The enthusiasm and excitement for NFL football that was dampened by a potentially never-ending lockout has finally returned in the form of a season with everything. There have been dominant teams and players, surprising upsets and complete blowouts, and just about anything else a football fan could dream of. So let’s recap the first half of the season with the best and the worst.
MVP: Aaron Rogers. How could it be anyone else? The defending Super Bowl MVP has the Green Bay Packers on fire with seven wins and no losses. He leads the NFL with a 125.7 passer rating and 20 touchdown passes. He has also recorded 2,372 passing yards and just three interceptions.
Most Underachieving Player: Chris Johnson. The Tennessee Titans running back has found out how to not react to getting a new contract with easily the worst season of his career. In each of his seasons prior to 2011, he was a force to be feared on the field. However, this year he is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry and has only scored one touchdown.
Breakout Player: Calvin Johnson. The one known as “Megatron” has truly lived up to his name. The Lions wide receiver is having an amazing season and has permanently entered the elite receiver category. Throughout only eight games, he has recorded 11 touchdown receptions, a pace that is only one off the record set by then Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss in 2007.
Best Team: The Green Bay Packers. The only undefeated team remaining has only one question left. Everyone knows they can win in the regular season and post season. They know that the Packers can play defense and offense. The real question is, can they ride their undefeated start to an undefeated season?
Worst Team: The Indianapolis Colts. Perennial favorites to make the playoffs and the Super Bowl, the Colts have imploded. Without injured star quarterback Peyton Manning, they cannot get the offense into gear not only late in games but also during every other possession. They are in total free-fall. The light at the end of the tunnel? The first pick in next year’s draft where they will have a shot at drafting Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the widely thought best quarterback prospect in a draft since Manning himself.
Most Surprising Team: The San Francisco 49ers. Being the most surprising team from a perpetually terrible division is usually impressive. But the 49ers and new coach Jim Harbaugh have done exceptionally well so far. At 7-1, they have a realistic chance to go from zero to playoffs and possibly even have home field advantage for part of it.
Best Division: AFC North. At the beginning of the year after the Baltimore Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, the division was thought to have already been won by the Ravens. However, the Steelers have come storming back and now hold a 6-2 record while the Ravens are 5-2. Oh, and the Cincinnati Bengals. Yeah, they are 5-2 also. With rookie QB Andy Dalton and one of the best defenses in the league, the Bengals have had their best start in many years.
Worst Division: NFC West. Usually all of the teams are terrible. But this year the San Francisco 49ers are 7-1. To make up for it, the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, and Arizona Cardinals are a combined 4-18. In a season in which the Rams and Cardinals could have flourished, they forgot to take-off and are left on the runway at 1-6 each.
Most Exciting Game: Packers 42–Saints 34. The opening game of the season has not been matched. It had everything from big offensive to big defensive plays. The nail-biting thriller was decided on the last lay of the game. With only a yard to go to the endzone, Saints’ running back Mark Ingram was stopped by the Packers’ Clay Matthews, and Green Bay hasn’t looked back since.
Biggest Blowout: Saints 62–Colts 7. Six weeks after their opening day loss to the Packers, the Saints took the worst team in the league for a ride. QB Drew Brees threw for 325 yards and five touchdown passes, and the offense also ran for 236 yards. This all led to a 55-point margin of victory, the worst loss for the Colts in a long, long time.
NFL fans can only hope for the second half of the season to be as good as the first. Look for the playoffs to have a few surprise participants, such as the 49ers, Bills, or Bengals just to name a few. But experienced teams, such as the New England Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Ravens, and Saints will more than likely defeat the newcomers.
Super Bowl Prediction: Ravens over the Packers. I believe that the Ravens have the talent to win the AFC and have enough talent on defense to contain the Packers while their offense puts up the points needed to win with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin.
Editor’s Note: This editorial was written prior to the games played during Week 9.