November 15, 2011
By Tuesday Morning Tailback
Okay, we know we’re a little past the midway point of the season. But this is the time when things really start to get interesting – when all the bye weeks stop, the best players find their groove, and every week there are games of more and more importance as we head towards the post season. Today we will give our assessment of the season so far as well as analyze how accurate our own predictions were two months ago with our 2011 Season Preview.
The Patriots (6-3) big ass-whooping of the Jets (5-4) in the Meadowlands on Sunday night firmly establishes New England as the team to beat in the AFC East and calls into question whether the Jets can ever take that “next step” that coach Rex Ryan keeps promising. The surprising Buffalo Bills (5-4) looked really sharp early but have been falling back to Earth in a big way the last few feeks. And there are the Miami Dolphins (2-7) our, umm, pick to win this division. They started 0-7 but have won the past two weeks and can play spoiler the rest of the year, starting with their game against Buffalo this upcoming week.
So we blew it big time by going against New England and conventional wisdom in that division. But hey, our other three picks in the AFC are in first place.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) are our current favorite to represent the conference in the Super Bowl, despite their two losses to division rival Baltimore (6-3). They just came off a big divisional win on the road and seem to have the easiest schedule down the stretch. The Ravens still control their own destiny but have a knack for not taking care of business against sub-par teams, such as their loss to Seattle this past week. At 6-3, Cincinnati is one of the biggest surprises of the season and may nudge out the Jets for the final Wildcard spot at season’s end. Cleveland (3-6) is, well, Cleveland.
Our pick, the Houston Texans (7-3), are firmly in control of the NFC South but got some devastating news this past week as they lost starting QB Matt Shaub for the rest of the season. We still think thay have enough talent to hold on and win the division but probably won’t go too far in the playoffs. Tennessee (5-4) is the only legitimate challenge to Houston, while Jacksonville (3-6) and Indianapolis (0-10) are just terrible.
In the wacky AFC West, the Oakland Raiders (our pick) are in the lead at 5-4 while the rest of the division is tied for second at 4-5. The Raiders beat the Chargers in San Diego last week after losing consecutive games at home to their other division rivals, Kansas City and Denver. After shutting out the Raiders 28-0 in Oakland a few weeks back, the Chiefs went on to lose two straight games at home, while the Broncos have won three out of four since Tim Tebow became starting quarterback even though “Kyle Orton gives this team the best chance to win”. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers continue to underwhelm all their groupies in the sports media.
In this conference as well, three out of our four preseason picks are in first place. The only gross inaccuracy was in the NFC West, where we picked the Rams (1-8) while the 49ers (8-1) are running away with everything. Despite each having a huge upset victory this past week, both Arizona and Seattle are 3-6 and too far behind to make any difference, .
As we had predicted, the New Orleans Saints (7-3) have reasserted themselves as the top team in the NFC South after a couple of huge victories the past two weeks against rivals Tampa Bay (4-5) and Atlanta (5-4). Despite a pheneominal rookie season thus far by Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers remain cellar dwellers at 2-7.
While everyone was high on the “dream team” Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) in the preseason, we chose the New York Football Giants (6-3) as our pick, seeing them as the most solid, albeit least glamorous team in the division. Those teams meet this week in what should be the death nell for the Eagles, if the Giants (who have a knack for losing divisional games at home late in the season) don’t blow it. Beyond that, the biggest challenge for the Giants is a tough schedule and the Dallas Cowboys (5-4), who they will face twice down the stretch. The Washington Redskins (3-6) started strong but are in a freefall towards the bottom.
That brings us to the undefeated World Champion Green Bay Packers (9-0), who looked absolutely unstoppable last night against the Minnesota Vikings (2-7). They were our clear preseason favorite to repeat as we predicted “13 or 14 wins”, which they are well on their way to getting, if not more. Of course, there’s talk of an undefeated season but it far more probable that they stumble once or twice down the stretch, perhaps against the Lions and/or Giants. In any case, they will be home at Lambeau Field in January and are very likely to be in Indianapolis in February, quite possibly in a rematch against the Pittsburgh Steelers. We also predicted the NFC North to be “solid from top to bottom” and, aside from the Vikings, we were right as both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are 6-3 and in position to snag up both Wildcard spots.
So we have been a bit self-congradulatory here, but there is much more season left to go and surely a few big surprises along the way. Stay tuned.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.