We're at the quarter pole of the NFL season, which gives us just enough information to figure out if teams are who we thought they were. It turns out, we were quite wrong about more than a few.
Here are the AFC reconciliations of perception and reality. The NFC teams will come tomorrow. Think of it as an early way for me to back out of my posts earlier that I liked the Rams in the NFC West, and I thought New Orleans was the best value Super Bowl future bet in the NFC.
The Jim Mora photo has nothing to do with this post. I just really like Jim Mora. PLAYOFFS?!?!
Baltimore – We thought they were a dominating defense who lucked into a couple games last year to go 13-3, but would improve on offense. We found out they can't score touchdowns, due to a combination of performance and play-calling.
Cincinnati – We thought they would be an average team with a dangerous offense. We were right, but that defense isn't shutting anybody down. Is Marvin Lewis a defensive genius? Is Mike Nolan? Is Rex Ryan? Is [insert next Ravens D coordinator]?
Cleveland – We thought they'd be learning on the fly with Brady Quinn and Joe Thomas. Derek Anderson is just competent enough to make good use of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. They're not necessarily better than anyone, but they will punish you for not showing up.
Pittsburgh – We thought they could be pretty good if the old Ben Roethlisberger came back. We found out they can be pretty good when the old Ben Roethlisberger is back.
Buffalo – We thought they'd generally suck, with the exception of some J.P. Losman/Lee Evans explosions. We're not even getting those.
Miami – We thought they'd have a tough time, with an old quarterback, aging defense, and new coach. At least Ronnie Brown is doing very well, as he's the extent of their youth movement.
New England – We thought they could be dangerous with the same team from last year's AFC Championship Game adding Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas. We didn't think they'd be averaging 35 points a game and winning by almost 20 a game. If you want to crown their ass, crown 'em.
New York – We thought they might have been that team in the 6-10 to 10-6 range last year that caught all the breaks. We found out they REALLY caught a lot of breaks last year.
Houston – We had no idea what to think. They have no real running back, and Matt Schaub was a virtual unknown, unless you want to go back to footage of him raping Maryland at Virginia. We found out that Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson is a very good combination, and the young defense is rapidly improving.
Indianapolis – We thought they'd win 13 games, because that's what Indy does in the regular season. We found out that they're almost the exact same team as last year, though the run defense has been better in the early going. Their biggest threat comes from the improvement of their division mates. Exercise caution before crowning their ass.
Jacksonville – We thought we had no idea what to think. Byron Leftwich was cut right before the season, and they moved forward with exciting weapons like David Garrard, Matt Jones, Earnest Wilford, Dennis Northcutt and Mercedes Lewis. Maurice Jones-Drew is the only real threat, and they reek of an 8-8 team that only degenerate gamblers and people in north Florida follow.
Tennessee – We thought last year they might have caught a lot of breaks, and benefited from the motivation of playing with Vince Young. Again this year, he is proving that you can't spell victory without VY.
Denver – We thought this team would be as good as Jay Cutler. Yup. At least the running game is still strong.
Kansas City – We thought this team would be as good as Brodie Croyle. Yup. At least Damon Huard is around to eke out just enough wins to get them out of the top 5 of the draft. Larry Johnson probably wishes he was still holding out.
Oakland – We thought this team would be as good as JeMarcus Russell. Luckily, he held out and Daunte Culpepper and a strong defense and decent running game are keeping Oakland around. In this division, you can't count them out, and that alone is a pleasant surprise.
San Diego – We thought this team would be as good as PhiLLLLip Rivers. I'm kidding. We thought Lorenzo Neal and LaDainian Tomlinson would steamroll over whomever, with Rivers throwing bombs to Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson when the defense stacked the box. We thought their defense, though not lights out, could hold teams under the 21 points San Diego should be guaranteed in any non-Martyball system. We forgot that Norv Turner is his own demotivational poster. We also forgot that they lost Wade Phillips to Dallas (gee, he took all the points with him) and Cam Cameron to Miami (what, exactly, did he take with him?). We also forgot that Ted Cottrell is the only demotivational poster that competes with Norv Turner. Not happy times in America's Finest City. "PLAYOFFS?!? We can't do diddly poo."
Checkback for NFC comments tomorrow from Russell.