Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Land of Conclusions, Midway Point

Sadly, the NFL season is halfway over already.

For people like Gavin and myself, who worship at the alter of football, this is a bad thing.

Don't get me wrong. We still like all the other sports as well (and if you haven't yet, go to USSMariner to look at their offseason plan). There just is something special about the NFL and the Seahawks.

But for now, here are some conclusions at the midway point of the NFL season.....

The Indianapolis Colts are the best team in the NFL, but I am still not certain about their Super Bowl chances - Yes, the win against the Patriots was huge, but these aren't the same Patriots of the last couple of years, and beating the champs in the regular season doesn't guarantee a playoff win (see Steelers: Pittsburgh). Indy also hasn't had the most difficult schedule in the world outside of the Pats. Look at this: at Baltimore, Jacksonville, Cleveland, at Tennessee, at San Francisco, St. Louis, at Houston, at New England. One team over .500, the Jags. All I'm saying is that some people are going a little too overboard in celebrating the AWESOMENESS of the Colts.

The New England Patriots will not repeat - They won't have homefield advantage, they won't have Rodney Harrison, their secondary is just horrible, and they don't have any form of a running game even with Corey Dillon. Tom Brady has been just incredible, but he won't be good enough for the Pats to win the 4 playoff games they will need.

The Philadelphia Eagles will not repeat as NFC champs - They also won't have homefield advantage, and they have absolutely NO running game even with Brian Westbrook. The absence of T.O. will hurt, because the entire offense ran through him. I like McNabb, but he's holding together himself with Super Glue right now. They'll be back next year, but it's not in the cards this year.

Most Surprising Team - The Washington Redskins. I simply did not see the resurgence of Mark Brunell leading to the Redskins being a real contender in the NFC. They looked VERY good against the Eagles on Sunday night, and no one would want to travel to Washington for a playoff game. The possible weak spot is the running defense, as shown by the NY Giants.

Best Team in the NFC - A tie between the NY Giants, the Carolina Panthers, and the Seattle Seahawks. I don't include the Atlanta Falcons in the mix here because I don't respect Michael Vick's ability to play quarterback, even if he's getting ticked off at the media for pointing out the simple fact that he doesn't usually throw for over 200 yards. The Giants have an offense clicking on all cylinders, the Panthers have Steve Smith, and the Seahawks have their best team in years.

Playoff Picks:

AFC:
AFC East - New England Patriots: What a joke this division turned out to be. I know I drastically overhyped both the Jets and the Bills, while the Dolphins have actually been a little better then I expected. The Pats have the talent to get it done here, but don't expect them to get a bye.

AFC North - Pittsburgh Steelers (champ): They just keep winning, and showed Cincinnati that they are a little away from competing with the big boys. You have to like that running game, the defense is remarkable once again, and Big Ben will be healthy for the stretch run.

Cincinnati Bengals (wildcard): They already have seven wins under their belt, and shouldn't have too much problem getting to the 11 win mark with games against Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo. It would take a late-season collapse to miss the playoffs.

AFC South - Indianapolis Colts: Best team in the NFL so far, and there is absolutely no way that they will not make it to the postseason, though I do think they will lose a game or two along the way. But everything is clicking, and Tony Dungy should merit some talk about the Coach of the Year.

AFC West - Denver Broncos (champs): They have the record and, as John Clayton states, the easiest schedule in the second half of the season to get this done, depending on whether Shanahan sticks with the running game and Plummer continues playing well.

Kansas City Chiefs (wildcard): This is my "out there" pick, as this means that both the Jags and the Chargers would be out of the mix. But I see Larry Johnson carrying this team into the postseason, while the Jags have looked particularly unimpressive recently and the Chargers have this interesting habit of letting teams own them in the 4th quarter.

NFC:
NFC East - NY Giants (champs): They drilled the Redskins a few weeks ago, and seem to have no holes on offense. Eli is playing extremely well and Tiki Barber is, once again, raising his game and causing the rest of the league to take notice. Even the defense, while allowing huge chunks of yardage, doesn't allow a lot of points.

Washington Redskins (wildcard): I can't see Drew Bledsoe leading a team into the postseason, and the Eagles have too many problems on offense AND defense, so that leaves the new and improved Redskins led by a terrific defense (except against the Giants) and Mark Brunell (Go Huskies!)

NFC North - Minnesota Vikings: I know, I know. What in the world am I talking about here? These are the Love Boat Vikings, right? Well, look at the rest of the teams in this division. The Packers are obviously out. The Lions are completely out of whack, and I doubt that Mariucci will be around come February. The Bears? Thomas Jones is out for a few games, and the division might come down to the Week 17 game at Minnesota. Brad Johnson looks like a better fit then Culpepper. Call me crazy, but this is how I see it.

NFC South - Carolina Panthers (champs): They look better then the Falcons, with Steve Smith playing out of his mind and a defense playing well but still could play better. John Fox will have these guys easily playing to 10-11 wins.

Atlanta Falcons (wildcard): Sure, Vick isn't the greatest quarterback. But that running attack is something special, and that should be good enough to carry them into the playoffs. I don't personally expect them to do anything in the playoffs, but they will make it there.

NFC West - Seattle Seahawks: A win on Sunday should make this reality, but even with a loss here, the Hawks should easily reach 10 wins and have a chance to get to 12. They play the 49ers twice and have games against the Titans and Packers. That should be 10 wins right there. Everything else would be gravy.

Gavin:

I had some really clever items to put into this post and then my laptop crapped out on me. Go IBM! Anyways, as Colin stated above, it is really depressing to consider that the NFL season is halfway over. Why do I have to focus on the NBA? I don't want to focus on the NBA. Not to mention the fact that the Sonics have, as a team, taken the "suck" juice. Back to the land o' conclusions...

Midseason Surprise: As with most of these, I could go a few ways. I'm going to say Cincinatti, although they've had a really easy schedule. Still, 7-2 is a great mark, and they've shown a defense with a propensity for creating turnovers and an offense that is coming into its own. Other suprises include the Chicago Bears (Kyle Orton and Thomas Jones improving, the defense rocking it), the Washington Redskins (Mark Brunell rediscovering the fountain of youth), and even the New York Giants (Eli Manning looks a year ahead in his development cycle).

Midseason Failure: This is going to be a tie to two teams in the NFC North. The Minnesota Vikings were picked by many to be a possible Super Bowl representative. Unfortunately, these pundits also didn't realize that Nate Burleson had never been a #1 receiver before, the offensive line was abysmal, and Scott Linehan was essential to Daunte Culpepper's development. The defense has been far worse than advertised, although many of the additions (Darren Sharper in particular) were older veterans. Just ask the Hawks how well that turns out. The Detroit Lions are the other major disappointment. Joey Harrington was completely undermined by Steve Mariucci in the offseason and looks lost on the field. Kevin Jones can't run the football, and none of the prized first round wide receivers can get open. Basically, this is a team without a clue. Maybe they can turn it around a bit in the second half.

Midseason Failure Because of Injuries: I have to create a special section for the Green Bay Packers, because everything bad that could have happened has happened. When you lose Javon Walker, Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport for the season you lose your entire offense and even Brett Favre can't save you. Hopefully Favre sticks around for another season.

The Leader in the Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush Sweepstakes: I'd say Houston, although they have played much better recently and I think they'd take Bush. The 49ers will hang around, although I'm not sure they'd trade down, with Frank Gore and Alex Smith (although how do you pass on a talent like Reggie?). The Packers are way better than their record indicates, but it would be a steal to get Bush to replace Green.

Fantasy LVP: Tie between Jamal Lewis and Kevin Jones. Unfortunately, one member of our fantasy league used her first two picks on these jokers. Yes, she's in last place. Can you blame her? Jamal is two years away from 2000 yards. Kevin Jones was the best young back in the league last year. Now they both can't average 3 yards a carry. What the heck's going on?

NFL MVP: This sure is easy. LaDainian Tomlinson is simply lighting up the league this year. I usually steer clear of whatever player is overhyped in the preseason magazines, but LT was definitely worth it. I've watched a few Charger games and can't believe the types of plays he makes. Props do go to Shaun Alexander, my second place finisher right now, and deservant of a nice contract extension from Seattle. Speaking of this, I was reading the Sporting News on Monday and some idiot had Thomas Jones as the best back in the NFC in the first half of the season. Let that sink in... and then never read the Sporting News again.

Best Road Win: I'm putting this one in here because it is amazing how important home field advantage is this season. In the NFC, only Carolina and Atlanta have 3 road wins. In the AFC, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis are the only undefeated teams (Indy is actually 5-0!). The first huge win was San Diego's annihilation of New England, which the Chargers desperately needed and which was the first taste of the Patriots' weakness. Then of course the same Patriots head to Pittsburgh the next week and knock off the Steelers. Those were both fantastic victories. Third place goes to Washington's comeback over the Cowboys, just for the sheer improbability.

Worst Preseason Prediction: My favorite item to write. Let's think about this one for a second. Which team was rated highly by just about every preseason prognosticator? That has to be the Arizona Cardinals! Look, they didn't have an offensive line and Chike Okeafor and Orlando Huff were not "saviors". This wasn't a difficult pick (Colin and I luckily didn't make that mistake) but it was one far too many made. The time for gloating is here.

Most Overrated Team: I'm going to go with an AFC and an NFC team in this category. In the AFC I think it's the Denver Broncos. Yes, they are 6-2 with some impressive wins (NE, Philly) but they also have already played five games at home with road games at every AFC West opponent in the second half. Jake Plummer hasn't turned the corner until he can win on the road, and right now this team is 1-2 with losses to Miami and the Giants. With the AFC West so strong they could easily hit a tailspin. Second place here does go to Indianapolis, simply because of the quality of opponents so far, which has ranged from Cal Poly to Dartmouth. In the NFC, my vote goes to the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas can't close teams out, Drew Bledsoe is starting to make worse decisions, and eventually all that will catch up with them. I predict a fade.

Best Division in Football: Most pundits are claiming that it's the NFC East, but I think that's baloney. The AFC West could win most head to head matchups. The strength is obvious (and it's why I picked them as the best division in football in my preseason review). It makes picking postseason participants tough, but especially as Oakland is turning it on, this division is scary from top to bottom.

Worst Coaching Job: Marty Schottenheimer. At some point you have to ask yourself why the Chargers keep losing close games... and even almost lose close games, like the one Sunday to the Jets (how do you let Brooks Bollinger close the gap on you?). He doesn't even put LT into the offense in Game 1, essentially giving it to the Cowboys, which is inexcusable because it's your first freaking game! Of course you're going to want your star players to start off well! Second place here goes to Andy Reid for forgetting about this item I like to call the running game. Philly can't run it and they're not going to make the playoffs because of it.

AFC Division Winners: Kansas City, Pittsburgh (bye), Indianapolis (bye, home field throughout), New England

AFC Wild Cards: San Diego, Cincinatti

NFC Division Winners: Seattle (bye, home field throughout), Chicago, NY Giants (hardest schedule, so no bye), Carolina (bye)

NFC Wild Cards: Washington, Atlanta

Surprise Teams Out of the Postseason: Denver, because I think they'll choke on the road and San Diego is too darn talented. Jacksonville, because they haven't impressed with not being able to put away mediocre opponents (having to score 14 points in the 4th quarter to beat Houston). Philadelphia, because they can't run and they have no receiving weapons outside of TO. Dallas, because Drew Bledsoe will fade and they have the toughest schedule in the division.

Super Bowl Contestants: Pittsburgh (preseason choice, see no reason to change) vs Seattle (yep, it's time to go there). Winner: Pittsburgh.

posted by colin_hesse @ 11:09 AM  0 comments

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