As Thanksgiving approaches, is there a better way to celebrate than with football? The NFL really begins to heat up around Turkey Day, including its traditional slate of games on Thanksgiving Thursday. With about 60% of the season gone by the wayside, let’s review the season that has transpired so far and look forward to the playoff push.
(NOTE: Originally published in AHS School Newspaper, November 2015 issue)
Top NFL Stories
The NFL is never short of storylines. Between on-the-field excitement and off-the-field shenanigans, something is always going on in the National Football League. Here are the top stories from the NFL thus far.
Undefeated Teams Take Center Stage:
The NFL has never seen as many undefeated teams through nine weeks as it has in 2015. The New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, and Carolina Panthers are all 8-0 through the league’s halfway point. The dominance of top teams and the failures of cellar-dwellers have been taken to an extreme this year, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, so to speak. Will there be an undefeated team in 2015? Only time will tell.
Young Guns Rise Up:
The NFL is a league of parity. Some have theorized that NFL actually stands for “Not For Long”, as opposed to “National Football League” due to the league’s penchant for roster turnover year in and year out. Accordingly, the NFL’s rookies and second-year players have become the heart of the league this year. With guys like DeAndre Hopkins (66 catches, 870 yards, 6 TDs), Todd Gurley (664 yards and 4 scores) and Odell Beckham Jr. (59 receptions, 759 yards, 7 touchdowns) joining the ranks as some of the NFL’s finest, the league looks younger now than ever before.
Year of the Comeback:
Surprisingly, this NFL season has seen a comeback of sorts for some veterans thought to be facing long odds to return to success. From Adrian Peterson, who has come back from suspension to a sure 1,000-yard season, to Charles Woodson, who at age 39 is leading the NFL with five interceptions, to Tom Brady, who was ultimately let off the hook for his involvement in the alleged deflation of footballs and is now the likely MVP, the NFL sure has seen its former stars return to form in a big way.
Around the NFL (Standings are in projected order of finish)
- New York Giants: The Giants have had quite the entertaining season this year. Between comeback wins and heart-stopping losses, Big Blue always keeps their fans on their toes.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Speaking of up-and-down football teams, the Eagles take inconsistency to a whole different level. Their star power keeps them dangerous though.
- Washington Redskins: The Redskins are a surprising 5-5 after 10 weeks. Kirk Cousins isn’t a steady quarterback, but anything goes in the wild NFC East.
- Dallas Cowboys: Injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant sunk this ship early. Jerry Jones and co. are already looking forward to 2016.
- Green Bay Packers: Green Bay started off hot before losing three in a row rather badly, but the Pack will be back come playoff time.
- Minnesota Vikings: The return of Adrian Peterson as well as improved defensive play has catapulted the Vikes into playoff waters.
- Chicago Bears: The Bears at 4-5 have actually been mildly better than expected, but there isn’t much to like out of Chicago this year.
- Detroit Lions: Well, at least it won’t be another 0-16 season, right?
- Carolina Panthers: The Panthers’ mantra is “Keep Pounding”. They certainly do that week in and week out as one of the NFL’s undefeated teams.
- Atlanta Falcons: New head coach Dan Quinn has gotten a lot out of his squad this year, but the Falcons may end up as victims of a numbers game and miss the postseason.
- New Orleans Saints: The Saints have a hit-or-miss offense and a hit-or-miss defense. Such a volatile team doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston has had a solid rookie year; perhaps he could be the quarterback of the future for the Bucs.
- Arizona Cardinals: We all knew the Cards were good, but their stingy defense and the resurgence of Carson Palmer have made the Cards Super Bowl contenders.
- Seattle Seahawks: Don’t worry, Seattle will make the postseason, but what happens after is anyone’s guess. This could be the year where the Seahawks finally miss out on the big dance.
- Louis Rams: Todd Gurley is a gamer, but the Rams don’t have enough around him right now. Nick Foles must improve or be replaced.
- San Francisco 49ers: The Niners are a far cry from what they used to be. The rebuild is on, with or without Colin Kaepernick.
- New England Patriots: The Patriots are remarkably consistent: They get caught for possible cheating, make the Super Bowl routinely, and lose to the Giants every four years. Can history repeat itself with the Pats looking better than ever before?
- New York Jets: “Gang Green” looks for real this time around. The Jets have a solid defense and the playmakers on offense to be dangerous.
- Buffalo Bills: While the Bills have more flash than the Jets, they also have less discipline, less experience, and more Rex Ryan.
- Miami Dolphins: No longer just pushovers, the Dolphins could be reinvigorated playing under new head coach Dan Campbell.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton has reached a new level this season; the redhead could take Marvin Lewis to his first ever playoff win.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Injuries to Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger should hinder the Steelers, but they just keep rolling.
- Baltimore Ravens: Could anyone have expected less out of the Ravens? Joe Flacco has looked awful and the Ravens have entered rebuild mode.
- Cleveland Browns: After an encouraging 7-9 season, the Browns are back to square one again, this time with Johnny Manziel in tow.
- Indianapolis Colts: The Colts win this division by default, but the injury to Andrew Luck kills their chance of a Super Bowl ring.
- Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt are the only things keeping the Texans somewhat afloat.
- Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota looks legit early on his NFL career, if he can stay healthy. With an improving defense, the Titans could be geared for a comeback sooner than you think.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Three things are guaranteed in life: death, taxes, and a less-than-six-win Jaguars season.
- Denver Broncos: Despite a 7-2 record, Peyton Manning’s career is ending soon and the Broncos could be ticketed for an early playoff exit.
- Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Latavius Murray have made the Raiders fun to watch again, something no Raider fan has seen in years.
- San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers is the only thing the Chargers have going for them. Quarterbacks can’t play defense too!
- Kansas City Chiefs: Remember when some of us thought the Chiefs could be a bubble playoff team? Injuries and a lack of playmakers have stunted the Chiefs’ growth.
NFC Playoff Seeding:
- Carolina Panthers
- Arizona Cardinals
- Green Bay Packers
- New York Giants
- Seattle Seahawks
- Minnesota Vikings
AFC Playoff Seeding:
- New England Patriots
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Denver Broncos
- Indianapolis Colts
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- New York Jets
NFC Champions: Carolina Panthers
AFC Champions: New England Patriots
Super Bowl Champions: New England Patriots