Midseason myths and realities

Ravens D? Not elite. Mark Sanchez? Not better. 49ers? Still in the hunt.

Originally Published: November 10, 2010
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
Getty ImagesMany believe Mark Sanchez has taken great steps forward this year. Statistically, he has not.

After nine weeks of the 2009 season, the Green Bay Packers were 5-4. The New York Jets were 4-4. The Denver Broncos were 6-2. Brett Favre had thrown a total of five interceptions. Jamaal Charles had a total of 152 rushing yards. Although half the season was complete, there was still clearly a lot of change to come over the final eight weeks of the regular season.

So this time around, let's try and identify those changes to come in advance. Using Football Outsiders' advanced statistics and a bit of historical perspective, we've identified four first-half storylines that are real and four more that amount to myths. We'll go division by division and look at which "elite" defense is really a mirage, which last-place team might have a shot at winning its division and identify the quarterback whose purported step forward is mostly luck.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.