With nine weeks of the NFL season now officially in the books, teams have begun to distinguish themselves as contenders or pretenders. There have been some surprises and some disappointments, but it has all been entertaining. Now the NFL enters its unofficial second half of the season, and there is plenty of dramatic story-lines for fans to be excited about.
How good are the Atlanta Falcons?
The Falcons are the lone undefeated team in the NFL, but despite their perfect record many doubt that Atlanta is a true Super Bowl contender. They had to come from behind in the 4th quarter for three straight games against mediocre teams; those teams currently have a combined record of 8-17. The question is: can the Falcons step up when they face tougher competition?
Can Andrew Luck lead the Colts to the playoffs?
The Indianapolis Colts were the worst team in the league last year, winning only two games. The prize for all their losing? QB Andrew Luck, who they recruited with the first overall pick in the draft. Many predicted that he would be good, but few thought he would be this good. He has already led the Colts to five wins this season and a real shot at the postseason. This could be the start of a long and successful career for Luck, and it should be great to watch.
The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL on the field in recent years, but off the field, they remain one of the biggest draws in the game.
So far in 2012, the Cowboys have had the second-highest number of orders on TicketNetwork.com, only bested by their NFC East rivals, the New York Giants. Of course, the caveat in all that is that nearly 25% of the Giants orders came from their home opener against, you guessed it, the Dallas Cowboys.
The most popular game on Dallas' 2012 home schedule has been their Week 15 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game has sold nearly 50% more tickets than any other Dallas home game and has the highest average price per ticket sold at $293. The least expensive game on the schedule is this week's home opener in Arlington against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The first week of the NFL season is now in the books and it did not disappoint. Teams like the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens proved they were worthy of all the off-season hype that surrounded their teams, while others like the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions stumbled, but won, in their opening games. With that being said, there were a few moments that stood out above all else in the opening week of the 2012 NFL Season:
Peyton Manning's stellar debut in Denver
When Peyton Manning decided to sign with Denver in the offseason, speculation began about whether or not Manning was fully recovered from his neck injury that cost him all of last season. Well, the future Hall-of-Famer silenced all of his doubters. Manning threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, helping Denver to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 on Sunday night. The Broncos now head to Atlanta to face the Falcons on Monday Night Football.
Happy Labor Day everybody! We celebrate the day by wrapping up our preview of the upcoming NFL season (which is now just two days away) by taking a look at the NFC West.
(To view previous NFL previews, click on any of the following division names: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South, NFC North)
Top Cardinals Games of 2012
The Arizona Cardinals are just a few years away from being in the Super Bowl, but since QB Kurt Warner retired, the team has struggled to find a competent replacement. The starting QB job this year will go to Kevin Kolb, who has struggled throughout his time in Arizona, with John Skelton waiting in the wings if Kolb trips up. If Arizona wants a successful 2012, they need one of the quarterbacks to be able to get the ball to arguably the best wide receiver in the game, Larry Fitzgerald.
Projection: Unless one of the team's quarterbacks exceeds expectations, the Cardinals are on their way to another mediocre season without a trip to the postseason.
So far we have previewed six of the eight divisions in our countdown to the 2012 NFL season, and today we move onto lucky number seven: the NFC North.
(To view previous NFL previews, click on any of the following division names: AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC South)
The Bears made a big splash this offseason, adding problematic wide receiver Brandon Marshall to an offense that had a serious lack of weapons for QB Jay Cutler. Now, the former Broncos teammates are back together again, and fans in the "Windy City" have high expectations for the two. The problem is, Cutler has had trouble staying away from injuries and Marshall has had trouble staying away from, well, trouble.
Projection: If Cutler can stay healthy, the Bears could be a real threat to dethrone the Packers at the top of the NFC North. Some experts view Chicago as a sleeper pick to go to the Super Bowl.