The good, bad and ugly of 2013

With much to celebrate and lament, here’s a look at the NFL halfway through the 2013 season.


Start out West with the league’s two best divisions.

What Kansas City has achieved after going 2-14 and getting the top draft pick a season ago is remarkable and historic. Yes, the Chiefs’ superb defense is carrying a mediocre offense, but to criticize anything Andy Reid and his staff have done in going 9-0 is misguided.

“We’re not going to apologize for any wins,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “You keep your nose down, you do what you’ve been doing.”

Denver (7-1) was expected to be dominant and, in stark contrast to KC, it has been on offense. Peyton Manning’s record-tying seven-touchdown explosion in the opener _ matched, incredibly, by Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, on Sunday _ put the league on notice when it comes to the capabilities of a healthy Manning and his minions. Even with coach John Fox now sidelined for a heart procedure, the Broncos will be formidable.

“I’m truly jealous of the weapons that Peyton gets to throw to,” said his boss, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.

San Diego (4-4) and Oakland (3-5) have been more competitive than predicted.

Residing in the NFC West are the conference’s top two teams thus far, the Seahawks and 49ers. All anyone needs to know about Seattle is how it responded after falling behind winless Tampa Bay 21-0 Sunday. Clearly, the Seahawks (7-1) weren’t ready. Just as clearly, they were good enough and resourceful enough to rally.

And no team has a bigger home-field edge; Seattle has won 12 straight home games.

The 49ers (6-2), winners of five straight, are beginning to find the balance that got them to last season’s Super Bowl.

Arizona (4-4) has shown marked improvement, particularly on defense, under first-year coach Bruce Arians, the 2012 Coach of the Year as an interim in Indianapolis.

Ah, Indianapolis. Its comeback Sunday night can, in part, be contributed to Texans coach Gary Kubiak’s collapse at halftime, prompting his hospitalization and leaving Houston distracted and uninspired. Still, the Colts (6-2) are making a habit of such rallies and are beating the big boys, with wins over Seattle, San Francisco and Denver.

Individual kudos on offense go to Manning as he challenges all kinds of passing records; Philip Rivers for his revival in San Diego; Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, whose 10 TD receptions, built on speed, power and guile, make him a nearly unstoppable force; and wideouts Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker and A.J. Green. Plus some love for the behemoths in the trenches, who have stood out so far: the not-so-regular Joes, tackles Staley in San Francisco, Thomas in Cleveland; guards Evan Mathis in Philadelphia and Chris Myers in Houston; center Manny Ramirez in Denver; and all those fill-ins on Seattle’s O-line.

On defense, we must recognize sackmasters Robert Mathis in Indianapolis, Mario Williams in Buffalo, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in KC, Robert Quinn in St. Louis, and Mo Wilkerson with the Jets. The versatility of DE J.J. Watt of the Texans is matched by Hali and Houston and the work of their fellow linebackers Sean Lee in Dallas, NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco, Bobby Wagner in Seattle, Vontaze Burfict in Cincinnati and Luke Kuechly in Carolina.

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