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Staff Writer: Colton Almeida
As we wrap up week 9 of the 2022 NFL season, we find ourselves right around the midway point of the 18-week campaign. It’s time to break down the league’s biggest surprises, what has been expected, and what we have learned as we venture into the second half.
Here are 10 takeaways from the first half:
10. Age may be catching up to some veteran Quarterbacks.
This season has not been kind to some of the game’s staple veterans.
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a rocky start, one that included a 21-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Brady fell to two games under .500 for the first time in his illustrious career.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have yet to get things figured out as well. The Pack came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations yet again, but have failed to get anything consistent going in the passing game. Rookie wide receivers and a few injuries may be to blame, but regardless there is no denying this is simply not where the Packers thought they’d be sitting midway through the year.
Then there’s Matt Ryan of the Indianapolis Colts. The one-time MVP quarterback has officially been benched for Sam Ehlinger. In his time with the Colts, Ryan had looked absolutely abysmal, struggling to get much of anything going offensively.
Is it time to write these guys off? I would say no. But the second half is going to indicate a lot for the future of three of the game’s greatest.
9. Geno Smith is good. Like really good.
Journeyman quarterback Geno Smith has finally found his footing in his 9th season in the NFL.
After moving on from Russell Wilson, many completely wrote the Seattle Seahawks off. However, Smith has emerged as not only a quality replacement but as a legit top-10 quarterback thus far.
There is certainly a lot of season left to be played, but the Seahawks find themselves atop the NFC West, somewhere that only a handful of true Seahawks fans believed they’d be sitting.
8. Tua and the Dolphins may be the most explosive offense in the league.
Hand up. I may have been wrong about Tua Tagovailoa. He is proving to be a truly accurate, efficient, and dynamic quarterback.
Jaylen Waddle continues to produce in year two, and Tyreek Hill has not missed a beat in his transition from the electric Chiefs offense into this new, exciting Dolphins unit.
Whether or not the Dolphins can make a deep playoff run remains to be seen, but one thing has already been proven: nobody wants to face this dangerous offense in the postseason.
7. The Bengals and the Rams might have serious Super Bowl Hangovers.
The term Super Bowl hangover is always loosely tossed around by talking heads. This year specifically, however, the term may be incredibly applicable to what the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are going through.
The Rams have really looked lost, particularly on the offensive line. Matthew Stafford hasn’t looked fully healthy either, and playing behind that porous o-line is not helping his situation. Allen Robinson has been for the most part a disappointment, and Cooper Kupp is once again shouldering the offensive burden.
The Bengals have been hovering around the .500 mark, definitely not a spot Cincy fans expected to find themselves in.
Will both these teams end up missing the playoffs just a year removed from appearing in the big game?
6. Something is wrong with Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson’s debut season in Denver has gotten off to a shaky start, and that is putting it lightly.
The 3-5 Broncos have, as expected, played lights-out defense all season to this point. Their offense, on the other hand, has been absolutely and utterly anemic.
We all knew this Denver defense would be great, and adding a superstar QB in Wilson to the fold is why so many were touting the Broncos as a Super Bowl contender in the preseason. Yet, the Seahawk legend has yet to find a rhythm in his new scheme under first-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
The boos have come out early in Denver, and despite his legacy of greatness, the pressure is on for Wilson to turn things around in the Mile High City, and fast.
5. The New York Giants are… confusing.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2022 season right now is the fact that the New York Giants are 6-2.
Tight, gritty wins have defined the G-men’s season, but some may be wondering if this style of play is sustainable.
I still have concerns for Daniel Jones, and if he really is the answer at QB for the Giants.
He is an electric runner, and in fairness does not have elite weapons (aside from Saquon Barkley) at his disposal. Though it feels to me that everything has broken right for the Giants through nine weeks and that the stretch run may not be so kind to them.
They still play the Eagles twice, the Cowboys, and the Vikings, so opportunities to prove me wrong will be abundant over the final nine weeks.
4. Lamar Jackson deserves a massive contract.
Ravens standout quarterback Lamar Jackson made the ultimate bet-on-yourself move this offseason by turning down over $130 million offered by the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson was not satisfied with the six-year offer Baltimore put forth, and looked to further prove his worth this season.
The fifth-year QB is doing what he does best, making everyone around him better and providing massive sparks to this offense via the run.
While the Ravens overall haven’t been anything to write home about, it is obvious that Jackson should be Baltimore’s franchise guy, and letting him walk would be a big-time mistake by the organization.
3. The league is in good hands at the Quarterback position.
As we continue to witness the end of an era at the QB position, with the likes of Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees having already retired along with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan eventually following suit, it is hard not to think of the future of the position.
This year is showing that the game is in good hands, with young, talented quarterbacks across the league showcasing their capabilities.
Josh Allen (26), Patrick Mahomes (27), Joe Burrow (25), Lamar Jackson (25), Jalen Hurts (24), and Justin Herbert (24) are all under the age of 28 and are rocking it at the professional level.
While it is tough to say goodbye to rivalries like Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, new ones like Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen will be sure to capture our attention for years to come.
2. The NFC South is wide open.
The NFC South was not expected to be an elite division at the start of the year, but I’m not sure anyone could have predicted how badly they have performed.
The Buccaneers and Falcons are tied for first place through nine weeks, at a mediocre 4-5. The Saints and Panthers are 3-6 and 2-7 respectively.
One can only laugh that despite a bad year for Tom Brady, he still finds himself in first place, and in a position to still be the favorite to win the division down the stretch.
1. The Bills, Chiefs, and Eagles are in a league of their own.
Some would argue that parity in the NFL is at an all-time high. Through the first nine weeks, three teams seemed to have separated themselves from the rest of the field.
The Buffalo Bills entered the year as many people’s Super Bowl pick, especially after a devastating defeat to the Chiefs in last year’s Divisional Round playoff. A motivated Bills team has certainly proved to be dangerous so far.
The Kansas City Chiefs are exactly who we thought they’d be. Despite losing Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs’ offense hasn’t missed a beat, as Patrick Mahomes and the gang continue to roll with one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.
Then there’s the still-undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. While some would say their schedule has been sort of light, there is no denying that this team has all the makings of a Super Bowl contender. Truly dominant offensive and defensive lines, combined with a rapidly improving QB in Jalen Hurts, has led the Eagles to the league’s best record in the first half. Oh, and not to mention that wideout AJ Brown may not be human.
More twists and turns are surely in store for us over the next nine weeks, as the march toward the playoffs continues.