LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 6: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on November 6, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
At the halfway point, we know the Packers are the best team in the NFL, the 49ers could wrap up the NFC West before November ends and the Colts are making a strong run at the league's worst team.
Another week in the NFL has gone by and as we cross the halfway point we're starting to figure a few things out about this season. The Packers are clearly the best team in the NFL, perhaps by as wide of a margin as we've seen in a few years, the Bengals are for real, the 49ers are dominant and Indy is in the midst of a historically bad season.
Here's a glimpse of what happened around the NFL this weekend.
It's the Packers and then everyone else (by a wide margin). Through nine weeks, Green Bay is far and away the best team in the NFL and it's not even close. I'm not sure we've had one team look so much better than everyone else since New England ran the table in the 2007 regular season. Aaron Rodgers has 24 touchdowns to three interceptions and a league-leading 129.1 quarterback rating, which are Tom Brady-like numbers from that undefeated season. The Packers are 8-0, Rodgers is on fire and at some point more people are going to realize that Rodgers and the Packers are putting up a season similar to the Patriots 16-0 2007 season, if not better. That's how good this team is. To add onto that, they have the best fans in football as evidenced by the Chargers having to pump in crowd noise during practice to prepare for the Cheeseheads and force Philip Rivers and Co. to move to a silent snap count -- and the game was in San Diego!
For second time in NFL history, punt return ends game in overtime. I remember back in 1995 my Chiefs were playing the Chargers on Monday Night Football and rookie return man Tamarick Vanover took a punt back to the house in overtime, the first time a game has ended in overtime on a punt return. Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals did the same breaking the hearts of St. Louis fans who thought they were getting win No. 2 in a row and on the season. Peterson took a punt at the one-yard line, weaved to the right, and then back left and sprinted up the field 99 yards, ending the game, 19-13. (Here's video of the Patrick Peterson punt return.) You know things aren't good when the team's official Twitter account tweets, "Just when you think they can't find a new way to drop one....", but later they delete it when the Rams, you know, did find a new way to drop one.
Cardinals fans were freaking out after that. It's always fun to look at the comments of an SB Nation blog when a big play happens in the game. Here's a sampling of the reactions over at SB Nation's Revenge Of The Birds, which includes a lot of all caps when the punt return went down: PETERSON TOUCHDOWN!!!!! .... PETERSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ... Wow ... ha ha ha hahahah ... PP21!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ... ARE YOU KIDDING ME YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ... PP21 Wow What a play! ... Unbelievable.
With the Sunday night victory over the Steelers, Baltimore is now tied for first place with the Bengals. Yeah, you read that right. The Ravens winning on Sunday night gave them the honor of tying things up with Cincinnati, a team we picked at the beginning of the year to finish last in this division. We talk about the Lions and Bills as surprise teams this year but, going back to what we thought we knew in September, I'd have to say that Cincy starting the season 6-2 is the biggest surprise of the year. Speaking of surprises of the year...
The 49ers could wrap up the NFC West by Thanksgiving. Jim Harbaugh plays his brother, John Harbaugh, on Thanksgiving. It's possible that Jim's 49ers are playing for a playoff spot -- in late November! That's how easily the 49ers are cruising through the NFC West. San Fran is 7-1, a full five games ahead of the 2-6 Cardinals and Seahawks. A couple more San Francisco wins, and a couple more losses for Seattle and Arizona, and the 49ers could snag a seven game lead with six to play.
Giants put the pressure on the rest of the NFC East. Through the first few weeks it looked like no one wanted to win this division but after eight games the Giants are the team that's pulling away. They're sitting with a two-game lead at the halfway point, putting the pressure on the Eagles to beat the Bears on Monday night. The Cowboys won this week, staying within two games, while the Redskins, who were once 3-1, move to 3-5 on the season. That's four games in a row and fans are clamoring for Rex Grossman (yes, fans clamoring for Grossman, that's what this has come to). Right now, the Giants look like the favorite after winning the Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots this week and improving to 6-2.
Things are getting really ugly in Indianapolis. Our Colts blog, Stampede Blue, has been taking stock of the team's front office, coaching staff and players during this ugly 0-9 start to the season. Last week, they wondered what the role of Chris Polian, son of vice chairman Bill Polian, was during this mess. A few days later Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star wondered the same thing, citing multiple sources that lay blame at the feet of Chris Polian for some of the Colts dysfunction this season. The elder Polian responded, apparently, via the Colts postgame radio show when he said there are rats out there lying about the team. The easy conclusion to make is that he was referring to Stampede Blue and/or Kravitz. All certainly doesn't seem well in Indy these days. Speaking of Indy...
Indy needs to have an Andrew Luck plan as they move into the top draft slot. 0-9, the only winless team remaining after the Dolphins notched their first victory of the season this week. The Colts need to be prepared for that scenario. If they earn the No. 1 pick, there are a million questions to answer: Would Luck sit on the bench while Peyton Manning played? Would Manning be traded? Would the No. 1 pick be traded? Would the Polians be there to make the pick? It's looking more and more like the Colts are going to be your No. 1 pick come next April.
Say what you want about Tim Tebow, but he's a .500 quarterback right now. Perhaps the most discussed quarterback in the game today, Tebow is 3-3 as a starter in his career. That tells me it's way, way too early to be saying we have a good idea of what he can do and it also tells me that he's the best option for the Broncos right now. Kyle Orton won three of the last 15 games he started; Tebow has won three of his last six. I'm not saying Tebow leads the Broncos to an AFC West crown but I do think there's something to be said for a quarterback that wins games. The team Tebow and the Broncos beat aren't taking things very well...
Oakland meltdown. That's two games for Carson Palmer and six interceptions. Raiders fans over at SB Nation's Silver and Black Pride are having trouble processing what happened in Sunday's 38-24 loss to Tebow and the Broncos.
I am so angry right now its indescribable. What was that?! You just let Tebow run for over a 100 yards on you and a 30 year old Willis Mcgehee over 160 yards rushing. Are you serious?! That was the stuff nightmares are made of. What could we have possibly game planned for? Tebow passing?!
I am utterly disgusted with the Raiders right now. Just disgusted. We had the golden opportunity to take a sole possession of first place and that is what we do with it? We looked awful, and its pathetic. Unreal right now.
This might be the year Dan Marino's passing yards record is broken. Drew Brees becomes the first quarterback to hit 3,000 yards passing through the first nine games of the season. Marino's record is 5,084 yards which means Brees needs 2,080 yards in his last seven games to break the record. Brees was the last player to come close to Marino's record -- he had 5,069 passing yards in 2008. At this point in 2008, he had 2,985 yards, 19 yards behind his current pace.