A t the half-way stage, it’s time to digest the events of a chaotic start to the 2017 NFL season. With teams battling for the right to be at the end of season finale in Minnesota on February 4th, here we look at the shocks that the 98th NFL season has produced so far.
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM…? ????
Would many experts have placed the Jacksonville Jaguars second in the AFC South come the end of October? I think not. The Jags have claimed two big scalps from the AFC North, with 20+ point victories over both the Steelers and the Ravens. What will disappoint coach Doug Marrone is that his side has lost two of their three home fixtures at EverBank Field.
“THE JAGS COULD BE LOOKING AT A WILD CARD”
Yet Marrone must appreciate that four wins by November, surpassing last year’s overall total of three, is a commendable achievement. If Blake Bortles passing game remains as accurate as it did against the Colts, throwing 282 yards in the first half alone, then the Jags can push hard for a wild card – which would see them into the play-offs. In addition to this, the talent of rookie running back Leonard Fournette is undisputed, and the Jags offence is capable of racking up consistently large scores.
HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN… ????
Whereas the Jaguars have almost certainly overachieved, the New York Giants have greatly underperformed. After a promising first season under coach Ben McAdoo, hopes of a Superbowl challenge existed for the blue half of New York. But with just one win from their first eight games and a humiliating 51-17 loss to the LA Rams on home soil last week, it seems that the Giants must play for pride from here on in. The Giants are heavily depleted in the wide receiver position, with injuries to Brandon Marshall (who surely wishes he stayed with the Jets), Dwayne Harris and most notably Odell Beckham Jnr.
Veteran quarterback Eli Manning may be starting to age, with his average yards-per-pass as low as it has been since 2007. It’s not all bad news for coach McAdoo though, as three of six regular season defeats have been via a margin of five points or less. There’s room for improvement but even to claim a wild card spot would take a giant effort.
THE AWARD NOBODY WANTS TO RECEIVE ????
If one were to present a most improved player award, Jared Goff would definitely be a front runner and his progression has contributed to his team’s success. While the Rams ran the Jaguars close for the ‘overachievers’ title, Goff is arguably the most impressive aspect of a rejuvenated Rams. The quarterback threw a personal best 306 yards in a 46-9 win over the Colts in the first regular season game. He has guided his team to five regular season victories from seven games, already topping their 2016 record of 4-12. Goff has shown a new level of maturity this year and head coach Sean McVay stated that Goff is becoming “an extension of our coaching staff,” suggesting that Goff has shown greater leadership on the pitch. Despite only being twenty-three, with thirteen passing touchdowns from eight games, it would appear that the marriage of Goff and McVay may excite Rams fans for years to come.
THE THOUGHT OF LOSING YOU… ????
Each year fans will produce a shortlist of names for who they think should be classed as the MVP of the league. My first choice, a surprise pick, is Minnesota Vikings’ defensive tackle, Linval Joseph. Joseph’s dominance in defence has been pivotal to the Vikings 6-2 record so far this season. Joseph is arguably one of the most disruptive players in the league, with three sacks and twenty-three tackles in the opening eight fixtures. If the Vikings are to continue to limit the Packers to second place in the NFC North, Joseph will be instrumental. He regularly tops the Pro Football Focus stats lists for player ratings and at the very least should be mentioned, if not considered as a dark horse for MVP.
“ONE CANNOT LOOK PAST TOM BRADY”
If the results are to go the way that many anticipate them to this year, one cannot look past Tom Brady (again…). The quarterback could be on his way to a fifth MVP win and a third in four seasons. Year upon year pundits sound like broken records – in offering Brady consistently high praise – but at the age of 40, Brady shows no sign of retirement, his throwing completion percentage this season is the third highest it’s ever been, in what is his eighteenth season in the NFL. If Brady completes as many passes in the second half of the regular season as he did the first, he will break his own record of 402 completed passes. This is testament to one of the sport’s greatest ever icons, and one who I believe will guide his team (New England Patriots) to a sixth Super Bowl Championship.