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OTHER ITA SITES:
NFL Midseason Recap: The Road to Miami
With the NFL season halfway over, it�s fair to say there have been a few surprises. Teams that were wonderful last year have already hung up the ol� pigskin, resigning to the fact that the only way they will get into this year�s playoffs is either with a ticket or wire cutters. Teams that were weak last year have dug in their cleats, making a run at the postseason. And, perhaps in the biggest surprise of all, Al Davis is actually still alive.
For as many surprises there have been, there have also been a few things that weren�t exactly shocking: Indianapolis is good, Arizona is bad, and Terrell Owens is still acting like a spoiled child, bent on taking his ball and leaving.
After 8 NFL games done and 8 to go, here is the breakdown of what has happened so far�
The AFC West is the strongest division in football, with three teams possessing winning records. While the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers are tied for first, they still have to play each other�twice. Denver must also play the Kansas City Chiefs on Thanksgiving in Arrowhead, a venue where Denver is routinely made to look like Turkeys. San Diego, while their schedule is rather soft with Oakland, Arizona, and Buffalo in the wings, may have a hard time beating Denver. This is mainly because Denver owns Marty Schottenheimer, beating him on numerous occasions. Only Denver can DRIVE him crazy.
KC, after starting off the season at .500, was absolutely destroyed by the Steelers. However, they�ve rebounded to a record of 5-3. With a moderate schedule, the remainder of the season could go either way for KC. The Oakland Raiders, on the other hand, are playing like people pretty much expected: horribly. At 2-6, their season is all but over.
Whether Denver, San Diego, or KC finishes first, there is a great chance that both Wild Cards will come from the AFC West. A division once known for weakness, this division is now the most competitive.
The biggest surprise in this division, if not the entire NFL, is Pittsburgh�s fall from grace. Formerly known as the World Champions, the Steelers are now just a symbol�of disappointment. After losing to Denver in week 8, their hopes for making the playoffs are gone. Perhaps it just wasn�t their year or perhaps the source of Ben Roethlisberger�s talent was in his now removed appendix. Whatever the reason, nothing - not even Bill Cowher�s jaw - is enough to scare these players back into winning. They will spend January watching the playoffs from the couch, next to another team in their division, the Cleveland Browns.
On the upside of this division, the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals claim the top two spots. Pending an outbreak of bird flu, the Ravens should clinch this division as they are sitting strong at 6-2. The Bengals, having a year laden with mediocrity, could easily miss the playoffs. The fact that there is turmoil in the locker room, as Chad Johnson (Terrell Owens, Jr.) stirs the pot, isn�t helping.
In the southern part of the AFC, it�s no surprise that the greatest team belongs to Indianapolis. As the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, Indianapolis has a chance to go unbeaten. However, the Colts have been in this situation before..yes, we�ve all seen this episode. Whether or not they will choke, or be taken out by a hit man hired by the 1972 Dolphins, remains to be seen.
Jacksonville, a team that many had high hopes for, is staying steady at 5-3. However, in the AFC, the playoff race is going to be tight and the Jaguars can�t afford to lose to teams they should beat, like the Houston Texans.
At the bottom of the division, the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans sit, counting the days until the season ends. Despite a few exciting plays from college standout Vince Young, Tennessee just doesn�t have the talent to hang in this league. Houston, as usual, is left with one of the worst records in the NFL, perhaps ruing the fact that they didn�t draft Reggie Bush. Gary Kubiak, in his first year as the Houston coach, needs to be careful about having a losing record. In Texas, they execute people for that.
The New England Patriots sits on top of their division. Their clinching a playoff berth is almost guaranteed, as certain as Bill Belichick wearing a hooded sweatshirt to every game. This is because New England is talented: Here's the story, of a man named Brady, who simply doesn�t know how to lose.
Behind them at .500 sits the New York Jets, a team that is merely taxing on the runway rather than soaring through the skies. While they still have a slight chance at making the playoffs, the only teams they�ve beat so far are teams that are bad. The playoffs are going to be hard for the Jets to land..
Buffalo and Miami, rounding out the division at 3-5 and 2-6 respectively, are done for the year. Buffalo is playing like they played in all four Super bowl losses while the Miami Dolphins have had a season marked by the plummeting of previously high expectations. Dante Culpepper, starting Quarterback at the beginning of the season, has been replaced, putting him in his very own Inferno.
As the former NFC Champions, the Seattle Seahawks look like they have had their wings clipped: with injuries to Matt Hasselbeck and Shawn Alexander, they kind of have. However, they should still make the playoffs and they should be healthy be this time. Then, it�s anybody�s game.
Behind Seattle are the St. Louis Rams, a team that started off hot and has since lost three game in a row. At 4-4, the Rams still have a viable chance to make the playoffs, but probably won�t clinch home field advantage: the other teams simply won�t meet them in St. Louie.
San Francisco, as usual, is �So 1990�s� having won only three games so far. While their record is dismal, they aren�t the worst in the division. That title belongs to the Arizona Cardinals. This team seems to have cashed in all of their chips after giving up a fourth quarter lead to the then undefeated Chicago Bears. They presently have the worst record in the NFL.
Chicago looked to give Indianapolis a run for its undefeated money until the Bears lost to the Miami Dolphins. Looking more like Teddy Ruxpins than ferocious beasts, the Bears still have the best record in the NFC but the Miami game could be a preview of things to come. If Chicago continues to turn the ball over, other teams are going to make them into Bear Skin rugs.
Minnesota, at an even 4-4, has as good a chance to make the playoffs as the rest of the NFC second place teams. However, their instability at quarterback might prove to be a factor. Green Bay, at 3-5, likely needs to pack it in. Detroit, at 2-6, have made most of the teams they�ve played look like Lion tamers.
Drew Brees has made things look Big Easy in New Orleans, leading his team to a 6-2 record. Playing the first season since the devastation of Katrina, New Orleans has become a pseudo-version of America�s Team. Rooting for them is easy, as long as they aren�t playing against the team to which you pledge your allegiance.
Atlanta and Carolina, at 5-3 and 4-4, are not playing as well as expected. While Atlanta appeared to be getting hot, they recently lost to Detroit. Carolina, predicted to be Super Bowl contenders at the beginning of the season, were dealt a blow with the injury to Steve Smith. With him back, and a soft schedule, they could potentially catch New Orleans for first place. But, if they don�t get hot, the Saints will go marching into the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at a bad 2-6, are done for the year. They may as well walk the plank.
The younger Manning brother is making the family name proud, leading the New York Giants to a 6-2 record and first place in the NFC East. While they faired poorly against the Texans, barely beating them, this is a good team, rivaling the Bears for best team in the NFC. Behind them are the Dallas Cowboys, otherwise known as the sideshow to Terrell Owens. Marked by TO�s ridiculous antics, and several dropped balls, Dallas sits even at 4-4. In a close division it could go either way, and it seems that the focus of this team should lie more on winning and less on TO. When it comes to Mr. Owens, the Big Tuna should have him canned.
Philadelphia and Washington round out the division at 4-4 and 3-5. While this is still anybody�s Wild Card race, both of these teams� offenses need to ignite, or the Wild Card will be dealt to someone else. Washington�s huge win over the Cowboys may be just what they needed.
For the majority of the teams, it�s still anyone�s game�the season is only halfway over. But, as self-proclaimed experts of the NFL, we think we know what will happen. And so, we offer this prediction: Playing in this year�s Super Bowl will be, wait for it, one AFC team and one NFC team. You heard it hear first, folks. Go ahead and call your bookie.
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