.  At 26, there should still be something left in the tank, but he hasn’t been producing.  He’s been very good in his career after the bye, so maybe the extra time off will help get him back on track.
  • Dis-Honorable Mention: Redskins QB Robert Griffin III – It might not be fair to say this, as the mobile quarterback is coming off a serious knee injury that knocked him out of the playoffs last year.  But if you’re going to let him play, that means he’s healthy, which means we should be seeing more consistency from last years Rookie of the Year.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Team

  • Carolina Panthers: This team is riding on the high of a 3 game win streak that saw their offense put up 30+ points again, and the defense limit its opponents to 13.7 points a game, 2nd only to KC.  This team hadn’t been over .500 since before Cam Newton was drafted.  They are 2nd in a division where the Falcons play.  That means something.
  • Honorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs – 2 and 14 to 8 and 0.  A sack happy, shutdown defense.  A good run game.  A quarterback who is very good at game management. They get honorable mention because despite a bad record a year ago, this team sent 6 players to the pro bowl, so the turnaround isn’t a huge surprise. This team is primed for a postseason run.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise – Player

  • Cowboys LB Sean Lee: This guy has a nose for the football, tied for 1st in the NFL with four interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.  He also has the most return yards of a defensive player.  He’s also defended 10 passes, recovered a fumble and has a combined 81 tackles.
  • Honorable Mention: Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor – His team only has 3 wins, and his numbers aren’t great, but after a few years of disappointment, he’s shown glimpses. First of all, those 3 wins match Oakland’s win total from a year ago.  He can run with the best of the mobile quarterbacks.  And he wasn’t even supposed to be the starter. Matt Flynn was brought in, and Pryor just flat-out beat him for the job.

So there you have it.  That was fun, looking back at what I thought preseason and seeing how it’s panning out.  Of course there’s still a whole lot of football to be played, and everything I wrote here (or almost everything) could be meaningless come week 9 or 10.   But that’s the beauty of the gridiron, nothing stays the same for long.  So win, lose or draw, let’s go out and enjoy the 2nd half of the 2013 season as much as we did the 1st half.

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NFL: Week 4 Thoughts

The quarter pole of the season is here, and there are still 4 winless teams and 5 perfect teams.

Green Bay and Carolina were both on bye weeks, and enter week 5 at 1-2.

Let’s start with the have-nots (0-4)

  • Jaguars: Not surprised by this.  The Colts are a better team, and Jacksonville just doesn’t have any weapons outside of MJD to get them going on offense.  And Jones-Drew only carried for 23 yards.  They held a rare lead in this one, 3-0 after 1.  That’s where the positives ended.
  • Giants: I actually thought this was the type of game that would wake New York up.  I was wrong.  The offense continued to look lost, penalties killed their actual good drives and the defense wore down once again in the 2nd half.  Now they head into division play with a high-powered Eagles offense.
  • Steelers: A trip to London couldn’t help, so another perennial playoff team that finds themselves in the cellar.  It’s their first 0-4 start since 1968.  Ben Roethlisberger had a good day throwing the ball, but 2 turnovers in a 7-point loss was the difference.
  • Buccaneers: They led 10-0 in the first half, but allowed the Cardinals to score 13 unanswered in the 4th quarter to leave Tampa winless.  Rookie QB Mike Glennon couldn’t do any better than the benched Josh Freeman did.

Now for the big time haves (4-0)

  • Chiefs: They made easy work of the Giants, despite a bad 1st half from Alex Smith.  Jamaal Charles had a big day, and the defense was great again.
  • Saints: They made it look easy against another undefeated team in the dolphins.  They took their first possession and marched easily down the field for a TD, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. This after starting last year 0-4 last season.  Drew Brees had his 10th game of over 400 passing yards, good for 2nd all-time behind Dan Marino’s 13.
  • Seahawks: It looked like Seattle would take their loss, until their defense shutdown Houston, allowing Russell Wilson to lead his team to 20 unanswered 2nd half points to take the 23-20 win in overtime.  It’s the first 4-0 start in Seahawks history.
  • Broncos: Peyton Manning is a machine, starting off the season throwing for 16 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  It was close early against Philly, but then the offense put up 31 in the 2nd half to complete another laugher, 52-20.
  • Patriots: This team continues to find ways to win.  Win number 4 was costly, losing Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork to a torn Achilles.

More teams feeling pretty good about themselves (3-1)

  • Colts: They won 37-3, but it wasn’t their best performance, getting off to a slow start in the first half.  Trent Richardson scored his 2nd touchdown since coming over to Indianapolis, and combined for 125 yards on the ground with Donald Brown.  Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener had good days on the receiving end of Andrew Luck.  The wide-out and tight-end combined for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 receptions.
  • Dolphins: They couldn’t keep pace with New England, losing big to Miami.  Ryan Tannehill was picked off 3 times.  The Saints offense was just too much for a good Miami defense.
  • Lions: I said I thought Detroit could hand Chicago their first loss, but I never thought it would be to the tune of a 40 spot.  I thought it would be close late, with the home-field advantage tipping the scales for the Lions, but the usually stout Bears defense looked anything but.  The game wasn’t as close as the 8-point win suggests.
  • Titans: Up 24-6, QB Jake Locker was carted off the field with a hip injury in the 3rd quarter.  He left having thrown a career high 3 TDs.  Cornerback Alterraun Verner had a big day, picking off 2 Geno Smith passes, as well as recovering a fumble.
  • Bears: 3-1 in the NFC North is a good place to be, but after a poor showing against Detroit, Chicago needs a big bounce back in week 5.  The defense couldn’t stop Matt Stafford, and Jay Cutler was turnover prone.

.500 records at this point- good or bad? (2-2)

  • Bengals:  The Browns have a good defense, but you have to score more than 6 points against a 1 win team.  Giovani Bernard and BenJarvis Green-Ellis combined for just 50 yards on the ground.  Andy Dalton threw a pick on a drive that could’ve given them the lead.  He also fumbled twice, losing one.
  • Cardinals: They were lucky to play a bad bucs team, who let them come back from an early 10-point deficit.   Cornerback Patrick Peterson was the star, with two interceptions.  Larry Fitzgerald with his 80th TD reception.
  • 49ers: San Fran bounced back in a big way on Thursday Night Football, easily taking down St Louis 35-11. Frank Gore picked up his 1st 100-yard rushing game of the season (finished with 153 and a TD) and the defense picked up 5 sacks and two turnovers.
  • Jets: They didn’t look good at home against the now 3-1 Titans, but 2-2 under a rookie QB is nothing to scoff at.  Smith was picked off twice, and fumbled twice.
  • Bills: EJ Manuel didn’t look good, throwing 2 interceptions and a lost fumble but he was helped out by his defense and a big day on the ground.  Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller combined for 164 yards and a TD on 39 carries.
  • Chargers: A Richard Marshall fumble recovery in the endzone with 2:42 to go in regulation helped seal the win for San Diego.  The defense is woke up in the 2nd half, pitching a zero, allowing for the comeback victory.
  • Cowboys: They’re still in first place in the East, but that’s not saying much for the leagues worst division through week 4.  Dez Bryant had a huge 1st half for Dallas, but the wide-out and the rest of the offense were shut out in the 2nd half.
  • Browns; Don’t look now but Cleveland is on a win streak.  Brian Hoyer looked good in his 2nd start in the place of the injured Brandon Weedon, and Jordan Cameron is emerging as a top tight-end in the NFL.  And the defense was huge, limiting the Cincy to just 269 total yards.
  • Ravens: Baltimore couldn’t complete a 2nd half comeback, thanks in large part to 5 Joe Flacco turnovers.  It was another bad day on the ground, with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combining for just 24 yards on 9 carries.  Torrey Smith had a big day, 166 yards and a TD.

And finally the 1 win teams (1-3)

  • Vikings:  They’re the happiest of this group, picking up their first win of the year.  Sure it was against the winless Steelers, but Adrian Peterson got going again, and Matt Cassel looked good in place of the injured Christian Ponder.
  • Falcons: A team I thought needed to make a serious Superbowl run looks bad early.  They are having trouble closing out games.  And with a much improved Saints team in the South, Atlanta needs to right the ship quick.
  • Redskins:  The only NFC East team to win on Sunday, the skins found away to rally back from a 14-0 1st quarter deficit to the Raiders.  A big defensive TD helped Washington get their first win of the year.  RG3 was held under 300 yards passing for the first time of the year, but it didn’t matter.
  • Eagles: They found a way to stay close to Denver in the 1st half, but then the Broncos turned it on in the 2nd.  They had a good day on the ground, and Michael Vick had an okay day throwing the ball, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • Rams: St Louis got absolutely nothing on the ground, forcing Sam Bradford to throw the ball 41 times.  The Rams QB threw 1 touchdown, but also threw an interception and lost a fumble in the blowout loss to

Early Notes and Stats:

  • The NFC East has the worst combined record at 4-12, while the AFC West boasts 2 4-0 teams and an 11-5 record.
  • Peyton Manning leads the league with 16 TDs, giving Denver the leagues best total offense.
  • The Eagles rushing attack is getting them nearly 200 yards a game on the ground.
  • Atlanta’s Julio Jones leads the league with 481 receiving yards.
  • Houston’s 3rd year Linebacker Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks, tops in the NFL.
  • Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso, New England’s Aquib Talib and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner lead with 4 interceptions apiece.
  • 3 playoff teams from a year ago are 4-0.

Another fun week in the NFL, with week 5 kicking off Thursday Night in a battle of 2-2 teams, as the Buffalo Bills head to Cleveland to take on the Browns.