Ten predictions for '10 second half
After crazy first half, expect just about anything to happen in final eight weeks
Brett Favre's taking too much of a beating for his starts streak to continue
The Saints won't repeat as Super Bowl champs, and my pick to win it all
The assignment was straightforward: Review the first half of the NFL season and draw conclusions about how the final two months will play out. Initial reaction? No problem.
Second reaction? Big problem.
Arguably, no season has started as wildly and as unpredictably as this one. Every week, if not every day, there has been something to make you pick your jaw off the ground.
If November and December are as eventful as September and October, we just might need a work stoppage to catch our breath. OK, bad joke. But consider:
Vikings QB Brett Favre "retires" (again) then returns (again) then is investigated for allegedly texting a nude picture to a Jets employee in 2008.
The Patriots trade Randy Moss to Minnesota in early October, only for the Vikings to turn around and waive the mercurial wide receiver four weeks later.
Preseason Super Bowl contenders Dallas and Minnesota lose 11 of their first 14 games after losing just nine times all of last season; yet the 5-2 Chiefs are only one win from matching their victory total from the previous two seasons combined, and the 4-4 Rams are just two shy of equaling their total from the previous THREE years.
After the league threatens to suspend players for violent hits to the head of defenseless receivers, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, announces he might retire because of the crackdown. A day after being excused from practice, he returns to work.
Washington coach Mike Shanahan celebrated the offseason trade for QB Donovan McNabb, who led Philadelphia to five NFC Championship Game appearances. But in Week 8 he stunned everyone when, trailing by a score at Detroit, he pulled McNabb for journeyman Rex Grossman, whom Shanahan claimed had a better handle of their two-minute offense. The next day Shanahan came clean and said McNabb was not in good enough shape to run the hurry-up offense. Ouch.
The list goes on and on, from the Chargers' release of linebacker Shawne Merriman to Andy Reid playing musical quarterbacks to the Cardinals having no credible signal-callers. What can we expect in the next two months? Some guesses, educated and otherwise:
1. Look for at least seven coaching changes at the end of the year, if not earlier.
Previously it was thought that no moves would be made during the season, largely because of a potential work stoppage in 2011. But some situations have become so toxic that owners may have no choice but to act. The most obvious situations are in Dallas, where the Cowboys and coach Wade Phillips are 1-6; and in Minnesota, where coach Brad Childress seemingly is trying to alienate as many people as possible.
Already unpopular with some key players -- not to mention fans who are displeased with the Vikings' 2-5 record -- Childress reportedly angered management Monday when he told the players he was going to waive Moss, this before he informed ownership of his intentions. It's never wise to tweak ownership when the team is underachieving, the fans are upset and the players are second-guessing you.
In Carolina, John Fox plans to leave when his contract expires at the end of the year; and Marvin Lewis might do the same in Cincinnati if owner Mike Brown refuses to hire a GM/personnel man. Other situations to watch include San Francisco (Mike Singletary), Chicago (Lovie Smith), Jacksonville (Jack Del Rio) and Cleveland (Eric Mangini).
2. Tim Tebow will have to wait.
As bad as the Broncos' season has been -- at 2-6 it's careening past awful and approaching embarrassing -- coach Josh McDaniels would be foolish to turn to the popular rookie QB from Florida. First, Tebow is not ready. Second, he doesn't deserve the opportunity, not with Kyle Orton ranking second in passing yards, sixth in touchdowns and seventh in QB rating. Benching Orton for Tebow would cost McDaniels credibility points in the locker room that he cannot afford to lose at this point.
The Broncos' primary problems are their inability to run the ball or to stop the run. They're averaging a league-low 67.2 yards rushing per game, while surrendering 154.6 per outing, second-most overall. Unless McDaniels plans to play Tebow at halfback, the former Heisman winner should maintain his current role: clipboard-holder and goal-line runner.
3. Packers coach Mike McCarthy won't get much consideration for Coach of the Year, but he should.
McCarthy, arguably, has done his finest work since arriving in Green Bay in 2006. He started the season without injured secondary starters Al Harris (knee) and Atari Bigby (ankle), then lost running back Ryan Grant, linebacker Nick Barnett (wrist), tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) and safety Morgan Burnett (knee) to season-ending injuries. Both of his lines have been banged up and outside linebacker Clay Matthews has been fighting a hamstring injury, still the Packers are 5-3 and leading the NFC North.
They have not been the juggernaut we all expected, but they appear to have developed some grit that was missing earlier in the year when they lost three of their first six games by a field goal each. The past two weeks, however, they beat a desperate Minnesota team by four and halted the Jets' five-game winning streak despite failing to score a touchdown.
They appear to be building momentum similar to last year, when they started 4-4 and rallied to win seven of their final eight. If the Packers have similar success this year, McCarthy should be strongly considered for Coach of the Year. More likely, he'll be overshadowed by Kansas City's Todd Haley, St. Louis' Steve Spagnuolo and Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris, each of whom has turned a projected doormat into midseason contenders. They deserve the recognition, but so does McCarthy.
4. Brett Favre's starts streak will end.
Don't know when. Don't know where. I just know that Favre is taking too many hits for a 41-year-old who often looks as if he regrets coming back for another season. How he has lasted 292 consecutive starts is one of the great mysteries of the universe. Seriously. The streak, in my opinion, ranks ahead of DiMaggio hitting safely in 56 consecutive games, or Ripken playing in 2,632 straight, or Hershiser tossing 59 consecutive scoreless innings. None of them had 250-pound linebackers and 300-pound linemen seemingly trying to decapitate them on every pass play.
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