The NFL season really has no midpoint. Some teams have played seven games, some eight, due to the scheduling of the bye. With the Redskins off this week, we'll take this time to look at some of the highlights and lowlights of the first "half" of the season.
First, the Redskins.
The defensive scheme seems to be taking hold. Players have settled in to their new responsibilities and the long-awaited turnovers have come. The Redskins are tied for the league lead with 19.
The poor overall defensive ranking (31st) reflects yardage given up, not big plays or touchdowns and stems from the early-season contests against high-powered offenses. As defensive coordinator Jim Haslett pointed out: "The number got blown out of the water early because of the teams we were playing. I don't know if you could ever recover from that."
Brian Orakpo tops the team with seven sacks. DeAngelo Hall leads the NFL with six interceptions. LaRon Landry, back in his comfort zone at strong safety, ought to make his first Pro Bowl.
Offensively, the Redskins continue to struggle, not only with scoring but third-down efficiency. The inconsistency hurts the most. The Redskins run the ball well in spots and connect on some deep passes but they fail to extend many drives or finish them in the end zone.
From the offensive line to the receivers to the quarterback and the backs, problems abound and they vex offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
"I am not satisfied with any group. I am not satisfied with myself. I am not satisfied with anything on offense," he said. "Right now we are the weak link and I think we need to step it up."
That said, the Redskins are 4-4, equaling last season's victory total. They've won two division games, against none last year. Half of the games that remain are against NFC East opponents (the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys once apiece, the New York Giants twice). Those will be critical to the Redskins' playoff aspirations.
Here's how it looks across the board in the league.
On the upswing: The Kansas City Chiefs. They're 5-2 and in first place in the AFC West. They're the NFL's top rushing team and they've won twice in overtime. ... The St. Louis Rams are 4-4 going into their bye. Quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, has settled comfortably into his role and the Rams have won four in a row at home. They will need to win on the road at some point but they had to start somewhere after going 3-29 the two previous seasons. ... The 5-3 Atlanta Falcons are undefeated at home (3-0) after slipping a bit in '09. Receiver Roddy White and quarterback Matt Ryan work well together. ... The Oakland Raiders sit at 4-4. They were a five-win team each of the last two seasons. ... The New England Patriots traded receiver Randy Moss but continue to roll. They're 6-1, winners of their last five.
On the slide: Let's hear it for the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps the weight of expectations dimmed their star. With the Super Bowl scheduled for their stadium in February, they had hopes of being the first team ever to play a "home" Super Bowl. Instead they're 1-6 and quarterback Tony Romo (broken collarbone) will be out at least another six weeks. ... The Minnesota Vikings begged quarterback Brett Favre to return. Beggars should not be choosers. The Vikings are 2-5 and lost three of four with Moss (now gone) on their roster. ... The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North last year but now can't win a game at all. They're 2-5, mired in a four-game losing streak, the last three against NFC opponents. ... The Arizona Cardinals lost a bunch of players in free agency and quarterback Kurt Warner retired. They're 3-4. ... The Buffalo Bills are well on their way to a sixth consecutive losing season at 0-7. ... The Denver Broncos started the '09 season 6-0. Since? They're 4-14, 2-6 here at the turn.
Up and down: The Seattle Seahawks show some flashes at 4-3 but they've been outscored by 17 points. Their edge always comes at home, where they're 3-0. ... The New Orleans Saints, defending Super Bowl champions, outfought the Pittsburgh Steelers to push their record to 4-3. Injuries at running back took some of the flash out of their offense. ... The Redskins, at 4-4, win games they're expected to lose and lose games they're expected to win. Keep the first part of that going but please don't overlook the so-called lesser competition. ... The Green Bay Packers are 5-3, with each defeat by three points, two of them in overtime. They've battled through terrible injuries, losing running back Ryan Grant and linebacker Nick Barnett, among others. ... The San Diego Chargers tend to start poorly and finish with a rush. No change this time around. They're 3-5 in their quest for a fifth consecutive AFC West title. ... The San Francisco 49ers, thought to be contenders in the NFC West, are a meager 2-6.
QUOTABLE: "Well, we've consistently been bad and I think when things start to go bad it's a snowball effect." – Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason. The Panthers are 1-6. ... "We're riding a wave. The defense is cheering on the offense, the offense is cheering on the defense and we're looking for bigger waves." – Oakland Raiders safety Tyvon Branch. The Raiders have won their last two games by a combined 92-17. ... "Long day at the office." – Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, after a 13-10 victory over the Bills on a field goal with the overtime period expiring.
EXTRA POINTS:Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter has kicked 10 field goals in the last two games and converted 13 consecutive tries. A year ago he had a streak of 17. ... Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers' 2,649 passing yards through the first eight games is the most ever in NFL history in that span and he dethroned former Chargers great Dan Fouts (2,580 in 1982) to snag that honor. He needs to keep throwing because the Chargers have had four punts blocked this season, the most they've ever allowed. ... Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh continues to make his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He has 6.5 sacks and has scored two touchdowns.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.