As the second half of the NFL season picks up this weekend, there are several things that stand out in my mind.
Even though the Patriots proved that they can live up to the hype by coming back to defeat the Colts in the final minutes, they're not going to go undefeated. As much as the media is clamoring for someone to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only team to go undefeated in the regular season, it just won't happen. A tough second half schedule, featuring the league's top two defenses in the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, should slow down the prolific Patriots' offense. Bill Belichick is a smart coach: his goal is not an undefeated season, but a fourth Super Bowl championship. If the Patriots come in the Meadowlands on Dec. 29 to play the New York Giants with a 15-0 record, Belichick will rest his starters for the grueling playoff road that faces them. This is the third potential roadblock in the Patriots' quest for an undefeated season.
In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers may just be the conference's best team. Brett Favre, easily one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, has certainly surprised everyone with his ability to play at such a high level despite the fact that he's in his 17th season in the NFL. The Packers' defense, along with Favre's play, is what has brought them to 7-1. Could they go 15-1? As of now, the only team left on their schedule that poses any serious threat is the Dallas Cowboys, the only other 7-1 team in the NFC.
Minnesota Vikings' rookie running back Adrian Peterson is the real deal. Peterson, who last weekend set the single game rushing record with 296 yards, has 1036 yards halfway through the season and may seriously challenge the single season mark held by legendary running back Eric Dickerson. Give him a few years to learn the intricacies of the professional game and perhaps a halfway decent team, and then get ready to watch the records fall. And, barring a serious injury, they will - perhaps faster than anyone expected them to, as Peterson has already broken several other records, including most yards in a game for rookie (in the third quarter) and the first rookie to top 1,000 yards in his first eight games.
Now that Indianapolis has lost, settling the battle of the undefeated teams despite a career day from running back Joseph Addai, I will turn my attention to the opposite end of the spectrum. More plainly, who will get a win first, the hapless St. Louis Rams or the hopeless Miami Dolphins? The outlook isn't too bright for either team. The Dolphins have the league's second worst defense and the Rams have the league's second lowest scoring average; not what you would call qualities you need to win games.Overall, I'd give Miami the best shot, since they have two games with the Buffalo Bills and one with the New York Jets. Neither of these are exactly stellar teams, and if you can't win a game in the AFC East, then you probably shouldn't be playing the game. The Rams, on the other hand, play divisional opponents in four of their remaining games, good news as the NFC West is a shaky division overall. Therefore, as interesting as it would be to watch a team go winless in 16 games, both teams should get a break somewhere along the line. Until then, I'll be watching closely.