I’ve alluded to this several times this season, but 2014 is truly turning into one of the least predictable NFL campaigns I’ve ever followed.
Sure, the Broncos and rolling once again, the Pats seem to have got their shizzle together and the Raiders stink worse than the nasty old gym bag that’s still sitting in the boot from the last time you worked out three months ago, but all up it’s been a pretty wacky eight weeks.
This season’s biggest disappointment
Flip a coin on this one as both Seattle and New Orleans fell behind expectations, tripped and then fell again.
These two teams that were favorites to take the NFC are a combined (7-7) and have a long way to progress before either would be considered much of a threat in the post-season (should they get in.)
The Niners, Bears, and to a lesser extent the Packers, are also underachieving, but nothing like the Hawks and Saints.
While New Orleans theoretically have a bigger hole to dig themselves out of with a losing record (3-4), the reality is that nine wins could take the NFC South – and five of their remaining opponents are also under .500.
Seattle, on the other hand, still has to play the division-leading Cardinals twice as well as a pair of games against San Francisco, plus they travel to Philly to take on a tough Eagles team.
This Season’s Biggest Surprises
1. If the season ended today the Detroit Lions would enjoy a first-round bye.
After a number of disappointing and underachieving seasons during the Stafford-Megatron era, the Lions seem to finally be putting it all together, and without their star receiver to boot!
Golden Tate has proven to be worth his weight in gold as the team pried away Seattle’s top receiver in the off-season with more guaranteed money and a promise of more open touches lining up across from the league’s best wide out.
With Calvin Johnson out, @ShowtimeTate has been putting on a clinic. He is third in the NFL in receiving yards (800), proving that he was under-utilized in Seattle.
He’s got one ring with the Hawks as part of a true team effort and now he’ll look to propel his game and become a truly elite superstar.
Golden Tate finished with 7 receptions for 151 yards and 1 touchdown, his second straight game with 150+ yards pic.twitter.com/31kEupXDfb
— Detroit Lions (@Lions_Insider) October 26, 2014
The Lions control their fate in the NFC North but still face three very tough opponents on the road during the second half of the season. They travel to Arizona and New England in back-to-back weeks (11 & 12) and finish the season off in Green Bay.
2. The Dallas Cowboys will undoubtedly break their streak of three straight (8-8) seasons as they’re sitting atop the NFC East, half a game ahead of the Eagles at (6-2).
Romo and Dez Bryant have been solid and consistent, but DeMarco Murray is running the ball like it’s 1997.
He’s already taken down Jim Brown’s record – does he have a real shot at toppling Barry Sanders?
NFL record for consecutive games w/ 100 yards rushing is 14, Barry Sanders in 1997 DeMarco Murray at 8 straight (longest to start season)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 28, 2014
3. The AFC North doesn’t have a single team at .500 or below. While none of the four teams are playing like a powerhouse (Cincy’s in first place with a record of 4-2-1), it is worth noting that nobody expected this division to be the most consistent in the NFL.
I’m not going to take the time to run all the permutations to know for sure, but I’d imagine it’s possible for all four teams to wind up with winning records at the end of the season and I’m not sure that’s ever happened. (Googled it, tried to find out to no avail, please give us a tweet if you find the answer: @Comm_Box_Sports)
The New Favorites Moving Forward
According to the Vegas odds-makers (and pretty much everyone else), the Broncos are the new favorite by a long shot to win the Super Bowl and avenge last season’s embarrassing no-show at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Peyton Manning is somehow playing better than he did during his record-breaking 2013 campaign and the Denver defense is much improved, ranking #4 in total defense (315.3) and #1 against the run (72.4).
With a top-five defense and the number one scoring offense, seriously, who is going to stop these guys?
Well…how about Peyton Manning?
He’s got an (11-12) record in the playoffs with 37 TDs and 24 INTs…if you’re wondering, that’s the most playoff losses in history for an NFL quarterback – just sayin’.
The Arizona Cardinals are no longer underdogs in the NFC West, hoping for a last-second opportunity to unseat the Hawks or Niners.
They are the clear-cut top team in the division, and after beating the Eagles, the entire NFC.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 27, 2014
The Cards have nothing left to prove, and as a diehard Seahawks fan they’ve got me legitimately frightened that my Hawks will be the latest team to fail to reach the post-season just one year after winning the big show.
Bruce Arian is now (16-7) over two seasons in the desert, finding a way with a less-than-elite Carson Palmer at the helm.
Arizona has a real shot at being the first team to ever play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.