Zack Peñalva

Sports Editor

A lot can happen in eight weeks, and as we near the halfway point of the NFL regular season, a clearer picture of who’s hot is definitely emerging.

The Dallas Cowboys have had a very strong first half of the season. They hold the best record in the league and DeMarco Murray has been unstoppable. Murray has over 900 yards rushing already, leading the league by a wide margin and he’s on track for a 2000-yard season.

Despite Murray’s amazing season, his usefulness should also be the Cowboys greatest worry. At his current rate, Murray is on pace for over 400 carries this season and with that comes a huge risk for injury. The Cowboys have done so well offensively thanks to the fact that Murray forces the opposition to respect the run, allowing quarterback Tony Romo more freedom when it comes time for him to throw the ball downfield. Romo has a reputation for crumbling as the season goes on, and if Murray gets hurt, defenses will be able to focus more on the passing game, a dangerous proposition.

As for the rest of the NFC, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Green Bay is 5-2 but their run game is struggling hard as Eddie Lacy has failed to produce the same numbers he did during his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers has been as good as ever and the deep threat of Jordy Nelson is always there, but the team as a whole still looks completely beatable.

Philadelphia has an impressive record, but they’ve also had an extremely easy schedule. They started off with a win over a terrible Jacksonville team in the week one and only narrowly beat Washington in week three. LeSean McCoy is a shadow of the player he was last year and has only averaged a measly 3.6 yards per carry and a single rushing touchdown.

The loss against the 49ers was an example of everything wrong with the Eagles this year. The defense was soft and allowed Frank Gore to run straight through them on the way to giving up an 11 point lead. On offense, McCoy only picked up 17 yards on 10 carries and Nick Foles aired out the ball 43 times, leading to two interceptions.

Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Denver Broncos have picked up their record-setting pace from last year and are the most dangerous offense in the NFL. Peyton Manning has broken yet another record (510 touchdowns!) and has an arsenal of options to throw to. The Thomas’s, Demaryius and Julius, are too easy of targets and this season has lead to the emergence of Emmanuel Sanders as one of Peyton’s new favorite receivers. After Wes Welker return from suspension, the Broncos have a glut of options for Peyton to hit. Add that to the fact that Von Miller leads the league in sacks (8) and the Broncos defense has kept opponents to under 100 rushing yards a game and the result is a team that at this point, looks likely to return to the Super Bowl.

But the AFC isn’t a complete runaway. After two losses in their first games of the season, the Indianapolis Colts are now on a five game win streak. Their 24-0 win over Cincinnati was no fluke and Andrew Luck has proven that he’s more than capable of putting the entire offense on his back. His numbers speak for themselves: over 2000 passing yards with 21 total touchdowns. The Colt’s defense, which has historically let down its offense, particularly when it comes to defending the run, is playing well and keeping teams under 100 rushing yards per game.

A cause for concern for Colt’s fans will be in the backfield. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw are far from elite running backs, and if the aerial attack slows, it’ll be a struggle to get meaningful production on the ground.

With eight more weeks left in the regular season, there’s still plenty of time for team’s fortunes to change for better or worse. As clear as anything looks now, one injury or suspension could turn everything upside down.