The Dean’s List of the NFL (1st Semester)

Hard to believe we’re already approaching week 9 of the 2011-2012 NFL season. It’s almost the season that didn’t happen. But thank God, clear heads prevailed.

This 1st semester of the season is 1 of the most interesting starts in the last few years. We have some teams that are doing exactly what’s expected of them, in terms of divisional placing and offense/defense. Other teams are doing…well….they’re just filling TV space. So without further ado, here’s who made my Dean’s List

1) The San Francisco 49ers: 6-1 record and 3-0 on the road is extremely impressive for a team that went 1-7 on the road last year. Frank Gore is getting to that realm of an “elite” RB, as he’s doing a respectable job on the ground with 5 TDs and 675 yards so far. TE Vernon Davis has always been a favorite of mine at that position so his numbers don’t surprise me. What does surprise me is the 49ers impeccable defense of the opposition’s run. In 9 weeks, they’re averaging 73.4 yards allowed in rushing. On the flip side of that, the schedule hasn’t been favorable to have their defense really go to work against the unanimously better RBs in the game. I’m looking forward to see what this defense does against the tandem Bradshaw/Jacobs rush and against Beanie Wells; who despite his knee problems, is quietly leading the league with 7 TDs

2) Victor Cruz: Now a friend of mine mentioned this guy to me during the preseason because of the Puerto Rican pride. I wasn’t really checking for Vic, because Eli has a love affair with Nicks and Manningham. But surprisingly, this undrafted WR has been the headliner for the past few Giants match-ups. His 74 yard TD helped my Giants win over the Eagles. He won the game this past Sunday against the Dolphins, with his 4th quarter TD catch. Giants Nation loves him because he’s just a humble guy from Newark. The Giants are on track to make the playoffs of course. I think under that pressure, we’ll really see Cruz shine, especially if Nicks or Manningham go out.

3) The Packers: A dean’s list wouldn’t be complete without including the defending champs. They’re doing exactly what we’d expect them to do, with A-Rod putting up a whopping 20 TDs. He’s nearing 2,500 yards with only 3 picks. Their Green Bay defense is on point, despite Clay Matthews being off to a slow start. My only problem is I don’t always like how they split up touches between RBs James Starks and Ryan Grant. Personally I like James Starks’ speed and physicality over his teammate. Rodgers is playing far better than Favre did in his early years (that’s debateable, I know) and he is the Packers’ Peyton Manning. But it is what it is. Either way, the Packers should make it to the SuperBowl with their “lightweight” remaining schedule.

4) Jason Campbell (pre-injury): It’s a conundrum when you can taste the sweetness of the playoffs, then your leader on the field goes down. Campbell’s injury might prove to be a devastating blow, because now the Raiders are stuck with Carson Palmer. RB Darren McFadden will now have to put the team on his shoulders and keep them steady. They’re 4-3 right now sharing a 3-way tie, so it’s too early to panic. Unless Palmer gets his arm together and adequately return that QB leadership role, they could easily find themselves scrambling come December.

5) Buffalo Bills/Cincinnati Bengals: *looks at my calendar* Yep, it’s 2011 and these 2 historic franchises are doing just as well as the Packers and the Pats. With both teams, the defense is the prime reason for their success. The Bengals, in fact, have a top 5 D; allowing a measly 85.4 yards on the ground. Rookie AJ Green (who unfortunately is getting overlooked because of Cammy Cam in Carolina) has a whopping 516 receiving yards with 5 TDs. Andy Dalton is equally competing with his mid-level QB counterparts, completing 62% of his attempts.

Just like Victor Cruz downstate, Fred Jackson went undrafted and is making a name for himself upstate. I can’t front, he embarrassed my G-men with a TD, rushing for 73 yards. But the dude’s got wheels! That’s irrefutable

Tomorrow, I’m gonna have to call some teams/players  to the carpet for their horrendous play thus far. I think some of them think this is still training camp

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