NFL Producing Surprises Midway Through Season

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beall, Wikipedia

After nine weeks of the NFL season, there are three 8-0 teams, setting an NFL record for the most undefeated teams after week nine. Those three teams are the New England Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers.

The Patriots began the season as the team thought to be the best in the league by some and they have lived up to their reputation, outscoring opponents by a collective 133 points over eight games. 

Super Bowl XLIX MVP and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady was originally facing a four-game suspension following the “Deflategate” scandal, but won the appeal before the regular season started and had his four-game suspension completely dismissed. 

Brady is now on pace to throw for 5,418 yards, 44 touchdowns and just four interceptions as his team reached the half-way mark of their schedule.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been very solid during the regular season the past few years, but often lose early in the playoffs. 

So far this year, they have taken advantage of an unusually weak AFC North division. Quarterback Andy Dalton is on pace for 4,452 yards and 36 touchdowns, both of which would be career highs.

The Carolina Panthers have proven themselves to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders, after handing the Green Bay Packers their second consecutive loss this past week.  Former Rookie of the Year quarterback Cam Newton has accounted for 19 total touchdowns thus far, being on pace to tally 38, which would be a career high.

The Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants both have leads of a half of a game in their respective divisions, taking advantage of weak performances delivered by their division foes. Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of just over three to one, something he usually has difficulty achieving.

“I think if the offense continues to play well, and the defense and can play better, this Giants team can win a weak division to make the playoffs. Once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen and I trust Eli to get it done,” said sophomore Michael DiGirolamo.

The rest of the AFC playoff picture includes the Denver Broncos, who lead the AFC West by three games. As of right now, the two wild card spots are held by the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills trailing just a half of a game off of the final spot.

“The way the Jets defense has played I think they can compete with anybody, even the Patriots,” said senior Walker Larson.

After starting 6-0 but dropping two straight, the Packers have found themselves tied for first with the Minnesota Vikings, who currently hold the tiebreaker. With the Vikings holding the division lead, that would give the Packers the first wild card spot, while the Atlanta Falcons hold the second one.

Just under half of the NFL season remains and as of now, it is a close race for league MVP, although that title may very well end up going to Brady. He has led the Patriots to an 8-0 record and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 11-1, which is unheard of.

One of the biggest surprise players of the season’s first half would be Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. Coming into the season, the Falcons running back situation was unknown, but Freeman ran with the job and is currently second in the league in rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns.

With eight weeks left in the season, there is still a lot to be decided. There are a few close division races, and the wild card spots always come down to the last couple weeks. There will be a lot to watch for as three teams continue their quest for an undefeated season.