We are fast approaching the halfway point of the 2011 NFL season, which means certain teams are locking in as really bad and other teams are locking in as real good. Then there's the Denver Broncos. A team that looked locked in for the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes and now has Tim Tebow ready to carry them to some kind of mediocre glory.
As teams have reached a point where their fans know the season is not going to end well, the "Suck For Luck!" chant has gone up. Indianapolis and Miami are the clear front runners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes as they have fallen off a ledge for differing reasons. Due to their immense struggles (currently a combined 0-13), more and more fans of the two teams have been hoping the team will struggle the rest of this season in order to get in a position to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck.
As should be expected, this has infuriated the competitive nature of many professional athletes. A pair of Miami Dolphins players are the latest to weigh in on the Suck For Luck phenomenon, and they were not pleased. It is understandable that players don't want to give up on a season, but it should not be remotely surprising that fans of a struggling team are trying to find silver linings in the future.
We're heading into week eight of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and once again we have a decrease in the number of one-loss teams. Denver, Jacksonville and Carolina all grabbed their second victories of the season. That does not necessarily move them out of the running, but it is a tough blow to their respective candidacies. Here are the current winless and one-loss teams:
Two losses may not seem to be a commanding difference, but given how awful Indianapolis, Miami and even St. Louis are looking lately, two wins seems to be a stake in the heart of any candidacy for the number one draft pick. There is tremendous value in that pick, even for teams with a franchise QB on hand and they could get a second life in coming weeks, but I am not holding my breath for that.
After Week 1, Carolina was never really a serious candidate in the battle for the top pick in the draft. After Cam Newton showed that he was for real and ready to light up the NFL, wins were inevitable. Maybe not playoff contention wins, but enough wins that they were not going to compete with the likes of Indianapolis and Miami.
The Denver Broncos seemed locked in and ready to compete for that top draft pick, particularly when they dealt away wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Instead, Tim Tebow did Tebow things in dragging them from a 15-0 deficit back to victory. Now, not only are they two wins up on the Colts/Dolphins/Rams, they have folks wondering if a Tim Tebow renaissance will be the difference for Denver. The AFC West remains up for grabs with two games separating first place from last place. Let the run to mediocrity begin!
Co-Favorites: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Both of our weekly co-favorites found new ways to sink in week seven. The Colts were dealt the worst beating in franchise history, losing to the New Orleans Saints 62-7. The Dolphins had a 15-0 lead at home against a woeful Denver Broncos squad and somehow managed to squander it. When they went for the two-point conversion up 12-0, you could see this result coming.
Of the two of them, Indianapolis arguably has the better opportunity to win. They travel to Tennessee to face the Titans, while the Dolphins head to the Meadowlands to face the Giants. I suspect both will lose, but you never know.
NFC West Stunted: St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals
With these two likely to split against each other and every win counting in this race, playing in the same division is going to cost them both. They will still get high draft picks, but not the prize that could be worth its weight in draft picks.
Huge Question Mark: Minnesota Vikings
After qualifying the Vikings last week as truly tanking, Christian Ponder stepped up in a big way to turn the Vikings into an interesting squad moving forward. They lost to Green Bay, but Ponder looked just spry enough that he could get them some crazy wins over the next few weeks. At the same time, he is a rookie quarterback so it is hard to predict what exactly will happen. If they grab a win in the next week or two they could move out of the Sweepstakes, but until they do win, they remain.
Two-win Darkhorse: Seattle Seahawks
I've decided we'll have a two-win darkhorse category, just to acknowledge the possibility that the Colts, Dolphins and Rams can somehow figure out a way to string a couple wins together. Seattle fills the role for now as they looked truly abysmal against the Cleveland Browns. They have no answer at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst both struggling. The team did manage a huge upset of the New York Giants, but then quickly regressed against Cleveland. They truly are a darkhorse in this race.
Projected 2012 NFL Draft Top Five Picks
1. Miami Dolphins
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. St. Louis Rams
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. Minnesota Vikings
Week 8 Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Schedule
Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers - Christian Ponder and the Vikings could climb away from the top pick, or the Panthers could completely remove themselves from contention.