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by Al McMordie - 11/13/2005
Weâ€™ve passed the halfway mark in the NFL and many divisions, with the exception of the Colts, are in tight races for the finish. Here's a look at some NFL teams that may have struggled in the first half of the season, but might be ready to make a better second half run.
Lions: Stop the presses, Detroit scored 29 points! The Lions' victory over the Cardinals Sunday gave them some confidence. More importantly, they're getting healthy. The defense returned some key personnel up front, while WRs Roy Williams returned and caught 7 passes for 117 yards. The Lions aren't Super Bowl timber, but who is in the NFC? After all, Detroit plays in a weak division and could make a second half surge. Games against Minnesota, Green Bay and New Orleans will help.
Rams: Another team that catches a break by getting healthy. Getting QB Marc Bulger and WR Isaac Bruce back is a big plus, and St. Louis has that great home field edge. Their poor run defense is a problem, but the schedule is kind, with games against Cardinals, Texans, Vikings and 49ers coming up.
Patriots: New England had the toughest schedule in the NFL through the first eight games, and now faces the second easiest second half schedule. On Sunday, the Pats had a big win at Miami. DE Richard Seymour returned, which makes the defensive line much better, and the play of CB Ellis Hobbs was very good, bringing some help to what has been a horrendous secondary since S Rodney Harrison was lost for the year. They are very likely to go on a strong second-half run and easily win the weak AFC East. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen. And they still have QB Tom Brady, Adam Vinateri and Bill Belichick.
Chargers: Everything went right for this talented young team in 2004, and all the breaks seem to be going against them this year. Games against Buffalo, Miami and Oakland -- all at home -- are easy ones. The schedule is still very challenging, with games at Washington, Indy and Kansas City, before a home finale with Denver. This team certainly has the talent to get hot, but theyâ€™ve blown too many games, making their margin for slip-ups razor thin if they want a return trip to the playoffs.
Cowboys: Dallas takes on Philly Monday night, a game to which the Cowboys enter with a 5-3 record. When you realize they lost by 6 at Oakland and had two stunning last-second collapses to the Redskins and Seahawks, this team could very easily be 7-1 or even 8-0 with a few breaks. Note that Dallas is No. 5 in the NFL in total defense!
Vikings: Sundayâ€™s thrilling upset of the NY Giants might lead to a memorable second-half surge by the Vikings (and make Mike Tice Comeback Coach of the Year). After all, veteran QB Brad Johnson came out of nowhere to lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title just three seasons ago. OK, that's all baloney. Iâ€™m just seeing if you're awake. The Vikings are still a bad football team that got outgained by the Giants 405-137! They only won because of a defensive touchdown and two kick returns for TDs. Did you see Tice get flattened on the sidelines by a player rolling into him? It wonâ€™t be the last time Tice gets sacked -- probably by management when the season ends. That was just a wacky win which happens from time to time in the NFL. Minnesota will not be making a second half surge. Good luck as always...Al McMordie.