Analysis  

 

Glass half empty or half full? Evaluating all 11 NFL teams at .500

Being a .500 team in the NFL can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

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For instance, the Philadelphia Eagles are 3-3, just fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and there are whispers of coach Andy Reid being poised to turn to rookie Nick Foles at quarterback if Michael Vick doesn't tighten things up. On the flip side, the Dolphins also are 3-3 and loving life, in a four-way tie atop the AFC East with a young QB, new head coach and a team many thought was two years away, at best.

All told, there are 11 teams that are .500 right now, some disappointed and some ecstatic. Let's take a look at which teams are optimistic, which ones are pessimistic and how the next 10 weeks will go.

GLASS HALF FULL

Philadelphia Eagles
The glass seems empty, but the Eagles are very much in play for the division title. Philadelphia has yet to cure its turnover problems, especially Vick. The offensive line isn't playing well and the defense hasn't held up at any level because of the stress it's been under due to the offensive woes. Todd Bowles will make an immediate difference defensively, but the issues remain on offense.

Prediction: The Eagles should get to nine or 10 wins if Vick gets his act together. That might be enough to reach the playoffs -- and owner Jeffrey Lurie's criteria for Reid to hold on to his job.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers have two more losses than they had in the entire 2011 regular season, and until last Sunday's victory over the previously unbeaten Houston Texans, they hadn't looked anything like the 15-1 team from a year ago. Injuries to Cedric Benson, Desmond Bishop and D.J. Williams have left holes. Other injured players, including stud wide receiver Greg Jennings, should be back shortly, though.

Prediction: The Pack should win 10 games and get to the playoffs, but it won't be easy.

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New England Patriots
The Patriots are running the ball, scoring and throwing it better than just about any team in the NFL. They're not closing out games, though, and it's costing them. They missed a late field goal vs. Arizona and lost one-point games to Baltimore and last week at Seattle. New England isn't used to losing all these nail-biters.

Prediction: The offense is working too well, and they'll start winning these close games. They will win the AFC East.

Denver Broncos
The Broncos made it through a rugged early schedule at .500, which has to be viewed favorably. Quarterback Peyton Manning looks to have found his groove after a year away from the game while recovering from multiple neck surgeries. There are still some things to be worked out on defense and special teams, but the schedule eases significantly.

Prediction: Denver is my pick to win the AFC West.

Cincinnati Bengals
The schedule is not easy, but they're about to play three straight home games with a bye mixed in. The defense has been surprisingly suspect and must tighten things up, especially in the AFC North. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have something special, while tight end Jermaine Gresham has shown up, although not consistently enough.

Prediction: Cincy might benefit from the rest of the AFC being so wishy-washy and get into the playoffs as a wild card. Nine wins could do it.

GLASS HALF EMPTY

Miami Dolphins
No team should feel better about being .500 than the Dolphins. So why half empty? The margin for error is slim, which isn't ideal for a rookie quarterback and team with so few playmakers.

Prediction: Finishing 8-8 is best-case scenario.

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San Diego Chargers
Coach Norv Turner's seat is radioactive following the 24-point collapse to Denver. That came a week after the Chargers were outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter in a loss to previously winless New Orleans. Despite being tied for first in the AFC West, fans are hotter than they've ever been for the perennial underachievers. This is a team of mediocre (but evolving) talent, so great things weren't expected -- but losing the ways San Diego has won't be tolerated.

Prediction: No playoff berth and Norv Turner could be gone.

Buffalo Bills
After signing free-agent defensive linemen Mario Williams and Mark Anderson and having running back Fred Jackson open the season healthy, the Bills figured to challenge for the playoffs. They've gotten blown out in all three losses and haven't shown they can roll with the big boys. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't stopped throwing interceptions.

Prediction: With Fitzpatrick's inconsistencies and land mines in the remaining schedule, the Bills will fall short again.

New York Jets
Season-ending injuries to cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes stripped the Jets of their top two playmakers. There isn't much sizzle left at any of the skill positions. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has not played well, and without much around him, it doesn't look like things will change much. The schedule is about to get challenging with divisional games and the NFC West on tap.

Prediction: New York should feel fortunate to get to 8-8.

St. Louis Rams
New coach Jeff Fisher has delivered. We expected the Rams to be a tough out every week, but this young team has been better than anticipated. But they are struggling to score and that won't get any easier in the NFC West. The defense -- led by cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins, as well as defensive end Chris Long and linebacker James Laurinaitis -- will keep the Rams competitive.

Prediction: The inability to consistently put points on the board will come back to haunt the Rams, but six or seven wins will provide hope for the future.


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Washington Redskins
The Redskins are on my half-empty/half-full fence. Robert Griffin III has done more than expected and is getting better. The 'Skins are deep at running back and have scored more touchdowns (22) than any team in the NFL. There are some issues on defense, but Washington isn't going away.

Prediction: The Redskins are going to be pesky all season. They won't get to the postseason, but they could keep it interesting well into December.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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