The midseason awards are out, but there's something missing -- and what's missing is recognition for the biggest overachievers and underachievers through the first eight games.
But that's why we're here. We've assembled the season's Five Most Surprising and Disappointing candidates for roll call, and while these are personal favorites I guarantee the list includes some of your nominees.
Let's see if I'm right.
FIVE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS
1. Philadelphia Eagles. Nobody calls these guys "The Dream Team" anymore, and hallelujah. That's partly because Vince Young is gone, and mostly because they're anything but a dream. They're a nightmare, a group of underperforming, overrated mercenaries who don't seem to care about much of anything -- including tackling, scoring, winning and saving their coach's job. While people focus on quarterback Michael Vick's job status, trying to figure out what's wrong with the guy, they forget to notice that the rest of the team is dreadful. OK, so we're only halfway through the season, Andy Reid has a reputation as a closer and there's not a winning team among the Eagles' next seven opponents. In fact, they're a combined 21-37. But that doesn't really matter. Because it's not Philadelphia's opponents the Eagles must overcome; it's the Eagles themselves, and so far they can't do it. Too bad, too, because there's a raft of talent and possibilities here, but the Eagles aren't getting better; they're getting worse, and look for massive off-season changes if they don't snap out of their funk.
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2. Kansas City Chiefs. They were supposed to be a threat to win the AFC West, the team that would challenge San Diego and Denver for the division championship. Well, they're a threat all right ... they're a threat to the league turnover mark of 65, set by Denver in 1961. The Chiefs are so bad that their fan base -- usually one of the most loyal, supportive and enthusiastic anywhere -- has turned on the team, calling for an organization overhaul and cheering quarterback Matt Cassel when he was hurt. That isn't like them, but, of course, what's going on isn't anything like the Chiefs, either. They flat-out stink, signing free-agent Stanford Routt to replace cornerback Brandon Carr, then cutting Routt this week. Now coach Romeo Crennel has turned over the defensive coordinator's job to assistant Gary Gibbs and declared Brady Quinn as his starting quarterback again when Quinn recovers from a possible concussion. Basically, it's a mess in Kansas City, with the Chiefs the early favorite to gain the first pick in next year's draft. They haven't spent a first-round pick on a quarterback since 1983, but the smart money says they will next year ... because they must.
3. Cam Newton. He broke into the league saying he wanted to become an icon and an entertainer, which is fine, except he forgot one thing: He had to become a quarterback first. He was a year ago, winning the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year, and everything was ahead of him. But that telegenic smile and bravado that were there then are gone now, with Newton sulking, complaining and hanging his head as he and his teammates continue to lose. Sure, he has his moments ... like last weekend, when he was up to his Superman antics in the Panthers' defeat of Washington ... but someone remind this guy that Superman wouldn't be 2-6. He's the face of the Carolina franchise, and he needs to act like it. The Panthers fired the GM who drafted Newton, and not because he made a mistake but because they needed a scapegoat to satisfy unhappy fans. But they need a quarterback who wins to satisfy them, too, and Newton isn't there.
4. New Orleans' defense. When people tell you Bountygate has the Saints buried in the NFC South, they're partly right. But the Saints' defense has them there, too, because it's not just bad; it's historically bad, on pace to break the league record for most yards allowed. OK, so the Saints just held Philadelphia to 13 points, their best performance of the season ... only they didn't. Philadelphia held Philadelphia to 13 points, failing to produce more than two field goals in five Red Zone series in what has become a recurring theme. Give the Saints this: They're balanced. They're last vs. the run, 29th vs. the pass, last in yards allowed and tied for 28th in points allowed. They're also keeping the Saints down. Drew Brees has more touchdown passes than everyone but Aaron Rodgers, but so what? The Saints are constantly playing catch-up. Gregg Williams never looked so good.
5. Mario Williams and the Buffalo defense. Before the season began, Bills' GM Buddy Nix said it was time for the Bills to become "relevant" again, and I agree. Buffalo hadn't been to the playoffs since 1999, and the league needed the Bills back. And, it seemed, it would get its wish. Critics were compelled to admit that their offseason moves -- particularly the addition of Williams -- made them better and that maybe, just maybe, their season would extend into mid-January. Except it won't. Not if the Bills don't change, it won't, and that's an indictment of a defense that ranks 31st overall, 31st against the run and 31st in points allowed. The Bills signed Williams to the richest deal ever for a defensive player, but all that $100 million has gotten them is 4.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. Granted, it's not all on Williams, but he was supposed to be the guy who would fix a defense that last year allowed 27.1 points per game. Only he hasn't. The Bills are worse, allowing an average of 31 per now. Worse, they can't close the gap between them and New England. In fact, when the two first met this season Buffalo jumped to a 21-7 lead, then looked on as New England scored the next 35 en route to a 53-28 beatdown. Now, the Bills are 3-5 and tied with the Jets for last in the division. Looks like another long, cold winter in western New York.
Honorable Mention: Calvin Johnson. Yeah, he has a lot of catches for a lot of yards, but how many times has he scored? Once. A year ago he had nine touchdowns in his first five games. Now he's on schedule to finish with two for the season. There have been too many drops, not enough scores and one big Madden curse not to mention the guy.
FIVE BIGGEST SURPRISES
1. Indianapolis Colts. This is the feel-good story of the season, and if you don't believe me you weren't watching that post-game video with Chuck Pagano last weekend. Tell me it didn't make you an immediate fan of the recovering head coach or his football team. All I know is that the Colts entered this season one notch above an expansion franchise and now are tied for the third best record in the AFC. You heard me. If the playoffs were to begin tomorrow, the Colts would be one of the AFC's six teams. That's a credit to a lot of people, beginning with Pagano, interim coach Bruce Arians and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. I'm not surprised by the success Luck is having; he was the most prepared quarterback to enter the NFL since Peyton Manning in 1998. But I am surprised by the success this team is having. Luck has five wins in half a season; Manning had three in his entire rookie year. Coaches will tell you the takeaway/giveaway differential tells you everything you need to know about clubs, only it doesn't ... not here it doesn't. The Colts are a minus-10, yet somehow keeping winning. Surprising? No. Stunning.
2. Randall Cobb. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said that Cobb might turn out to be the best pick GM Ted Thompson made in his career, and that's a bold statement. It could also be true. Where Cobb once was a return specialist who took occasional turns at wide receiver, now he's the guy who does everything for Green Bay -- and good thing, too, with Greg Jennings sidelined. Cobb is the Packers' leading receiver, its leading touchdown maker and, frankly, its most valuable offensive player. I can't imagine where Green Bay would be without him and his 1,363 total yards. My guess is that Rodgers can't, either.
3. Adrian Peterson. When he tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee last December, no one was sure when he would return and what he would be like when he got back. Well, Peterson was cleared to practice midway through training camp, suited up for the season opener and has suddenly -- and surprisingly -- run to the top of the league's rushing charts. You can look it up. With last weekend's 182-yard effort vs. Seattle, he has 957 yards for the season, averages 5.7 a carry and is on target to finish with 1,701 -- the second highest total of his career. Someone cue Al Michaels: Do you believe in miracles? This was supposed to be his recovery year, which meant he'd be cut a wide margin for error. Only now he looks like the Adrian Peterson of four years ago, and look no farther when you wonder how and why the Vikings are 5-4.
4. Peyton Manning. I know, he's a dead-bolt cinch Hall of Famer, but I didn't know what we were getting when he returned. I mean, this isn't a 28-year-old coming off a knee surgery. This was a 36-year-old quarterback who hadn't played since 2010 and was coming off four neck procedures. People wondered about his arm strength. People wondered about his accuracy. Heck, people even wondered about the risk of serious injury, including paralysis. Manning wasn't one of them, and now we know why. The guy is basically the quarterback we saw when he last suited up for Indianapolis. OK, so maybe there are some things that aren't the same, but, hey, it happens. People age. Only Manning ages better than most. He not only is the NFL's leading quarterback; he has the Broncos on target to repeat in the AFC West and compete for a first-round playoff bye.
5. Russell Wilson. He wasn't supposed to be Seattle's starting quarterback. Matt Flynn was. But Wilson outran the competition in training camp, Flynn got hurt and the rest you know. What you might not know is that Wilson has as many victories (5) as Andrew Luck. Luck gets all the attention, and for good reason: He's everything we thought he would be. But Wilson is not. He's an undersized rookie who was supposed to be carrying clipboards for Flynn. Only he has Seattle in second in the NFC West, unbeaten at home and on schedule to make a run at a wild-card spot for the playoffs.
Honorable mention: Reggie Wayne. I was shocked when he didn't follow Peyton Manning to Denver. I was more surprised when he re-upped with the Colts, wondering A) what he was doing, and B) what they were doing, keeping a 33-year-old receiver whose numbers declined dramatically last year. Well, now we know. Wayne has been more than a mentor for young receivers and security blanket for Luck; he's a legitimate weapon, with almost as many catches through eight games (61) as he had all of last season (75).