12 things: Midseason mini-debates

Darren McFadden has the Raiders making a possible leap to the playoffs. AP Photo/Greg Trott

Dallas is toast. The Packers are hurting. And the Bucs and Chiefs might actually be for real. But, for my money, the real story of the first half of the 2010 NFL season is bigger than all these other headlines combined: Are we seeing a possible return of the Raiders?

Let's face it: the squeaky clean, fine-happy and parity-packed NFL is a whole lot more fun when Al Davis and his weird, wild band of pirates are in the mix. And, after seven long seasons in the AFC West wilderness, the Raiders are 4-4 for the first time since they imploded in Super Bowl XXXVII.

They hung 59 on the Broncos and bullied the Seahawks in a 33-3 blowout. And, with an improving offensive line and an emerging star in Darren McFadden they are running the ball down people's throats to the tune of almost 170 yards per game. With the same QB under center for almost a month (that has to be some kind of Raida' record) this weekend, Oakland is playing in an actual marquee game against the Chiefs in front of a sell-out crowd (or close to it.)

So, forget the Saints' slight hangover, the Bills' dive off a cliff or the Pats' continuing yet quiet dominance. Just the possibility of a Raiders return is enough to give you goose bumps (if, like me, you were one of those kids who rooted for Darth Vader.)

Now that we've settled on the best storyline of the NFL season, here are 11 more mini-debates to consider at the season's midpoint: