The NFL Season at the Half

Linda Wertheimer talks with Weekend Edition sports commentator Ron Rapoport about the NFL season at the halfway mark. The surprises so far: the first-place standings of the Chicago Bears and the Cincinnati Bengals. Meanwhile, last year's Super Bowl teams are in the dumps.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The NFL has just passed the halfway mark of the 2005 football season. To help us catch up, we're joined from Chicago by WEEKEND EDITION's sports commentator Ron Rapoport, who but for missing 300 or 400 pounds would certainly be a starting tackle for da Bears.

RON RAPOPORT reporting:

Thanks, Linda. Maybe it might be more than that, I think. Yeah, the Bears have been one of the surprise teams of the season, along with the Bengals. Who thought that they would be in first place in their division? But what's really been strange so far is that here you have last year's Super Bowl teams, the Patriots and the Eagles, who looked as strong or stronger going into the season--together they've lost more games already at the halfway point than they did all of last year.

WERTHEIMER: The Patriots have a game Monday night against the Colts, but possibly it's even bigger for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning?

RAPOPORT: Well, this may be the biggest game of the season so far. The Colts are the last unbeaten team in the league, Linda, and they play Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Now New England has beaten Indianapolis the last four times they've played, so the Colts really have something to prove, but so do the Patriots, because if they lose this game their season could be in big trouble.

Now the other big game this weekend is the other Super Bowl team from last year, when the Eagles play the Redskins in Washington.

WERTHEIMER: Well, I'm taking an interest in that one. In fact, I plan to be there. You know, the Redskins never manage to beat the Eagles when it really counts, even when the Eagles are terrible.

RAPOPORT: Well, this is their chance. Philadelphia's been hurt by injuries to Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, and they really need this win or they could be in last place in their division. The Redskins--you know, they've been up and down, but they really look like they could be on to something. But this is another very important game at this point of the season.

WERTHEIMER: I want to know about the NBA. It began its season this week. Can you give us a one-sentence preview of the NBA?

RAPOPORT: The great interest so far is that Larry Brown is coaching the Knicks, and Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant have been reunited in Los Angeles. But neither team is really expected to be a title contender. In fact, making the playoffs would be a big deal for them. So that's very unusual going into the season.

WERTHEIMER: So if the superstar coaches and the former superstar teams don't make it, who does make it?

RAPOPORT: Well, you have to go back to last year. San Antonio, which won the title--it's very, very strong again; teams like Phoenix, which played such exciting basketball last year; and Denver and Houston should challenge in the West. And in the East, you know, any team that Shaquille O'Neal plays for has got to be a contender, so there's Miami. Indiana and New Jersey, they all look to be the queen there.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Ron.

RAPOPORT: OK, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Ron Rapoport is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He's our sports commentator here on WEEKEND EDITION.

It's 22 minutes before the hour.

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