It is now halfway through the season and we have a pretty clear picture of the contenders, the pretenders and the bottom feeders as they attempt to “Suck for Luck.”
1. Green Bay Packers – The Defending Super Bowl Champions look even better this year. Even though I didn’t predict for them to be back in the Super Bowl this year, I believe we’ll see them in the NFC Championship.
2. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens defense is stellar as usual, but nobody is talking about how good Joe Flacco and their offense really is. If the Ravens had a top tier wide receiver they’d be killer all around, but I still like the Ravens to win the AFC this year.
3. Detroit Lions – At the beginning of the year I went out on a limb and picked a Lions/Ravens Super Bowl. As long as Stafford stays healthy and continues to get the ball to his playmakers like he is, I think my prediction will ring true.
4. Houston Texans – I picked the Texans to make the playoffs and the beginning of the year an caught a ton of heat just like with the Lions, but who’s laughing now? Arian Foster has been beasting it since he got back and the Texans finally are fielding a legitimate defense.
5. San Francisco 49ers – When rookie Head Coach Jim Harbaugh announced Alex Smith as the starter I figured he was basically announcing he wanted to go winless and get his boy Andrew Luck in the draft next year. Just goes to show how good of a coach Harbaugh really is. This team has so much heart and still has five games against the NFC West. They are the team nobody believed in… better start believing now.
6. New Orleans Saints – Even without a true number one receiver or running back, the Saints have a killer role-playing offense where anyone can step up. The defense offers a little cause for concern.
7. New York Giants – The Giants defensive line is killer like usual and though prone to injury, they have managed to win games in the fourth quarter. Victor Cruz came out of nowhere and is a potential number one receiver.
8. Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are finally putting it together this season with three consecutive wins. If they continue at this pace they will be a dangerous team in the playoff picture.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers have played excellent at home this year, but their defense and offense will have to pick up the pace if they want to make it to the Super Bowl again.
10. Buffalo Bills – This team is a complete surprise to even me. I knew Ryan Fitzpatrick was good, but Fred Jackson and this defense have stepped it up beyond what I thought they could do.
11. Chicago Bears – The Bears are just one of those teams who gets it done in odd ways. Can their superior defense and special teams carry them all season though? No, but Forte is having an almost-MVP caliber season.
12. New England Patriots – The Patriots defense has been absolutely horrible this year and a lot of corrections need to be made if the Patriots want to even think about the playoffs. Could this be Bill Belichick’s last year in New England?
13. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals and Andy Dalton are one of the biggest surprises to me this year. Dalton has been amazing as a rookie and the Bengals, jailbirds and all, are playing with fire and heart. I doubt this team can keep it up all year, but I’ve been wrong before.
14. New York Jets – The Jets would be better off throwing Keanu Reaves in at QB. Mark Sanchez is horrible, just like I said when the Jets traded up to pick him. The rest of the team has to carry him on his shoulders, but if Santonio Holmes keeps making circus catches then the Jets will remain in the playoff picture.
15. San Diego Chargers – The Chargers have a solid offense and defense with great playmakers, but Norv Turner is a horrible coach and looks to coach them out of the playoffs again this year… when will he finally be fired?
16. Oakland Raiders – What a hire Hue Jackson has turned out to be. This team is really fun to watch with all of the speed they have on offense, a hard-hitting defense and Darren McFadden playing Wildcat. If the Raiders put the majority of their top picks to better use they would be a playoff lock, but instead they’re fighting for the horrid AFC West championship.
17. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys offense is pretty electrifying when Tony Romo isn’t lobbing the ball up so soft a two-year-old could intercept it. The ‘Boys don’t have a very good secondary either, but they have enough pieces to compete for a playoff spot. DeMarco Murray can be considered their savior even if they don’t make the playoffs.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman hasn’t played as well as I thought he would this year, but LeGarette Blount has proven he is a feature back and their defense keeps them in games so Freeman can lead his routine come from behind victories in the fourth quarter. He needs to make some adjustments if he wants to lead this team to the playoffs. At least they have a pirate ship in their stadium.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles have all of the playmakers in the world, but when it comes down to it they need both of their lines up front to put up better performances or they’re not going anywhere this year. Mike Vick hasn’t been anywhere close to where he was last year, but he’s taken a ton of hits and doesn’t have a lot of time in the backfield.
20. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs lost their two best players in the first games of the season, but the players have stepped up and salvaged what looked to be a dreadful season into a playoff race.
21. Tennessee Titans – The Titans defense has had a relapse as of late and Matt Hasselbeck is looking old. At what point does number one pick Jake Locker get to play? I say by week 12.
The Bottom Feeders:
22. Washington Redskins – The Redskins defense has been good this year, but it doesn’t matter when you don’t have a good quarterback, running back, or wide receiver corps.
23. Cleveland Browns – No, I don’t think Colt McCoy will ever be a good NFL QB, and no this team doesn’t have any good playmakers outside of the injured and disgruntled Peyton Hillis, but this team has found a way to win a few games.
24. Denver Broncos – Tim Tebow has turned the Broncos season around whether Broncos management or Tebow haters will ever admit it. He isn’t a prototypical QB, but he is a winner. Tebow should be given the season to prove himself.
25. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton looks like a stud and Steve Smith can still burn. They have no shot at the playoffs, but they have promise for the future, which is more than what can be said about some of these other teams.
26. Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings haven’t won a game yet, but they stay in most of their games. Adrian Peterson is still a stud and Christian Ponder is putting things together. The Vikings look to have the skill to be the Bengals or the Niners of next year.
27. Arizona Cardinals – Does anyone else in Arizona agree now that the Kevin Kolb trade was a mistake? He’s been bad when he plays, which isn’t often, but you don’t trade Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick for career backup.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars have a pitiful 98 points this year. I’m not entirely sold on Blaine Gabbert in the NFL. He has a cannon, but he makes bad decisions. The defense is solid, but they get tired being out on the field all day.
29. Seattle Seahawks – Can anyone else see Pete Carroll picking his boy Matt Barkley with a top five pick next year? Tavaris Jackson is not a long-term answer, just a stopgap. The Seahawks have a long way to go before they’ll be in the playoffs again.
30. Miami Dolphins – Talk about a team that needs a QB. The Dolphins defense is pretty good, but their offense is completely horrid outside of a decent offensive line. Reggie Bush has played pretty well since starting again. I could see this team getting a few more wins.
31. St. Louis Rams – They have just looked horrible on offense even with new Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. I’m not even sold on Sam Bradford anymore, he has a ton of miles on him for such a young player and has missed a lot of throws he should be making this season. How did this team regress so much? Will the front office have the guts to fire Spags at the end of the season?
32. Indianapolis Colts – There is no doubt in my mind that if Peyton Manning was playing this year the Colts would be a contender for a playoff spot. But without Manning this is just another bad team. If he does make it back this year, he could play this team out of the Luck pick.