September 30th, 2013
The NFL season has gotten off to a quick start and a lot of surprising things have been happening. Here are some of the top storylines.
1. Peyton Manning is back to breaking records.
The off season acquisition of Peyton Manning for the Broncos two years ago has paid even higher dividends this season than last. Manning has broken the record for most touchdown passes in the first 4 weeks (16), including a 7 TD performance against the Baltimore Ravens. As a result, the Broncos are 4-0 with wins over the Ravens, Giants, Raiders, and Eagles. The high scoring offense should continue its eye popping ways, but do not expect the Broncos to go undefeated. Manning has usually been benched in the last couple games of the season over the last couple years, and they face the Houston Texans in Week 16 at Houston. Other tough road games include away match ups against the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Patriots.
2. Intrigue at the Quarterback Position
This season, quarterbacks have been hard to predict, including the question of which will start. Most notably the Buccaneers benched Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon, who lost his first start this week to the Cardinals. Tampa Bay has gone 0-4, and the controversy could cost head coach Greg Schiano his job. Four other quarterbacks have lost their job to injury: Tennessee's Jake Locker, Minnesota's Christian Ponder, Oakland's Terrelle Pryor, and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden. 3 of these quarterbacks should regain their job soon, but Weeden may not with the great play of 3rd string quarterback Brian Hoyer, who beat out Jason Campbell for starting duties and then won close games against the Vikings and Bengals.
3. Undefeated Teams
Prior to the Miami-New Orleans game, 6 teams (including the Dolphins and Saints) have started the season with no defeats. The most surprising team is the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have already doubled their win total from last year, and are a legitimate playoff threat with a great offense and great defense. The Seahawks and Broncos were more obvious, and New England's relatively easy schedule also made them a probable 4-0 team. The Saints, who played on Monday Night Football, started 0-4 last year without Sean Payton, but had an impressive win over the Falcons, and followed up with wins over the Buccaneers and Cardinals.
4. 0-4 Teams
As well as the teams at the top of the league, there are a few teams on the rock bottom of their divisions that are still searching for wins. The most surprising team is the New York Giants, who won the Super Bowl two years ago but have lost all of their games, including the last 3 by 18 points or more. Both the defense and offense have had horrible performances, and as a result the Giants are believed to be out of playoff contention. The Steelers have also had a disappointing start, losing to 2 teams that they should have beat easily, the Vikings and the Titans. The Buccaneers have transformed from a wild card contender to a total mess, benching quarterback Josh Freeman and losing team morale quickly. The least surprising team is the Jaguars, who are expected to finish last in the NFL in offense, defense, and wins. With the exception of the game against the Raiders, the Jaguars have been blown out in 3 of their 4 games, and have not shown any signs of improving.
5. Quarterbacks Up, Quarterbacks Down
As stated earlier, one of the most intriguing story lines this season has been the unpredictable quarterback play. So far, the worst performances have been by Eli Manning and Robert Griffin III. Manning has had, by far, the worst season for the elite quarterback that he is. Unlike his brother, the younger Eli has thrown for a lot of interceptions and few touchdowns. On another NFC East team, Robert Griffin III has shown that the decision to not practice over rehab and go right into a game was not a great one as he was rusty in the first couple of weeks. Griffin has turned the ball over a lot and his only win was over the Oakland Raiders, who were without their starting quarterback (Terrelle Pryor) and running back (Darren McFadden).
The unpredictable performances were positive for some of the quarterbacks. Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson have avoided a sophomore slump and each has won at least 3 games this season. But the best two quarterbacks that have improved are veterans Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler. Rivers, who has underachieved over the last 4 seasons, has thrived under new coach Mike McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. He has established targets in wide receiver Eddie Royal and rejuvenated tight end Antonio Gates. Another positive performance caused by a coaching change is the performance of Jay Cutler. Cutler has played well in his first games of the season, leading the Bears to a 3-1 record. He is also passing to players besides Brandon Marshall, and the offense is doing well as a result.
NFL Rush Kid Reporter