What is going on in the NFL?
I looked up at the standings on Monday morning and found that the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions are both in first place.
That must be a misprint. The Browns haven’t won a division since 1989 when they were in the now nonexistent AFC Central, and the Lions haven’t won a division since 1993.
I may be getting ahead of myself, as each team has only played nine games, but this is pretty ridiculous.
And the craziest thing of all is that I honestly think both of these teams might be able to keep it up.
Let’s start with my Detroit Lions.
Coming into the year, pretty much everybody expected them to be the Lions of old. This team would score a ton of points behind Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, but its defense would eventually let everybody down, as the Lions would fall to 7-9 while losing every game in heartbreaking fashion.
But then, the season started and the script flipped completely. The defensive backfield grew up immensely over an offseason, along with the Lions’ dominant front seven. The defense has vaulted itself into poll position for the top defense in the league.
The offense has been a disappointment. But for now, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt due to injuries at nearly every offensive position that isn’t quarterback.
And then there’s the Browns, who I’ve been as low on as anybody. Yet, time and time again, they figure out a way to win and shove it right in my face.
I’m not high on quarterback Brian Hoyer, but it’s becoming harder and harder to argue with his 9-3 record as a starter. He doesn’t have an incredible arm or great legs, but he makes smart plays and limits mistakes. And from him, that’s really all you need.
The backfield and receiving core is full of washed-up vets and unproven young guns. But every week, the Browns inexplicably prove me wrong and do just enough to get the win.
The real key, though, has been the emergence of the Browns defense.
Entering the season, the Browns defense was supposed to be what led the team. Up through the loss to the Jaguars, the unit had been nothing short of disappointment. However, the defense has been on an absolute tear the past three weeks.
In wins over the Raiders, Buccaneers and Bengals, the Browns forced five fumbles and six interceptions while allowing just 15 points per game.
I don’t know if the Browns will make the playoffs. But, to look up on a Monday morning, midway through the NFL season, and see the Browns and Lions atop their respective divisions is something I wasn’t prepared for.
I believe in the Lions, and I eagerly await the Browns to prove me wrong once again.