Top 5 (of 10) NFL Midseason Observations

There’s certainly a lot to talk about at the midseason point of the 2012 NFL Regular Season.  So let’s get right to The Football Educator’s Top 5 (of 10) observations to date.

1.      Biggest 1st half surprise?

The Minnesota Vikings – Already +3 at this point from 2011, with wins over last season playoff contenders San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions.  All this despite an offense that is ranked 29th in Offensive Pass Efficiency, 15th in Offensive Pass Success Rate, 20th in Offensive Run Success Rate, and 13th in Defensive Pass Success Rate.  Couple that with a ranking of 23rd in Points Allowed and 24th in Yards Allowed.  Leslie Frazier for Coach of the Year?

2.      Coach on the “hottest seat”?

Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins (3-5, 4th NFC East) – I know what you’re thinking and that’s not the reason I have him here.  Read this earlier post from The Football Educator regarding “3 & out”.  Couple that with his age at 60 (2008 study showed a negative win differential for coaches 52 and older, at least 100 games coached), a lack of defense (seen that before),  and perhaps the most dynamic young talent in pro football (RGIII), and ask yourself how long owner Dan Snyder stays patient?

3.      Biggest off-season impact move at the midseason point?

Reason and my own locale would argue Peyton Manning joining the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos improved to 4-3 (+2 over the same period in 2011) and sit atop the AFC West.  But the Colts were 0-8 at the midway point last season and are now 4-3 under rookie QB Andrew Luck.  +4 in wins, sizeable confidence, wins over Minnesota and Green Bay (both 5-3), and in the hunt for an AFC Wildcard berth at the midseason point.  Folks in southern Florida might counter with the Miami Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill for the same reasons, but Matt Moore played in the win over the Jets.  Advantage Luck.

4.      Biggest off-season bust at the midway point?

It’s not fair to necessarily judge a rookie “boom or bust” after only 7 games, but certainly the Jaguars had hoped to get more out of WR Justin Blackmon (5th overall pick in 2012).  Blackmon has just 18 receptions, 10.7 average and 0 TD’s.  He’s been targeted 19.7% (35th in the NFL).  His Success Rate % is 75 of 76 receivers evaluated, his Expected Points Added to his team is 76 of 76, and his Catch Rate (40%) is 76 of 76.  Couple that with his Win Probability Added for Jacksonville at 65 of 76 and you’ve got a team sitting 1-6, last in the AFC South.

5.      Midseason MVP?

It’s way too easy to look at the QB’s producing at the top of the statistics and pick your favorite for NFL MVP.  The player who has had the most significant impact for his team at the midway point is DE J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.  Watt has 12 sacks, 10 Passes Defended, 15 Tackles For Losses, 16 QB Hits, 27 Total Tackles and 7 Assists.  Those numbers add up to the top WPA (Win Probability Added) rank of ALL Defensive players in the NFL and tops on the Texans (even over QB Matt Schaub).  In fact if ranked among QB’s, Watt would place 9th (ahead of both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees).

Agree or disagree?  Let me know  @Ted_Sundquist

Next up, 6 through 10.