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What We Know After 13 Weeks of the NFL Season

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – We’re three-quarters of the way through the 2016-17 NFL season, and there have been quite a few surprises thus far. Here are some of the things that have stood out.
The Oakland Raiders’ Resurgence
Long gone are the days of the Raiders being the doormat of the AFC. The culture has officially changed for the silver and black, and it started with head coach Jack Del Rio. In week one at New Orleans he decided to go for two and the win, instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game with no time left. From that moment on, it was time to take this Raiders’ team serious. Led by MVP candidate Derek Carr, Oakland is sitting at 10-2 on the season and tied for first place in the AFC West. Carr has been quite a revelation, as through 12 games he’s amassed 3,375 passing yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. It certainly helps when you have two stud wide receivers to throw to, as Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are both poised to post 1,000-yard seasons. If the season ended today, the road to the Super Bowl would run through Oakland, as they are tied with the Patriots for the number one seed in the AFC.

Image courtesy of Model Bakery
Image courtesy of Model Bakery

The Rookie Takeover in Big D
Many people scoffed at the Cowboys when they selected running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. There has been a deemphasis on running backs in general over the past few years. The NFL is now considered a passing league, and if you don’t have elite wide receivers then you cannot win. Running backs can rise to prominence even if they go undrafted, making it a significant risk to spend that kind of draft capital on the position. However, it was the perfect storm for the Cowboys, as it appears that Elliott is a generational talent – combined with the fact that Dallas has the best offensive line in the league, they were destined for success. Elliot currently leads the NFL in rushing yards with 1,285, as well as rushes over 20 yards with 11.
Lost in the shuffle has been another rookie sensation, quarterback Dak Prescott. Dallas selected the signal caller in the fourth round of this year’s draft. He was immediately thrust into the starting role when Tony Romo went down with a back injury in the preseason. Prescott is fifth in the NFL in completion percentage, third in quarterback rating and second in yards per pass attempt. He and Elliott have taken the league by storm and have the Cowboys as the number one seed in the NFC, sitting at 11-1.
Image courtesy of Cleveland.com
Image courtesy of Cleveland.com

Other news and notes
Despite missing the first four games due to suspension, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have continued their dominance, as they sit 10-2 on the year and are tied for the number one seed. Brady is truly a marvel, winning with a makeshift group of 5-foot-9 wide receivers, and no Rob Gronkowski.
Despite losing Peyton Manning to retirement, the Denver Broncos’ defense has led them to an 8-4 record thus far, good for the sixth seed in the AFC. Von Miller and company present the fiercest front seven in the game, and though quarterback Trevor Siemian has his warts, he’s been serviceable enough to keep Denver afloat in the AFC playoff picture.
Eli Manning somehow has the Giants at 8-4, despite having zero running game and scoring under 30 points in all 12 games this season. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul just had surgery to repair a core muscle injury and he’s scheduled to miss the rest of the season, putting even more honus on Manning and company to keep the Giants in the division race.
There is still a quarter of the season left, and much left to discover about which teams will be contenders or pretenders this time around. Regardless of the turnout, it will definitely be a competition you won’t want to miss.