By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
We’re basically at the halfway point of the season, so let’s take a little jaunt around the league and see what we know at what is the midway point for a lot of teams in the NFL.
First Half Award
There’s no question who the MVP is – Peyton Manning is putting up ridiculous numbers and should win the award going away, so that’s not nearly exciting enough to warrant its own down.Â Coach of the Year, though, certainly does. The obvious choice is Andy Reid of the 8-0 Chiefs, and he’s more than deserving. If I had a vote, that’s who I would cast as my winner. But I’d like to throw another name into the mix – Sean Payton. After watching the Saints muddle through a subpar season during his suspension, all Payton has done is return to the sidelines and guide New Orleans right back to the top of the NFC. The Saints are 6-1, a half-game behind Seattle for the top overall seed, and are one late Tom Brady TD drive away from still being undefeated. They also still have a game with the Seahawks (albeit in Seattle) on the docket, so it’s not out of the question to see the NFC’s road to the Super Bowl go through the Superdome. That stark dichotomy from 2012 to 2013 is more than enough to earn Payton at least a lengthy discussion with regards to this award.
Dez the Diva
I typically don’t care too much about players throwing a fit on the sidelines. I still remember Keyshawn Johnson getting in the face of Jon Gruden, prompting the former Tampa Bay coach to deactivate the star wideout for the final seven games of what ultimately turned out to be a Super Bowl-winning season. So watching Dez Bryant explode on Sunday as the Lions rallied to stun the Cowboys wasn’t anything that registered as abnormal to me. There were plenty of opportunities for Dallas to win that game, and if Bryant’s anger and frustration were the result of getting torched in his “head-to-head” matchup against Calvin Johnson, wellâ¦ get used to it, Dez, because Johnson is hands-down the best wide receiver in the game. Period. But when it comes to Dallas and whether or not the Cowboys can continue to withstand the exploits of the temperamental receiver, I just don’t know that it’s feasible anymore. Tony Romo’s psyche is fragile as it is, and Jerry Jones’ constant meddling in the day-to-day affairs of the team means everyone is already walking on eggshells. Adding a mercurial pass catcher to the mix only serves to exacerbate the situation, and I believe Dallas would be best served trading Bryant in the offseason for a nice return, rebuilding their offensive and defensive front lines, and getting away from the drama and spotlight. That will be the only way the Cowboys can ever reasonably expect to compete, which is also probably why it will be the only solution Jones will never try.
That’s the question with regards to the AFC’s sixth seed. After Miami blew a 17-3 lead in New England and the Jets forgot to get on the plane to Cincinnati, the AFC playoff picture now sees only six teams above .500. While the conference has outdone the NFC in head-to-head battles, the problem is that the AFC has proven to have five very good, Super-Bowl caliber teams and no real threat beyond that. San Diego currently holds the final spot, but that’s more the result of having a bye last week than anything they’ve done on the field. Baltimore and Tennessee also have to be considered as legitimate contenders for that final seed, and it’s still at least a week too early to eliminate Buffalo or Oakland, each of whom have 3 wins and sit within 1.5 games of the Chargers. With so many division and conference games still to be played, it’s almost certain that at least half of those teams will probably be all but eliminated by the end of November, but in a league that has routinely seen teams barely sneak into the postseason and then go on a hot streak, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how whichever team manages to claim that last AFC playoff spot will win even one game, let alone multiple.
If The Playoffs Started Today…
The NFC worked out beautifully this week – not a single tiebreaker needed to determine the playoff teams. Also, while the AFC may have the advantage in the head-to-head battles with the NFC, there’s absolutely no doubt that the NFC playoff race – with Carolina, Chicago, and Arizona all at .500 or better and on the outside of the top six – will be more exciting as the second-half of the season progresses.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
3. New England Patriots (6-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
5. Denver Broncos (7-1)
6. San Diego Chargers (4-3)
Notes: The Bengals win the second seed over the Patriots because of head-to-head victory.
1. Seattle Seahawks (7-1)
2. New Orleans Saints (6-1)
3. Green Bay Packers (5-2)
4. Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
5. San Francisco 49’ers (6-2)
6. Detroit Lions (5-3)
Cincinnati Bengals @ Miami Dolphins
Thu, 8:30pm, NFLN
Line: Bengals by 2.5
This is a pretty simple one – or at least I think it is. Andy Dalton has clearly elevated his play and the Cincinnati defense is one of the best units in the NFL on either side of the ball, while the Dolphins have regressed since their win over the Colts in Indianapolis in week two by running their losing streak to four games. I expect the Bengals to continue their winning ways and increase their hold on the North division, while Miami will continue to muddle the already murky picture that is the sixth seed in the AFC.
Pick: Cincinnati 27, Miami 17
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