The good, bad and ugly of 2013

The good, bad and ugly of 2013
November 4, 2013, 5:41 pm
Share This Post

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) celebrates with teammates after returning a recovered fumble into the end zone for a touchdown past Buffalo Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel (7) during the second half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/ Bill Wippert)


With much to celebrate and lament, here's a look at the NFL halfway through the 2013 season.


Start out West with the league's two best divisions.

What Kansas City has achieved after going 2-14 and getting the top draft pick a season ago is remarkable and historic. Yes, the Chiefs' superb defense is carrying a mediocre offense, but to criticize anything Andy Reid and his staff have done in going 9-0 is misguided.

''We're not going to apologize for any wins,'' Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. ''You keep your nose down, you do what you've been doing.''

Denver (7-1) was expected to be dominant and, in stark contrast to KC, it has been on offense. Peyton Manning's record-tying seven-touchdown explosion in the opener - matched, incredibly, by Philadelphia's Nick Foles, on Sunday - put the league on notice when it comes to the capabilities of a healthy Manning and his minions. Even with coach John Fox now sidelined for a heart procedure, the Broncos will be formidable.

''I'm truly jealous of the weapons that Peyton gets to throw to,'' said his boss, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

San Diego (4-4) and Oakland (3-5) have been more competitive than predicted.

Residing in the NFC West are the conference's top two teams thus far, the Seahawks and 49ers. All anyone needs to know about Seattle is how it responded after falling behind winless Tampa Bay 21-0 Sunday. Clearly, the Seahawks (7-1) weren't ready. Just as clearly, they were good enough and resourceful enough to rally.

And no team has a bigger home-field edge; Seattle has won 12 straight home games.

The 49ers (6-2), winners of five straight, are beginning to find the balance that got them to last season's Super Bowl.

Arizona (4-4) has shown marked improvement, particularly on defense, under first-year coach Bruce Arians, the 2012 Coach of the Year as an interim in Indianapolis.

Ah, Indianapolis. Its comeback Sunday night can, in part, be contributed to Texans coach Gary Kubiak's collapse at halftime, prompting his hospitalization and leaving Houston distracted and uninspired. Still, the Colts (6-2) are making a habit of such rallies and are beating the big boys, with wins over Seattle, San Francisco and Denver.

Individual kudos on offense go to Manning as he challenges all kinds of passing records; Philip Rivers for his revival in San Diego; Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, whose 10 TD receptions, built on speed, power and guile, make him a nearly unstoppable force; and wideouts Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker and A.J. Green. Plus some love for the behemoths in the trenches, who have stood out so far: the not-so-regular Joes, tackles Staley in San Francisco, Thomas in Cleveland; guards Evan Mathis in Philadelphia and Chris Myers in Houston; center Manny Ramirez in Denver; and all those fill-ins on Seattle's O-line.

On defense, we must recognize sackmasters Robert Mathis in Indianapolis, Mario Williams in Buffalo, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in KC, Robert Quinn in St. Louis, and Mo Wilkerson with the Jets. The versatility of DE J.J. Watt of the Texans is matched by Hali and Houston and the work of their fellow linebackers Sean Lee in Dallas, NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco, Bobby Wagner in Seattle, Vontaze Burfict in Cincinnati and Luke Kuechly in Carolina.

Unquestionably the toughest job in today's wide-open, throw-it-all-over-the-lot NFL is cover cornerback and safety. Outstanding so far have been Joe Haden in Cleveland, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas in Seattle, Alterraun Verner in Tennessee, Antonio Cromartie with the Jets, Aqib Talib in New England, rookie Eric Reid in San Francisco, and Mike Mitchell in Carolina.


Start with 2012 playoff qualifiers who have flopped, several of them spectacularly: Atlanta, Houston and Minnesota. Maybe the Vikings wouldn't have made many Super Bowl lists, but the Falcons - so close last January - and Texans would have.

Now, they are in the mix for top-10 draft picks.

Baltimore was projected to take a step back from its Super Bowl form with so many defections on the field and leadership-wise. It's been more like a pratfall.

Pittsburgh's once-proud defense is, well, nothing to be proud of, a Steel Curtain torn asunder. The Giants lost their first six games - yet still are a quasi-contender (more below) - as Eli Manning turned into a turnover machine and the defense became a sieve.

Past top performers struggling this season range from Ravens QB Joe Flacco and New York's Manning to running backs Ray Rice in Baltimore and Rashard Mendenhall in Arizona to receivers Mike Wallace in Miami, Hakeem Nicks with the Giants and Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City.

Even Adrian Peterson, last season's MVP, has been mediocre, but he's surrounded by - what's worse than mediocre?


Saved this category for the 0-fers, the Buccaneers and Jaguars.

At least Jacksonville doesn't seem dysfunctional like its Florida neighbor, even with WR Justin Blackmon's recent suspension. It's simply a lack of talent throughout the roster plaguing the Jags.

As for the Bucs, they were seconds away from winning their opener before a ludicrous penalty handed the Jets a win. They were up by three touchdowns against Seattle in Game 8 and blew it. There is turmoil in Tampa, with coach Greg Schiano's job security virtually nonexistent.

The race is on for homeliest teams. First one to 16 losses, uh, wins.


AP NFL website:

Texans - Team News
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (illness) is expected to miss Week 9 against the Eagles. Updating a previous item, Clowney appears to be over his early-season knee injury. But he is dealing with an illness. Clowney's absence is an upgrade to Nick Foles'...
Oct 31 1:11PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue (ankle) remained limited in Thursday's practice. Arian Foster's caddie is in no danger of missing Week 9.
Oct 30 3:41PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) returned to Texans practice Thursday, getting in a limited session. Johnson was never in any danger of missing Sunday's game against the Eagles. With six teams on bye for Week 9, Johnson is a WR1.
Oct 30 3:40PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (knee) returned to Texans practice Thursday, getting in a limited session. The Texans are just managing their superstar back's reps. With DeMarco Murray facing the Cardinals' elite run defense, there's a case to be made for Foster as Week 9's No. 1...
Oct 30 3:39PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice. Blue got first-team reps with Arian Foster (knee) not practicing. The Texans also held out Andre Johnson (ankle) on Wednesday.
Oct 29 5:15PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. The Texans are limiting Johnson's reps for rest purposes. He didn't suffer any setbacks last week and should be fine for Sunday's game against the Eagles.
Oct 29 3:43PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (knee) did not practice Wednesday. It's a new injury for Foster. Coming off his three-touchdown performance, it's possible the Texans are getting him some rest. Foster will be a top-three running back in Week...
Oct 29 3:18PM Read More
Zac Diles - LB
Texans signed LB Zac Diles. CB Elbert Mack was waived in a corresponding roster move. Diles' addition is a sign the Texans aren't expecting Brian Cushing (knee) back for Week 9.
Oct 28 4:04PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham was held without a catch in the Texans' Week 8 win over Tennessee. Graham was targeted just one time on the day, a seam shot from Ryan Fitzpatrick that predictably fell incomplete. Graham has been a very minor part of the offense, making...
Oct 26 4:53PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson caught seven passes for 55 yards in the Texans' Week 8 win over the Titans. Johnson saw a team-high dozen targets. He was followed by Titans top CB Jason McCourty for much of the afternoon, leaving DeAndre Hopkins to work on sophomore Blidi...
Oct 26 4:44PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins caught five passes for 95 yards in the Texans' Week 8 win over the Titans. Hopkins was targeted 11 times compared to 12 for Andre Johnson. Hopkins picked up chunk yards on all of his grabs, and was stopped at the five-yard line on one grab where...
Oct 26 4:24PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed for 42 yards on 14 carries in the Texans' Week 8 win over the Titans. Blue added a 22-yard catch. With the Texans clobbering the Titans late and Arian Foster having already piled up 173 yards and three touchdowns, Blue got plenty of run late...
Oct 26 4:11PM Read More
Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 19-of-35 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown, and zero... Fitzpatrick was pretty bad for most of the day, begging to be picked off, but the Texans rode Arian Foster's legs to victory. Fitzpatrick's lone touchdown went to Foster on...
Oct 26 3:45PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Texans' 30-16, Week 8... Foster managed just 36 yards on his first 10 carries, but broke a 34-yard touchdown and had no trouble finding holes in the Tennessee defense from there on. Foster caught a...
Oct 26 3:21PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is active for Week 8 against the Titans. Clowney will play on a "pitch count," likely in pass-rushing and third-down situations. Good luck with Clowney and J.J. Watt, Zach Mettenberger. Inactive for the...
Oct 26 10:34AM Read More

More Team Talk