The NFL season is already half over; and boy have things changed a lot since the first four games. Surprise teams many thought could make an unforeseen run into the playoffs have almost disappeared completely, while the defending Super Bowl champion Giants have seem to have hit their yearly mid-season slide. Yet, while the landscape has changed considerably over the last month or so, the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans are still the cream of the crop.
After the first month of the season, a lot of fans, me included, were singing the praises of the Arizona Cardinals. They were 4-0, and their wins included a surprising victory over the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots. Since then, the Cards are 0-5 and are slowly fading from playoff contention in the NFC. Plus, with inconsistency at quarterback - whether it's John Skelton or Kevin Kolb under center - it's unlikely they'll get back in the conversation.
The Cardinals fall from the ranks of the undefeated have helped right the ship a little. The familiar names are back in the thick of things - the Ravens, Patriots, Steelers, Packers, Giants and Bears, are all on pace to head back to the playoffs this year, even though the Giants have lost two in a row and have struggled on offense as of late.
But arguably the biggest story so far this NFL season is the success of both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. Last year, the Colts released future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning to make way for first overall pick Andrew Luck. The former Stanford star was expected to come into a work in progress, but the unflappable rookie has led the Colts to an impressive 6-3 record and on the cusp of a playoff berth.
As for the Broncos, who signed Manning after he was released, things could not be going any better. Manning seems to be showing no ill effects of his several neck surgeries that required a year off and is beginning to click with his receivers. Add that to the fact the Broncos defense is firing on all cylinders, and they are right in the hunt for a wide open AFC at 6-3.
After a wild start, full of crazy finishes and replacement referees, the NFL seems to have returned to more stable ground. Still, there's still half the season left so a lot can happen, but at this point I wouldn't be surprised to see the Patriots and Falcons squaring off in Super Bowl XLVII.