Now that all NFL teams have completed at least half of their schedules, it is time to issue some props and some blasts. Feel free to chime in...as if you needed my blessing
Most Surprising Team: New York Giants
In what is arguably the most competitive division in the league, they are the most well-rounded in terms of both offense and defense. Yes, they got the extra "home" game versus the Saints (waah, waah Redskin fan...36-0 should be enough said) The Giants are still the class of the division. Eli Manning is about 2 years ahead of scheduled progress.
Honorable Mention: Atlanta Falcons
I realize that this is only mid-season, but the Falcons run the ball better than any team in the league and play better than average defense. Mike Vick doesn't hurt their chances either (if he could only pass from the pocket )
Most Disappointing Team: Green Bay Packers
Any team that you could pick for this award will immediately cry injuries. Part of the game folks. However, this team was built wrong from the start and has had fewer injuries than most. They should be winning their awful division by default. Although they have outscored their opponents on the year 168-159 and have a 1-7 record. Simply putrid at home.
Honorable Mention: New England, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings
All have lost key players (Harrison, Pennington, Culpepper) but should be more competitive in their respective watered-down divisions.
Biggest Upset: Week # 1 Denver @ Miami (+4.5) / Final: Miami 34-10
A solid Broncos team was never in this game. This week turned out to be an aberration for both teams--but it was a bad loss nonethless.
Honorable Mention: Week # 8 Tampa Bay @ San Fran (+10.5) / Final: SF 15-10
Gruden should have been fired on the spot for only scoring 10 points on a team that averages surrendering 31 per game. Without Cadillac Anderson, Tampa Bay seems extremely one dimensional...even to the Niners.
Rookie of the Year: Heath Miller, TE Pittsburgh Steelers
In year one, he has the look of Jeremy Shockey--but without the big market hype. Has immediately become the go to receiver in short yardage situations and has six TDs in limited action.
Honorable Mention: Odell Thurman, LB Cincinnati Bengals
To date, Thurman was the defensive steal of the draft. He is already showing instincts that only 10 year league veterans enjoy. Many Pro Bowls in his future.
Comeback Player of the Year: Steve Smith, WR Carolina Panthers
Last year's broken leg by Smith devastated the Panthers' season. After losing Musin Muhammad in the off season, things looked grim for the receiving corps. Smith is the main reason that Carolina is one of the top 2-3 teams in the NFC at his point.
Honorable Mention: Jake Plummer and Mark Brunell (QBs Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins)
I am still waiting on the other shoe to drop with both of these cats, but in the meantime you have to give them their due. Plummer was an interception machine last year, but has a 4:1 TD:INT ratio so far. Considering he was almost run out of Washington in the off-season, Brunell must be doing it with smoke and mirrors, near as I can tell. Maybe his problems last year actually WERE due to injuries.
Coach of the Year: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
This award should be given to him for his work over the last three years to be precise. He rebuilt a moribund franchise with class and professionalism. It took stones to eject Dillon and Spikes from town when you had unproven commodities as their replacements. If he beats Pittsburgh at Hines Field in Week # 13, they need to go ahead and put his statue up in front of PBS. This one should be in a landslide.
Honorable Mention: Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
A player mutiny almost cost him his job two years ago, and now he's the toast of the town. The offense looks to be scary good and getting better. No team in the NFC wants to visit the Meadowlands come playoff time. Just goes to show you that franchise QBs should always hold a clipboard for at least a year.
League MVP: LaDanian Tomlinson, RB San Diego Chargers
I'll probably take some local heat on this one, but he is carrying the team on his back. All purpose yards are the sexy stat in the NFL and he is the King. By the way, he has passed for as many touchdowns as the New York Jets. The Chargers are the best 5-4 team in league history and LT is the reason.
Honorable Mention: Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals
He is a rock star who knows how to read coverages. I won't yet say Montana in the same breath, but he is unflappable in tough situations. Always seems to make the right decisions with the ball and is the most accurate passer I have ever seen (some of his training camp tricks with the ball are ridiculous) Bengals fans need to go to bed every night and thank Akili Smith for being ranked slightly worse than Tim Couch. Both are now out of the league and the Bengals are a new team because of it.
Okay, now let me have it.