by Tuesday Morning Tailback
You may have noticed the trend we’ve established of offering real analysis a few times a year with all the “bitching” articles in between. We kicked off this NFL season with our 2013 Season Preview two months ago and even went on the limb of picking each division winner and Super Bowl participants as well as predicting the exact rankings where each team would finish the season (sort of like a reverse draft order). Obviously we ranked the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers way to high and the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs way too low, but there is still a half of season left to see where this all hashes out.
While each team in the AFC East has shown some signs of life, it already looks like the New England Patriots will continue their dominance over this division, especially with their explosive second half in the 55-31 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Jets have oscillated between impressive wins and embarrassing losses, like the 49-9 route they suffered in Cincinnati a couple weeks ago. The Miami Dolphins are now entangled in player controversy and the unlucky Bills keep getting quarterbacks injured. In the AFC North, Cincinnati is up by two games over the rest of the division who has losing records. The Cleveland Browns are in 2nd place at 4-5 and have already beaten the Bengals earlier in the season, while the Steelers and World Champion Baltimore Ravens have each had sad declines early in 2013. Overall, the Bengals are the obvious favorite but don’t rule out a resurgence/collapse scenario which can shake things up.
Following their impressive comeback in Houston Sunday night, the Indianapolis Colts appear to be a shoe-in to take the weak AFC South. At 2-6, and with a current six game losing streak, the Texans are a bitter disappointment. Also here we have the mediocre Tennessee Titans and the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a legitimate shot at 0-16. Peyton Manning is having a historic season for the Denver Broncos who have stolen the thunder from the amazing undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos and Chiefs still have two games to showdown and establish AFC West dominance. San Diego has been inconsistent and Oakland has been schizophrenic in their play.
While the Giants, Redskins, and Eagles have each looked better in their most recent games, the NFC East is clearly the Cowboys to lose at the midway point, as Dallas has victories against each of their division foes. Chicago’s victory over Green Bay last night made a three-way tie amoung those teams and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, with each 2-1 in the division. The real wildcard here is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was injured in last night’s game. If Rodgers gets healthy, advantage Green Bay, otherwise, it can go any way. With their late game collapse in Dallas on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings are just plain sad.
With the loss to the New York Jets this past Sunday, the New Orleans Saints fell behind Seattle in the conference race for home field (and these are both teams which fully utilize that home field advantage). The suddenly hot Carolina Panthers may challenge for the title, which can be decided in December when New Orleans and Carolina meet twice. The Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t appear to be factors at all in this division. Finally there is the NFC West, where the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will likely battle through December for the division title (and likely inside track to the Super Bowl). Seattle has a slight edge with an early season win over San Francisco and a slightly easier remaining schedule, but the other division foes, Arizona and St. Louis, may play the part of spoiler before all is said and done.
The 2013 season has been pretty exciting thus far, but I predict many unexpected occurrences in the second half of the season, which can bring this NFL season to yet another unpredictable end.
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.