NFL Midseason Report

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No matter how much you think you know about the NFL, nobody could have predicted what would happen in the first half of the 2009 NFL season.

Cincinnati being tied for first place in the AFC North?

Tennessee starting off the 2009 season with an 0-7 record after having the best record in 2008 at 13-3?

Who saw Larry Fitzgerald not finishing in the top 10 wide-receivers with the most passing yards?

But with the absence of the over-hyped Larry Fitzgerald there have been some smaller named guys shocking the NFL world with their exquisite performance. Miles Austin in three games had a total of 21 catches for 482 yards and five touchdowns… and everybody thought that Roy E. Williams would be filling the Terrell Owens void in Dallas.

Steve Smith, Eli Manning’s 2008 third down safety valve, led the league in receiving during one point of the first half of the season. Now he is second in the league in targets, behind Andre Johnson, and is no longer deemed “the other Steve Smith” by NFL fans.

The true shockers of the season have come from the success and failures of NFL teams rather than their players. No NFL analyst saw Tennessee failing as much as they did in 2009 because of all of their success last year. Hey, they did lose two things in the off-season, Albert Haynesworth and 39 pounds on running-back LenDale White, but that shouldn’t result in them starting 0-7. Who would have thought they would get their first win of the season when they benched Kerry Collins and gave Vince Young the nod.

Indianapolis did not shock many with their undefeated record thus far in the season, however, their NFC comparison, the undefeated New Orleans Saints, have surprised all with a win over the New York Giants and a come from behind win over Miami. With the Saints now showing that they have a formidable defense, and a star safety in veteran Darren Sharper, who leads the league in interceptions (7), they have finally finished the 1000 piece-puzzle they had been working on for quite some time.

But the success of Indianapolis and New Orleans did not come true for what the analysts projected to be elite teams in the NFL. This holds true for Baltimore, New York (Giants) and San Diego.

Baltimore, a team who looked dominant in the first few weeks of the season, lost their swagger when they played New England in week four. That was the start of a three game losing streak where Baltimore, and its relentless defense, would slide into third place in the AFC North.

Same holds true for the New York Giants, a team who was ranked high in the ESPN power rankings before the start of the season, won their first five games, then stumbled during their last three, stumbling into third place in the NFC East. What everyone missed was that the Giants, in four of their first five games, played opponents who had a combined record of 5-24 through eight weeks in the season. New York had one legitimate win against Dallas in their home opener, but that was the extent of the hard teams the faced until they hit the red hot New Orleans team.

San Diego prayed that 30 year-old LaDainian Tomlinson would play like he is young again, rush for 1815 yards and 28 touchdowns like his 2006 season and help lead the Chargers to the playoffs. Too bad none of this has turned out for San Diego as Tomlinson was injured for weeks two and three and when he has played has done basically nothing worth noting here with the pigskin.

Some franchises have put themselves in great situations as a result of their expertise in the NFL Draft. Minnesota’s first round draft pick, the versatile Percy Harvin has not only been a monster in the return game, as he already has two kick returns for touchdowns, but also in the passing game. He has been a great target for Brett Favre as Harvin has 28 receptions on the season and three touchdowns. The Giants first round draft choice, Hakeem Nicks, has added great depth to the Giants passing game. Same holds true for San Francisco when they draft Michael Crabtree. Though Crabtree did hold out for a bigger contract, in the games that he has played he has had a phenomenal impact as a rookie who did not attend one second of training camp.

Some teams are still waiting for their draft to pay out as the New York Jets have had mixed feelings with their rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, and Oakland is waiting for their Darrius Heyward-Bey (five receptions for 74 yards) pick to finally fan out. Or I guess Oakland is just waiting to win some more games until they can worry about rookies.