Through Five Weeks of the NFL

The National Football League season has had an unpredictable start this year. Before the season started, if you had told me that at week five the Detroit Lions would be undefeated, the Philadelphia Eagles would be pretty much eliminated from the playoffs, and that the San Francisco 49ers would have a winning record, I would have thought you had amnesia and thought it was the ’90s again.

But alas, Lions quarterback Matt Stafford is an MVP candidate, leading his team to a ferocious season’s start. Sure, the Lions faced some of the bottom-tier teams, such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings. But they did beat the up-and-coming Tampa Bay Buccaneers on opening day, and then the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears in weeks four and five.

The deadly combination of Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson has made the Lions’ offense very potent. Stafford boasts the sixth-best passer rating (101.4), third-most touchdowns thrown (13), and eighth-most yards per game (287) in the league. He is a leading candidate in the early MVP race along with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Combine those numbers with Johnson’s receiving statistics, who’s been the best receiver in the NFL this season. He has four more touchdown receptions than any other receiver at nine, and is fifth in receiving yards with 451.

The young Lions team was bound to break out of its shell eventually, with the dynamic offense backed by a powerful defense led by the monstrous defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Detroit fans deserve some success for their football franchise after what seems like an abysmal last two decades, and a winless season in 2008.

What really has me puzzled is the success of the 49ers. Niners, you had your prosperous years with Joe Montana and Steve Young through the ’80s and ’90s; let someone else have a turn.

But lo and behold, quarterback Alex Smith has led this squad to an unforeseen start. Through the balance of their run game, with Frank Gore, and a passing game with wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan, and tight end Vernon Davis, they have been able to attack some of the league’s top defenses in a variety of ways. They have downed the Buccaneers, the surprisingly awful Philadelphia Eagles (who I will get to), and the Cowboys. But with injuries to starting nose guard Isaac Sopoaga and Morgan in last week’s game against the Bucs, only time will tell if they can maintain this hot start.

Now to the topic that will please the vast majority of NFL fans, with the small minority being their fans: the unpredicted mediocrity of the Eagles. After having the most successful offseason of any NFL team, signing quarterback Michael Vick to a long-term contract, and picking up pro-bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles developed a villainous identity, while being the favorite to win a Super Bowl. Now, at 1–4, making the playoffs would be a stretch.

Vick has been an interception machine, with seven already this season. And the defense is abysmal at stopping the run, at 30th in the league in run defense, with 140.2 opponent rushing yards per game. In post-game interviews, you can see how frustrated Vick and head coach Andy Reid are with the lack of success this year.

A players-only meeting was called after last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. But given how little time this team has spent in its current construction, I believe that a players meeting with players who do not know each other very well can only end badly. They do not know what makes one another tick and it will most likely end in a slew of accusations. As a member of the previously mentioned majority, I hope this is the case, and that this is the beginning of the Eagles’ demise.

These unforeseen events have been at the forefront of NFL fans’ minds and analysts’ reports through the early parts of this season. If you haven’t noticed, the Bills are in first at 4–1 and the New York Jets are surprisingly unsatisfactory at 2–3. Quarterback Tim Tebow has already replaced Kyle Orton as the starter for the Denver Broncos, and the Indianapolis Colts have proven that Peyton Manning is the most important player in NFL history, as his absence has led them to an 0–5 start after a 10–6 season last year with virtually the same team (but with a healthy Manning of course). Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been equally electrifying as he has been mediocre, and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork has two interceptions, more than most secondary defenders. This season has been anything but predictable.

There were some exciting matchups in week six, such as the Lions vs. the 49ers, the Bucs vs. the New Orleans Saints, the New York Giants vs. the Bills, and the Patriots vs. the Cowboys. Hopefully you guys put on your hometown jerseys, ordered a pizza, put off your homework, and enjoyed some regular season football while it’s here.