With two months of the 2009 NFL season already in the books, it is time to reflect on the first half of the season and consider what is in store for the final remaining weeks. It has indeed been an interesting year that has kept every pigskin fan excited or incredibly disappointed about their team, but overall, this is the NFL where anything can happen!
It is quite hard to believe or consider who has truly shown the winning ways so far this season and will continue their success up to February 7, 2010 in Miami, Florida.
The first team that has put it together on both offense and defense is the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are a team that any squad should fear if they remain on their schedule. Yet, my only question is how can we deem them the best squad in football when their schedule has consisted against a variety of sub-par teams, excluding the Arizona Cardinals. Certainly Indianapolis will be challenged in the upcoming weeks when they face-off against Houston, New England, Baltimore, Denver and New York Jets. After playing these squads, then we should really discuss if Peyton Manning and his first ranked passing offense is just unstoppable or too tough for the basement teams to defend.
Besides the Colts, what about the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos? Are these two squad’s legit or just flukes? I would have to say they are both for real. The Saints have just been too good this year and have given defensive coordinators nightmares, as well as just wooed crowds across the nation. Also, when you have a quarterback named Drew Brees, how can you not say you are the best team? Brees has clearly shown how determined he is to win every game, especially when the winning ways remain on the line.
Unlike the Saints the Broncos have truly been the amazing story this fall, especially since last year they were floating above the .500 mark by one game entering November 2008. This year has been a different story, primarily because the mile-high city has been rejuvenated by a young former Belichick protégé, a back-up quarterback from Chicago, and a crucifying defense led by Elvis Dumervil. Unlike the Saints, the Broncos face a challenging up hill battle in the AFC playoff placement race, which really will tell us how good they really can be when playing against the best. Beating the Patriots is one thing, but winning against the other big-time squads is another.
There have been quite a variety of storylines this fall surrounding the undefeated squads, but also the teams that were selected to drop off the earth’s surface pretty quickly too. After week 7 was in the books, both the AFC and NFC still have 19 possible teams that are in the midst of fighting for their playoff lives.
With the cold November air approaching and the nasty December snow, wet rain, and sleet coming too, some of these teams may want to reconsider playing football in January and book an off-season vacation to Hawaii with their friends and families. Yet, out of these various 19 teams, I am most surprised with the following: New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. These are just the few squads that were clearly not poised to remain in the hunt, although stranger things have happened in the past. For example, remember when Matt Cassel was the quarterback with the New England Patriots? How did that turn out?
Throughout the next four weeks of November, I truly think we will know before Thanksgiving who are the legit teams and the phonies. The Bengals will be a team that will be like an annoying mosquito to Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Jets will be right behind the Patriots, but will most likely compete for the wild card. As for the NFC competing for both divisions and wild cards will be much tougher than it was last year. The Cowboys are a team that really should end the season as the 6th seed in the playoffs. Even thought I selected the Chicago Bears to win the NFC North, don’t bank on the Minnesota Vikings because a good second half from the Packers, along with ruining Brett Favres homecoming to Lambeau Field will be what they need to make a push for the division.
Second Half Thoughts for the New England Patriots:
5-2 is incredibly respectable for the New England Patriots, especially considering how much more competitive this league has been thus far. Tom Brady was awarded October’s AFC Offensive Player of the Month Award, primarily because of torching the secondary of both the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Looking ahead to the remaining weeks, the month of November will tell Patriots fans how good their squad is and if they have a chance at making a run for their fourth Lombardi Trophy. Besides hoping that Brady continues to improve and regain his 2007 swagger, look for questions regarding the running game, third receiver, and defense to still remain in the final months. If the offense can receive help from running backs Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk, plus hope for Fred Taylor to return as soon as possible, this unit will click. Also, can Brandon Tate be the third target for Brady or even Sam Aiken? Finally on defense look for Gary Guyton, Mike Wright, and Brandon Meriweather to translate their first half performance into the second half of their season.
Don’t expect every game to be perfect, but with Belichick at the helm, who isn’t thinking Super Bowl XLIV at the moment?
Super Bowl prediction:
As much as it would have been great to consider my pick back in September week 1, which was Philadelphia-New England, I am going to have to say it will be New England – New Orleans Saints battling in Miami for the right to be crowned the Super Bowl Champion.