I'm a little reluctant to compare 7 to 12 -- different eras, almost different games entirely. But there's no question that Ben is finally being given the reins, and he's producing. Some things that are part of this year's equation:
1. Better receiving depth. The Ward-Miller-Holmes trio has been excellent, but defenses can shut them down. When you have the depth to have a reliable #3 WR, that changes everything. Quite simply, Wallace is better than Washington or Ced Wilson. He's got speed, upside, and has shown some susprising football canniness. He's had some rookie gaffes too, and he's still working towards his full potential, but at this rate he'd finish with 48-789-3. (Washington had 40-631-3 in 2008.) That would be good enough to rank 42nd last year, between Ted Ginn and Zach Miller. And while that's not too exciting per se, consider that Holmes was only 38th with 55-821-2, and Washington's stats were only 55th among receivers. He brings an element that we didn't have before, and frankly his hands are better than Washington's. It's exciting to think what he'll be doing late in the season and in years to come.
2. Mendenhall. Put it this way, rushing for no gain is a drive-killer, and Ben saw that all too often the last couple of years. This year, Parker has 59 carries for 185 yards and no scores. Mendenhall, on 11 more carries, has 349 yards and 4 TDs. I think the FWP era (as starter, at least) is over, as predicted. Mendhenhall sustains drives; Ben takes advantage. If Mendenhall continues to improve and gain confidence, the offense will really be firing.
3. Arians. Arians has seemed to get his head out of his pucker the last few games, frankly, and some of that may be trusting Ben more. Not to mention giving Ben the play-calling when needed. I hesitate to say it, but when the offense clicks, Arians can be OK. Basically, get the fuck out of the way, don't get too cute, don't get too predictable, let these guys do their shit.
4. The OL. The other goat. Somehow, they've actually begun to cohere as a decent PB unit. The PR still has some issues, but maybe they did just need some time to cohere and get reps. A pretty young unit, with some talented backups across the middle.
5. Defense is shaky. True, the defense has shown some of its former swagger, but last year's rubric (low-scoring games, let Ben engineer 4Q comebacks) has become one where the defense is yielding more, but Ben's slinging is outpacing that deficit. Imagine if the defense tightens up some and Ben continues apace.