Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

Jones' midseason musings: 10 burning questions for the NFL

Halfway through the NFL season and we are full of questions.

So, let's try to give you some answers.

Here are 10 burning questions for the NFL at the midway point.

Is Tom Brady the league MVP?

The Patriots QB has played only four games. The Pats went 3-1 in the games he didn't play and are 4-0 when he does. So how valuable can he be? Statistically, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would be the favorite. He leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Oakland QB Derek Carr has the Raiders rolling, and it would be easy to make a case for him. Plus, it's cool that the Raiders are relevant. But, come on, Brady remains the best player in football. Best equals most valuable.

Who is the coach of the year?

Two weeks ago, this was a no-brainer as Vikings coach Mike Zimmer overcame the loss of his starting quarterback and the game's best running back and had the Vikings humming. Now that the earth has fallen out from under Minnesota's feet, so have Zimmer's coach-of-the-year odds. New England's Bill Belichick is the best coach in football, but just to spice things up, let's go with Oakland's Jack Del Rio. Starting with going for two to win the opener at New Orleans, Del Rio has the Raiders at 7-2.

Will the Browns go winless?

It's just as hard to go winless as it is to go undefeated. In the Super Bowl era, only one team has gone undefeated and only two — the 1976 Bucs (0-14) and the 2008 Lions (0-16) have gone winless. It's going to happen again. Cleveland is going to go 0-16. The Browns are already 0-9 against a first-half schedule that included the Dolphins, Jets and Titans. The homestretch is way more difficult.

Biggest surprises so far?

That the Cowboys are 7-1 without Tony Romo at quarterback. That no team in the NFC East is below .500. That the Texans are in first place without J.J. Watt.

Biggest disappointments so far?

That the Packers look really pedestrian. That the defending NFC champ Panthers are going to miss the playoffs. That the AFC North — and I'm talking about the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals — is so mediocre.

Which AFC teams will make the playoffs?

Division winners will be the Patriots, Steelers, Texans and Raiders. The wild cards will be the Chiefs and Broncos. That leaves the Ravens, Bengals and Chargers just on the outside.

Which NFC teams make the playoffs?

The division winners will be the Cowboys, Packers (yes, they'll figure it out), Falcons and Seahawks. The wild cards will be the Giants and Lions. That leaves the Vikings, Saints, Cardinals and Washington on the outside.

Which NFL coaches need to rally to save their jobs?

Jacksonville's Gus Bradley seems like a goner already. Chip Kelly's 49ers are a mess, and him jumping back to Oregon seems like a logical fit, but all indications are that he will survive and stay in San Francisco. And what about the Bucs' Dirk Koetter? A second-half collapse — and we're talking like winning only one or two more games the rest of the season — could cost him his job, especially if Jameis Winston plays like junk. Otherwise, look for the Glazers to show patience.

Will TV ratings improve?

The first half of the NFL season included plenty of television competition, including a newsworthy presidential campaign and the Cubs' historic run to their first World Series victory in 108 years. With those things now behind us, the NFL will really see what's what with the ratings. My gut tells me that a ratings decline is due to product oversaturation and bad games. But as playoff races tighten up, games will become more critical and that should help ratings the rest of the year.

Super Bowl pick?

Cowboys vs. Patriots. Sorry, but New England celebrates again.

 
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