1. Currently on pace to set a rookie record for passing yards and lead Indianapolis to a wild card playoff berth, the Colts Andrew Luck has lived up to his billing as the premier quarterback in the 2012 rookie draft. While Luck has played well, he appears to have hit the rookie wall over the last two weeks as the Indianapolis offense has struggled against the defenses of the Titans and Texans. With a subpar offensive line, the Colts struggles against Houston were hardly surprising as the team managed just 196 passing yards and 272 total yards in a 27-19 loss. Most concerning was the play of the offense in a 27-23 win over the Titans as the offensive line struggled to protect Luck, who was held under a 50% completion and finished the game with just 196 passing yards. In fact, Luck has completed fewer than 50% of his passes in three straight games and has completed just 54.6% of his passes for the season. While the Colts are likely to secure a playoff berth, a first round exit seems likely unless the team’s offensive line regains its health and the Colts rediscover the strong passing attack that has led them to a 9-5 record.
2. Sticking with rookie passers, in Miami, the Dolphins Ryan Tannehill has also enjoyed solid success as a rookie, throwing for 2,929 yards with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions through 14 games. Tannehill has been more of a caretaker of the Dolphins offense, throwing for a career-high 431 yards in Week 9 but failing to top 300 yards in any other game while failing to top 200 passing yards seven times. However, the issue with the Dolphins passing attack isn’t so much Tannehill’s play as that of the wide receivers. Miami has arguably the least talented group of wide receivers in the league as its decision to sign Chad Johnson in the preseason and go with Brian Hartline in the leading role has proven to be disastrous. While Hartline has had some decent games, he is more suited to a backup role as is fellow starter Davone Bess. With Greg Jennings hitting free agency and unlikely to be back in Green Bay, it won’t be a surprise if he joins his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin in Miami. That seems a match that will almost certainly come to fruition in early February.
3. In a marriage of convenience, the Broncos signed former Saints cornerback Tracey Porter to a one-year, $4-million contract in the offseason in the hopes that he would shore up the starting position opposite perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey. While the Broncos have shored up the position, Porter has spent most of the season on the bench as injuries and his poor play early in the season have cost him playing time. Both Chris Harris, a second year former undrafted free agent, and Tony Carter, a 2009 former undrafted agent, have passed Porter on the depth chart. Given his lack of playing time, Porter will likely be on another one-year deal in 2013, this time with his third team in three years and for far less money than he will earn in 2012.
5. Raiders backup running back Mike Goodson has had an up and down four-year career. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft by the Panthers, Goodson barely played as a rookie but was productive in 2010 when injuries struck DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Goodson finished that year with 452 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards and three touchdowns despite receiving seven or fewer touches in ten games. He spent most of 2011 on injured reserve before the Panthers gave up on him this year, trading him to the Raiders. After missing time with two separate injuries, Goodson had 89 yards on 13 carries this week and should see decent playing time over the balance of the season. With 2011 4th round pick Taiwan Jones being a non-factor during his first two years in the league and the Raiders with plenty of other needs, look for Oakland to make a solid effort to re-sign Goodson as Darren McFadden’s backup for 2013.
6. The Vikings have made an unexpected playoff run in 2012, currently sitting as the NFC’s 6th seed on the strength of Adrian Peterson’s outstanding season. While the Vikings are thought of as a young team (and to some extent they are), they are also loaded with players whose contracts will expire within two years, not to mention the current situation with enigmatic wide receiver Percy Harvin, who seems at odds with Vikings management. Four starters are free agents at the end of this season, the most important of which are starting right tackle Phil Loadholt and linebacker Jasper Brinkley. However, Harvin and defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison lead the brigade of players hitting unrestricted free agency after the 2013 season. Vikings management will need to dole out plenty of long-term extensions to avoid having the team gutted over the next two years.
7. The 2012 rookie draft is being hailed as the best draft ever with respect to quarterbacks, with only the 1983 draft being in consideration of that honor. That draft provided the league with a number of Pro Bowl quality quarterbacks in Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly as well as other players who enjoyed productive careers. However, this class appears likely to feature at least four players who figure to remain starters for several years in Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson. In addition to those players, Brandon Weeden has likely shown enough to remain the starter in Cleveland in 2013 regardless of who is spearheading the team’s football operations and Nick Foles will likely enter next season as the Eagles starter. Perhaps most impressive of all is that Luck, Griffin and Wilson have the chance to lead their team to playoff berths, a remarkable achievement considering each of their franchise’s had losing records a year ago.