2010 NFL Football Season: Week 11 Observations

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Top Ten Teams

Philadelphia Eagles. While not as dominating a performance as last week against the Redskins, the Eagles won a division game against a tough opponent and shut down Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Atlanta Falcons. I don’t know what the Falcons strength of schedule looks like but it can’t be great. But they keep rolling along with a solid offense and defense.

New York Jets. The Jets’ come from behind wins week after week are pretty amazing. If the Patriots and Jets both win on Thanksgiving the Monday Night match up the following week will be the biggest game of the year so far.

New England Patriots. The Patriots constantly giving up big leads week after week is a real concern for Patriots fan. While the offense seems to have found a rhythm, the defense hasn’t matched up. This could ultimately be their downfall.

Baltimore Ravens. Not much to say about the Ravens game this week against a depleted and woeful Carolina Panthers unit.

Pittsburgh Steelers. After getting convincingly beaten by the Patriots last week the Steelers made a real statement in blowing out the Oakland Raiders.

Green Bay Packers. The shellacking of Minnesota this week must have been sweet for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

New Orleans Saints. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can regain their dominant form they showed last year. They seem to be on a bit of a roll now.

San Diego Chargers. San Diego is starting to look like the Super Bowl contender they were supposed to be. This is a very dangerous team in a weak division.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts dropped a little this week after losing to the Patriots but only because the Chargers played so well.

The New York Giants dropped off the top ten list this week after losing a home game to the Eagles.

Trent Dilfer

Along with Tom Jackson, Trent Dilfer joins my all time least favorite announcers/analysts list. This guy is complete idiot and does not belong on television. The first week of the season he was the announcer for the San Diego Chargers versus Kansas City Chiefs game. I taped the game and watched it the next day and started right at the kickoff so I wasn’t even sure who the announcer was, I just thought he was an idiot. He kept going on and on and on and on ad nauseum about how great San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is. I thought, gee is this guy married to Rivers?

Every time I see him on television he makes me sick with his stupidity. I turn the channel when I see him now. He was an awful quarterback too.

Brad Childress is Gone, Brett Favre Should Be Next

As soon as I saw that Brad Childress was finally fired from the Minnesota Vikings and Leslie Frazier named the interim head coach, I thought if Frazier really wants to take control of this team he has to release Brett Favre and see what Tarvaris Jackson can do as quarterback. Favre is as much of the problem with that team as Childress was and it will not be resolved until they show him the door. Favre has played horribly this year and clearly is the person who really that runs the team.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts, 31-28

After building up a nice 31-14 lead the New England Patriots defense gave up two really quick scores to the Colts in the fourth quarter, and nearly gave up a tying field goal or winning touchdown near the end of the game. This was heart attack city for Patriots fans and a cause for great concern. The defense is clearly still a work in progress but that progress better be a bit quicker as we reach the end of the regular season. The offense is not going to be able to put up 31 points on every team. And if we get behind it seems like the game could be over.

I am a glass half empty kind of fan after years and years of woeful Patriots teams in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and I complained about the offense not doing more in the second half after a few bad series. But I was reminded that Peyton Manning threw three interceptions and the game loser, so I will just have to take that.

Danny Woodhead’s 36 yard touchdown run in the third quarter with little Wes Welker blocking downfield was a thing of beauty.

MVP: Danny Woodhead, RB

Chicago Bears over Miami Dolphins, 16-0

With third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen starting for the Dolphins off a short week I thought they were in big trouble, and they were. Add to that some injuries on the Dolphins’ offensive line and they were in even bigger trouble. The Dolphins offense just never could get it going and they were giving up a lot of yards on kick returns to Devin Hester that set up Chicago for an early lead that they never relinquished.

I think Thigpen is a decent quarterback and with a regular practice schedule and some protection can win some games for the Dolphins.

MVP: Devin Hester, KR/WR

Baltimore Ravens over Carolina Panthers, 37-13

This game went pretty much as expected with the Ravens dominating the undermanned Carolina Panthers on both sides of the ball. Nothing against Brain St. Pierre but when you sign a perennial backup and third stringer off the street to be your starter you are in big trouble. That goes doubly true if you are facing a ball hawking Ravens defense.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 27-17

Despite being only a game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, the Eagles staked their claim to the division title with a win over the New York Giants. While it wasn’t the otherworldly performance of a week ago against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles played good enough, especially on defense, to pull out a tough win. More impressive is the defense is playing better than it has all year long.

While the Giants are a bit banged up they are a strange team to watch week in and week out. Some weeks they look great and other weeks they look awful, even in some of their wins. You never know what Giants’ team is going to show up.

MVP: Jeremy Maclin, WR

San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos, 35-14

Has a sleeping giant awoken from its slumber? After three straight wins and basically handing a game to the New England Patriots, the Chargers, even at 5-5, are poised to take the AFC West title if they keep winning. They have some tough matchups ahead but I am not a big believer in the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos are almost out of it.

This was a very dominating performance in all phases of the game by the Chargers. And while Philip Rivers was brilliant and really is having an MVP type season, backup running back Mike Tolbert set the tone early in the game with tough runs.

MVP: Mike Tolbert, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Offensive Lineman: Sebastian Vollmer, T, New England Patriots
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay

2009 NFL Season: Week 16

OBSERVATIONS

Other than the multiple playoff implications set up for next week, the biggest story of Week 16 was the Indianapolis Colts eschewing a chance to go undefeated in the regular season by pulling their key starters out in the third quarter against the New York Jets. The Colts ultimately lost the game. The looks on Peyton Manning’s face as he saw the back-ups give up the lead and the game were quite revealing. But of course he was a true solider after the game and said he was fine with the coach’s decision. The Colts fan were not on board with the decision. Coach Jim Caldwell has taken a bit of a whacking the press. All I will say is that going 16-0 means nothing if you don’t win the Super Bowl, as I so painfully know. Without Manning the chances of the Colts winning the Super Bowl would be close to nil, so I have no real problem with playing it safe. It’s the psyche and momentum of a team that has historically choked in the playoffs that is the real question. They really have nothing to play for next week, so they’ll definitely get some rest.

There are so many mediocre teams in the AFC it’s comical. Despite shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly, the Baltimore Ravens have avoided a shot to the head and are still alive! Unbelievable, until you consider all the other teams vying for a playoff spot have done the same. Right now the Ravens and the New York Jets control their fates next week. Wins and they are in. I am not going to worry or care about who wins and how it shapes up. Whoever the Patriots play in the playoffs will be a tough matchup.

The New York Giants are finally out of the playoff hunt. They lay down against the Carolina Panthers. Good riddance to one Manning.

And speaking of the Panthers, what would this team look like going into the playoff race had Matt Moore been starting all season long? John Fox seems to have made a big mistake at the quarterback position early in the year.

You can say the same for Jeff Fischer of the Tennessee Titans. While I don’t fault Kerry Collins for the Titans 0-6 start like some do, clearly Young should have come in sooner to add a spark to the team.

I am ready for the playoffs!

New England Patriots over Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-7

The Patriots seem to be hitting on all cylinders the past few weeks and are poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Brady played an outstanding game against the Jaguars and the defense has shown up and played well the past few weeks. Being the pessimist I am, and looking like a four seed in the playoffs, that means we’ll probably end up facing the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the playoffs (assuming we beat our first playoff opponent, which I think we will). But I guess that might be easier than facing the Chargers in San Diego, who are hitting on all cylinders, and then some, themselves.

This Sunday Patriots fans will basically be praying that we come out of the game healthy and ready to roll into the playoffs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB


GAMES I WATCHED

San Diego Chargers over Tennessee Titans, 42-17

While I thought the Chargers would win this game I did not expect them to win so easily. Right now I think San Diego is the team to beat in the playoffs. They are playing the best football in the league as of Week 16. I hate to say that because they have to rank as one of my least favorite teams. I expect them to easily get to the AFC Championship game against either the Patriots or the Colts. I’d like to see us dance on their logo again and make LaDanian Tomlinson cry.

MVP: Philip Rivers, QB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens, 23-20

How many times can a team shoot themselves in the foot, blow game after game after game, and still control their destiny for making a playoff spot. It’s really unbelievable. Having seen the Ravens squander games so many times this year I want to say they don’t really deserve to be in the playoffs, but neither do any of the of other mediocre teams they are vying against.

Once again big mistakes at the worst moments cost the Ravens the game. Derrick Mason dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the win, so he has to be the goat of this game. But Flacco didn’t do much to help matters at the end of the game either.

If the Ravens win Sunday they should be a dangerous team in the playoffs. They do have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and really should be looking at a better record than have now. If they had a true number one receiver they could be really dangerous, but they don’t.

Pittsburgh still has a heartbeat left too, and again, if they make the playoffs, despite their recent poor play, who knows what could happen?

MVP: LaMarr Woodley, LB

Philadelphia Eagles over Denver Broncos, 30-27

After the Eagles took a 20-7 lead into halftime I thought the game was basically over but the Broncos gave them a real run for it in the second half. That the Broncos didn’t fold and fought back must be a bit gratifying to Broncos fans. They still have a good chance to make the playoffs. Even though they are listed as a Wild Card team as of today, they need to help to get in. Like many of the other AFC teams vying for playoff spots, if they make it in they will be a scary opponent for whoever they play.

I am not a big believer in the Philadelphia Eagles, frankly, but right now they seem to be playing the best football in the NFC. I still think that the faltering Saints and Vikings are still the teams to beat in the NFC, but Philadelphia right now is looking poised to make a real run.

MVP: Brent Celek, TE

Dallas Cowboys over Washington Redskins, 17-0

I really don’t have a lot to say about this game. I originally was not going to bother watching it, but I did. It was a nondescript game. Everyone knew Dallas would win, and they did so rather easily. As usual the Redskins offense looked awful. Dallas goes to Philadelphia next week for a huge game which will decide the NFC East champion.

MVP: Tony Romo, QB

Chicago over Minnesota, 36-30 OT

What is going on with the Minnesota Vikings? They suddenly have faltered badly on both sides of the ball. This was an exciting game and the Vikings did come back from a 17 point deficit to almost win the game. I have to admit being a bit stunned most of the game. I was waiting for Cutler to throw up some interceptions but he actually played a decent game. Instead of folding under pressure the Bears hung in and barely pulled out a victory.

Adrian Peterson and his fumbles are really a problem and he essentially gave this game away by fumbling after a nice catch and run in overtime. The fumble handed the ball right back to the Bears who scored on a nice pass play to end the game. Peterson, hold on to the ball!

While I still think the Vikings and Saints are the teams to beat despite faltering of late, maybe they have seen their best days and the rising Eagles and Cowboys will eat their lunch. We’ll see.

MVP: Devin Aromashodu, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, 206 yards rushing
Defensive Player: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland Raiders (61 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans


2009 NFL Season: Week 12 Thanksgiving Day Special

INTRODUCTION

After the New York Giants went 5-0 many pundits had them ranked as the best team in the NFL in their power rankings. I said then that they were at best a mediocre team. I may not always be right, but I was right about that.

The traditional football games on Thanksgiving Day featured two matchups that really were not that compelling to the average football fan. The still lowly Detroit Lions hosted the solid but struggling Green Bay Packers, while the Dallas Cowboys hosted the usually pathetic Oakland Raiders. Most thought the games would be blowouts and they certainly lived up to the tripe. Green Bay had no trouble rolling over Detroit, and Oakland proved to be no match for Dallas.

Many have wondered if the Detroit Lions should no longer be hosting a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving given their long standing lack of quality teams. A Thanksgiving Day matchup should be a marquee game between two quality teams, right?

I disagree though. The Detroit Lions have been hosting a Thanksgiving Day game since 1934. That’s 75 years of tradition for the Lions, sometimes a good team, lately not, hosting a game on this holiday. The National Football League is built on tradition and after 75 years I don’t see a reason to break that tradition now. Despite not being a great team now, presumably the Lions will be relevant again. And for me, watching any professional football game is enjoyable. And I always know I’ll see the Lions host somebody on this day and I look forward to it every year.

GAMES I WATCHED

Green Bay Packers over Detroit Lions, 34-12

As expected this game was not even close. After Green Bay fumbled the opening kickoff leading to a quick Detroit touchdown, the game was basically over. Detroit’s offense never did much else, while Matthew Stafford threw four picks.

Green Bay played an all around solid game, with Donald Driver catching seven passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. This included a 68 yard grab in the first quarter to set up Green Bay’s first touchdown. Cornerback Charles Woodson had his second sterling game with two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown in garbage time.

I’m not sure why the Lions started rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford who played with a separated left shoulder. I think he has the potential to be the franchise quarterback for the Lions and it just doesn’t seem worth risking further damage to his shoulder at this point in the season.

This game turned out pretty much as expected. It was a good game for Green Bay to get back to winning and try to jumpstart an attempt to make the playoffs as Wild Card team. They have a long way to go for that.

MVP: Donald Driver, WR


Dallas Cowboys over Oakland Raiders, 24-7

The NFC East used to be considered the toughest conference in the NFL. Not anymore. Right now the storied franchise of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles are middle of the road teams, at best. The Washington Redskins are abysmal and shouldn’t even be in the conversation.

The race for the NFC East is going down the stretch and Dallas needs to keep winning with the Giants and Eagles right in the mix. Pundits have even taken to calling Tony Romo not just an average quarterback, but a bad one. And he deserves it given the way he has played this year.

In this game Dallas had no trouble putting the Raiders away. Romo had a very good outing and wide receiver Miles Austin was again fantastic. He had seven catches for 145 yards and touchdown to lead the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders started fourth year quarterback Bruce Gradkowski over the bust of a number one overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell. Gradkowski, frankly, is never going to be a particularly good NFL quarterback, but he is gutsy and had didn’t play that badly against the Cowboys. The Raiders were just simply overmatched talent wise on the field.

Dallas, like Green Bay, really needed an easy win and to get their offense rolling after a very pedestrian performance against the Redskins last week, a game they should have lost but didn’t.

MVP: Miles Austin, WR


Denver Broncos over New York Giants, 26-6

This was the marquee matchup of the day which most thought we be a closely contested ball game. Both teams have been struggling a great deal the past month, with the Broncos losing four straight games and the Giants losing the last five out of six. Too bad it was on the NFL Network. Many football fans, as a result, didn’t have access to the game. Well, it was an interesting game but not much was missed.

I actually thought the Giants would win this game but they never bothered to show up. They were pathetic.

The Giants, on their second offensive snap of the game, had to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. They followed this up with a minus two yard run by Brandon Jacobs. That basically set the tone for the game as the Giants offense seemed to have stayed in New York.

I watched Brandon Jacobs very closely in this game because he has been struggling of late. What I noticed was disturbing. Even when he got into a good hole he didn’t have the same burst of speed and power to make a good gain like he has in the past. I don’t know if it’s because he has been injured a bit or some other ailment, but he definitely is not the same runner he has been in the past. There were holes that he got to that a Chris Johnson or an Adrian Peterson, or last years Brandon Jacobs for that matter, would have turned into a long gain. Something is missing or gone awry there.

Meanwhile a lot has been said of the struggles of the Giants offensive line. They played reasonably well at all times, more so on running plays. The announcers kept saying they were getting beat physically but they most looked confused by the Broncos tricky defensive alignments than physically dominated.

But the Broncos defense played extremely well. Elvis Dumervil had two sacks and a forced fumble, safety Brian Dawkins was a menace all over the field, and the Denver secondary, led by Champ Bailey, blanketed the Giants’ receivers. In fact the quarterback pressures could often be attributed to superior defensive back play more so than the defensive line dominating the line of scrimmage. But it was a very well played game by the Denver defense all around.

The Giants defense didn’t play terribly but again, they weren’t beaten physically as much as the Broncos just outplayed them. Case in point, if you watched Giants’ defense end Osi Umenyiora against the Bronco’s left tackle, Ryan Clady, he often got good penetration and sometimes pressure on Kyle Orton. But he was completely shut out of the game.

Meanwhile Denver’s rookie running back Knowshon Moreno played very well with a shifty, slithery style of running that netted yards when most backs would have been shut down. I have seen Denver play several times this year and I have not seen these moves by Moreno before. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t watching him at his best or that he has been injured, but now I see why people are so excited about this guy. He has a unique running style that avoids big contact and can make the most out of small openings. And of course wide receiver Brandon Marshall was making some sick one handed catches.

But frankly, at the end of the day I am not sure whether Denver looked so good because the Giants were just plain awful, or if they have come out of their funk. They certainly looked much better than they have the past few times I’ve seen them. I do know one thing, however, the Giants appear to be on the way down an out. See ya!

The MVP could really go to Dumervil, Dawkins, or Bailey. I am going with Champ Bailey because I thought it was the Denver pass coverage that was the key to their success on defense.

MVP: Champ Bailey, CB

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 9

Week 9 turned into a disaster for three teams while other teams keep rolling along.

How did Green Bay manage to lose to Tampa Bay, who got their first win on Sunday? The Packer defense has just collapsed and the offensive line simply can’t protect Aaron Rodgers. Maybe the emotional letdown of losing to the Vikings twice and being three games back in the division with no realistic shot at the division title did them in?  Or maybe their defense just blows? But even at 4-4 a Wild Card spot is still a realistic goal.

Congratulations to Tampa Bay and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman on the Bucs’ first win of the season. Freeman may not have looked like the next coming of Tom Brady but he has to get Rookie of the Week honors for leading his team to a win in his first start.

After a big win against Denver last week the Baltimore Ravens have lost to Cincinnati for the second time this year. While stranger things have happened, their shot at the division title is greatly diminished. They are now a struggling team that needs to string some wins together to stay in the hunt.

The New York Giants after a 5-0 start have lost 4 straight. I’ve been saying all along they are an average team and they now look like it. After losing in the last seconds to the Chargers this is a team that needs to find itself.

The Tennessee Titans have won two in a row on the back of running back Chris Johnson. What happened to the 49′ers and their fine start to the season?

New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith has had two big games in a row. He might be making a run for my end of season All Pro Team. I’m sure he’s motivated by being left off my Midseason All Pro Team.

I’ve heard talk that the Patriots might be interested in signing Larry Johnson. I hope we don’t get that desperate. This guy is a punk.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins, 27-17 (NFL Replay)

This was a critically important win for the New England Patriots who face the Colts, Jets, and Saints the next three weeks, a real murderers’ row. They handed Miami their first division loss and are now two games up on the Jets. The next few weeks are critical for the Patriots as they face two of the best teams in the league, and their archrival New York Jets, who shut Brady and his bunch down in their first meeting this season.

The Patriots defense bent a bit but did just enough to keep Miami from rolling all over them and really held them in check in the fourth quarter.

Randy Moss’s two huge plays, a one handed grab at the one yard line and 71 yard catch and run for a touchdown shows he’s still got it.

MVP: Randy Moss, WR

Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 17-7

In many ways this game was not as close as the score might indicate. Cincinnati dominated both lines of scrimmage throughout the game and Baltimore never really threatened them. This is the second time I have seen the Bengals offensive line absolutely dominate an opponent.

For the Ravens they clearly missed Haloti Ngata who sat out with an ankle injury, as their defensive line was constantly knocked off the ball, rendering Ray Lewis and the rest of the linebackers less effective. These two teams played a few weeks ago with a similar result, although Cincinnati had to pull it out at the very end, so maybe he would not have made that much of a difference.

I hear a lot of people questioning whether Cincinnati is for real. They lost on a fluke play to Denver or they would be 6-1, after a mediocre outing against Houston. Seeing how well their offensive line has been playing and their consistency on defense, I think Cincinnati is definitely an upper echelon team. They will have a big test next week against division foe Pittsburgh.

Cedric Benson should thank his offensive line for another fine outing, rushing for 117 tough yards.

MVP: Cedric Benson, RB

San Diego Chargers over New York Giants, 21-20

The Giants really let one slip away here, allowing the Chargers to put together an 80 yard last minute drive to win the game. They have now lost four games in a row and don’t look very good on offense or defense.

Eli Manning is struggling, but frankly I don’t think it’s entirely his fault. After a good start to the season, Steve Smith nor Mario Manningham are doing much to help him out. Even the offensive line, one of the best in the league, struggled against the Chargers. They allowed Shawn Merriman to look like he was back on steroids and actually a good football player.

The Giants secondary has always been a weak spot but they were often protected by the ferocious pass rush of the Giants’ front seven. But against the Chargers they just simply were not getting it done for the most part.

The Giants are a mediocre team and they lost to another mediocre team. While neither team are bottom feeders, they don’t look like they are going anywhere in this season either.

The star of the day was wider receiver Vincent Jackson and his two touchdown grabs. He is starting to emerge as one of the elite receivers in the league. Now that the Chargers have cut Chris Chambers, Malcolm Floyd needs to step up. He did nothing this game. Meanwhile, Chris Chambers had a good day with his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs.

MVP: Vincent Jackson, WR

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, 20-16

This game actually turned out more less the way I expected it, the Cowboys winning a close game. Neither team looked like world beaters but the Dallas offensive line, other than Flozell Adams, played a very solid game. They were able to move the ball enough to eek out a win. Leonard Davis played particularly well at left guard, where most of the running attack seemed to be focused.

Donovan McNabb loves to throw the ball in the ground. What is up with that? He seems to be getting less and less accurate with his passes every time I see him play. But of course the Dallas defense mugged him all night long. The entire Dallas defense played well, but my hats are off to SS Gerald Sensabaugh, who was a disruptive force in the game and had an interception. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff
also had an excellent game with two sacks.

The Eagles were not able to generate many big plays and the offensive line wasn’t much help to Donovan and the backs. One always wonders about how valuable a single player is to a team, but the Eagles certainly do look a lot different without Brian Westbrook in the lineup. Even when he doesn’t get as many touches in a game the team seems to play better with him in there.

Dallas now has a solid grip on the top spot in the NFC East title race. While it’s not a death grip, this win leaves them sitting pretty.

MVP: Gerald Sensabaugh, SS

New Orleans Saints over Carolina Panthers, 30-20 (DVR)

I’m not sure why everyone is making a big deal out of the Saints’ “comeback” against the Panthers. They were never down by more than 14 points. For an offense this explosive that is nothing. The bottom line is the Saints have proven to be a winning team and winning teams find a way to win. The Panthers have proven to be a losing team, and losing teams find a way to lose.

The Panthers got their 14 point lead aided by a couple of turnovers (and a big play). The Saints were down 17-6 in after the first half as a result. But the telling part of the game and the difference between the two teams can be seen in the first two possessions of the second half.

The Saints get the ball in the second half and march to a touchdown to bring the game to 17-13. Carolina gets the ball and marches down to within the five yard line. They should score a touchdown, right? Instead they have confusion at the line of scrimmage and call a timeout. AFTER the time out, they run a horrible play that results in an easy sack for the Saints. Within the five yard line: a sack, results in a field goal instead of touchdown, 20-13, game over as the Saints go on with a few big plays to spank the lesser team.

Saints winners. Carolina losers.

Despite the big three plays by Brees to three different receivers, he had some turnovers so my MVP is DE Will Smith.

MVP: Will Smith, DE

Pittsburgh Steelers over Denver Broncos, 28-10

Is that crash I’m hearing the Denver Broncos coming back down to earth? After a 6-0 start they have back to back losses.

Well, let’s not beat up on Denver too bad. This game, like Denver’s loss last week, was a pretty hard struggle until the fourth quarter. The Denver defense played well, but they, not the Steelers playing in altitude in an away game, are the unit that seemed to fold a bit in the fourth quarter. Of course the Steelers kept pounding the rock at them. And Rashard Mendenhall seems to have established himself as the starting running back in Pittsburgh. With Willie Parker dinged up, Mendenhall ground out 155 yards to win the game.

And okay, Big Ben had a nice game, but I’m sick of hearing “elite” and “Hall of Fame” next to his name. Yes, he’s having a great year and had two Super Bowl wins. Did you know that Big Ben has the lowest QB rating of any Super Bowl winning QB ever? And that the Steelers won their first Super Bowl despite his poor play (and Seattle fans would say plenty of help from the atrocious referees). And that he wasn’t the best player on the field in their second Super Bowl win?

Okay, I really do love Big Ben, but he is no Dan Marino. Or is he?

MVP: Rashard Mendenhall, RB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Defensive Player: Gerald Sensabaugh, SS, Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Lineman: Leonard Davis, G, Dallas Cowboys

Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt, P, Kansas City Chiefs

Rookie of the Week: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Doug Baker’s 2009 NFL Midseason Awards

Now it’s time for me to present the midseason awards. I am sure every player has been anxiously waiting to see if they end up on my list and where.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

I know there will be a lot of grousing and second guessing from my distinguished fellow football fans on this one. I’ve already heard carping about my picking Manning over Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints, as Offensive Player of the Year on my Midseason All Pro Team. But really, you could flip a coin between the two for this award. They are both having great seasons.

My main reason for choosing Manning is I think he has had a slightly better season and has lead a slightly less talented team than the Saints to a 6-0 record. Brees has chunked up some interceptions and almost lost against the Dolphins. While Manning struggled a bit against the 49’ers last week, his game against Miami scoring 27 points with less than 15 minutes of possession left me a little mesmerized.

Drew Brees and Chris Johnson were in the running.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Right now Jared Allen is the best defensive player in the league and is absolutely a beast. He’s almost unblockable one-on-one and sometimes even when he is double or tripled teamed. He has a motor that never stops and he never quits on a play. He has owned Green Bay this year as much as Brett Favre has.

Other players in the running included Darren Sharper, FS, New Orleans Saints who leads the league in interceptions on a much improved Saints offense.

Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Denver Broncos leads the AFC in sacks with 10 and has been a key reason, along with SS Brian Dawkins, for Denver’s turnaround on defense.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

While he walks, talks, acts, and plays like a rookie at times, Sanchez has had a decent rookie season at quarterback, the most difficult and important position in professional football.

I will also call out Percy Harvin, KR/WR, Minnesota Vikings for making an impact on his team, especially in the return game and Michael Oher, RT, Baltimore Ravens, who has had an excellent rookie season on the line of scrimmage. (Note there is a made for TV movie about Michael Oher’s story coming out soon).

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

Byrd has been a turnover machine the past few weeks and has made a clear impact for the Bills on the defensive side of the ball. It makes me feel like the Patriots picked the wrong Oregon defensive back in Patrick Chung.

The only other player considered for this illustrious midseason honor was Brian Cushing, the USC linebacker now playing for the Houston Texans who leads all rookies in tackles.

Favre

Brett Favre Throws Pass Against Green Bay

LEAGUE MVP: Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings

I have to admit I have been rather sick of the Brett Favre retirement saga but what to say? He is the main difference personnel wise on the talented Vikings team and has completely turned this team into an elite squad. The difference he has made can be seen not only in their 7-1 record but the players’ attitudes on and off the field. Only time will tell if he can keep it up. And this is clear evidence of how important the quarterback position is in today’s NFL.

HEAD COACH: Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos

I was one of those piling on the abuse of both Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler in the seemingly chaotic offseason the Denver Broncos had. So far McDaniels has had the last laugh, completely turning around the Broncos into, at this stage, one of the elite teams in the league. And he’s done it with Kyle Orton as quarterback instead of Jay Cutler. Meanwhile the Bears are struggling with Cutler at the helm. Go figure!

COMEBACK PLAYER: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

After suffering a season ending ACL injury last year, Brady has come back and played well this year. While he might not look like the Brady of old quite yet, he certainly is progressing in that direction as the season unfolds.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Denver Broncos

The Broncos were basically a mediocre to even poor team by the end of last season and their defense was one of the worst in the league. This year they have started out 6-1 and have an efficient offense that can score and one of the best defenses in the league. After the chaotic offseason where the team seemed in disarray I thought the Broncos would be lucky to have an 8-8 record this year. I guess I have been proven wrong and I am certainly surprised.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Tennessee Titans

How does a team go from Super Bowl contender to one of the worst teams in the league so quickly? I know the Titans have suffered injuries and lost players but that still does not explain the complete collapse of the team. Worse yet, the players look like they quit in some games. And what is really shocking is this is a Jeff Fisher coached team, one of the most respected coaches in the league. If the Titans think Vince Young is going to lead them out of this slump they are in for a huge disappointment.

GOAT: Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers

Jake Delhomme picked up right where he left off last year, where he threw five interceptions in an atrocious performance in the playoffs. He has already thrown 13 interceptions in the first seven games of the season and is playing so poorly that I do not understand why the Panthers are so reluctant to start Matt Moore. Jake Delhomme has obviously seen his better days so if Matt Moore is not the future of the franchise, the Panthers better start finding somebody who is.

PUNK: Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Larry Johnson has a history of abusing women which makes him a super punk. This year he is once again showing what a punk he is by trashing his coach and using gay slurs in public, leading to a suspension. He has wanted out of Kansas City for a few years now so maybe this is just a ploy to accomplish that. But who would want a washed up, bad attitude running back who is a me first player who doesn’t care about his team or his teammates? Maybe the Raiders.

Others in the running are Roy Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys, who is pulling a TO and punking his QB Tony Romo. When will Dallas ever find a top flight receiver who is not a me first player who cares more about winning games than piling up statistics?

Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins, also was considered for calling out his offensive line and causing trouble in the locker room with fullback Mike Sellers. This is the second or maybe even third season in a row Portis has publically criticized his teammates and offensive line. While part of his complaints are true, maybe he also needs to look in the mirror.

Jerry Porter is a loudmouth punk. I can’t stand him. Shut up already.