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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thoughts on the league at the halfway point

by Mark Quarderer

With the 2005 season at the halfway point, the contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders and also-rans......

In the AFC, undefeated Indy looks to have all the pieces in place....QB, running game, passing game, defense, coaching. This could be the year for Tony Dungy.

Indy looks to be joined in the playoffs by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.....one as a division champ, the other as a wild card. New England still appears to me to be the favorite in the AFC East because they've got the experience, the coaching, and the QB that should keep them ahead of the rest of that weak division.

In the West, I think you have to like Denver. They're a pretty solid team on both sides of the ball, they've got the QB and the coaching, and they play well at home. KC just took a bad hit when Priest Holmes took a season injury but KC is still in a three way race for the second wild card spot with San Diego and Jacksonville. No predictions there, but the six AFC teams in the playoffs will be Indy, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New England, Denver, and the winner of the Jacksonville/San Diego/KC race for the last spot.

In the NFC, there just aren't any teams that jump out at you as being a lot better than the rest. The Giants are playing well and I think they're the favorites in the NFC East. Dallas also has a very good shot at making the playoffs but so do Washington and Philly. This division is just too early to call other than I think the Giants will be in either as a division champ or wild card., This division will have two teams make the playoffs..

Somebody has to win the NFC North and since the Bears have a two game lead on everyone I'll pick them, but I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit made a run now that Jeff Garcia has taken over for Joey Heatherington.

I think Atlanta and Carolina are both in the playoffs, one as division champ and one as a wild card. Tampa Bay is finished, IMO, as they are just too one dimensional on offense.

In the West
, you have Seattle as the only decent team. I actually think that Seattle may have the conference's best record by the end of the season. Their remaining schedule has a couple of real tests against the Giants and Indy---in fact, that could be the game (in Seattle) that costs Indy the perfect season. Seattle has always been good at home and I really like their chances to finish with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Super Bowl? Indy avenging the only blemish on their 18-1 record by beating Seattle. If Peyton Manning can't pass his team to the title this year then it's just not possible to pass your team to a title.

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