The Booms and Busts Halfway Through a Wild NFL Season


Despite having not started a game since high school, Patriots QB Matt Cassel has gone 6-3 since taking over for Tom Brady. (David Eulitt/MCT)

Published: November 13, 2008

There have been plenty of surprises this season in the NFL. With a slew of high-profile injuries, some coaching shakeups and the most surprising undefeated run in years, following the league has never been more unpredictable. Here are the biggest surprises we never saw coming this season.


1. Brady-less New England

After quarterback Tom Brady went down in week 1, everyone was ready to write off the New England Patriots. Instead, the team stepped up. The offensive line has successfully protected quarterback Matt Cassel, and Randy Moss and Wes Welker have remained threats at wide receiver. The 6-3 Patriots will face their biggest test yet when they face the 6-3 New York Jets for first place this Sunday.

2. Tennessee

Similar to the Patriots, the Tennessee Titans lost their starting quarterback Vince Young early on in the season. With a balanced offense attack behind quarterback Kerry Collins and a stellar defense featuring sack machine and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the Titans have gone undefeated for the first nine games of the season.

3. Miami

With former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington running the show in Miami, the Dolphins were able to double their wins from 2007 by week 4 (for those of you who haven’t been following, the Dolphins only had one win last season).

4. Atlanta

The franchise left for dead after the Michael Vick fiasco has been a huge surprise this season.  Despite the fact that heavyweights Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers reign in the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons have been able to stay above the .500 mark thus far in the season even in their tough division.

5. Arizona

The Arizona Cardinals have been hoping Matt Leinart would step up this year to be the quarterback he was back at USC. Instead, the Cardinals have put grizzled veteran Kurt Warner at the quarterback position, and his 16 touchdowns have kept this perennial losing franchise at the top of the NFC South.


1. Dallas

After winning their first three games this year, there was buzz that the Dallas Cowboys may possibly go undefeated this season and win their first Super Bowl since the 1990’s dynasty. Since then, the team has dropped four of six games, two of which came before quarterback Tony Romo went down with a hand injury.

2. New Orleans

There are instances when it seems like the Saints could win the balanced NFC South. Instead, they have  gone 4-5 thus far, with running back Reggie Bush collecting just two scores. Beating the Chargers in week 8 could have provided a boost, but the Saints followed it with a 34-20 loss to Atlanta after a bye week.

3. Indianapolis

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning still has plenty in the tank, but after a couple of surgeries on his knee, it will take time to revert back to his old self.  A combined five touchdowns from Manning in consecutive wins over AFC foes New England and Pittsburgh could mean he’s on the right track.

4. San Diego

The San Diego Chargers are a perennial favorite, but something always goes wrong. Two close losses early on in the season has left the team with an uphill battle With division foes Denver Broncos playing so well, it just makes the Chargers playoff hopes a little more difficultw.

5. Cincinnati

Doubts about having a young team didn’t stifle preseason hopes that the Cincinnati Bengals could pull off at least a winning season. The Bengals won their first game  in week 9. Now, they could just use another win or two.