Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Down The Stretch They Come! --- NFL After 12 Games

It's that time of year again as the NFL has reached the three quarter mark of the regular season. Much has changed since my last NFL post --- Dallas, New England, Atlanta,and Pittsburgh are struggling while Philadelphia, Green Bay, Miami, and Denver seemingly have regained their collective swagger. At the same time there are still two constants --- Indianapolis and New Orleans are still perfect despite playing tough games.

The final 4 weeks will be very exciting as teams jockey for division titles and wild card spots ans as the case each season, the races are wide open. Let's see where we are heading for home this season.

The Perfect Two

1.Indianapolis Colts --- In my mind, this is without a doubt, the best team in the NFL. We know that Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the game as proven with the leagues top passing offense. What has been amazing is the fact that Indy is LAST in rushing averaging a mere 88 yards a game. While this is a glaring weakness by most standards, the Colts run the ball enough to keep defenses a bit off balance.

While the defense is only middle of the road in most statistical categories, the one thing they do extremely well keeping the opponents off the scoreboard as their 17 points/ game allowed suggests, the leagues 2nd best. For Indianapolis, that is a winning combination.

The remaining schedule features a home match up versus Denver followed by games at an improving Jacksonville squad, at home against the New York Jets, and the season finale at Buffalo.

A perfect regular season? I'll say yes to that!

1.New Orleans Saints --- The offensive juggernaut that is the Saints averages an NFL best 36.7 points a contest, far and away the leagues best. Drew Brees is better than ever as his passer rating of 111.3 indicates while throwing 29 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions. The running game has struggled a wee bit but is still the 5th best with averaging just under 143 yards a game.

Although the defense has struggled some of late, they still have that big play ability as witnessed by the forced fumble and recovery in overtime to set up the winning field goal by new place kicker Garrett Hartley.

The remaining schedule pits New Orleans at Atlanta followed by it's biggest test at home versus the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints end the season with Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Two 16 and zero teams in one year? I believe it!

The Two That Could Spoil

1.Minnesota Vikings --- While they were whipped by Arizona, The Vikings still sport a fine 10-2 record and could be the main competition for New Orleans. With Brett Favre's great play and Adrian Peterson running behind a huge offensive line, Minnesota can score at will.
On the defensive side, Minnesota is as strong as any team in the NFL. Jared Allen leads the team with 12.5 of Minnesota's 40 sacks on the year. Pat and Kevin Williams stuff the run well allowing teams a paltry 84 yards per contest which ranks 3rd best. However the linebacking corps took a major hit when leading tackler E.J. Henderson broke his leg against the Cardinals.

The remaining schedule has the Vikings playing the surprise team in the NFL, Cincinnati Bengals next at home, followed by road games at Carolina and Chicago before a home home finale against the New York Giants. An interesting finish for the Vikes.

2. San Diego Chargers --- Another elite offensive team that can score from anywhere on the field, the Chargers have one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks in Philip Rivers. With a quarterback rating of 104.9, Rivers has tossed 21 TD passes to just 6 interceptions and has thrown for over 3,300 yards. The running game isn't up to snuff, but LaDainian Tomlinson has run the ball across the goal line 9 times.

San Diego's defense is better than expected get to the opposing quarterback often with 30 sacks total. Injuries have hurt the defense as safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Shawne Merriman, and defensive lineman Luis Castillo are hurting at this time.

The 9 and 3 Chargers have a tough remaining schedule beginning with a road date at Dallas, a home game versus Cincinnati, another roadie at Tennessee, and ending at home with Washington. The Chargers will make the playoffs but can they win the AFC West? My money is on San Diego to do just that.

The One Amazing Team

Cincinnati Bengals --- The AFC North leaders by a whopping 3 games, the Bengals do it by physically brutalizing opponents on both sides of the ball. The ball control offense averages yards a game, 6th best in the league and the defense is the stingiest by allowing opposing offenses to a measly 15.6 points a contest. On top of those numbers, Cincy's defense allows the 4th fewest total yards in the league that includes a mere 82 yards rushing a game.

A tough remaining schedule has the Bengals playing both Minnesota and San Diego on the road followed by the lowly Chiefs at home and finishing at the Jets in the Meadowlands. Unless they totally collapse, all hail the AFC North champs!

There are other in the mix such as surging Miami, Denver, and Jacksonville as well as the slumping Steelers and Patriots in the AFC. The NFC has rising Philadelphia and Green Bay. The enigmatic Cowboys and Giants and of course the defending conference champs Arizona Cardinals.

Let's hope the final four weeks are as exciting as the first thirteen were. Then we can talk playoffs!


Send email to dlafrance2@207me.com

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