Rant Sports 10 NFL Debates After Week 8
10 NFL Debates After Eight Weeks of Play
As we're nearing the halfway mark of the 2012 NFL season (yes, it's sad and it's okay to cry; just not in front of your friends), the playoff picture is slowly beginning to come into focus. There are some pleasant surprises (the entire NFC West) and some unpleasant surprises (Detroit Lions). Regardless, this year's Super Bowl race is arguably the most wide open in league history. Sure, that's been the case in many recent seasons, but there's not one specific team that stands out this year. The Atlanta Falcons are the only undefeated team left, but they haven't faced any of the one- or two-loss teams yet.
Until we start seeing some more contenders going head to head (one of those didn't end so well this past week, but we'll get to that), the playoff picture will remain at least somewhat fuzzy if not downright blurry altogether. Every division except the AFC East and AFC West has a team that's out in front and looks like a contender. However, there are a slew of .500 teams and others right around that mark that could get hot and run off eight games in a row at any time. The question is: which ones will it be? Rant Sports' own Chicago Bear Jew, Jeric Griffin and Dan Parzych debate, but don't just take their word for it; rant and rave in the comment section below and let us know your opinion on each of these 10 NFL debates through Week 8 of the 2012 season:
After another strong performance from Drew Brees, are the New Orleans Saints back?
CBJ: Nope. They're playing better but I am not sold. They need to show me a few more things.
Jeric: They're not the cellar dwellers of the NFC South anymore, but I just don't see this team as a title contender. They're putting up a ton of points again, but their defense still isn't even playing at an average level, much less an elite one. Until that changes, the Saints are not "back."
Dan: It's still early enough in the season where the New Orleans Saints can still make a playoff run--so I'm going to say yes. The defense is a reason to be concerned, but as long as Drew Brees is under center, New Orleans will always be contenders and there's no reason to count them out just yet.
At 5-2, are the Minnesota Vikings a contender at this point?
CBJ: Absolutely. I've been saying it for a few weeks. They're a better team than we all thought, and now that the Lions are quickly falling out of contention, the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers look like the class of the division.
Jeric: The Vikings will go as far as Christian Ponder takes them. He's a solid quarterback with a bright future ahead, but he hasn't quite made the turn yet in his career. That's certainly no knock against him; he's only in his second season. Ponder has a ton of weapons around him and Minnesota's defense is playing out of their minds right now. Anything is possible.
Dan: They say defense wins championships and give Leslie Frazier credit for turning this team around. However, the main factor here has been the progress of Adrian Peterson considering he tore his ACL last December and to be putting up the type of numbers he has been so far is nothing short of amazing.
With three wins each, who will win more games in 2012, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III?
CBJ: I am going to go with Andrew Luck. The AFC is about as good as two-week old pizza.
Jeric: Luck is the better quarterback of the two. Plain and simple. Plus, the team he has around him is worlds better than most people thought at the beginning of the season. Don't be shocked if the Indianapolis Colts are in the playoff race and even make a late push for the AFC South title. Can't say the same for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
Dan: I'm going to go with RG3--mainly because he's proven to single-handedly take over games whether it's through the air or on the ground. Luck has looked impressive so far, but Griffin is also in the position to break numerous rookie records--so he has the edge for the rest of the season.
Which two-loss team is the NFL's best at this point?
CBJ: The New York Giants. It seems their regular season record doesn't matter. What matters is the team getting into the playoffs and playing Green Bay.
Jeric: The San Francisco 49ers. No question. They're not perfect, but they're the surest thing this year when it comes to Super Bowl contenders. They may have two losses, but this team will win every game they have to and then some.
Dan: No debate here; it's the Giants. For a team with a reputation for playing better at the end of the year, they've looked like the hottest team over the last few weeks with big wins over numerous contenders--especially that win on the road in San Francisco.
After dismantling the Baltimore Ravens, are the Houston Texans the best team in football again?
CBJ: Again, it's the AFC. So they have the distinction of being the best of the worst in the AFC.
Jeric: Well they certainly answered a lot of questions this week. The Houston Texans are not the best team in football, but they're certainly in the discussion primarily because it's really hard to pick one team over all the others at this point. Regardless, Houston is again the favorite to win the AFC.
Dan: The best team in the AFC--but it's still tough to determine whether or not it's the league at this point. Keep in mind the Texans were going against a beat-up Baltimore Ravens' defense playing without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb and the Falcons have yet to lose a game in 2012.
Which .500 team has the best chance of making the playoffs?
CBJ: I'll go with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But again, it's the AFC. So anything is possible.
Jeric: The Denver Broncos, hands down. This is by far the most underrated team in the league and Peyton Manning will be the frontrunner for MVP by the time the season is three-fourths of the way over. Expect to see the Broncos in the thick of the Super Bowl race in January.
Dan: At this point, you have to go with the Steelers. They've overcome numerous key injuries and continue to find ways to win important games. Plus, having Ben Roethlisberger certainly helps their chances when it comes to making another run at the playoffs.
If the playoffs started today, who would play in the Super Bowl?
CBJ: Giants and Texans. But the Bears are sniffing around as well.
Jeric: The 49ers and the Texans. The Giants may have beaten the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 6, but this team will get it done when it counts and Houston reassured the world they're still the AFC's best team after demolishing the Ravens in Week 7.
Dan: I would say the Texans and Giants. The Falcons may be undefeated, but experience is always a key factor when it comes to the postseason and the Giants know what it takes to be champions after winning two of the last five Super Bowls.
As the NFL's sack leader thus far, is J.J. Watt a Defensive Player of the Year candidate?
CBJ: The NFL Defensive Player of the Year should be Lance Briggs of the Bears. If you watch this team every week, you will see him playing football better than anyone. While Watt is having a great year, Briggs is doing everything for the Bears. And that is saying a lot considering how good the guys around him are playing as well.
Jeric: Watt is arguably the best defensive player in the league at this point. In only his second season, Watt doing a lot more than just leading the league in sacks. Fans in Houston have given him the nickname "J. J. Swatt" because he bats down so many passes at the line of scrimmage. When you have a player like Watt that does everything on the AFC's best team, he's got to be considered for Defensive Player of the Year.
Dan: Absolutely. Watt has quickly emerged into one of the top defenders in the NFL and is a nightmare for any opposing coach to strategize a game plan around. The scary thing about Watt is he's only going to get better and better with more experience--so the Texans' defense is looking bright for years to come.
At 36 and having a stellar season, how much gas does Tony Gonzalez have left in the tank?
CBJ: He is a big and tough dude. He'll play as long as he can.
Jeric: Falcons receiver Roddy White said in a recent interview he thinks Tony Gonzalez will come back for at least one more season if the Atlanta "offers him enough money." With the season Gonzalez is having, you can bet the farm the Falcons will give him whatever he asks for.
Dan: There's no question this will be Gonzalez's last season in the NFL and he's certainly doing everything he can to make one last run at the Super Bowl. If the Falcons do fall short of the Super Bowl, it would be nice to see Gonzalez come back for one final shot--but I think 2012 is it.
At 3-4, should the New York Jets start Tim Tebow at quarterback?
CBJ: Tim Tebow should be starting at running back or tight end. Mark Sanchez played much better last week, but it was against the New England Patriots' secondary. So there's not much we can take out of that.
Jeric: Absolutely. Sanchez is a talented quarterback, but New York is not the place for him. He would do much better in the West Coast Offense. Tebow may not make the New York Jets a playoff team, but he certainly can't do any worse than Sanchez has this season.
Dan: Not yet. Keep in mind Sanchez did throw for 328 yards against the New England Patriots in Week 7 and his receivers deserve the blame for dropping numerous key passes at critical times of the game that could have made a difference. The Jets aren't far behind in the playoff race and Sanchez will give them their best shot at the time being to stay in the hunt.