There are presently seven (4-3) teams and seven (3-4) teams in the NFL. Research shows that teams starting out (4-3) reach the playoffs 47% of the time. Conversely, teams starting out (3-4) reach the playoffs only 14% of the time.
The Buccaneers are the only (3-3) team left in the NFL. They entertain the (5-2) Raiders this Sunday.
How big a game will Sunday be for Tampa Bay? Huge, considering that of their total of 54 games played (15-39) over the past three plus seasons, in only five of those 54 games have they beaten a team with a winning record. If they want to seriously contend, they must beat the leaders, starting this week against the (5-2) Oakland Raiders, and get to (4-3), not (3-4).
With the first half of the season coming to a close, let’s take a look at some other prizes and surprises so far in the NFL.
The surprise division has to be the NFC East. Originally pegged as the “NFL Least”, it has proven it should be called the “NFL Beast” in that all four of the teams are over .500. It is the only division in the entire NFL that can boast of such a status.
An interesting development is the divergent paths two similarly talented quarterbacks have taken in starting the season.
Forced into service because of the injury to starter Tony Romo, quarterback Dak Prescott has guided the Dallas Cowboys to a (5-1) record and in so doing has probably demoted Romo to permanent backup. Conversely, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has seen his Super Bowl team of last season struggle to get to (1-5) so far. Some suggest his failure to fall on that late game Super Bowl fumble last year may have soured some of his teammates towards him.
In the AFC Central, Big Ben has the Steelers in their accustomed position less by their own modest success at (4-3) but thanks primarily to the losing ways of the Ravens, Bengals and Browns, a combined (6-15)
Over in the NFC West, it was appropriate that the (4-1-1) Seattle Seahawks and the (3-3-1) Arizona Cardinals played to that very infrequent of events, a tie game. And by the way, why doesn’t the NFL follow the lead of other sports and play all games to completion?
The Los Angeles Rams are about ready to make a quarterback switch by inserting first rounder Jared Goff while Colin Kaepernick struggles to straighten out the 49’ers. Combined, those two California teams have lost 9 straight games.
The Vikings were brought back to earth by the Eagles this week allowing the Packers to close to one game behind. Down the stretch, I would think Aaron Rodgers’ experience might best Sam Bradford’s quarterback play. Losing Teddy Bridgewater really hurt the Vikings.
Keep an eye on the always underrated Matthew Stafford, who has his Lions on a three-game winning streak. Poor Jake Cutler and his Bears continue to lose. Thank goodness Chicagoans have their Cubbies to ease their autumnal blues.