The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defied all odds and won a game. This feels a little bit like when I got to talk about the Lions finally winning, except in this case there is not a ton of silver lining. With the Lions I was able to say they were much improved to last year, but the Bucs are still horrible. They just caught a team with issues upfront in their own environment and were able to cash in. The Bucs still suck, but I will say this for the Bucs: Josh Freeman looks pretty legitimate. He probably will not end up better than Matthew Stafford, but he can definitely outplay Mark Sanchez down the road. He has a very strong arm and did far better than expected against a veteran Green Bay secondary. Well done Tampa Bay, you have spurned the Lions’ Den as it should henceforth be known.
The Saints and Colts both remained perfect despite doing their best not to. They both managed to avoid embarrassment against division foes but in very different ways. New Orleans came from behind for the second straight week and fought back against a Panthers team finally figuring out that it has to run the ball to have success. The Colts controlled the first half and held the Texans potent offense down but started giving up big yardage through the air in the second half. Somewhat predictably, both these teams have surprising defenses to thank for their undefeated starts. We all know about the Saints and Colts offenses, but the Saints defense has scored 7 times this year and the Colts have been stopping the run and keeping the score at a reasonable level. Without their defenses, both teams would have two losses without any problem.
Around this time of year, the NFL splits into five groups so let’s look at those groups.
The “We Suck” Group (Not in order)
Oakland, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, St. Louis, Washington.
The “Avoided Last Grouping by One Millionth of an Inch” Group
NYJ, Buffalo, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Carolina, Seattle, San Francisco.
The “Not Quite Contenders, But Could Beat Anyone on the Right Day” Group
NYG, Arizona, Chicago (almost in previous group), San Diego, Green Bay, Houston, Atlanta, Miami.
The “One Little Thing Away from Being Scary” Group
Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philadelphia.
A quick note on these guys. Baltimore needs to stop giving up gobs of yardage, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Philly all have to develop a running game but for different reasons. Pittsburgh needs to take some pressure off its offensive line and not make it pass block so much, which it does not do so well. Dallas and Philly need to resist the temptation to throw so much.
Cincinnati, Denver, New England, Minnesota Indianapolis, New Orleans.
Denver is probably closest to dropping one group of the contenders. They did not look great against Baltimore and struggled to muster any kind of offense against the Steelers. The others are pretty clearly deserving of the top.
The middle three groups are what I would call the rest of the pack. They will fight amongst each other and beat each other up in the scrum for the remaining playoff spots, but will not contend barring some serious changes. Philly, Dallas, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh could all move up, but I would not put money on it. Not surprisingly, the Contenders are all teams who have cleaned up in divisional play. They are a combined 16-1 in their division. Just because it is not college football does not mean small conferences/division games are irrelevant. Division record does not determine excellent teams, but the contenders always take care of the other teams in their division.
Let’s talk about some Awards.
If I had a MVP ballot, it would go as follows:
- Peyton Manning
- Drew Brees
- Cedric Benson
- Ben Roethlisberger
These guys have had undeniable impact on the success of their teams. I put Manning ahead of Brees because, at this point, his numbers are a little better and I have HUGE bias as a lifelong Colts fan. Sue me. Benson’s value is undeniable, though some props definitely go to the offensive line, but they never get awards. You ask why Favre isn’t on the list? Because I never want to talk about Favre ever again, he essentially purchased ESPN and made them run non-stop stories about him, except instead of having to buy ESPN, he got paid. I do not want to talk about him, let’s leave that to the robots on TV. Big Ben has had a quietly superb but will not receive anything higher than third place votes.
Offensive Player of the Year
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this just like a consolation prize if the MVP race is close? Draw your own conclusions from above text.
Defensive Player of the Year
- Darren Sharper
- Jared Allen
- Elvis Dumervil
- Sleeper Candidate #4
Sharper has been a beast this year and has been turning it into points, not just a change in possession. Of course Allen and Dumervil still have time to make hay, but they are not on Sharper’s level yet. Sleeper Candidate #4 is an intriguing guy with his late season surge into this discussion. He has really stepped it up in the second half of the year after flying under the radar for the first half. It is irrelevant who he really is, but this tag will apply to someone.
Rookie of the Year
- Percy Harvin
- Josh Freeman
- Mark Sanchez
- LeSean McCoy*
The asterisk has to do with Brian Westbrook’s continued health, because if he stays out, McCoy could jump to second or third. I am also putting quite a few eggs in the Josh Freeman basket as he impressed against a veteran secondary. Not many wins, but I expect some numbers. Matthew Stafford would have made it if he had been healthy, very high hopes about him in Detroit. Harvin wins it hands down though at this point in the year.
- Brian Cushing (LB- Hou)
- Louis Delmas (S- Det)
- Aaron Curry (LB- Sea)
- Jairus Byrd (S- Buf)
This has not been a fascinating year for rookies on this side of the ball, but thus far Cushing has been very impressive, as has Delmas, the second round, and third pick overall, of the Lions. Not a ton to say about them but they have exceeded expectations to be sure.
Comeback Player of the Year
- Cedric Benson
- Carson Palmer
- No one else is relevant in this discussion
Can we give the award to Cedric Benson already? He came back from sucking to be really a great back this year. The numbers lie sometimes, but not on this one. The Bengals are the comeback team of the year.
2010 Fantasy Monsters Who Were Sleepers or Lower Picks This Year
- Ray Rice (especially in PPR)
- Cedric Benson
- Miles Austin
- Joe Flacco
I will not go on too long about this, but these guys have been clutch for owners this year. You will not get them so late next year.
CLOWN OF THE WEEK: Sammy Sosa. He Michael Jacksoned himself. I don’t mean died, it is too soon to make those jokes, but he went white. Seriously? What are you thinking Sammy? Did the steroids addle your brain? You know that now you will have a harder time convincing Congress you don’t speak English…