I am a firm believer in momentum in football. On the gridiron, once the metaphorical ball gets rolling, it can be tough to stop.
But of course, you need to get the ball rolling in the first place.
As we approach the midway point of the season, certain parties are in need of a mojo boost -- something to kick-start the engine of the momentum train, something to spur a second-half run. Here are nine players/teams/units that fit the bill:
1) Jay Cutler
The first half has been a bit of a nightmare. The Bears are underachieving and might be coming apart at the seams. Chicago is 3-4, with an unfathomable (and unacceptable) 0-3 record at Soldier Field. After the latest home loss, a 27-14 defeat to the Miami Dolphins, Bears players were reportedly yelling at each other and pointing fingers, with Brandon Marshall leading the charge.
Chicago has the Patriots in New England on Sunday. The Pats lost Jerod Mayo for the season a couple weeks ago, and in their first game without the stud linebacker, the defense did not look good at all, yielding 423 yards of offense (including a whopping 218 on the ground) to the New York Jets. And now the Boston Globe is reporting that star defensive end Chandler Jones will miss a month with a hip injury.
2) Detroit Lions' offense
That said, we did see some encouraging signs from No. 9 this past Sunday. Stafford's toughness and execution was remarkable as he brought the Lions back from the dead against New Orleans, eking out a 24-23 win by throwing two touchdown passes in the final four minutes. Despite inconsistent play throughout the first half of the season, Stafford has developed a great rapport with newbie Golden Tate, who racked up 10 catches for 154 yards (and one massive touchdown) against the Saints. Meanwhile, Stafford's favorite target, Johnson, is trying to work back from an ankle injury.
Whether the Lions have Megatron or not for this Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons in London, Detroit should be able to put some points on the board. The Falcons have made a habit of getting crushed of late, giving up an average of just under 32 points per game in their current four-game losing streak. The defense is decimated; the overall confidence level is waning. I wrote about Mike Smith's tenuous status on Monday, explaining why a change is needed.
3) Seattle Seahawks' defense
4) Carson Palmer
OK, so this one's a little different. Palmer's a guy who must keep momentum going as he faces a big spot against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Palmer has played incredibly well since coming back from injury, responding well to backup Drew Stanton stepping up in his absence. While I've never been a Palmer fan, what with his knack for turning the ball over, I can't deny his current groove. Palmer is 10-2 in his last 12 games for the Cardinals. In that stretch, he's completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 278 yards a game, with 22 touchdowns against 10 interceptions -- and a sparkling 97.8 passer rating.
The fascinating backdrop to Sunday's matchup between two 5-1 teams is that it has tie-breaker potential, whether it's for seeding or a bye or even a wild-card slot.
Tuesday, I talked to Michael Floyd on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," and the Cardinals receiver raved about the team's confidence, largely crediting head coach Bruce Arians. Palmer, Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown have good matchups in the passing attack against Philly's defense.
The Cardinals have a bit of an air of invincibility to them right now. A win takes it to another level. If they lose, and Palmer coughs it up, it represents a setback.
(For the record, I do like Arizona on Sunday.)
5) Buffalo Bills' defense
Buffalo is 4-3, thanks to a dose of Kyle Orton magic. Honestly, I didn't even know he still had a wand.
Harrison: Power Rankings, Week 8
6) Pittsburgh Steelers
A win is a win is a win. You never minimize a victory in the NFL.
7) Brian Hoyer
One week ago, the Browns were sitting pretty in the wild-card race, with a 3-2 record and what seemed like a highly manageable three-game stretch on the horizon. Then Cleveland handed the Jacksonville Jaguars their first win of the season. Totally unacceptable. I thought the Browns could handle prosperity. Instead, they lost by 18 points to a league doormat.
Hoyer suffered his worst game of the season, completing just 16 of his 41 passes, with an interception and zero touchdowns. Predictably, the cries for Johnny Football are getting louder. Imagine if Hoyer loses at home to the winless Raiders ...
8) New Orleans Saints' offense
Despite having just two wins through six games, New Orleans is not dead in the water, because the NFC South is awful. That said, the time is now. This offense needs to get going, and it will have an opportunity to do so Sunday night. While the Packers' defense played well against Carolina last week, it's not a great unit.
9) Cincinnati Bengals
This is kind of a gigantic spot for Cincy.