Hitting the halfway point in the NFL
Some half-decent (and some half-baked) observations at the halfway point of yet another half-crazy NFL season.
A HALF-DOZEN GREAT PLAYS IN THE FIRST HALF: (6) Reggie Bush's Luke Skywalker TD that sparked a 22-0 fourth-quarter run against the Dolphins; (5) TIE Peyton Manning's perfectly placed pass to Austin Collie against the Seahawks, and Brett Favre's last-second TD pass to beat San Fran; (4) Brandon Stokley's 87-yard tipped TD to beat the Bengals; (2) Adrian Peterson bulldozes the Steelers' William Gay; (1) Andre Johnson's 17-yard TD after pinballing off half the Cardinals defense -- a surreal mixture of speed, strength and will.
HALFWAY TO MVP: Drew Brees, Andre Johnson, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Cedric Benson.
HALFWAY TO DPOY: Darren Sharper, Elvis Dumervil, Jared Allen, London Fletcher (sorry, I vote for him every year).
THEY ONLY GOT IT HALF RIGHT: At the end of a dreadful decade the 1-7 Browns fire GM George Kokinis, the wrong half of the Eric Mangini brain trust.
TAKE HALF AN HOUR: And e-mail me about your great family football games over the holidays. Seriously. We've done this the past two years and the responses were awesome. Be sure to include: (1) the title of your Turkey Bowl; (2) at least one pulled hammy or nasty injury; (3) turkey vomiting; (4) trick plays pulled on new members of the family; (5) tales of near fisticuffs between siblings. (Oh, no, wait, that's just my family.)
NOT HALF BAD, ROOK: Texans rookie linebacker Brian Cushing's 66 tackles and the Vikes' Percy Harvin's 28 catches.
HALFWAY TO MY TURKEYS OF THE YEAR LIST: Raiders tight end Jeremy Brigham is being investigated for an altercation after a peewee football practice.
HALFWAY TO SWEEPING THE AFC EAST: The Dolphins, as weird as that sounds.
HALFHEARTED: What Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell sounds like every time he lines up under center.
HALF THE SEASON: How long a player would get suspended for by Roger Goodell if he had the same kind of violent track record that Oakland coach Tom Cable is alleged to have.
HALF THE CREDIT IT DESERVES: I dig all those AFL throwback jerseys and it's cool that the league is recognizing an important part of its history. But while they're at it, the NFL should do the same for the All American Football Conference. The AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950 and gave us the 49ers, the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns, the first modern pro football team to complete a perfect season, in 1948. But the NFL today refuses to acknowledge the records or contributions of the AAFC.
HALF A LIFETIME AGO: How long it's been since T.O. seemed relevant.
I'M HALF SERIOUS: I kinda miss him.
HEY, NOT HALF BAD: The latest barefoot running fad. Honest.
WHO SAYS YOU HALF TO RUN IT: There are 10 quarterbacks on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards this season. In 2005 there were two.
HALFHEARTED: Why did the Eagles go through all the hassle of bringing in Mike Vick if they weren't ever gonna actually use him?
HALFWAY AROUND CHICAGO: That's how far Saints running back Pierre Thomas would push his '92 Dodge Dynasty to strengthen his legs while playing for Illinois. No wonder the former rookie free agent has helped move the Saints' rushing game from 27th to fourth.
HALF SERIOUS: Let's move Manchester United to Tampa Bay and the Bucs to England -- for one season. OK, two.
HALF AS STRICT AS HE SHOULD BE: Urban Meyer.
HALFWAY DONE: This column.
HALF THE SEASON: How long fans should be suspended for wearing those dorky, wishy-washy half Vikings/half Packers jerseys. The whole point of rabid fandom, I thought, was having to choose sides.
MORE THAN HALF OVER: The Wildcat fad. The whole point of reviving the near-century-old single wing was to slow down attack-style defenses by making them think. On Sunday the Jets held Miami to 104 yards and one TD.
YOU HALF TO BE JOKING: There are players in Green Bay still complaining about the switch to the 3-4, even though the team's ranked second overall in total defense?
YOU HALF TO BE JOKING (SECOND HALF): You realize that, because of the risk of injuries, after training camp NFL defenders do not practice tackling ball carriers all the way down to the ground. Imagine if wide receivers didn't practice catching or kickers didn't practice kicking.
THE WRONG HALF: We should start calling it the Kyle Orton trade.
WAIT HALF A SECOND: Do Radiohead front man Thom Yorke and Kate Gosselin have the same hair cut?
MINNESOTA'S LESSER HALF: Can the Vikings really be Super Bowl contenders with the 26th-ranked defense?
HALF THE TIME: A quarterback gets hit there's a flag thrown now and if you think that's ever going to change, you'll drive yourself half mad.
HALF A HEART, TUNA: 299 kick return yards for Ted Ginn is not enough to get him out of the doghouse in Miami?
PLAYING ON HALF A LEG NO MORE: Shawne Merriman (two sacks against Oakland) is finally starting to look healthy.
HALF THE MAN HE CAME IN AS: What the Redskins organization does to every coach it hires.
HALF AS MANY RUNS AS THEY NEED: The schizophrenic Cardinals have the most lopsided, predictable offense in the league with 293 passes to just 138 runs.
HALF A SEMESTER: The amount of math I took in college, which explains that last item.
HALF A STEP SLOW: What Dallas WR Miles Austin made the Chiefs' DBs look like with 16 catches for 250 yards and two TDs.
HALF AS PHYSICAL: The October Giants compared to the September Giants.
BUSTED HALF A GUT: When Chad Ochocinco yelled, "Oprah who?" in the Bengals locker room after he helped sell the remaining tickets to avoid a TV blackout against the Texans.
LESS THAN HALF: Matt Ryan's completion percentage (19-of-42) against the Saints. Keep that up and we'll start calling you Natty Ice.
AM I HALF NUTS: Or does that beer smell like dog food?
HALF A LIE: The idea that teams consider special teams to be just as important as offense and defense. Yeah, it's so important that they fill the spots with backups and rookies, and the next special-teams player taken on the first day of the draft will be the first.
HALF A LIE, PART II: The next time your buddy tells you that the Broncos make amazing adjustments at halftime, tell him this: "Yes, the stats do indicate that the Broncos are an amazing second-half team, especially on defense, but an expert like yourself certainly understands that halftime in the NFL is 12 minutes long (think: "Free Bird"), which means by the time the players file into the locker room, use the bathroom and see the trainer, they have about 37 seconds to talk strategy, which is why most adjustments are made immediately on the sidelines."
HALFWAY TO THE GREATEST SUPER BOWL PREDICTION EVER: Saints-Texans and, yes, I have proof.
HALF THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE: The Colts. Peyton Manning is like living next to the ocean -- it's awe-inspiring for, like, the first five years and then, slowly, you just start taking the view, the waves and the sunsets for granted.
HALF AN ARM: What Brett Favre must have been throwing with last season with the Jets.
HALF-ASSED APOLOGY: Yeah, that's kinda what that last item was.
HALFWAY BACK: My alma mater Miami, to the NCAA Hockey Frozen Four in Detroit (the best event in sports.)
DOING TWICE AS MUCH WITH HALF THE TALENT: Denver. Jets. Bengals. 49ers.
DOING HALF AS MUCH WITH TWICE THE TALENT: Chargers (aren't they on this list every year?). Redskins. (Ditto). Panthers. Tennessee.
WAIT HALF A SECOND: If consistency is so important on the offensive line, how come the ragtag, no-name, duct-taped Frankenstein-monster line in Cincinnati is the best in the biz?
HALF A SECOND MORE: Is all the time Aaron Rodgers needs in the pocket.
ONLY HALF AS SCARY: As a real flight attendant: Halloween prankster Brad Childress.
MORE THAN HALF THE PROBLEM: In Cleveland is the fact that the Browns defense is the only unit in the league giving up more than 400 yards per game.
HALF AS MUCH ATTENTION: Is what the Cowboys' new stadium and Death Star TV screen actually deserved.
HALF OF HALF AN HOUR: The Colts beat the Dolphins despite having the ball for just under 15 minutes -- the lowest time of possession for a winning team since 1977.
HALFWAY OVER: The NFL as we know it. Since we're still staring down an uncapped year in 2010 and a lock-out/strike in 2011.
HALF MY ITUNES MONEY THIS WEEK: Went to Pearl Jam, since, apparently, they are never setting foot in the South ever again.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship." And his work will be featured in The Best American Sports Writing 2009 anthology. The Flem File appears every Wednesday during the NFL season with updates on Mondays and Fridays.
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