Amazing as it sounds, we are already one-third of the way through the 2006 NFL season. There are tight races in nearly every division and, while many questions are yet to be answered, much has already come into focus. This being said, here are the good stories, the bad stories and the just-plain-ugly stories from the first six weeks of the NFL season.
If you had told me at the beginning of the season that the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears would start a combined 11-1, it would have induced one reaction: laughter. While we all knew the Bears would be good enough to win a terrible NFC North division, nobody expected the type of production that we are seeing from Rex Grossman. Grossman is 5th in the NFC in passing yards, 3rd in touchdowns, and he has vastly improved his game management skills. The Bears lead the NFL in points per game and Grossman may have found a future Pro Bowler in third-year wider receiver Bernard Berrian. At 6-0, I don’t think that the Bears can pull off a perfect season, but with their incredible defense and the luxury of playing both the Lions and the Packers twice, the Bears will be in great position to earn home field advantage in the playoffs
But the biggest surprise of the young NFL season is the New Orleans Saints sitting atop the NFC South division with a stellar 5-1 record. In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the acquisition of QB Drew Brees and the drafting of Reggie Bush have brought a glimmer of hope to a city that desperately needed it. While Bush has been used primarily as a decoy, Brees has been the most accurate QB in the NFC so far this season. Deuce McAllister has returned to first-class form as well and the team has received a great contribution from rookie wide receiver Marques Colston, who has 4 touchdowns and 414 receiving yards so far this season. The Saints are the feel-good story of the season and I would love to see them maintain their dominance in the second third of the season.
I, like many experts, thought that the Miami Dolphins would be the sexy pick to win the AFC East this year.Daunte Culpepper, Ronnie Brown, and Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Chambers were supposed to lead the Fish back to glory in a relatively weak division. But at 1-5, the Dolphins already find themselves four games back from the first place Pats and in the midst of a quarterback controversy that has landed Culpepper on the bench in lieu of career underachiever Joey Harrington. At 0-3 in their division, Miami is as good as dead in the AFC.
Another team that had great promise was the Arizona Cardinals, headed by coach Denny Green. With a wealth of young talent, the Cardinals have once again let their fans down by starting the season 1-5. They have Pro Bowl talents in WR’s Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and RB Edgerrin James as well as a thoroughbred stud-in-the-making in Matt Leinart. But a twenty-point collapse at home this past Monday against the Bears showed that they clearly lack the killer instinct to finish off opponents. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, this team is still a year or two away.
The biggest disappointment of the season has to be the Oakland Raiders. Simply put, they are pathetic. Quarterback Andrew Walter has thrown just two touchdowns compared to seven interceptions, Randy Moss has only 17 catches and the offensive line has already allowed 24 sacks in five games. The Raiders have only scored 50 points this season and have become the joke of the league. In a tough division, I feel bad for any Colgate student who seeks allegiance with the black and silver. But worry not, for their abysmal play rarely reaches us East-Coasters come Sunday; we can all be thankful for that.