The League

Rob Rang
Draft Guru

Rob Rang

Senior Analyst for and

No one safe but Saints, Colts, Vikes


With at least a two game lead over the rest of their division, the Vikings, Saints and Colts appear safe at the halfway point to begin designing their home playoff tickets. The Patriots, who only hold a one game lead but do so over two teams with young quarterbacks, also appear likely to hold on.

Everywhere else, however, remains a bit of a toss-up, in my opinion.

Quality football is being played in the NFC East. The 5-2 Eagles hold the slight lead at this point based on their 2-0 divisional record over the Cowboys (5-2, 0-1) and Giants (5-3), but history and logic tells us that this division will be competitive until the very end. The Eagles and Cowboys are playing their best football of the season right now, which makes this weekend's showdown in Philadelphia all the more interesting.

Many are surprised by the AFC Central-leading Bengals. They already have a victory over both Pittsburgh and Baltimore, however, and have the components -- a strong running game, franchise quarterback and gutty defense to hold off the Steelers and Ravens. A pair of sparkling 3-0 records -- divisional and on the road -- makes Cincinnati's start all the more reason to believe they are for real. One reason to be concerned in Cincinnati is that it remains to be seen how much Cincinnati will miss DE Antwan Odom (who was 2nd in the league in sacks when he went down with a torn Achilles). And, of course, these are the Bengals...

The two divisional leaders I have the least faith in at this point are in the West -- NFC West's Arizona and AFC West's Denver.

Arizona owns only a one game lead over San Francisco and has been too inconsistent to raise suspicion. While one could make the argument that a big hit to any quarterback could put any team on the brink, the Cardinals appear to be especially vulnerable due to the age and relative immobility of Kurt Warner and their reliance on his passing. The 49ers, though 1-3 on the road, continue to lose impressively (if that is possible). Only a last second miracle by Favre and Peyton Manning's brilliance have kept this club, built on the run and defending the run, out of first place. Although the recent news of Nate Clements and Joe Staley's injuries is troubling, watch for the 'Niners to improve down the stretch as Michael Crabtree develops more rapport with Alex Smith. Arizona, on the other hand, I believe, could falter as the season goes on.

I still have questions about the Denver Broncos. I recognize the big and surprising wins they've had in the past, but I wonder if perhaps the game plan towards beating them wasn't supplied last week by the Baltimore Ravens. I've seen Kyle Orton struggle down the stretch of too many seasons and question the instant transition this team made to the 3-4 defense. Every break seemed to go Denver's way over most of the first half of the year and yet they still only own a two game lead over a San Diego Chargers team known for starting slow and finishing hot. With Denver having a host of tough games on the second half docket (including hosting Pittsburgh this weekend, the Giants in a few weeks before traveling to Indianapolis and Philadelphia in December), the Broncos will need to improve to continue their hot start.

With half of the league's divisions still quite up in the air (and only a catastrophic injury or two away from the others doing the same), the cold wintry months appear poised to offer some entertaining football.

By Rob Rang  |  November 4, 2009; 9:47 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Cincinnati Bengals , Dallas Cowboys , Indianapolis Colts , Minnesota Vikings , New England Patriots , New Orleans Saints , New York Giants , Philadelphia Eagles , Pittsburgh Steelers , San Diego Chargers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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