NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS
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NFL: Week 13 Predictions

It’s time for the holidays, which means three games kick off the action on Thursday. I’d say that’s a good enough reason to say Happy Thanksgiving.

Last week I was 7-7 (including the tie) last week. Here’s to a better showing in week 13.

Thanksgiving Day Games

  • Green Bay @ Detroit: It’s a battle for first place in the NFC North to kick-off all the holiday action. A Packers win vaults them back into 1st thanks in part to their tie from a week ago.  A Lions win gives them a big edge over the rest of the field.  Aaron Rodgers is still not back, and it remains to be seen if Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien gets the call for the Pack, though Flynn is expected to get the nod.  So for that reason, give me Matt Stafford to bounce back from a rough performance in week 12. DETROIT WINS
  • Oakland @ Dallas: The Raiders have looked a lot better this year, and the Boys have been up and down.  But Dallas is used to playing on Thanksgiving, and if ever there was a time for them to live up to their potential, it’s now in a weakening NFC East. The biggest threat to a Cowboy loss is their inability to stop the run a week ago against New York, with Rashad Jennings having a breakout season this year for Oakland.  But even if Jennings can put up a lot of yards on the ground, I still see the Boys pulling out the Turkey day win. DALLAS WINS
  • Pittsburgh @ Baltimore: Both teams got of to slow starts, but have been coming on strong of late.  The AFC North rivals now battle for 2nd place, and a possible wild card berth.  The Steelers are on a 3-game win streak, but I think the Ravens defend their home turf and get the run game going again. BALTIMORE WINS

Take a second and tell me which of these  games sounds best with a side of turkey?

and now back to my picks.

1PM Sunday Games

  • Tennessee @ Indianapolis: Both teams currently have spots in the playoffs.  But a Colts loss would mean just 1 game separation in the AFC South.  Indy has been getting off to horrible starts of late but the Titans offense hasn’t been great either.  I just think the Colts are the better team, and this will be a good test and game to get back on track heading into the playoffs. It will also all but lock up the division crown. INDY WINS
  • Jacksonville @ Cleveland: The Jags have played better in the 2nd half of the season, where as the Browns are struggling after a fast start. And it hasn’t gotten any better for Cleveland, who lost a 3rd different starting quarterback to injury last week. That means Brandon Weedon, or their opening day starter is back under center.  And I think that makes the difference.  The Jags have been pretty good defensively of late but I think the Browns find a way to get their 5th win of the year.  CLEVELAND WINS
  • Tampa Bay @ Carolina: Two teams on win streaks  do battle in Carolina.  The Panthers have rebounded in a big way from a 1-3 start, while the Bucs haven’t lost since picking up their 1st win of the season.  The division foes may both be hot, but the Panthers have something to fight for, and playing at home, I see win number 8 in their future.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Chicago @ Minnesota: The Bears defense hasn’t been good since their 3-0 start.  The Vikings get very little offense outside of Adrian Peterson these days.  Jay Cutler is expected to remain out for this one, but Josh McGown has done a pretty good job.  I think the Bears can get back to their take-a-way selves, and rattle Christian Ponder. CHICAGO WINS
  • New England @ Houston: The Texans season has been very disappointing, while the Pats just continue to chug along.  I don’t see the Texans losing out the rest of the season, but I also can’t see them winning this week, especially with the good feelings New England is coming off after a huge comeback on Sunday Night over the Broncos. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Arizona @ Philadelphia: Both teams are flying high, and both are in the hunt for a playoff spot.  Nick Foles will in fact remain the starter for the Eagles, and for good reason, as he’s one of the biggest reasons for their 3-game win streak.  Philly hasn’t been good at home this year.  And I think the Cardinals are defense is for real, showing why this team got off to a 4-0 start a year ago.  With a real quarterback this team has been good all year.  And I think they take another step towards a possible Wild Card berth. ARIZONA WINS
  • Miami @ New York Jets: Neither team has been good lately.  Geno Smith is starting to hit the rookie wall, and the run game for the Jets hasn’t been consistent.  The same can be said for Miami, who continue to struggle after the loss of offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. I can’t see this being a clean game, but I think the Jets get back on track, at least for a week. NEW YORK WINS

4/4:25PM Sunday Games

  • Atlanta @ Buffalo: The Bills are coming off a bye, the Falcons have the worst record in the NFC.  It’s crazy to say that, but a Vikings tie dropped them in the 16th spot. Buffalo isn’t too much better off, sitting at the bottom of the AFC East. The Falcons defense was pretty good against a very good Saints team last week, and the Bills aren’t even in the same league as New Orleans.  For no other reason than I have liked Atlanta’s roster all year, despite the losses, I think the Falcons finally snap their 5-game skid.  ATLANTA WINS
  • St. Louis @ San Francisco: This should be fun.  Both NFC West teams boast shutdown defenses and good run games.  The 49ers have been up-and-down lately, while the Rams are coming off two very good blowout wins.  I think this will be more of a defensive struggle, with the Rams finding a way to come out on top.  This team gave the Niners fits a year ago, and I think it continues. ST LOUIS WINS
  • Cincinnati @ San Diego: The Chargers are coming off a huge win over the Chiefs, further showing the potential of this team.  But they have been very inconsistent basically the time Philip Rivers has been there, so it’s hard to trust them.  The Bengals have had it easy all season in the AFC North, and are coming off their bye.  San Diego has been shut down by lesser defenses, and only took off last week following Kansas City’s defensive injuries.  So give me the road team to pounce on the previously mentioned inconsistent Chargers. CINCY WINS
  • Denver @ Kansas City: They enter action tied for 1st, with the Broncos holding the edge thanks to a big win two weeks ago.  Whoever wins this time around could end up the number 1 seed in the AFC this year.  If you asked me who was winning this game based on how the Broncos played last week, I’d say KC.  But while the Chiefs played very well on offense, they lost a lot of key pieces on defense, and if they get into another shootout, I can’t see them out-dueling Denver.  After a 9-0 start, it’s hard to say they’ll lose a 3rd in a row, but I can’t see Peyton Manning having a 2nd bad performance in a row.  DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • New York Giants @ Washington: Both teams are coming off losses, and are just trying to stay out of last place in the East.  New York got a lot of good out of their offense a week ago, with Eli Manning committing no turnovers for just the 2nd time this season, and a huge effort on the ground.  The defense wasn’t bad either.  As for the Redskins, they were not impressive offensively yet again, and the defense wasn’t anything to write home about.  So give me the road team to have one of their better games of the year. NEW YORK WINS

Monday Night Football

  • New Orleans @ Seattle: One of the better Monday night match-ups of the season.  It’s a huge game in terms of who finishes as the number 1 seed in the NFC, with these two teams entering action with the 2 best records in the conference.  The Saints are not the same team on the road as they are at home, and having to go to the place with arguably the best home-field advantage in football isn’t going to help that.  I thin it’ll be a close game throughout, but give me the Birds at home. SEATTLE WINS

There you have it.  Enjoy your long holiday weekend Scoreboard watchers. May the turkey be as juicy as the story-lines that pop up this week in the NFL.

Happy Holidays.

– Alex

NFL: Week 12 Thoughts

12 down. 5 to go.  Divisions have tightened up, making for a fun last month of the season.

How do I sum up week 12? Big Losses, Bad Losses, and a tie… oh my god football is great.

NFC EAST (It’s Officially a Two Horse Race)

  • Eagles: Bye Week. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Tony Romo has been exceptional in the 4th quarter this season, and showed it once again.  Big 3rd down conversions helped set up a Dan Carpenter game winning 35-yard field goal.  Romo finished with 2 touchdown passes, both to Jason Witten.  Dez Bryant finished with 102-yards, and DeMarco Murray ran for 86-yards on just 14 carries.  A big fumble recovery for a touchdown helped get the Boys the win.  Now the fate of the division lies in two match-ups with Philly starting next week.  (6-5)
  • Giants: A late second field-goal sunk any hopes they had of completing a huge playoff resurgence.  First half struggles included Victor Cruz’s first fumble returned for a score, and an inability to get into the end-zone.  They ran the ball effectively with Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown combining for nearly 200-yards, but abandoned the run in the red-zone. Eli Manning finished completing just 50% of his passes, but threw 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  They managed to score 15 unanswered to tie the score late at 21, but the defense struggled to stop Tony Romo on 3rd down in what became the Cowboys game winning drive.  Strange play-calling and penalties are the biggest reason for their 4 game win streak coming to end. They lost both games to Dallas by a combined 8 points. (4-7)
  • Redskins: He’s not the same guy as the Robert Griffin III that own rookie of the year last season. RGIII finished with just 127-yards on 17-27 passing.  THe offense couldn’t muster anything more than a couple Kyle Forbath field goals, both coming in the 2nd quarter.  There won’t be a 7-game win streak to propel them into the playoffs this season. Now they have to hope they can beat the giants to stay out of last place, and not go from first-to-worst. (3-8)

NFC NORTH (A Tie Means Nobody Won this week)

  • Lions: They had a chance to get a last second win, instead Matthew Stafford threw his 4th interception of the game, sealing their fate. Stafford threw 3 touchdowns to go with those 4 turnovers.  Calvin Johnson went over 100-yards again, while Nate Burleson had a good day in his return from injury, catching 7 passes for 77-yards and a score.  This team continues to show potential, then have let-down games like this against bad teams. (6-5)
  • Bears: Josh McGown passed for 352-yards and two touchdowns with an interception.  Chicago had a Devin Hester 62-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.  But it didn’t matter, since the defense couldn’t stop the Rams offense.  That’s nothing new for a defense that has struggled since their 3-0 start.  Lucky for them, Detroit couldn’t put any separation between them. (6-5) 
  • Packers: After an early touchdown, Green Bay couldn’t do anything on offense.  That is until Matt Flynn came to the rescue, bringing them back to tie the game at 23 in the 4th quarter.  But didn’t do it alone, getting a lot of help from running back Eddie Lacy, who got back over the 100-yard mark and found the end-zone. Scott Tolzien wasn’t horrible, scoring a touchdown on the ground, but he was just 7-of-17 before his benching. They forced overtime, and kicked a field-goal to take the lead, but because of the new overtime rules, Minnesota tied, and that’s how it ended.  It was the first tie in the league since November of last season. (5-5-1)
  • Vikings: For 3 quarters, they shined. Adrian Peterson led the way with 146-yards rushing and a score, though he did lose a fumble.  Blair Walsh continues to show why he’s one of the top kickers in the league, hitting on all four of his attempts.  Christian Ponder threw 2 touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over.  But the defense wavered in the 2nd half, and nothing good happened in overtime.  A tie for this team is better than nothing, but they had a 3rd win in sight and let it slip away. (2-8-1)

NFC SOUTH (The Final 4 Weeks are Going to be Fun)

  • Saints: They weren’t sharp, but they made the plays when they had to in order to get the 4-point road win.  Drew Brees threw his two touchdowns to his tight-ends Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson.  Pierre Thomas led the way on the ground with 73-yards on just 10 carries.  All that damage came in the 1st half, with a Garrett Hartley field-goal the only New Orleans scoring of the 2nd half.  But the defense pitched a shutout in the 2nd half, giving this team just enough for the win.  (9-2)
  • Panthers: More late game heroics for Cam Newton, who engineered a game winning drive capped by a Greg Olsen touchdown with 43-seconds left in regulation.  It was a rare slow start, 16 points allowed in the 1st half that made the comeback necessary.  The game winner was Newton’s lone touchdown pass, though he did find pay dirt on the ground.  Other than that rushing TD, Carolina had no real success on the ground. But the defense showed up in the 2nd half, pitching a shutout.  The 7-game win streak is their longest in a decade.  They kept pace with New Orleans ahead of their first match-up of the season next week, a game that becomes a battle for first.  (8-3)
  • Buccaneers: Three straight wins, and they took down their best opponent in Detroit this time around. According to NFL.com, their 3 game win streak after losing the first eight of the season puts them in rare company, joining the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals as the only teams to do so.  Mike Glennon continues to show he can win in this league, completing 14-of-21 passes for 247-yards and 2 touchdowns.  Bobby Rainey didn’t come close to his break out performance from a week ago on the ground, but it didn’t matter.  It was Tiquan Underwood that had the break out week.  The 5th year wide-out went for 108 and 2 scores on the day. And obviously the defense did a good job turning Stafford over 4 times to help hold on in the end. (3-8)
  • Falcons: A loss on Thursday Night meant a lot of bad things for Atlanta.  Their 5th straight defeat ensured their first losing season since 2008, and eliminated them from playoff contention.  This is not how anyone saw a Superbowl favorite showing up this season.  Not saying much, but Matt Ryan had one of his best performances of the season, completing 30 of 39 passes for 292 yards with no interceptions, but no touchdowns either.  Steven Jackson ran one in for his first rushing score as a Falcon.  2 Matt Bryant field goals made up the rest of the lack luster offense.  The defense did a pretty good job holding a good New Orleans team to 17 points.  (2-9)

NFC WEST (The Race For 2nd is On)

  • Seahawks: Bye Week. (10-1)
  • 49ers: It’s always a good day when your defense holds the opponent to field goals.  And he wasn’t good last week, but boy did Colin Kaepernick look good this week. San Fran’s man under center threw 3 touchdowns, finished with a total of 255-yards and no turnovers.  Anquan Boldin was the recipient of two of those touchdown passes, with the other going to Vernon Davis.  The run game was lacking, but they did enough to win and keep pace with the cards.  (7-4)
  • Cardinals: This team continues to win, and this week they made a statement against a very good team. Carson Palmer threw for 2 scores and over 300-yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 52-yards and 2 touchdowns, and according to NFL.com, become the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 yards receiving.  Jay Feely added 4 field-goals to the 40-point effort. The defense shut down the Colts offense, including a Karlos Dansby pick 6 in their 20-point 2nd quarter.  Head Coach Bruce Arians beat the team that he was the interim head coach for a year ago when Chuck Pagano fought leukemia.  They’ve moved themselves into playoff contention. (7-4)
  • Rams: I’ve said it all year, this defense is for real.  And this week, the offense matched their greatness with a season high 42 points.  It’s their 2nd game in a row where they’ve looked unstoppable on offense, and against good teams.  21 in the 1st quarter made it an uphill battle all game for Chicago, and they couldn’t recover.  Kellen Clemens’ performance wasn’t anything to write home about, 167-yards, and a touchdown.  The story was the run game.  For a team that took til week 9 to drive it in on the ground, the Rams picked up rushing touchdowns from 3 different players.  Rookie rushers Billy Cunningham and Zac Stacy each found the end zone, as did rookie wide-receiver Tavon Austin.  The defense got a pick and forced 2 fumbles. (5-6)

AFC EAST (A Big Win All But Ensures New England’s Division Championship)

  • Patriots: An atrocious 1st half was followed up by an incredible 2nd half.  Two early fumbles which led to 2 touchdowns put New England down 14-0 quick.  Down 24-0 at the half, 31 unanswered points in the 2nd half to take a 1-score lead in the 4th quarter.  Tom Brady was brilliant after early struggles, finishing with 344-yards passing and 3 touchdowns.  Julian Edelman had a huge night, finishing with 9 catches for 110-yards and two touchdowns.  After the defense allowed Denver to tie the score forcing overtime, Stephen Gostkowski hit his 21st straight to give them the big come-from-behind victory(8-3)
  • Jets: It was all bad on Sunday, leading to their first 2-game losing streak of the season.  Geno Smith was as bad as he’s been all season, completing just 9 of 22 passes along with committing 3 turnovers.  The run game didn’t help, low-lighted by a Chris Ivory ankle sprain. It doesn’t help when the offense finishes just 1-for-12 on 3rd down conversions either. The defense wasn’t terrible, but they did lose Antonio Cromartie to a hip injury. (5-6)
  • Dolphins: They got off to a hot start against one of the hottest teams in the league, but then the Panthers defense tightened up, and the Miami offense had no answer. The run game continues to suffer following the bully scandal and the loss of two key offensive linemen.  Ryan Tannehill passed for over 300-yards and threw a touchdown, while Caleb Sturgis hit 3 of his 4 field goal attempts.  But all the good came in the 1st half before they could do nothing right in the 2nd half.  Mike Wallace had 127-yards receiving and a touchdown, but missed on a possible game-winner from Tannehill. (5-6)
  • Bills: Bye Week. (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Cats are Still Sitting Pretty, but Things Are Tightening Up)

  • Bengals: Bye Week. (7-4) 
  • Steelers: The comeback from an 0-4 start continues.  Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 touchdowns, to Antonio Brown in the 1st half, and Emmanuel Sanders in the 2nd half to keep playoff hopes alive.  Le’Veon Bell added 80-yards on the ground to Big Ben’s 217 passing. 4 forced turnovers didn’t hurt either. It’s Roethlisberger’s 16th win over Cleveland in 17 career starts, and gives Pittsburgh the season sweep over their division foes. (5-6)
  • Ravens: Jacoby Jones has a big day receiving, finishing with 103-yards on just 4 catches.  Joe Flacco finished with 1 touchdown thrown to Jones, 1 pick and 273-yards passing. Justin Tucker continues to come up big, hitting all 4 of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder.  The run game disappeared again, but it didn’t matter with how the defense played.  They didn’t allow the Jets to sustain drives, while recording 3 sacks and forcing 3 turnovers.  The win puts Baltimore back in contention for a wildcard spot(5-6)
  • Browns: The season got off to a promising start, but losing 6-of-7 have turned it into another season that could end at the bottom of the division.  Injuries at quarterback have defined the season, and their 3rd starter of the season went down, when Jason Campbell left with a head injury after being sacked.  Brandon Weedon came back in, but couldn’t help stop another loss.  4 turnovers, including 3 lost fumbles led to the two score loss.  Not even Josh Gordon’s 227-yards receiving could help stave off defeat. (4-7)

AFC South (Indy Running Out of Luck?)

  • Colts: This team can’t continue to get off to such bad starts.  After a strong 1st half of the season, this team is starting to show why a lack of a run game could hurt them in the playoffs. Andrew Luck came within 2-yards of being the team leader in rushing against Arizona, which can’t happen with a non-mobile quarterback.  Luck wasn’t good passing either, throwing a pick 6, and throwing a garbage time touchdown to Coby Fleener. At this point, they’re just lucky they built up a big lead in the division with Tennessee not going away. (7-4)
  • Titans: Don’t look now, but Tennessee is the number 6 seed in the AFC.  It took til the 2nd half to score a touchdown, but Ryan Fitzpatrick found the end-zone twice, including a game-winning strike to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left in regulation.  The defense held Oakland to one touchdown and field-goal attempts, and they were helped out by a couple misses.  They also won the turnover battle, which was key in a 1 score game. (5-6) 
  • Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew continues his 2nd half resurgence, rushing for 84-yards on 14 carries including a touchdown. Chad Henne managed the game well, throwing for 239 with no touchdowns but no turnovers.  The defense held late as Houston drove down the field, when rookie Ryan Davis grabbed a deflected ball for the interception to seal the victory. (2-9)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worst for a once highly thought of Houston squad.  Make it 9 straight losses,dropping them into a tie for last place after the home loss to the Jaguars. Case Keenum was back under center after being benched in the 2nd half last week in favor of Matt Schaub.  Keenum with his worst performance of his young career, completing just 18 of 34 passes for 169-yards and an interception. It’s hard to win when you can’t do anything but kick field-goals, no matter who you’re playing. (2-9)

AFC WEST (Denver Blows Opportunity to take a lead in the Division)

  • Broncos: A week after coming up big, Peyton Manning came up small on the road against New England.  A season low 150-yards, two touchdowns and a pick, Manning couldn’t pick up a big road win despite being spotted a defensive touchdown and good field position on another early turnover.  Knowshon Moreno did his best to save Denver, rushing for a career high 224-yards and a score.  Bad news on Moreno, he as found on crutches after the game.  The defense couldn’t do anything in the 2nd half, allowing the Pats to score on  their first 5 drives of the 2nd half. (9-2)
  • Chiefs: Defensive injuries are piling up at the wrong time, leading to their 2nd straight loss.  Both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left in the 1st half with bad injuries.  Alex Smith threw the ball as good as he has all year, going for nearly 300-yards, 3 scores and 1 pick.  Jamaal Charles added his 7th and 8th rushing scores on the year as apart of a 115-yard performance.  Dwayne Bowe’s touchdown catch with under 3 to play looked to be the dagger to help overcome their injuries, but it wasn’t to be. (9-2)
  • Chargers: Make it 11 wins versus the Chiefs for Philip Rivers. San Diego’s QB took advantage of Kansas City’s defensive injuries, torching the depleted secondary for  392-yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining to snap their 3-game losing streak.  Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead added scores on the ground.  Their defense wasn’t great, but they were lucky Kansas City was so banged up, and that the offense clicked on all cylinders. (5-6)
  • Raiders: Sebastian Janikowski doesn’t miss many, but he missed two on Sunday, in a 3-point loss.  Matt McGloin wasn’t too bad, throwing for 260, a score and a pick.  Rashad Jennings couldn’t crack the 100-yard mark again, but it wasn’t a bad effort by Oakland.  A win would’ve put them in the 6 seed in the AFC, instead they fall further down in the playoff hunt, and drop to the bottom of the West. (4-7)

That’s it.  Week 13 approaches as division foes square off to better their playoff standings, play spoiler and pick up as many wins as possible.

Enjoy.

NFL: Week 9 Thoughts

We’ve passed the half-way point, and there are still a couple team looking for a their first win, and the Chiefs remain unbeaten, despite teams best efforts.

6 more teams were off this week: New York, Detroit, Jacksonville, Denver, Arizona and San Francisco.

NFC EAST (A Strange Thing Happened- Everyone Not on a Bye Won)

  • Cowboys: They never make it easy, almost losing to a one win Minnesota team at home.  But Tony Romo shook off a late interception to drive his team to a late second game winning touchdown to Dwayne Harris.  Jason Witten had a good day, catching 8 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.  Their rush defense couldn’t slow down Adrian Peterson, but they did a good job on Christian Ponder in the pass game.  (5-4)
  • Eagles: Nick Foles really doesn’t want to give up his starting job.  He only threw for 7 touchdowns, tying an NFL record with 6 other QBs (Peyton Manning did this in the season opener).   Wide-receiver Riley Cooper was the beneficiary of 3 of those touchdowns, finishing with 139 yards receiving.  Not to be outdone, Desean Jackson finished with 150 yards and a touchdown on the day.  This after a few weeks of struggles on offense, and against a previously top 10 ranked defense in Oakland. (4-5)
  • Redskins: It took overtime, but Washington was able to pick up a win and stay on pace with the rest of their division mates.  As if they needed more weapons on the ground, with RGIII and Alfred Morris on the roster, full-back Darrell Young emerged and found the end-zone 3 times, including the game winner.  Entering action, Young had only carried the ball twice this season.  Add 121 more yards from Morris, and you have why this team survived the Chargers comeback attempt.  (3-5)
  • Giants: Bye Week. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers:  A division loss bigger than most.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a what turned out to be a fractured collarbone on Green Bay’s opening drive, and is expected to miss at least 3 weeks.  Seneca Wallace didn’t do much in his absence, completing just 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception.  Rookie runner Eddie Lacy did all he could to make up for the Rodgers injury, picking up 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  The loss snaps a 6-game win streak over NFC North opponents. (5-3)
  • Lions: Bye Week. (5-3)
  • Bears: No Jay Cutler. No problem.  Back-up Josh McCown had a good day, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and no turnovers.  Brandon Marshall had a big day receiving, catching 7 passes for 107 yards and a score.  The wide-out was only outdone by back Matt Forte, who ran for 125 and a score.  Defensive end Shea McClellin had 3 of Chicago’s 4 sacks on the night.  (5-4)
  • Vikings: They had a chance to pick up their 2nd win of the year, but they left too much time on the clock for the Dallas offense.  Adrian Peterson woke up, rushing for a 140 yards and a score.  Ponder added another score on the ground, and threw one to tight-end Kyle Rudolph, who left late with a foot injury.  3 sacks on the day, including two by Brian Robison.  Make it 4 straight in the loss column. (1-7)

NFC SOUTH (New Orleans Has Company)

  • Saints: If you’ve got a good front 7, you can beat this team.  Losing Darren Sproles in the 1st quarter, and being without franchise TD leader Marques Colston didn’t help, but there are too many weapons on this team to lose to an inconsistent Jets team.  But it happened, thanks in large part to two Drew Brees interceptions and a lack of a run game following the Sproles injury.  (6-2)
  • Panthers: Cam Newton wasn’t as mistake free as he’s been, but it didn’t stop Carolina from picking up their fourth straight win.  Newton threw two interceptions, and just one touchdown, but he did run one in.  The defense is a big reason for the win, pitching a shutout in the 2nd half, and picking off Matt Ryan 3 times.  Cornerback Drayton Florence returned one of those interceptions for a 38-yard touchdown.  Fullback Mike Tolbert scored his 5th TD during the win streak. (5-3)
  • Falcons:  So much for this team making a run.  Another 3 Matt Ryan picks meant another loss for a team with superbowl aspirations.  Steven Jackson had his first rushing touchdown as falcon, but littleness can be found in the bright spot category for Atlanta.  Much like Houston in the AFC, this team is a big disappointment.  (2-6)
  • Buccaneers: They managed to carry a 21-3 lead into the halfe time break against a very good Seahawks team on the road.  but then the Seattle defense picked up and their bid for win number 1 came to an end in overtime. (0-8)

NFC WEST (Seattle Hasn’t Looked Great Lately, But Keeps On Winning)

  • Seahawks: For the 2nd week in a row, this didn’t look like the best team in the NFC, but luckily for them, they weren’t playing high caliber teams.  They put themselves in a big hole early against the winless Bucs, and needed an extra frame to finish them off.  A big reason for the win was the contributions of Golden Tate on punt returns and Marshawn Lynch in the run game.  (8-1)
  • 49ers: Bye Week. (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Bye Week(4-4)
  • Rams: It took til week nine, but this team finally picked up their first rushing touchdown of the season.  It was apart of a second consecutive 100-yard game from rookie Zac Stacy, who finished with 127 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.  Too bad for St. Louis, it wasn’t enough.  Kellen Clemens was mediocre, throwing for 210 and a score, but he did lose a fumble.   Their defense did get to interceptions, and record 3 sacks. (3-6)

AFC EAST (Looking Like A Two Team Race)

  • Patriots: They tied an NFL season high with 55 points, and had a big day on the ground and in the air.  Tom Brady had 252 passing yards in the 1st half alone, more than 5 of his first 8 games this season.  He finished with 432 and four touchdowns, including a 2 to Aaron Dobson and 1 to Rob Gronkowski, both who finished with over 100 yards receiving   Danny Amendola also tallied a 100+ yard game, as did Stevan Ridley, though his work was on the ground.  The defense wasn’t spectacular, but you don’t need to be if the offense clicks like it did this time out. (7-2)
  • Jets: This team continues to play to the level of their opponents, and has still yet to lose or win 2 in a row.  They absolutely shut down the Saints on defense, and did a lot of good on offense.  Chris Ivory bounced back from a poor week 8 to deliver nearly 140 rushing yards and a touchdown.  Geno Smith wasn’t great, but he didn’t turn the ball over either.  Nick Foles continues to have a great year kicking the football, making all 4 of his field-goal attempts; he’s now 23 for his last 23, the longest streak in the league.  The defense did a good job stopping the run, and limiting the Saints high-powered offense.  (5-4)
  • Dolphins: It wasn’t pretty, but when you snap a 4-game losing streak, all you want is the win.  For only the 3rd time in NFL history, Miami won on a safety, thanks to a Cameron Wake sack.  It was a strange way to end their skid, but there were a lot of good things Thursday night.  The defense was good all night, forcing 3 Bengals turnovers and limiting too many big passing plays, and of course the game winning safety.  Ryan Tannehill also had a nice game, especially on the drive late in the 4th to help force overtime. (4-4)
  • Bills: They managed a season best 470 yards of total offense against a stout defense. But two turnovers in the 2nd half were returned for scores, killing any chance of handing KC their first loss of the year.  Jeff Tuel’s pass at the goal line in the opening minutes of the 2nd half was picked off and returned a 100 yards to tie the score at 10.  CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, but no scores.  Their defense did a good job, but it wasn’t enough.  (3-6)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Isn’t All Defense These Days, But They Are All Alone at the Top)

  • Bengals: They didn’t play like a team that entered action on a 4-game win streak.  To be fair, not many teams fair well on a short week, but after the way this team has been playing on offense, they were almost as bad for much of the game.  Two Mike Nuggent field-goals and running back Giovani Bernard wee the scoring offense for Cincy on Thursday.  Bernard found the end-zone twice, while fellow back BenJarvis Green-Ellis helped out on the ground in a nice way.  Andy Dalton had been so great in the past four, but three picks and taking a game losing safety in OT was a big step backward.  This while the defense did an uncharacteristically bad job stopping the Dolphins run game. (6-3) 
  • Browns: Snapping an 11-game losing streak to anyone is nice, but to a division rival, which helps you leap frog them in the standings, is a beautiful thing. Cleveland did a lot of good things against Baltimore, and it all started with Jason Campbell under center. The 31-year-old QB threw 3 touchdowns, 2 to Davone Bess, for 262 yards, while not turning the ball over. Greg Little had a big day, with 122 yards receiving. Cleveland won while getting nothing out of star tight-end Jordan Cameron and very little out the run game.  (4-5)
  • Ravens: The reigning Super Bowl champs countinure to sputter, losing to Cleveland for the first time in the Joe Flacco era. Flacco didn’t have a bad day, throwing for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns to Marlon Brown, but he was picked off once. And you know you have a problem when Flacco leads the team in rushing with 25. Ray Rice continues to struggle mightily on the ground, and this team isn’t the same without him going well. (3-5)
  • Steelers: You’re not going to win many games when you allow a franchise high in points, especially when it’s to the Patriots.  And that’s exactly what happened Sunday at Foxborough.  They got down early, and managed to come back to tie the score at 24 in the 3rd quarter, but were outscored 31-7 the rest of the way.  Jericho Cotchery benefited from a big day by Ben Roethlisberger, catching 3 touchdown passes, but big Ben also threw 2 picks in the loss.  They allowed New England to gain 630 yards of offense. (2-6)

AFC South  (The Luck Still Hasn’t Run Out)

  • Colts: For the 10th time in his young career, Andrew Luck led his team on a fourth quarter comeback. He had some help from breakout receiver TY Hilton, who caught 3 touchdowns. Hilton had really stepped up in the absence of Reggie Wayne. Indy continues to get nothing in the run game, as Trent Richardson continues to struggle since coming over in a trade earlier this year. A couple of two-point conversions on late TDs and a couple of missed Houston field goals helped secure the come from behind win. (6-2)
  • Titans: Jake Locker was not good, but luckily Chris Johnson picked up the slack on the ground.  Locker had only thrown 1 pick all season, but threw two Sunday, though he did score with his legs. The run game was the offense, with Johnson scoring twice, and Shone Green adding another. The defense did enough in the end, and this team is in the hunt, just two games back and two left with Indy, (4-4)
  • Texans:  Case Keenum looked like really good in the 1st half, thanks in large part to Andre Johnson  who had nearly 200 yards receiving before the break.  The young starter had his team up 21-3 over a good Indianapolis squad heading into the break, then things took a turn for the worse.  In a scary moment, head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed as the teams headed to the locker room.  He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons and was treated at the hospital with medicine that’s “designed to break up clots consistent with people who suffer strokes.”  Wade Phillips took over head coaching duties, and the team didn’t respond.  Randy Bullock missed two field goals and the team was held to just 3 points in the half as the Colts came back yet again  They’re now losers of 6 straight. (2-6)
  • Jaguars: Bye week. (0-8)

AFC WEST (KC Likes Winning So Much They Just Keep Doing It)

  • Chiefs: Another case of making it hard on themselves, but finding a way to get it done for the leagues remaining unbeaten.  Down 10-3 at the half, the defense picked up in the 2nd half to help get them another win.  Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Sean Smith both returned turnovers for touchdowns.  The offense was non-existent, managing just 210 yards of total offense.  (9-0)
  • Broncos: Bye Week – It wasn’t a quiet week off for Denver, as the learned they’ll be without head coach John Fox for an extended amount of time.  The 58-year-old Fox felt light-headed while golfing, went to the hospital, and will have heart surgery.  Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will take over in his absence. (7-1)
  • Chargers: With a chance to win in regulation, what they thought was a Danny Woodhead touchdown was ruled down inside the 1.  And somehow they couldn’t punch it in.  Resulting in a game-tying field goal, and ending in an overtime loss to Washington.  Rookie wide-out Keenan Allen continues to impress, catching 8 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.  Philip Rivers had a bad 1st half, but picked it up in the 2nd half.  In the end, the Skins ability to run it in from inside the 10 proved too much.  This team continues to be very up and down.  (4-4)
  • Raiders: The defense had been on a role, but they had no answer for the Eagles passing game on Sunday.  Their run game led by Terrelle Pryor was good again, with Rashad Jennings getting over 100 yards following an injury to Darren McFadden.  But it’s pretty hard to come back from a 28-13 1st half deficit if you yourself cannot throw the ball too well.  Sure Pryor finished with 288 yards passing, but couldn’t find the end-zone while throwing two picks. (3-5)

That’s it.  Week 10 approaches.

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.