In a constant effort to stay on top of what has been taking place in the NFL this year I have spent several days watching and re-watching games on NFL Short Cut. For the fantasy football enthusiast, it’s always good information to have, but for the football fan, it gives you more insight into why teams are struggling and why other teams are having success.
NFL football has been all over the place this year. Teams that were expected to win are losing, and teams that everyone thought would be better have stayed the same. Today we will take a look at the hottest players in the league at the halfway point. We will also look at the players who aren’t doing well. (View the first quarter NFL report card here.)
- Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Teach me how to Dougie Martin has lived up to the hype that was bestowed on him prior to the NFL draft. The past few weeks have been stellar for Martin as he seems to be peaking at the right time, giving the Buccaneers the boost they need in the running game in order to compete and win games. If Martin can continue to rip off big game after big game, the Buccaneers will become serious contenders for a wild card position, and if the Falcons sputter, they might be able to make some noise down the stretch.
- Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) – Ryan has been firing on all cylinders and is quickly becoming a household name. Ryan has plenty of weapons, and he uses all of them to their potential. Ryan has hushed the critics and is playing at one of the highest levels we have seen in the NFL at his position. He is sure to receive criticism because his playoff performances have been less than stellar. However, if you had to give the MVP away right now, Ryan would be my choice.
- Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) – Honestly, if you told me that AP was going to be back and doing what he is doing I would have told you that you had lost your damn mind. In fact, there is no way I even believed he would be back this early from the injury I witnessed last year against the Redskins. AP has not only come back from injury, but he is performing at a level that is as good as or even better than before he was injured. It’s amazing to watch as he keeps proving that he might not be human.
- J.J. Watt (Houston Texans) – Every time I turn on Sunday Ticket Redzone I see a Texans highlight of J.J. Watt with a quarterback sack in a crucial third down situation. Honestly, if he’s not sacking the quarterback, he is somewhere in the area making the QB's life miserable. The NFL sack leader is quickly becoming a household name, and he has already made everyone forget about Mario Williams in Houston.
- Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman (Chicago Bears) – Jennings and Tillman have both been turnover magnets, but you could have inserted any Bears defender in here and it would have been hard to argue against. Jennings seems to get a pick every week, and he almost always takes it to the house or returns it for good field position. Tillman may become an official male stripper name since he may lead the league in forced fumbles and seems to have made it an art. Interestingly enough, both of these guys make everyone around them better.
- Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) – Manning has finally hit his stride and has left his inept passing behind him. It took a while to shake off the rust, but now Manning is the NFL leader in passing efficiency. I guess we can say all is well in the world right now.
- Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts) – Reggie Wayne has been rejuvenated with the arrival of Andrew Luck. Wayne is making plays and looking like he is 23 and not 33. Wayne leads the NFL in receptions and yards. He’s not just catching short passes and falling down; Wayne is catching deep balls and intermediate routes that people didn’t believe he could get open on anymore. If Wayne continues to play at this level he will cement his legacy as one of the best to ever lace them up for the Colts.
- Percy Harvin (Minnesota Vikings) – Has there been anyone better than Harvin this year? What happened to all the migraine headaches? What happened to the guy who wanted to be traded? Looks like Harvin is living up to the player we thought he would be when he left Florida. Say what you want about him, he can line up anywhere on the field and beat you.
- Arian Foster (Houston Texans) – Foster continues to impress as a dominant runner in the league. It’s hard to put him on a hot list because he is always good. The more you see him, the better you like him. Foster leads the NFL in touchdowns scored and is second in rushing, and he does all of this without fumbling. Not only is he a weapon as a runner, but he is also a weapon as a receiver.
- A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals) – Green is just a scoring machine. It is hard to appreciate what Green does because he plays for the Bengals. Every week you check the highlights and Green is giving someone the business.
Who’s Not Hot:
- Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) – Romo just finds a way to get in his own way. He is the victim of being in a market that doesn’t care what you have done, but only what have you done lately. Lately Romo’s stat line has been all over the place. He will have 400 yards passing but have five interceptions one week, and then the next week he will have 145 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. For some reason he can’t get right.
- Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams) – Jackson is at a crossroads in his career. He is still talented, but his team is looking to replace him in his last year of his contract and weeding him out of the mix. It’s too bad because he still has value, and if given the chance on the right team (THE JETS) he could still be very productive.
- Brandon Lloyd (New England Patriots) – What happened to the guy who was a fantasy machine a few years ago? Lloyd has pedestrian numbers now and hasn’t really done anything to make his situation better. It seems as if New England is where receivers go to get put out to pasture.
- Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh Steelers) – Holdouts always seems to hurt production, but I never thought that SIXTY MINUTES would ever lose his ability to make people look bad on the deep ball. Wallace has been struggling to hold on to the ball this year, and he hasn’t been the deep threat he once was. Maybe he picks it up by the end of the year.
- Glenn Dorsey (Kansas City Chiefs) – What in the heck happened to Glen?. He was a lock to be a beast. It seems as if LSU kids can’t take it from Tiger Stadium to the NFL. What he has done in the NFL has been less than stellar, and in some ways he finds a way to go missing when the team needs him the most.
- Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns) – Weeden seemed like a lock at the beginning of the season, but time has really been unkind to him. The 28-year-old rookie is struggling and struggling mightily. He is only completing half of his pass attempts, ranking him next to last among starting quarterbacks. In fact, the only quarterback he ranks ahead of is Mark Sanchez of the Jets.
- Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders) – McFadden is really struggling this season, and it’s kind of odd since he has been the healthiest this year than he has been since turning pro. McFadden is averaging slightly over three yards per carry, and he just doesn’t make the big plays we have gotten used to seeing from a guy with his ability.
- Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles) – Vick's numbers aren’t terrible, but he has been a turnover machine early in the season. Vick has eight interceptions and five fumbles that he has lost this year. Vick needs to sure up the ball and get it in gear if the Eagles are going to make a run. If not this could very well be his last season as a starter in this league.
- Steve Johnson (Buffalo Bills) – What happened to this guy? He used to enamor us with big catches and funny stories. Now he is just another wide receiver on a team with inept talent. Maybe he spent too much time blaming others for his faults that his talent can’t carry him anymore. It could however be that his quarterback is pretty average too.
- Mario Williams (Buffalo Bills) – The Bills made what many considered to be the move of the century in signing Mario. Coming off the injury last season, the Bills weren’t sure what they were getting but they figured it would be better than what they have seen until this point. Turns out that Williams was hurt, and he seems to be looking like he might have some plays left in him. Let’s hope he can get off this list by the third quarter.
There you have it. There are some players who could have easily made the list, but these were the most evident on both sides. Give us your thoughts in the comments sections.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!
Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.