Well, we’re halfway through the season (or a little beyond, for some teams). How are the Five Rookies looking so far?
How about we start with some raw data.
- RGIII – 172/262 (65.6%), 1,993 yards, 93.9 QB rating (9th in NFL), 8 TDs, 3 INTs, 3-6 record
- Andrew Luck – 190/336 (56.5%), 2,404 yards (tied 3rd in NFL with Peyton Manning), 79.0 QB rating, 10 TDs, 8 INTs, 5-3 record
- Brandon Weeden – 185/336 (55.1%), 2,088 yards, 67.9 QB rating, 9 TDs, 12 INTs, 2-7 record
- Ryan Tannehill – 144/241 (59.8%), 1,762 yards, 78.2 QB rating, 5 TDs, 6 INTs, 4-4 record
- Russell Wilson – 145/234 (62.0%), 1,639 yards, 87.2 QB rating, 13 TDs, 8 INTs, 5-3 record
I included team record up there even though the quarterback isn’t entirely in control of such numbers. Still, they comprise a major part of whether a team is going to be good or not. I’d say in spite of their record, Washington has to be thrilled with RGIII’s overall output thus far this season. As soon as they’re able to give him some weapons, and bolster that defense, they’ll be a force in the NFC.
Andrew Luck has largely been an afterthought this season, considering RGIII is stealing the bulk of the rookie spotlight. I don’t know if any team’s success hinges more on the quarterback position than Indy’s this year. Luck is carrying this team, he’s lived up to every bit of hype leading up to this season, and he’s going to be a huge force going forward.
Brandon Weeden hasn’t been good by any stretch, but he’s also not the worst quarterback in the league. I don’t think anyone who’s a Browns fan believes they’ve got the guy who’s going to take them to the Super Bowl, so in that regard he’s kind of a disappointment. If he keeps this pace he’s on now, he’ll have somewhere near 4,000 yards passing and he’ll probably be handed the job again next year. They’ll expect more from him next year, but he won’t be able to deliver. He’ll fight for a spot in year three, but might end up sharing time with someone else. In essence, you’re not just talking about a wasted 2012; you’re talking about a wasted 2012, 2013, & 2014. And that’s what it’s been like to be a Cleveland Browns fan since Jim Brown retired …
Tannehill has probably been the most pleasant surprise, at least in my book. I was expecting Blaine Gabbert 2.0 and what I’m seeing isn’t anywhere near that. Of course, he and Miami have the luxury of not throwing too much on his plate, since they have a good team around him. In that sense, he’s very much like Russell Wilson. In the bottom third in attempts and yards; yet both teams are fringe playoff contenders looking for a few things to break right and turn them into divisional winners. Neither team will win their respective divisions, but the playoffs are certainly on the table.
Russell Wilson is 28th in passing yards. He’s 29th in attempts. He’s 15th in completion percentage. He’s tied for 10th in touchdown passes. He’s also got the 8th most interceptions. He’s 11th in QB rating.
Among the rookies, he’s tied for the most wins. I think that’s key. That means he’s got a good team around him. He’s got what I believe is a legitimately good team, as opposed to Luck, who appears to be doing it with smoke and mirrors and a soft schedule. The combined records of Colts opponents this season is 31-37; the record of the teams they’ve beaten stands at 20-24 (with quality wins over Green Bay, Minnesota, and Miami); the record of the teams they’ve lost to stands at 11-13 (with losses to Chicago, Jacksonville, and the Jets). Conversely, the combined records of Seahawks opponents this season is 38-37; the record of the teams they’ve beaten stands at 21-21 (with quality wins over Green Bay, Minnesota, and New England); the record of the teams they’ve lost to stands at 17-16 (with losses to Arizona, the Rams, the 49ers, and the Lions).
Of course, as I lay it all out in front of me, we will be able to make some legitimate comparisons between the Colts and Seahawks at season’s end, even though they won’t play one another. Both teams are facing the NFC North and AFC East. Both teams have a dominant divisional opponent (Houston for them, San Fran for us), both have a couple of cheesy divisional opponents (Tennessee and Jacksonville for them, Arizona and St. Louis for us). The only difference is: they’re playing a legitimate last place schedule (with Kansas City and Cleveland comprising the rest of their conference schedule), while we’ve played Dallas and Carolina, who are bad, but aren’t NEARLY as bad as the Browns or Chiefs.
We’ll see how things shake out for the rookies going forward. I think two cities are ecstatic (Indy & D.C.), I think two cities are cautiously optimistic (Seattle & Miami), and I think one city is Cleveland. I’d say “Get Well Soon” here, but I don’t really give a shit about Cleveland.
On to the rankings:
- Atlanta Falcons (8-0): This is the point of the season where writers will look at the rest of Atlanta’s schedule and see if they realistically have a shot at Perfection. As they keep winning, writers will start to look at them in a historical context: where do they rank among the great Unbeatens of all time (that is to say: teams that remained unbeaten for the bulk of their respective seasons)? A couple might even look at the 1972 Dolphins and do a comparison. Whether this team is as good as those Dolphins is irrelevant. Just because they haven’t won a playoff game with this quarterback and coaching staff means squat. I think if you look back at the ’72 Dolphins, you won’t look at the Greatest Team Ever. You’ll see a very good, very balanced team, that wasn’t particularly elite in any one aspect of the game. Yet, they came together and some things broke their way, and when all was said and done they were undefeated. Why couldn’t this Falcons team do what the 2007 Patriots couldn’t? (Last Week: 1)
- Houston Texans (7-1): It’s not every team that’s lucky enough to have back-to-back BYE weeks. Houston got that this season with Buffalo landing on the schedule this past Sunday. (Last Week: 2)
- Chicago Bears (7-1): Scoring 51 points is pretty impressive. That having been said, this isn’t the BCS; you don’t get points for running up the score in MY rankings. Besides, it was Tennessee; who COULDN’T score 51 on them? (Last Week: 3)
- San Francisco 49ers (6-2): If a team was ever going to overlook another team, it’s next week. They’ll be coming off a BYE, they’ll be facing the Rams, they’ll be at home, and they’ll be looking forward to playing Chicago the following Monday night. Watch out for the Rams if you’re a betting man, that’s all I’m saying. (Last Week: 5)
- New York Giants (6-3): It’s games like this last one that thrusts everyone off the bandwagon. It’s like they lose these games on purpose, to get the media and the fans off their scent. They sneak into the playoffs with nobody talking about them, then they rampage. Seen it a million times. (Last Week: 4)
- Green Bay Packers (6-3): Just another ho-hum win against a non-divisional opponent. You want to see a team righting its ship? Look at the Pack and their 4-game winning streak going into a BYE week. (Last Week: 7)
- Baltimore Ravens (6-2): No one plays down to the level of their opponents like the Baltimore Ravens! How they’ve got 2 losses and not 5 is beyond me. (Last Week: 6)
- New England Patriots (5-3): Would you look at that, the Rams in England and the Bills next week … the unheard-of 3-week BYE week! Seriously, if I’m on the Bills I’m pissed; they have to face the Texans and Patriots after their BYEs. On the road, no less! (Last Week: 8)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3): Hey Steelers, welcome back to people respecting your chances. 4-1 since their BYE, with KC, Bal, Cle, and Bal coming up. Go 3-1 in those games and watch them cruise into the playoffs once again. (Last Week: 12)
- Denver Broncos (5-3): And thus begins 5 road games in 7 weeks. Good thing they’ve got an ever-improving veteran quarterback at the helm. Nice win in Cincy. Hard to hate their chances at winning the West now. They could end up 9-7 and still win it by 3 games. (Last Week: 10)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-4): Boy do I love Week 11 BYEs. How awesome is it to have your week off in mid-November, when some unlucky fools have had to burn them back in early October? (Last Week: 11)
- Indianapolis Colts (5-3): I’m not going to say this puts the Colts in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card, but the 6th seed in the AFC is looking VERY attainable for anyone who wants it. Good to have the tie-breaker over the Dolphins, but I’m still not of the belief that the Colts can keep this up. Their schedule gets a lot tougher going forward, and I still think there’s going to be a surprise or two. (Last Week: 18)
- Miami Dolphins (4-4): Well, there’s no way around it, that was a disappointing loss to the Colts. When you miss the playoffs, you look at games like those and wonder What If? That having been said, there’s a reason why they call it Home Field Advantage; it’s hard as FUCK to win on the road! With two evenly-matched teams like the Dolphins and Colts, sometimes a little hometown boost is all it takes. (Last Week: 9)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4): They’re beating up on some bad teams (or, at least, some teams currently playing badly), and their defense isn’t the greatest, but this offense is legit. This team might be JUST good enough to end up 9-7 and miss the playoffs entirely. (Last Week: 16)
- Detroit Lions (4-4): If they think their season is going to turn around, these next two weeks will make or break them. At Minnesota, vs. Green Bay. Win them both, and watch out. Lose them both, and you’re done. Win only one: hello 8-8 season! (Last Week: 17)
- Minnesota Vikings (5-4): Bad time for your defense to fall apart. Now you’ve got to play Detroit’s high-octane offense. Good luck. (Last Week: 13)
- Dallas Cowboys (3-5): They’ve been fighting teams hard lately and they have 5 home games remaining. I wouldn’t be shocked if this team went on a run. It absolutely has to start this week, or many heads will roll at season’s end. (Last Week: 14)
- Washington Redskins (3-6): Man, I don’t know what to tell you; I didn’t think there was any way in Hell that Carolina would win this game. That’s why they pay me the zero bucks. With that 3-game losing streak, it should be an uninteresting BYE week. It’s not often a fanbase gets to be totally at ease with its quarterback situation while also dwelling on a 3-6 football team. You gotta wonder about how they feel about their coaching situation, however. (Last Week: 15)
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-5): If I had to pick a team I thought might have a chance to surprise, I’d go with the Bengals. KILL ME, I still don’t hate this team. Yes, they’ve lost some brutal games, but things lighten up going forward. Maybe they win 9 games and sneak into that 6-seed? (Last Week: 19)
- San Diego Chargers (4-4): Yeah, you beat the Chiefs, BFD. (Last Week: 23)
- St. Louis Rams (3-5): Five more road games to go. How bullshit is that “home” game in London now? I guarantee you more people were rooting for the Pats than the Rams. (Last Week: 20)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-5): Falling. Apart. (Last Week: 22)
- New Orleans (3-5): Why can’t the Saints play like that every week? (Last Week: 26)
- Oakland Raiders (3-5): If you can’t beat a team flying 3,000 miles across the country, then you can just forget about anything in the realm of success for this season. (Last Week: 24)
- Philadelphia Eagles (3-5): Seriously. It’s time. Michael Vick is done. (Last Week: 21)
- Cleveland Browns (2–7): This team hangs tough, you gotta give them that. Makes you wonder what they’d look like if a Mike Holmgren in his prime coached this team. (Last Week: 28)
- Tennessee Titans (3-6): This team – and especially this defense – is horrid. I’m starting Tannehill next week in my fantasy league BECAUSE he’s playing against this defense. (Last Week: 25)
- Buffalo Bills (3-5): A fairly creampuff schedule going forward (after the Patriots game, that is) leads me to believe this beleaguered franchise might retain its coaching staff going into next year. God have mercy on us all … (Last Week: 27)
- New York Jets (3-5): I can’t wait to beat the shit out of this team this week. If we don’t sack Sanchez 20 times and force 6 turnovers out of him, I’ll eat my hat. (Last Week: 29)
- Carolina Panthers (2-6): Well, they stopped the bleeding by showing RGIII who’s boss, but that’s not going to save this coaching staff. (Last Week: 30)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7): Disarray personified. (Last Week: 31)
- Kansas City Chiefs (1-7): On the plus side, they get to play the Steelers on Monday Night Football next week. How is that a “plus side”? Sorry, no more questions! (Last Week: 32)