Halfway through an exciting NFL season, The Daily Shift’s Joel Slattery takes a look at the story so far…
We are halfway through the NFL regular season and the play-off picture is now beginning to take some shape. There are some teams who look assured of a play-off berth, even at this early stage. However, there are also a handful of franchises who already know that a realistic prospect of a post-season in 2012 is just not there. This year the league is tighter than ever with 24 of the 32 teams having won between 3 and 5 matches to date.
The Atlanta Falcons are the only team to boast a perfect 100% win record in the first half of the season. Standing at an impressive 8-0 (8 wins, zero losses) they are the number one side in the National Conference and are set to win the NFC South. Their main challengers will be Tampa Bay, who are second above New Orleans, a team still without head coach Sean Payton, following his suspension after the “Bounty-Gate” scandal.
In the NFC West the San Francisco 49ers lead the way. They are on great form winning four out of their last 5 games. They face stiff opposition from the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have struggled in divisional matches this season and that may well cost them a place in the playoffs.
The NFC North is the only division in the league where no team has a losing record. It is lead by the Chicago Bears the men from the Windy City have won their last 5 matches and put 50 points on the Titans last Sunday. They are by no means guaranteed to win the division as they are being pursued by the Packers (6-2) and the Vikings (5-3). This division will more than likely see its second place team receive a wildcard into the playoffs.
The NY Giants lead the way in the NFC East. In fact, they are the only side in the division with a winning record. They made all the headlines last week playing their home game against the Steelers in the wake of super-storm Sandy. Unfortunately they couldn’t get the win proving once again that sport has no sentiment. That said, the negative result should not stop them reaching the playoffs as they are way ahead of the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys.
To the AFC now where the Houston Texans currently lead the way. They are top of the AFC South above the Colts, who are most improved team of 2012. Winning only 2 games last year, they have seen 5 positive results already this term. Rookie sensation Andrew Luck, who recently broke the passing record for a first year player, is playing like a veteran and should see his team reach the playoffs, albeit through the Wildcards.
The Colts are playing without the help of their head coach, Chuck Pagano, who was recently diagnosed with Leukaemia. Pagano was in the stand for their recent victory against Miami and is acting as an inspiration to a revitalised Colts team (those who like a good inspirational speech should check out Pagano last Sunday after the game here).
In the AFC East the New England Patriots are the only team with a winning record. Fresh from their Wembley victory over the Rams they look set to make the playoffs but could face a late season rally from the Miami Dolphins. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills prop up the division.
In the AFC North it is likely that both the Steelers and the Ravens will make the post-season. Baltimore leads the way by one game but have to travel to Pittsburgh on November 11th in a game that may decide the division.
Finally to the AFC West, a division which is home to arguably the worst team in the league the Kansas City Chiefs. The other three teams however are in a battle to make the all important playoffs. The Denver Broncos are in prime position to retain the AFC West title. That said the Chargers (4-4) and even potentially the Oakland Raiders (3-5) are in with a shout. Without doubt it will be the inter divisional games which will decide who makes the playoffs.
All in all it has been an exciting season so far in the NFL and there’s no reason why the second half of the campaign will be different. With most divisions up for grabs and wildcard spots to be earned teams will go hell for leather to get the wins from here on in. Apart from who will make the playoffs the other thing on peoples minds is if the Falcons can continue their perfect season and reach the holy grail of a 16-0 regular season.
The battle for the Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl 47 is well underway as the battle for the 12 playoff spots is really starting to heat up.