Thursday, October 22, 2009

NFL visions, Part 1


Minnesota Vikings, 6-0
You have no idea how much it pains me to be writing this. Saying that things are looking up for the Vikings makes me feel like my lunch might be looking to come back up. But what can I say? They're one of four remaining unbeatens, Brett Favre has the third-highest QB rating in the land, and Adrian Peterson is back atop the NFL in rushing yards. I predicted they would go 9-7, and that's looking about as likely as the Rams making the playoffs. But hope remains, Bears fans: in 2008, the season took its toll on Favre and he struggled mightily down the stretch. He's been sacked 14 times this year, so we'll have to wait and see what November and December have in store for the Vikes. But for now, their stock is higher than Geovany Soto.

Arizona Cardinals, 3-2
Warner, Fitzgerald & Co. started 1-2 and it was easy to say they had fallen back to Earth after a lucky run to the Super Bowl last year. But after beating a solid Texans squad and pasting a Seahawks team that had played well at home until then, the Cardinals find themselves over .500 and tied for first in the extremely winnable NFC West. (Unless you are the Rams. The Rams cannot win the NFC West. This is known as the Rams Clause.) But they need to get the ground game going if they want to continue to rise--their best rushing performance of the season was a 72-yard game from Tim Hightower in Week 2.

New England Patriots, 4-2
Remember when the Jets held them to zero touchdowns and made Tom Brady look like, I don't know, Wayne Brady? A changing of the guard in the AFC East, right? Wrong. Four weeks later and the Pats are back in their cozy little first place nook, a nook to which they've become quite accustomed over the years. And even if they were still in last place, they would have to be in the "Things are looking up" category after their 59-0 drubbing of the Titans. NFL Visions rule #1: If you win by at least 50 points, things are looking up.

Atlanta Falcons, 4-1
If the season ended today, the Falcons would be the top-seeded NFC Wild Card team. Plus, they're only a game back of the seemingly unstoppable Saints. They were underdogs in San Fran two weeks ago but handed the Niners their worst-ever loss at Candlestick. Then they beat a tough Bears team (single tear) to move to 4-1. They have the Cowboys on tap, and then a huge Monday night affair in New Orleans.


New York Jets, 3-3
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Jets get a new quarterback, get off to a hot start, then said quarterback throws 10 million interceptions and things go downhill. Last year it was veteran Brett Favre, this year it's rookie Mark Sanchez. Three weeks into his NFL career, he was 3-0 and everyone was talking about an all-New York Super Bowl (didn't they say that last year, too?). But it turns out Sanchez is, in fact, a rookie: one TD and eight picks in his last three games, including back-to-back divisional losses.

Baltimore Ravens, 3-3
Just call it the NFL Visions jinx. Things were looking up for both the Jets and Ravens after Week 3, and now they both find themselves spiraling downward in this random categorical system I've made up. In their first three games, they scored 38, 31 and 34 points, respectively. A potent offense to go with your dominant defense? Yes, I'd like that very much, thank you. But wait--where'd the defense go? They're allowing nearly 22 points per game and rank 22nd in pass defense. Since when does Baltimore score 31 points and lose? They sit in third place in the AFC North.

Philadelphia Eagles, 3-2
Though 3-2 is very respectable and they're still just 1.5 games behind the Giants, a loss to the Raiders is absolutely crushing. Oakland had been outscored 130-49 prior to their 13-9 victory on Sunday. McNabb was sacked six times even though Oakland had just nine sacks in their first five games combined. Any given Sunday, etc., etc., but in a season where the "Have"s have a lot and the "Have not"s all look like they're owned by Al Davis, this may turn out to be the biggest loss of the year for any team.

New York Giants, 5-1
Lucky for the Eagles, the team they're chasing appears to have a few chinks in their armor. Saying that "things are looking down" for them doesn't mean they're a bad team, it just means that there's no way Giants fans are looking at the G-Men quite the way they were one week ago. Saints-Giants was supposed to be the game of the week. Hell, the game of the year. The Giants' ground game versus the Saints' air attack. Bruising backs against a precise passer. And then ... pfffft. The air came out of the Giants' balloon faster than Balloon Boy came out of his. The Giants might still be the second-best team in the NFC, but right now, it appears to be a pretty distant second.

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