Now that we are halfway through the NFL season, as most teams have now played eight of their sixteen games, we can look what we learned and what we still don’t know from this season. Recapping the year so far tells us many things from a statistical look, to who might be in the playoffs this year. It certainly has been an exciting year to this point.
The Undefeated Teams
The undefeated teams, which are all 8-0, are the New England Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots came into this year with a chip on their shoulder, especially quarterback Tom Brady. They beat the Steelers, the Jets and the Colts by 7 points and the Bills by 8 points but even those games didn’t even seem close. The Patriots never seemed like they had a real chance of losing those games. They are averaging 34.3 points per game, which is best in the league, and giving up 17.9 points per game, which is 5th best. New England looks toughest to beat out of the three undefeated teams left.
The Bengals seemed to have to continue to prove they were real each week and just now people seem to be taking them seriously. The bottom line is nobody has beaten the Bengals, even when it looked like Pittsburgh had them beat in week 8; they still came back and won that game. Andy Dalton is looking like a leader out there and their defense is only giving up 17.8 points per game, which is 4th best in the league. They are also scoring 28.6 points per game, 3rd best in the league, and look to have that high-powered offense running smooth now. They play the Cardinals in Arizona in week 11 and the Broncos in Denver week 16, those seem to be their toughest games left on the schedule.
The Carolina Panthers are being led by “Super Cam”, their star quarterback who is having his best year by far. He has the Carolina offense scoring 28.5 points per game, 4th best in the league. They have won big games against Seattle, Indianapolis and Green Bay. Those were all close, season defining games that proved this Carolina team is for real. They still play their division rival, the Atlanta Falcons, twice this year including in Atlanta on week 16. If Cam Newton continues to play like this not only will the Panthers be tough to beat but he will also be in the MVP talks as well.
Adrian Peterson is back and at the midway point of the year he is the rushing leader with 758 yards. It is nothing new to see Peterson as the top rusher but right behind him is Devonta Freeman with 721 yards who leads all running backs in touchdowns with 9 rushing touchdowns and he even has another two receiving touchdowns to go along with that. Rounding out the top five rushing leaders is all players you would not have guessed at the beginning of the year. Chris Johnson is in third place with 676 rushing yards, this has been a great comeback year for CJ 2K. Todd Gurley is in 4th place, which is shocking because he has only played in six games on the year, but he still has 664 yards. Then Doug Martin is in 5th place with 643 yards, trying to prove he’s still got it.
Looking at passing stats, Phillip Rivers leads all passers in yards with a huge 3,033 so far on the year. Behind him is Drew Brees is second with 2,763 yards and Tom Brady is in third with 2,709 yards. As far as touchdowns go, Tom Brady is the leader with 22 passing touchdowns so far on the year. He has been consistently throwing touchdowns all year by passing for three or more in four of his eight games so far on the year. Carson Palmer is behind him with 20 touchdowns and tied in third is Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and a surprising Derek Carr with 19 passing touchdowns. Carr seems to be proving himself by stepping up with some of the proven passers in the game.
Moving on to receiving stats, Julio Jones is the top wide receiver with 1,029 yards on the year. Jones has been consistent so far this year as he has five games of over 100 yards receiving and two more over 90 yards. Antonio Brown is right behind him in second with 1,002 yards as he also has five games over 100 yards receiving on the year, including a huge 284 yard game in week 9. DeAndre Hopkins is a distant third with 870 yards on the year. Receiving touchdowns is a different story though; Tyler Eifert leads the league with 9 receiving touchdowns so far on the year. The Bengals tight end has had some huge games this year, including a three-touchdown performance in week 9. Behind him the two top Patriot receivers, Edelman and Gronkowski, are tied with Larry Fitzgerald and Odell Beckham Jr. with each having seven receiving touchdowns.
Onto the defensive side of the ball, D’Qwell Jackson of the Colts leads the league with 93 combined tackles. NaVorro Bowman, the San Francisco linebacker, is in second with 88 combined tackles. Surprisingly, Charles Woodson is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 5 so far on the year. He is tied with Colts safety Mike Adams, who also brought one of those interceptions back for a touchdown. Woodson seems to have really brought new life into his already very impressive career. As far as sacks go, Chandler Jones from New England leads the league with 9 and a half sacks on the year. Carlos Dunlap and J.J. Watt are both tied for second with 8 and a half sacks on the year. Cameron Wake had 7 sacks but he unfortunately got hurt in week 8 against New England.
Let’s take a look at which teams would be in the playoffs right now if the season ended at the midway point. In the NFC, the Cardinals would win the NFC West, The Panthers would win the NFC South, The Vikings would win a tiebreaker over the Packers for the NFC North, and the Giants would win The NFC East. The Packers would win the first wild card spot and the Falcons would win the other wild card spot. The Vikings also have the tiebreaker over the Cardinals as well, they each have the same conference record but the Vikings have a better division record.
So the seeding would be: 1. Panthers 2. Vikings 3. Cardinals 4. Giants 5. Packers 6. Falcons
In the AFC, the undefeated Patriots would win the AFC Easter, the Bengals would win the AFC North, the Broncos would win the AFC West and the Colts would win the AFC South. The Jets would win the first wild card spot and the Steelers would get the 6th seed. The AFC South may be shaping up to be the NFC South of last year where the Panthers got in with a losing record.
The seeding in the AFC would be: 1. Patriots 2. Bengals 3. Broncos 4. Colts 5. Jets 6. Steelers