The last of Week 8 was played yesterday, a dramatic game between the Chiefs and the Chargers. That brings us to the midpoint of the season, with some big suprises and dissapointments in the first half. Here are some things to watch for in the second half.
1. How far will young, upstart teams like the Niners and Lions go?
The 49ers and the Lions are in two completely different situations. Let’s start with the Niners. They are the second best team in the NFC, only behind Green Bay and just an overtime loss from being undefeated. Their division is horrible, and they have a very comfortable 4-game lead. However, their main weapon on offense is the run game with Frank Gore and rookie Kendall Hunter. Alex Smith has done an alright job this year, putting up numbers far from eye-popping but he’s been effective none the less. however, when push comes to shove, I doubt he can lead the Niners on game winning drives in the playoffs with his arm, and that’s the fastest way to move the ball. Realistacally, they go 12-4 but get eliminated in the 2nd round. The Liones have many explosive and dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball, such as Javid Best, Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh. They play in the best division though, with teams like Green Bay and the Atlanta Falcons. The team is young and not playoff tested, but their playmaking ability will serve them well in January. Realistically:11-5.
2. Rookie QBs: Many teams have benched fading veterans to get their exciting young rookies a chance to play. The Bengals, Vikings, and Panthers are just 3 teams who have done this. How will Dalton, Ponder, and Newton fare down the stretch? The Bengals sit at 5-2, and with a talented squad, they have a shot at the playoffs. How far will Dalton lead them? will he falter in the clutch or will he step up and make a play, showing that he belongs in this league? The Vikings are 2-6. Will Ponder lead them to mediocry? (I know, less dramatic but it could provide a glimpse of the Vikings future). Newton has been a sensation, but his ablity to run with the football hides a huge weakness in the Panthers: Their running backs stink. I mean DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart? Come on. Plus , their defense doesn’t have anybody to strike fear in opponents. What about Blaine Gabbert? He was selected 10th overall in April, but he has been outshined by fellow rookie Dalton, selected 25 picks later. Gabbert hasn’t played horribly (Well at least not in every game…) but he hasn’t done anything special, either.
3. Phillip Rivers’ Struggles: Phillip Rivers just can’t seem to have a good game. Yesterday he threw for 369 yards, but for no touchdowns and he commited 3 turnovers. (2 picks and a fumble.) This year, Rivers is just not feeling it. His passer rating is far below recent years, and with his inability to turn it around in 8 games, I forsee a lost season for Rivers. However, he is an excellent QB and I think he’s just having an off year and he’s young enough to come back better than ever in 2012.
So there you have it. 3 things may not sound like much, but they are complex issues with lots of conflicting evidence on what the future may bring. Who knows?