Even though he ruled in a completely different sport, Michael Jordan once said, “The game has its ups and downs, but you can never lose focus of your individual goals and you can’t let yourself be beat because of lack of effort.”

His words felt fitting for what I learned this week. It’s impossible to expect any team to fit into any certain group or category, because this game has its UPS and DOWNS.

Somewhat half way through the 2012 season (Week 9), let’s explore both groups. We’ll start with the negative, to end on a positive note.

DOWNS:
1. After starting the season with so much promise and potential, where are the Redskins on RGIII now? You can shrug off tough losses against teams like the Giants, Steelers, and Falcons…..but the Panthers?????

2. Since the arrival of Michael Vick, we have been talking about this speedy, dynamic offense in Philly. 14 TO’s and many fumbles later, and I don’t even have them as a playoff team right now.

3. “Big D” started off on a high, with a big win over their rival Giants. Since then, they have found ways to lose game after game in the 4th quarter. And they don’t even have any key injuries to blame

4. The Saints have shown us the importance of a good Coach. And without theirs, they are a former shell of themselves.

5. After an impressive Rookie campaign, there were high expectations for Carolina’s Cam Newton. This season, he has shown a lack of leadership on and off the field.

6. If you are Cleveland, where have you grown in the last 10 years? What other team has been consistently at the bottom?

7. For the last 3 seasons, Buffalo has shown some promise. But injuries have overshadowed any progress the team has made. It’s time to fire some conditioning coaches or something.

8. Remember what I said in #6? Apply the same to the Jacksonville Jaguars!

9. Remember what I said in #6 and #8, apply the same to Kansas City. The problem is that they actually have talent on their team. They just never seem to be able to put it all together.

10. Oakland could at least give a strong showing against their own division last season. Where do you go when the only asset worth keeping is a running back who just went down due to injury?

UPS:
1. They’ve had some ups and downs, but San Fran is definitely in a good place right now. Their QB is confident, their run game is powerful, and their defense is stout.

2. Seattle has a defense who can win games, and a young QB in Wilson who can stay composed and win tough games.

3. The entire NFC NORTH is headed UP right now. Aaron Rodgers is who we thought he was. The Bears defense is scoring more points than other teams’ offenses. We have now realized that in the movie “Terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger was a depiction of Adrian Peterson. Detroit is now playing decent football, defending, and getting the ball to Megatron.

4. Every time we try to discredit what Atlanta has accomplished so far, they prove that they are legit. They give 100% effort in every area of the game.

5. Doug Martin. Before the season, someone told me to watch this guy, because he could be the next Ray Rice. I laughed. Now, I believe.

6. New York has had the occasional slip up. But even in a game where they go 3-and-out three times in the 4th, they lose by 4 points to a good team.

7. If Pittsburgh plays the way they have been now that they are “too old”, I would hate to face them when they start bringing in young talent. When you have a Super Bowl QB, and disciplined “D”, you are headed up.

8. It’s no secret that the Ravens have had stagnant moments on offense, but they still win those games. In spite of their less documented QB problems, they still are one of the league’s top teams.

9. As long as New England has Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, they are on the rise. I don’t care if they are 12-0, or 5-7. (Which they aren’t, but I’m just saying)

10. Many considered the Texans the top team in the league before their setback against Green Bay. They are a very good team. They rarely have a game where they have to use all of their weapons, so you get the feeling that they still have more in the tank to offer.

11. The Colts lost a lot over the offseason, but the also gained a lot. They prove that a system change (coaching) and a franchise player can immediately change a team’s dynamic. Andrew Luck is a “baller”.

12. Peyton Manning will go down as the offseason move of the decade. (Drew Brees going from San Diego to New Orleans will be dropped to #2) The Broncos knew what they were getting, and knew it would change their entire organization. He shows no sign of injury, age, or even wear and tear.

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