The National Football League -- having (barely) survived the early season integrity-trouncing folly of replacement officials, and the great equalizer (or awful-izer, depending on your point of view) known as parity (or parody) -- has reached the halfway point of the 2012 regular season.
The halfway mark affords a neat and natural opportunity for fans and franchises alike to assess a team's performance to date, and for an impartial observer to deduce whether those fans/franchises should be viewed as being halfway-optimistic, halfway-pessimistic, or wholly delusional. It also affords self-proclaimed "NFL Insiders" an ideal opportunity to rationalize why all their pre-season predictions are miles off the mark, and to make brand-spanking new bold, brash, altogether insightful, and just-as-inaccurate predictions for the second half of the season.
You see, the NFL is unpredictable. No one can accurately predict anything about this league, particularly not a so-called insider. For example: who could possibly have predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers would take the field last weekend in throw-back uniforms so bumblebee-barf hideous that they elicited varied odd reactions, from outright anger to an expressed desire to pluck out one's own eyeballs (yeah, those babies were ugly)? The trouble with pretending to be an insider, and making predictions, is that the potential to end up looking like a giant ass is enormous.
Take Michael Vick. Can anyone be more of an insider in the NFL than one of the league's own players, and a pivotal player at that? Well, you'll doubtlessly recall that in the off-season, Mr. Vick confidently predicted that not only would his Philadelphia Eagles win this year's Super Bowl, they would also march on to become the league's next dynasty.
Alas, in winning only three games thus far, the Eagles have looked more like a travesty than a dynasty. Coach Andy Reid is on the chopping block. Players seem disinterested. Turmoil abounds. Fans are revolted, and revolting. And Vick may well be benched in favor of rookie Nick Foles.
But enough negativity. Let's look at the season to date and break out the positives. Better still, let's break out the bubbly for:
- Any team still standing. Granted, if you ask any coach -- no matter how terrible his team, or how tenuous his position, both behind the bench and in the overall playoff picture -- he'll doubtlessly insist that his squad is still standing, and still in the playoff hunt. Remember at the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Ferris stared at the camera and admonished the audience: "You're still here? It's over. Go home. Go..." Well, Panthers, Chiefs, Jaguars, Browns, et al: You're still here? Your season's over. Go home. Go...
- Any player still standing. Indeed, it's been one of those seasons where injuries are playing a huge role and taking a tremendous toll. Hence the surplus of stories from around the league on "the injury-plagued" Steelers. Or Giants. Or Titans. Or Packers. Or Cowboys. Or Jets. Or... you get the picture, and it looks suspiciously like an X-ray.
- Any ardent NFL fan. At least those who have not been seriously injured while jumping off and on bandwagons, as is the apparent habit of many of these fair-weather fanatics.
Fans, the NFL is halfway to heaven -- or, even better, halfway to Super Bowl XLVII. Second-half story lines abound. Are the Falcons for real? Will the Jets sit QB Mark Sanchez in favour of Tim Tebow to jumpstart Gang Green? Will the real Dallas Cowboys stand up, or sit down? What coach won't make it through the season? San Diego's Norv Turner? Philadelphia's Andy Reid? Carolina's Ron Rivera? Will Peyton Manning take Comeback Road all the way to the Super Bowl, stopping only to pick up an MVP award along the way?
Oh, and will any alleged insider get anything right in the National Football League? Probably not. In fact, that's something you might actually want to bet on.
Follow Andy Juniper on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theSportJesters