Saturday, November 05, 2011

NFL mid-season

AFC East

Bills -- I can't figure this team out. I don't know how good they are. Predictions: second in the division, just in front of the Jets, and behind the Patriots. Bills might squeeze into the playoffs via Wildcard.

Patriots -- Playoff team, doubtful for SB appearance. Very good team, but not great.

Jets -- Similar to Jets of last few seasons -- playing above their ability. Heart goes a long way, but always seems to fall short of SB.

Dolphins -- They played well in the last game of the first half of the season, despite a loss. Reggie Bush admitted before the game that the team was bad ("stinks" I believe he said) and that he was bad too -- then he came out and played much better. Dolphins will get 2-3 wins in the second half of the season. If you even whisper the name "Marino", all of Southern Florida will weep.

AFC North

Steelers -- Looking good, as usual, but I'm not feeling SBish on them. They were very impressive against a good Pats team, and if they improve just a little, SB would not shock. Tough division this year; any team except Browns can make playoffs. And, is there still a steel industry in this country? Should we rename them the Pittsburgh Solar Panels?

Bengals -- One of a number of teams I can't figure out. Good sometimes, but not often enough. At 5-2 they have a chance, and that's all Cincy fans ever wanted (because that might be all that's needed to make a run into the playoffs).

Ravens -- Look far better during gameplay than their 5-2 record shows. If they can shore up some problems, they'll equal the Steelers. Ravens v. Steelers this weekend should be one of the better games.

Browns -- Yet another team that's hard to understand. Capable of winning, and would stand out in a weaker division, but with three strong teams ahead of them, better luck next year.

AFC South

Texans -- Same problems as last few seasons. Monstrous talent that crushes opponents with ease, but a different kind of team arrives too often for them to be a serious SB contender. Playoffs probable.

Titans -- Hasselbeck is an interesting study. How many rings would he have if he had played with good teams? He and Phillip Rivers can compare notes after they retire. He's carrying the Titans, and it's good to see he can still get the job done. But it won't be enough. Here's the real shame, though: if they make the playoffs, the feel-good nature of the achievement will be overshadowed by the improvement of the Lions.

Jaguars -- Low-end team that doesn't have enough talent to make the playoffs. It's unfortunate, but there are teams that have to fill this role.

Colts -- Disgrace. Shameful. Hard to watch. The players believe they can't win without Peyton Manning. The team should be renamed "Mannings". The coach needs to bench all players except Painter, who must be secretly fuming that the team is wrecking his chance to show what he's got. Second string players should be playing -- all of them, and if they refuse to play ball, then the practice squad should be brought in. People who refuse to play shouldn't be allowed to.

AFC West

Chiefs -- Overachieving, but not by much. This is another team that has a legitimate chance for the playoffs, but not SB. No longer fear the Chargers, which is Step 1 in becoming a regular in the playoffs.

Raiders -- Similar team to the Texans -- great talent playing phenomenal games, but a different team steps onto the field often enough that the Raiders probably won't make the playoffs. I'd be surprised, but not shocked, if they make it.

Chargers -- For six years this team has been "the best of the rest", right after the Mannings (Colts) and the Patriots and perhaps Steelers. Looking in the mirror, the Chargers will have to realize two things: 1) since LT stopped performing due to injuries a few years ago, the team has slid straight down hill, slowly but surely, and 2) Ryan Mathews, LT's replacement, is made of glass -- the guy gets injured every other game. It may not be his fault, but he's not working out so far. Probable for the playoffs, very unlikely to get near SB.

Broncos -- Denver has a big problem, and it involves the ownership, the coaching, and the fans. Anything short of the Elway years is unacceptable. This is good and bad. Good, because high expectations are a requirement for great seasons. Bad, because anyone who doesn't perform on an Elway level after five games gets benched or fired. This constant state of flux means they can never get comfortable. Tebow -- awful quarterback right now. What he will develop into later is anyone's guess. He looks like a bull moose rubbing his antlers on an oak tree when he throws, and my kid sister throws a better spiral.

NFC East

Giants -- not as good as their record reflects. Same guy is quarterback as the last few years, right? They can prove me wrong, and I'd like nothing more, but I wouldn't pick them for SB. Playoffs likely, but not too far in.

Eagles -- Another team in the same situation as Texans and Raiders -- which Eagles team will show up? Wildcard likely.

Cowboys -- Nice stadium. Exactly as their 4-3 record shows. Not enough superstar players to make SB. Romo is a good quarterback, but at some point the folks down in Dallas will have to realize he's not The One. Forget about Jr, dynasties in Dallas are built around a great quarterback, like Staubach or Aikmen, paired with a great runner, like Dorsett or Smith. None of that magic is happening right now, nor is it on the horizon. Can the stadium play quarterback?

Redskins -- Saving a buck makes for interesting seasons, but not playoffs and certainly not SB. They have caught the same disease the Vikings have -- let's save a ton of money on a quarterback and them make ruthless demands on a team that really doesn't have much of a chance. It's kind of sad, really, until you realize that some teams are simply going to go through the motions and don't have the will to get the best people.

NFC North

Packers -- Not much bad to say about this team. Rodgers! And there's the potential problem. What is this team without him? Far, far less. Run game is weak. SB appearance likely, but all their eggs are in the Rodgers basket.

Lions -- Not nearly as good as people are saying. Everyone enjoys seeing them improve, which they certainly have, but heart and emotion can't get a team to SB. Not in a million years. Wildcard more than possible.

Bears -- Still another team in the Texans/Raiders/Eagles situation -- which team will play? Divisional competition too tough for them to get into the playoffs.

Vikings -- You mean another old, unwanted quarterback didn't get the job done? I feel bad for McNabb, because I've always liked him. Ponder will be interesting to watch; looks good so far. Adrian Peterson, who may be the best running back of all time, is being Barry Sandered. What a waste. There's a joke going around: What do the Vikings and a stolen car have in common? Neither one has a title.

NFC South

Saints -- Same as every year since the Super Bowl win -- good enough to get close, but won't get a ring the way they're playing now. Brees is still Brees, or is he? I think some post-Katrina heart fueled their SB victory, and that's done. I think only Spike Lee remembers Katrina now.

Buccaneers -- trying very hard, and improving. Nothing extraordinary happening now, and not likely to for the second half of the season. Fans deserve a playoff appearance, but likely won't get it.

Falcons -- Not quite good enough. Wildcard probable.

Panthers -- Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow -- which is which again? Popular, check -- and that's it. Newton has a lot of yards, but wouldn't it be better to have 10 yards this season and be 6-2, instead of languishing at 2-6? The future looks bright, but the present is dull.

NFC West

49ers -- I keep waiting for the crash. I keep thinking this team is floating on a Josh McDaniels cloud, and I'm wondering if they're going to fall as hard as the Broncos did after all that enthusiasm wore off and the real work of playing football stared them in the face. I'd like to be very wrong about this. They have to prove it, though.

Seahawks -- Not a good team, but since I read the book Idea Man by Paul Allen I've been rooting for them. Great book, great man, weak team. Go Seahawks! Tavaris Jackson deserved a second chance as a starter, but he won't deserve a third, if it comes to that.

Rams -- Their one victory almost makes this season worthwhile, but not quite. If they can continue to play like they did against the Saints, their one victory, then we'll have something to watch.

Cardinals -- I predicted a good season for the Cards, and boy was I wrong. I may have been the only person impressed with Kolb's performance at the Eagles. Everything has gone awry for these guys, and I don't see how it can change in the second half of the season. I'd really like this team to perform, if only because the fans should have something to cheer for.

Superbowl prediction

Packers for the NFC. For the AFC, have to go with the Steelers for lack of a better choice. Bills would be a lot more fun! Packers beat whoever shows up to play.

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