The 2012 NFL season is now just over one-third complete and teams are starting to show their true colors. All of the preseason prognostications are being evaluated as the season unfolds, and some teams are far exceeding expectations while others are struggling to live up to their fanbase’s lofty expectations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the compelling storylines going on in the NFL this season.
The Arizona Cardinals are certainly one of the bigger surprises this season. With a 4-3 record, and just one game behind the NFC West division leading San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals are a surprise to be in the hunt for a division title at this point in the season. The Cardinals’ quarterback situation leading into the season was one of the biggest question marks around the league, but Kevin Kolb has performed well when healthy and John Skelton has done OK in his absence. The defense for Arizona has been the real reason why the team is playing so well, and should continue to be a bright spot for team in the defensive minded NFC West.
The other biggest surprise to date in the NFL has been the play of the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota had a lot of question marks coming into the season as well, especially the health of running back Adrian Peterson. However, after offseason knee surgery, Peterson appears to be back to his old self while quarterback Christian Ponder has improved immensely in his second season. If both players continue to play at their current level, the Vikings could make some noise in the postseason.
The New Orleans Saints are probably the biggest underachiever to date in the NFL. Many people were trying to predict how the teams’ offseason issues would affect their play on the field before the season began. As it turns out, the loss of head coach Sean Payton was a bigger deal than some people predicted as the Saints stumbled out of the gate to an 0-4 record. A porous defense was the main reason why the Saints struggled early. However, after winning their last two games, New Orleans may be turning their season around just in time to make a playoff push.
The Detroit Lions, a playoff team a year ago, has been another disappointing team early in the season. With just a 2-3 record, the Lions find themselves at the bottom of the NFC North. Early season losses to Tennessee on the road and Minnesota at home were a bit of a shock at the time as Detroit was expected to possibly contend for a division title. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has not performed up to the level he did a year ago, which has caused the offense to sputter at times. A tough remaining schedule could make it difficult for the Lions to reach the playoffs again in 2012.
While there have been a handful of teams that have overachieved and underperformed thus far in the season, there are more teams that are meeting their expectations and performing a level where everyone thought they would before the NFL season began.
The Houston Texans are certainly a team that is living up the preseason hype. Playing in the weak AFC South division, the Houston Texans were expected to roll to a division title and make some noise in the playoff this year. After a 6-1 start, the Texans are living up to those expectations and have had only one bad game this season, a 42-24 loss at home to the Green Bay Packers.
The Atlanta Falcons are another team that is meeting expectations this season, cruising to a 6-0 record. A lot of NFL experts expected the Falcons to be good and possibly contend for the number one seed in the NFC. Quarterback Matt Ryan is leading an explosive passing offense while the defense is one of the better units in the league. Also, with the fact that the New Orleans Saints are struggling this season, the NFC South is not nearly competitive as it appeared it was going to be in the preseason.
Odds to Win the Super Bowl
With seven weeks in the NFL now complete, the playoff picture is starting to take shape and the Super Bowl contenders are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Below are the current Super Bowl odds for some of the biggest surprises, underachievers and contenders.
– San Francisco 49ers +500
– Houston Texans +500
– New England Patriots +600
– Atlanta Falcons +700
– New Orleans Saints +4500
– Minnesota Vikings +5000
– Arizona Cardinals +7000
– Detroit Lions +10000