It's time for the midseason report, and I'll be honest: I'm less certain of who winds up in Super Bowl XLIII than I was eight weeks ago ... but more certain than Danyelle Sargent.
|Clinton Portis: Churning toward an MVP season? (US Presswire)|
A legitimate question ... if it were posed before Walsh died last year.
There are a plenty of legitimate questions about the NFL this season, Danyelle, especially with Tom Brady sitting it out, and we're here to answer them for you. Only tell me this: What would Bill Walsh think of parity now?
Don't ask Mike Singletary. Please.
Clinton Portis, RB, Washington. He's working on a five-game streak of 100-yard games. He leads the league in rushing. He leads the league in first downs. He's among the league leaders in scoring. And his team keeps winning and winning and winning. What's not to like?
|Drew Brees is a man on a mission. (AP)|
3. Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona
Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee. There is nothing this guy hasn't done, including sack the quarterback. He's having a monster season, and maybe it's because he's in a contract drive, I don't know. What I do know is that the Titans would be toast without him plugging the middle.
Jeff Fisher, Tennessee. We all know he can coach, but I never thought he'd put together an unbeaten season with this roster. Credit Fisher for doing it the old fashioned way: His Titans are tough, physical and opportunistic. Hmmm, reminds me of a certain undefeated team this time a year ago.
2. Jim Zorn, Washington
3. Mike Smith, Atlanta
|Matt Ryan is a stable presence for Atlanta. (Getty Images)|
Jerod Mayo, LB, New England. He was the perfect fit for the Patriots, and credit them for making the right choice at the right spot. He leads the team in tackles, and where's the surprise? Mayo can cover the field, which is why the Patriots couldn't resist. Give him a couple of years, and he's a Pro Bowl regular.
Dick LeBeau, defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh. What is it about the Steelers that intimidates people? Uh-huh, LeBeau's defense. It's relentless, physical and impregnable == first against the pass, third against the run and first overall. The Steelers should win the AFC North partly because Ben Roethlisberger is one of the toughest quarterbacks ever built but mostly because opponents can't figure out LeBeau's defensive looks.
2. Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator, Tennessee
3. Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator, N.Y. Giants
Most surprising team
Washington Redskins : So they went to the playoffs last season. It was with Hall-of-Fame coach Joe Gibbs making the stretch run. I figured they had as much chance of returning as Joe the Plumber has of buying into Shaker Heights. But the Redskins not only are pushing for the top of the NFC East; they look like a playoff team waiting to happen, with all three of their remaining division games at home.
Most Disappointing Team
San Diego Chargers : I swear, I'm this close to giving up on these guys. One week up, two weeks down. Hey, here's an idea: How about trying to play defense, guys? I still like them to win the AFC West, largely because of a second-half schedule that features five home games and because it's Denver they have to catch. But if they don't find a pass rush between now and then they'll fade away fast.
Most surprising player
Jason Campbell, QB, Washington: Look at the quarterbacks in the NFC East, and tell me where would you put Campbell. No higher than fourth, right? Donovan McNabb? Tony Romo? Eli? Campbell was out of his league. Yet look what he's done: Won six of his last seven starts and not thrown an interception all season. Welcome to the club, Jason. I'm not sure I might not give him MVP consideration.
Most disappointing player
|New name or not, No. 85 has been a bust in '08. (Getty Images)|
Most improved player
Joey Porter, LB, Miami. You know what they say about walking the walk and talking the talk? Here is someone who does both. Porter put himself out there with some risky comments before the New England game, then backed them up with an astonishing performance. He leads the league in sacks, quotes and bravado, and, yeah, I like all of it.
Best free-agent pickup
|Signing Michael Turner was the right move. (Getty Images)|
2. Pennington, QB, Miami
3. Jeff Faine, C, Tampa Bay
The Wildcat Formation. Leave it to Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning to turn the league upside down with a formation we haven't seen since ... well, since Darren McFadden ran it in college last year. I'm for anything that's different, and Henning's idea was so unexpected it left New England's Bill Belichick ... well, defenseless.
2. Team suspensions of irresponsible players
3. Increased scoring
The quick hook of coaches. When was the last time three head coaches were fired by Halloween? I don't know, either, but I don't like it. Tom Coughlin was supposed to be in trouble early last year, and good thing the Giants didn't panic. I don't know, it just seems logical that if you believe in someone enough to trust him with your team in May you should leave him alone until January.
2. Staph infections
3. New York Titans' throwback uniforms
Matt Bryant kicking Tampa Bay to victory. I don't know how you overcome the loss of a child, but, unfortunately, Bryant had to find out. His three-month-old son died shortly before the Bucs played Green Bay. Don't ask me how Bryant managed to pull himself together, but he did. In fact, he kicked the game-winning field goal ... which was the easy part. What was difficult was explaining how he did it. Talk about courage.
2. Retiring Steve Young's jersey. At least the 49ers got that right.
3. Roger Goodell doing what Dallas could not: Sit down Pacman Jones.
Tom Brady's knee injury. I don't like seeing anyone hurt, but when it's one of the best quarterbacks in the game? No thanks. The NFL is a lot less interesting without Brady, and here's hoping there are no more complications with his rehabilitation. I don't miss the Patriots kicking everyone's keister, but I do miss Brady conducting Sunday clinics.
2. Ed Hochuli in Denver
3. The Oakland Raiders' handling of Lane Kiffin, and I include the Al Davis news conference brought to you by Oliver Stone.