By Matt Noonan
After six weeks of the NFL’s current season, we’ve learned a lot, and witnessed some amazing moments. However, we’re far from over or throwing in the towel, especially since we have another 10-weeks remaining of the regular season.
Yet, I do wonder if anyone imagined that after six weeks, the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers would be a combined, [10-2]?
Here’s another question – who truly believed that the Cincinnati Bengals would eventually trade quarterback Carson Palmer?
Finally, did anyone expect the Philadelphia Eagles “dream-team” to implode after six weeks?
Overall, there’s been a bunch of surprises, but in this particular column, it’ll be my duty to breakdown some teams that have raised some eyebrows, as well as look ahead to the remainder of the season.
Biggest Surprise Team: I certainly have enjoyed watching Detroit and San Francisco, but the team I am going to select for this particular category is the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo has been dreadful over the past few years and yes, they’ve had some fast starts, but between quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Fred Jackson, as well as a defense that’s forced numerous turnovers against Tom Brady and Michael Vick, I’d say, they’re cooking and onto something.
Yet, despite their two recent losses against Cincinnati and New York, the Bills will certainly want to regroup quickly, especially since their remaining schedule features a variety of playoff bound teams, such as Dallas, New England, New York, San Diego, and Tennessee. They should certainly pick up a few more wins against Denver, Miami and Washington, and will most likely compete for an AFC Wild-Card spot too.
All in all, the Bills have been a lot of fun to watch, but we’ll have to wait and see if this is yet again another year of a “fast start” or possibly the start of something new.
Biggest Flop Team: Hands down, this award goes to Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Backup quarterback Vince Young should have bit his tongue this past summer when he told reporters that Philadelphia was “the dream team.” The Eagles have played horrendous on both sides of the ball, but managed to pick up an important win last weekend against Washington. Philadelphia certainly is a talented group, but if they keep playing haphazard football, don’t expect a championship to be delivered anytime soon.
Vick and his receivers need to get on the same page, while the defense has to figure out ways to stop their opponents. Expect the Eagles to pick up the slack in the coming weeks, but overall, they have a lot of ground to make-up.
Who’s more likely to clinch a postseason birth? Buffalo, Detroit, San Francisco or Tennessee?
Again, I have enjoyed Buffalo’s wild ride, but my best guess is the San Francisco 49ers, who practically have the NFC West locked up. Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis have been complete flops, which have allowed the 49ers the opportunity to distance themselves from the pack. San Francisco has been quite impressive this year, especially against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few weeks ago, (sorry, Brian Willwerth) and should certainly hang onto win their division, especially since they have five divisional contests remaining, which include two against the winless Rams.
Best AFC Team: As much as I want to pick the Baltimore Ravens, who have demolished their opponents thus far, I am going to pick the New England Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Wes Welker have been a deadly one-two punch, while second year tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have helped with the run game.
As far as their defense, well… it’s getting better. Against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, the secondary, which is one the worst in the NFL played quite well, while the front seven pressures both quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo.
This week, the Patriots will enjoy a much needed bye week before they travel to Pittsburgh. If New England can keep grinding out wins, expect this team to finally end their recent playoff drought.
Best NFC Team: This is an easy one – the Green Bay Packers.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Pack have been on a roll this season, and are certainly on pace to return to the Super Bowl. Yet, it’s only been six games, so I think we need a few more weeks to decide how good this Packers team is, but as of Oct. 20, 2011, I’m going to say, they’re the best the NFC has to offer this season.
Possible Super Bowl Prediction: Earlier this summer, I didn’t have a chance to predict a possible Super Bowl matchup, but now, I am going to say it’ll be between the Packers and Patriots. Both teams are committed to winning, as well as have two of the best quarterbacks in the game that are completely clutch in the fourth quarter. Green Bay’s defense might be a tad bit better than New England’s, but all in all, I’m anticipating a Super Bowl XXXI rematch in Indianapolis, Indiana this February.