Denver, CO. The calendar has now changed and the first month of NFL games are in the books. Although it is still very early, NFL fans now have a taste of what the 2012 season may very well bring, but a lot will obviously still be determined as the year moves along. Some of the old perennial favorites are at the top of their divisions, while some surprising teams have made people take notice. For the Denver Broncos, they are probably right where they should be four games in. With the new QB leading things and still busting off the rust, combined with a very difficult early season schedule, a 2-2 mark so far seems about right. With just about every AFC team (Indy and Pittsburgh have played 3) having completed four games of the season, we are beginning to see who the early season contenders might be. We are also witnessing some teams who are not reaching their goals at all so far, and are struggling to even find mediocrity. With all of this said, here is a quarter way report card, if you will. With 75% or so of the season still remaining, teams have plenty of time to fix things, or unfortunately for some, let things slip away. Here is how things are shaping up at this point of 2012……
- Houston Texans – They are the class of the AFC at this point, and have played extremely well so far. They are not weak in any phase of the game, and are 4-0 to prove it. They seem to be very hungry, and should have the AFC South wrapped up by November.
- Baltimore Ravens – They did lose 1 game by 1 point, but a 3-1 mark is still a great start. Joe Flacco is showing his development into a top-notch QB, and the passing game has been outstanding. This team can do it all, and the defense is still one of the better units in the league. They should win the North, outlasting Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
- San Diego Chargers – Good 3-1 start from a team that typically begins slowly each year. They have beaten three teams quite easily, although all three are some of the AFC’s worst (Chiefs, Raiders, Titans). Bottom line, we don’t know how good San Diego is yet, but should find out in the coming weeks. They were blown out by Atlanta, so it’s hard to say who the Chargers really are yet.
- Cincinnati Bengals – A quiet 3-1 start, with three wins over weak teams. Their one test was a lopsided loss to the Ravens, which was a tough road test to begin the year. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are showing to be quite a duo, and the defense is trying to stay together after dealing with several injuries. The Bengals are attempting to prove that 2011 was no fluke.
- Denver Broncos – All things considered, they are 2-2 and relatively healthy. The two losses were to undefeated Houston and undefeated Atlanta, and by just 12 points total. Peyton looks to be getting better each week, and the talent level is a lot better than last year. Don’t be surprised if they go on a late season run once the schedule eases up a bit in November.
- New England Patriots – At 2-2, they don’t have the record that most people thought they would have at this point. A loss at home to Arizona is still inexplicable, and a tough one point loss at Baltimore was a bitter pill to swallow. After scoring 52 points against Buffalo, they may be on track to go on a run now. 2-2 is just not Patriot-like, but they are easily still the class of the horrible AFC East.
- Indianapolis Colts – They are just 1-2, but have shown life and glimpses of what the future holds with Andrew Luck. It is a very bright future at that, as the Colts should be thrilled with what they have seen so far. Wins and losses don’t mean much this season, as a year where they end up at or close to .500 would be fine. Indy should be a factor in coming years, as long as they surround the young signal caller with the right weapons.
- Buffalo Bills – This team is so hard to figure out, and it is so inconsistent from week to week. Ryan Fitzpatrick can look so good at times, yet terrible just a little bit later. The defense has been good, then bad, then good, then awful. This team can scare better opponents, but lose to teams that it shouldn’t. The ultimate Jekyll and Hyde AFC team, as a finish of 8-8 seems to be their destiny.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – A “C” grade may be a gift of sorts, as they have just a 1-2 record right now. The running game has been an abomination, and the defense has been injury-prone and slow. Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game has been very good, but this team just doesn’t seem to be very tough right now. A down year looks to be in the cards for this terrific franchise.
- New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans – These teams are all either lacking talent, making too many mistakes, searching for answers, or all of the above. The Chiefs, Titans, and Jets all have some talent, but for whatever reason, cannot put it together to stay competitive for much longer. The Jaguars and Dolphins are rebuilding and winning any more than 4 games would be a surprise.
- Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders – These two squads have looked so bad at times, and downright terrible. Will the Browns ever be good, like, ever? They have some nice players with Weeden and Richardson, but still too many holes to compete in the AFC North. The Raiders are still so undisciplined and can’t get out of their own way. These two teams are just brutal to watch, and top 5 draft picks next April are distinct possibilities for both.