SURPRISE TEAM [NFC]: Chicago Bears. This is a team that came into the season with a rookie QB [Kyle Orton] and their project starting RB [Cedric Benson] holding out most of camp. We all knew they had a pretty tough defense...but the offense, though not stunning, is effective. Who knew they'd be 9-3 at this point in the season??
SURPRISE TEAM [AFC]: Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, we figured they'd make a playoff run...but this team sits atop the AFC North by 2 games and are fighting for a first round bye. Not shabby for a team that just secured their first winning season in 15 years. At 9-3...their only losses are to the Colts [12-0], Jaguars [9-3] and Steelers [7-5].
DISAPPOINTING TEAM [NFC]: Philadelphia Eagles. Duh. Between the Owens soap opera and McNabb's injury...this team has been doomed. And this was a team that many, many, many people pegged for the Super Bowl even with all the crap going on.
DISAPPOINTING TEAM [AFC]: New York Jets. Sure, Pennington's injury hurts them....but he's been hurt before and they never stunk this badly. This was a team that some felt would knock down the Patriots' AFC East dynasty and had a shot to be in the Super Bowl.
MOST VALUABLE QUARTERBACK [NFC]: Mark Brunell, Redskins. You may think this is a homer pick...but it isn't. Sure, I can vote for Hasselbeck, Bulger or Vick for this spot....but the Redskins's stock has moved as Brunell has played. When the Skins were 5-3, Brunell was playing as well as any QB in the conference. He started to sink a bit...as did the Skins.
MOST VALUABLE QUARTERBACK [AFC]: Peyton Manning, Colts. Sure, Carson Palmer has had one great season....even more remarkable when you figure that this in only his 2nd year starting. But what does it mean when you have a "down year" yet still lead the NFL in QB rating, toss 25 TDs and only 8 picks for a shade under 3,000 yards? And, again, we still have 25% of the season to play.
MOST VALUABLE RUNNING BACK [NFC]: Shaun Alexander, Seahawks. Hands down. He's going for Priest Holmes' single season TD record and is averaging over 115 yards per game rushing. Maybe he'll get that contract??
MOST VALUABLE RUNNING BACK [AFC]: Edgerrin James, Colts. They tried to shut Manning down early this season, so James got his. He is averaging 112 rushing yards per game [only Tiki Barber and Alexander has even cracked 100]. His TD total would be more if they didn't take him out on goal line possessions.
MOST VALUABLE RECEIVER [NFC]: Steve Smith, Panthers. He's had a ho-hum second half...yet still leads the NFL in receptions, yards and receiving TDs. And he's a big reason why the Panthers are currently atop the NFC South.
MOST VALUABLE RECEIVER [AFC]: Chad Johnson, Bengals. Has another receiver in the AFC mattered?? He has nearly 300 more receiving yards than anyone else in the AFC [Antonio Gates is 2nd]....and is the focal point of all defenses. Not just that, but his endzone celebrations and his quotes to the media have him front and center.
GREATEST STAT: The Arizona Cardinals have the #1 passing offense....yet are no where near getting into the playoffs. The Chicago Bears have the #32 ranked passing offense, and are currently the NFC's #2 seed. I guess you need to get a running back, Denny Green!
More to come....