By Tony George
The halfway point of the season is here, and one team remains unbeaten, and that is Kansas City. Any Reid should be a shoe-in for the coach of the year in the NFL, Sean Peyton not far behind after a year hiatus, but Kansas City's turnaround is nothing short of amazing, even with QB Alex Smith in house, the basic team from last year was intact coming into the season after 2 wins in 2012. Strength of schedule is also figured into these numbers and here is how I see it based on my database and stats compiled to this halfway point in the season.
(95) - With just 1 loss to the Colts, who also have beaten San Fran and Denver, it is Seattle's defense that is the difference maker. When we look at all around numbers, special teams and home field are huge for Seattle, and their offense is just good enough with balance and lack of turnovers to eek them out over top of New Orleans who also has just one loss, a respectable one to New England on Tom Brady's last second heroics in that loss. Ranking 6th in points scored and 3rd in points allowed against the rest of the NFL is simply the makings of a great football team, and they are well coached and given the chance for home field in the playoffs they will be damn near unbeatable in the post season, if in fact that scenario occurs. Scary thing is WR Harvin is coming back full strength for an additional downfield threat!
2. New Orleans
(94) - Yes another 1 loss team here, and as mentioned nothing to hang your head over in a last second loss to New England. Sean Peyton's return and a strong home field for the Saints have them in my number 2 spot. No doubt Drew Brees is a top 3 QB in the NFL, but it is the defense of New Orleans that has me excited about this team. They are 4th in points allowed overall, and while the offense can trade punches on the scoreboard with anyone in the NFL, when the defense is this good, the high octane and well managed attack on offense by Drew Brees is tough to get a win on, especially when the offense is ranked 5th in points scored and 3rd in the NFL in passing. Their division is weak as well as only Carolina really poses any threat, as Atlanta is a total mess.
3. Kansas City
(92) - The only unbeaten remaining at the halfway point, but you also have to look at schedule with the likes of Jacksonville, Cleveland, Philly, NY Giants, and Oakland as wins and 3 of those were at Arrowhead. The defense is ranked #1 overall for Kansas City and it is for real, however the offense lacks any explosiveness and is very vanilla, but efficient. Given the nature of teams like New Orleans and Denver's quick strike capability, and Kansas City's lack of big plays stretching the field vertically, I have them ranked 3rd overall. Games loom large against division rival Denver upcoming in the second half.
(91 - tie) - The defense is a huge concern for Denver's long term chances. Teams like Seattle, New England, New Orleans would shred them, and Indy already did. While Peyton Manning is a rock star at QB setting records all over the place, the defense cannot keep opponents out of the end zone and sooner or later this is going to be a big issue in the later stages of the season and post season. We have seen Denver beatable against the likes of Indy and in Week 8 Washington had them on the ropes, and the Skins defense is about as bad as anyone. Not sold on long term chances here for Denver but if they shore up the defense, they have a shot in the AFC, and they do have Kansas City twice in the next 2 months which will be huge games.
5. San Fran
(91- tie) - It is the offense of San Fran that has caught fire in the last 5 weeks and one cannot discount a healthy Vernon Davis in this offense, he is a game breaker. With Kappernick getting back into form, and the defense playing better, and some hardnosed coaching, San Fran has to contend with Seattle in their division which is weak outside of the Hawks. San Fran's early stumbles seem to be water under the bridge and they are climbing fast.
(90) - While the Bengals have won with smoke and mirrors and some last second miracles, one cannot discount the front line on defense for Cincy, and they are in a weak division and should again see the playoffs for the third straight year. More option on offense for QB Dalton this year and he is starting to play much better than earlier in the year. 1-2 at RB and options at WR and TE make them a threat, racking up 49 on a good Jets defense in week 8. Cincy's defense is allowing just 18 points per game, good enough for 5th in the NFL.
7. New England
(89) - No one wants to play ther Pats at home. They are a 1 loss team, and it has been ugly at times, but with QB Brady getting a handle with his new WR unit, and Gronk returning, one has to like their chances of winning their division with ease. The defense has been stout against the pass all year with a solid secondary and they are ranked 6th in points allowed overall. Tough team to beat at home.
8. Green Bay
( 88) - How good is Aaron Rodgers? Pretty damn good considering a dominant performance in Week 8 with a rash of injuries all over the map on offense. Green Bay's chances are climbing up the chart once healthy on both sides of the ball are enormous, and they now have the ability to run the ball which takes the pressure off the QB and the passing game. The Pack are 2nd in total yards on offense and ranked 3rd in scoring, but their pass defense is suspect and against good teams may have to shoot it out to win.
(87) - Yes the Colts beat 3 of the teams in the top 5 here, but losing Reggie Wayne has me dropping the Colts 4 places this week, and it is undetermined whether they can recover from that injury with their offensive scheme. Also Trent Richardson to date has been a bust, and their ability to stop the run is a huge concern, as teams can eat the clock and keep their offense off the field. Indy has p[otential with QB Luck making plays, but can he do it alone now without his star go to receiver? Tough break for a team who can play with anyone and is very well coached.
10. San Diego
(86) - Phillip Rivers quietly having a good year and the balance on offense has been key for the Chargers who do not miss Norv Turner at this year. The Chargers can sustain drives and beat people physically this year. The offense is a respectable 4th in total yards and ranked 14th in scoring overall. The defense is above average and are tough in the red zone, they are 9th in points allowed but 28th in the NFL against the pass, and they give up big plays down the field. With KC and Denver in their division and a pesky Oakland team who already handed them a 10 point loss, they are looking at 8 or 9 wins max.
Disappointments that were in the Top 10 as the season began - Houston and Atlanta are simply a mess. The dirty birds defense is like a funnel to the end zone, and their offense is a MASH unit to skill players and Houston’s offense and QB situation is deplorable as they are now starting Keenum who was on the scout team 3 weeks ago over a now healthy Schuab. Chicago dropped out of the Top 10 due to injuries with Cutler and Briggs but if they can hang on for the next 2 or 3 weeks, they can make a run at Green Bay, their offense has no limits when they are all on the same page and are a Top 10 caliber team.