The Houston Texans are in first place in the AFC South while the Colts share second place with the Jaguars. The Kansas City Chiefs are the only undefeated team in football. The Chicago Bears are in first place in the NFC North after Jay Cutler led the Bears past Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The St. Louis Rams are tied for first in the NFC West and look like the only team that can compete in that division.
If you said, “I called that in the offseason” to any of the above statements, you’re lying. We are 25% of the way through the season and man has it been a good one. There have been plenty of surprises, some a little more heart breaking than others. As much as I love college football, Gators fan through and through; parity is what makes the NFL far superior to the NCAA. If you look at a College football teams schedule you can tally the W’s and L’s and bet money you will be right within 1 win of the actual W-L record. The NFL is a whole different animal. The Lions are 0-4 and have managed to contend in every single one of those losses. You can’t deny that what makes the NFL so special is because the old adage, “Any Given Sunday” holds true, while college football is probably the most predictable sport.
The AFC South is most likely the biggest shock. What do you think of when you mention the AFC South? Peyton Manning. Period. Love him or hate him, Peyton Manning is the epitome of the QB position. For the last 7 or so years, Peyton Manning winning the division was automatic. It could be a struggle for the Colts this year. Manning is averaging a ridiculous 341.25 passing yards per game with 11 TDs to 1 INT and a 112.2 passer rating, and the Colts are still tied for second place. Matt Schaub was a nice story. Stuck behind Mike Vick in Atlanta, Schaub was traded so he could get his chance to start. It was a rocky start to his tenure in Houston but management was smart. They stuck with Schaub and gave him the chance to grow with his teammates and it has paid off. Did you ever think you would turn on ESPN and hear that the Texans orchestrated a miraculous comeback to beat ANYBODY? Now they are beating NFC East teams? Since when? The Texans are 3-1, the Colts, Titans and Jags are tied for second at 2-2. This division race is going to be a knock down drag out fight until the end.
The reason I feel the Texan being in first place in the South is slightly, just slightly more impressive than the Chiefs being the only remaining undefeated team left in the league is very simple. Peyton Manning aside, the balance of power is shifting in the AFC West. The Raiders are obviously still garbage, no debating that. The Broncos can’t decide if they want to win or lose each week. When they want to win, the Broncos are scary…when they want to win. When the Broncos are looking bad, they are looking BAD! The Chargers are going to have a rough season this year. The Chargers have scored 113 points to opponents 71, but the Chargers are 2-2 for a reason. The Chargers blew out both the Cardinals and the Jaguars combining for 79pts in both game, but put up a measly combined 34pts in games against the Chiefs and the Seahawks. Philip Rivers still looks phenomenal but is obviously missing Vincent Jackson. The Chargers need to sign Jackson or trade him and get something for him. Jackson is sitting on the bench instead of padding Rivers’ stats. The Chiefs are looking solid. Jamaal Charles is a stud and I don’t think anyone is surprised that Thomas Jones is still a top notch starting half back. The surprise has been the Chiefs D. They have been putting the pieces into place but everyone, including myself, doubted the Chiefs. We all could look very stupid come week 17. It’s still early, but the Chiefs are looking more and more like contenders and less and less like pretenders.
The only thing that has shocked me in the AFC North is the fact that the Steelers have played four games without their 2 time Superbowl Champion QB, and they are 3-1 and tied for first place with the Ravens. As much as I hate to say it, this year’s Steelers are great for football. In today’s high-flying elite offense NFL, it’s nice to see defense still dictates the W-L columns. The Bengals are 2-2, but just like last year are MAYBE a 9-7 team, that misses the playoffs this year. I’m worried for the Ravens fans. Their defense is for real, as usual, but their offense is disappointing thus far. The Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh to help the offensive numbers explode. So far all they have done is implode. Their only impressive outing was against the the most unimpressive team for the last 20 years. They dismantled a pathetic Browns team coached by the most overhyped Belichick protégé ever. Mangini was anointed the next big thing before he coached his first game in the NFL, now we all see he is a joke. Mangini is coaching for his job next year, which will be a coordinator job somewhere.
The AFC East is, well, dominant. The only team that has beat the Patriots is the team they share a 3-1 first place record with. I will be the first to admit I was a Mark Sanchez doubter before his rookie year began and I still think he has a LOT to prove, but man is he having a monster year so far. The Jets are dismantling every team they play and are looking like favorites to head to the AFC Championship game for a second year in a row. Talk all the trash you want about Rex Ryan, he has this team stomping opponents into the dirt. The Dolphins are again a mediocre team and the Bills, unsurprisingly sit in the cellar at 0-4. The shock in this division has to be the trading of Randy Moss. Please allow me a moment to quote Deion Sanders, “Are you CRAZY?” They must be. Moss is a #1 wide receiver on ANY team in this league. Let me repeat that with a little more clarity. Stick Moss on ANY roster in this league, the Bengals, Jets, Ravens, Cowboys, Colts, Packers, Falcons or Saints. Randy Moss is automatically the best player on the field. Period. Better the Chad “I’m an egotistical moron” Johnson (I refuse to call him the O name), better than either Steve Smith, Roddy White, Terrell Owens, Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, ANYONE! Randy Moss is phenomenal and from what I have seen has never shown signs in New England of any of the issues he has been accused of in the past. Randy Moss traded to the Vikings = STUPID.
Say what you want about the Skins, but are we really surprised they are in first place in the NFC East? The Giants are 2-2 but have been outscored by opponents 72-88. The Giants D played well against the Bears shaky O-Line, but no one fears that defense anymore. Couple with the fact that the Giants run game is sorry, they will be lucky to finish above 3rd place. The Eagles gave up probably the most successful QB they have ever had for an unproven backup and a running back trying to prove he can play quarterback in this league. The Cowboys are what they are. The Cowboys have an enormous payroll, an enormously disappointing W-L record and a pathetically small margin in the pts for-against columns (54-53). The Cowboys are terrible and it’s easy to see why. The offense put up big numbers everywhere except the scoreboard. So much for Dallas playing a Superbowl in their home stadium.
Are you surprised the Vikings are 1-2 and sit deservedly in 3rd place? I’m not. Brad Childress should be ashamed of himself for allowing Favre to sit out all offseason. Favre should be embarrassed that he elected to sit. Favre was only in his second season with the Vikings so offseason work outs are important. Not just for Favre, but for his young receivers. Now that his primary targets are injured he has to make do with the back-ups he has had no practice with because he sat out all offseason. Oh, wait, the Vikes just traded for Randy Moss. Scratch the whole beginning to this paragraph because the Vikes just made the playoffs. The Bears look great, but it won’t last. The O-Line is weak and their receivers are unproven. The Bears will finish with a respectable record because their D but will miss the playoffs because their offense. The Packers will make the playoffs be it as division winner or wild card, but it will happen. Aaron Rodgers is too phenomenal to miss the playoffs. The Lions deserve credit for being 0-4, but having played well enough to reach 3-1 had things gone their way. Long season ahead for Lions fans.
The NFC South is a two team division. The Panthers are awful and are placing their fate in the hands of a rookie when they don’t have a team to help him along. The Bucs, in my opinion, have shown signs of progress but will still be a sub-.500 team for a few more years. The Falcons are just playing phenomenal. The Falcons could be 4-0 if a couple defenders could learn how to tackle Rashard Mendenhall. To follow that up with a win over New Orleans and you are making a strong case for winner of the NFC South. The Saints offense has had a slow start, but that’s ok because their defense is playing hard. The Saints will break the “Madden Curse,” they WILL be in the playoffs, and could be headed to Dallas for a repeat trip to the Superbowl.
I really don’t need to say much about the NFC West. There is really no surprise that the whole division is trash. The Niners have the best roster in the division, but have managed to play the worst out of any of the four teams comprising that division. The Seahawks showed flashes of brilliance but have stalled early and will miss the playoffs. The Cardinals lost their Hall of Fame QB and it has showed over the first four games. They are bad. No other way to word it, BAD. The Rams are tied for first place against two teams who are clearly inferior to the lowly Rams. The Niners are winless and are 2 games out of first place. With a division this bad, are you surprised the 1-15 Rams could become a playoff team this year?