Patriots' Brady tops the midseason award winners
November 3, 2007
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By Tom Torrisi PA SportsTicker Pro Football Editor
As the season hits its halfway point, it's time to hand out some midseason awards. Of course, most, if not all, are subject to change after Sunday's game of the decade between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
MVP: Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback. Numbers and statistics do not always tell the story (see one Alex Rodriguez formerly of New York Yankees fame) but there are some you simply cannot ignore. That Brady already has 30 touchdown passes and is on pace to throw 60 speaks for itself, but throw in the fact that he has just two interceptions for one of just two undefeated teams in the league and this falls into the landslide category. Sure, adding wide receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth have helped pump up Brady's numbers, but no one ever pointed to the glut of talent around Colts QB Peyton Manning as he was winning multiple MVPs. Runners-up: Dallas QB Tony Romo and a very underrated Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger.
Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers. Huh? This is probably the toughest category to handicap with several deserving candidates, but McCarthy has a team without any semblance of a running game sitting at 6-1 and atop the NFC North. Remember, one of the reasons many thought he was hired was to appease quarterback Brett Favre. Remarkably, McCarthy's greatest impact may be in having Favre cut down the foolish interceptions (47 the past two season) that have tainted his otherwise brilliant career. Runners-up: Cleveland's Romeo Crennel, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher and the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin.
Defensive Player of the Year: Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants defensive end: Sure, six of his eight sacks came in one game, but the turnaround in New York's defense has been stunning. After allowing 80 points in season-opening losses to Dallas and Green Bay, the G-Men have ripped off six straight victories. During that six-game span, they have allowed 79 points, and much of it is due to the relentless pass rush led by Umenyiora. Runners-up: Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts safety, and Jered Allen, Kansas City Chiefs end.
Rookie of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings running back. He is the offense for the Vikings, even if it took coach Brad Childress half a season to make him the full-time starter. Peterson leads the league in rushing (740 yards) and yards per carry (5.8) and is on pace for a 1,700-yard season - if Childress doesn't get his star rookie killed returning kickoffs. Runners-up: None, because Peterson is in his own class. He's so good that there's another running back in Chicago named after him.
Biggest surprises: (NFC) The aforementioned Packers, who are tied with the Cowboys for the best record in the NFC. The Giants have overcome the loss of all-everything, never-shut-up running back Tiki Barber, while the Detroit Lions are halfway to QB Jon Kitna's stating goal of winning 10 games.
Biggest surprises (AFC): After a season-opening 34-7 beating in which he changed quarterbacks in the second quarter, Browns coach Crennel was the leader in the clubhouse as first to be fired. Instead, Cleveland has regrouped to win four of its next six and quarterback Derek Anderson has thrown 17 TD passes - second only to Brady in the league. Meanwhile, Tennessee has used a sturdy defense and grind-it-out running game to amass a 5-2 record and overcome what has been a very ordinary sophomore season from quarterback Vince Young. Plus, the Titans were a field goal away from handing the Colts what would have been their only loss in Week Two.
Biggest Disappointments (NFC): No shortage of candidates, headed by the winless St. Louis Rams and spiraling Chicago Bears. Yes, the Rams have been plagued by injuries, but they can't score and cannot prevent other teams from doing so. Da Bears finally "fixed" one problem by benching beleaguered QB Rex Grossman, which has helped focus on a bigger issue for the defending NFC champs - a tailspin by their defense that started in the waning stages of 2006. The New Orleans Saints are close behind but three straight victories have earned them a temporary reprieve.
Biggest Disappointments (AFC): Another jumbled mess headed by the woeful New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals. The only thing the Jets managed to catch this season was Bill Belichick videotaping their defensive signals, and from there it's been steadily downhill. Chad Pennington is out as QB, Thomas Jones has not provided a boost to the running game and the defense has adopted a bend-and-break mentality. For the Bengals, defense always has been an issue, but the ineffectiveness of an offense that features some of the top talent at the skill positions in the game is inexplicable.
Projected playoff teams (NFC): Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Seattle, New York Giants, Detroit Lions.
Projected playoff teams (AFC): New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Kansas City, Jacksonville.
MORE ON PATRIOTS-COLTS: Are there enough intriguing subplots for Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Colts, the league's only unbeaten teams.
The game features the league's best two quarterbacks in Brady vs. Manning, as well as arguably the two best coaches in Belichick and Tony Dungy.
The duel between second-year running backs Laurence Maroney and Joseph Addai should be prominent as each team looks to get the inside track for the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Where the game may be decided, however, is the matchup between emerging Colts tight end Dallas Clark and veteran Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison.
Clark, who already has 32 receptions and six touchdown catches through seven games, is a big reason why Indy has beaten New England three straight times.
In last season's regular-season meeting, Clark had just two catches for 42 yards, but one was a 35-yard gain that set up the final touchdown for the Colts in a 27-20 victory. Ironically, Indy improved to 8-0 with that win, a record it can match by beating the Patriots on Sunday.
Then in the AFC title game, Clark hauled in six receptions for 142 yards, including huge gains of 25 yards and 52 yards down the middle of the field, as the Colts erased a 21-6 halftime deficit en route to a 38-34 win.
The long passes to Clark came in an area normally patrolled by Harrison, who missed almost all of the past three games with injuries.
Now healthy and back after serving a four-game suspension this season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, Harrison's ability - or inability - to neutralize Clark could go a long way in deciding the outcome.
WHAT'S IN A NAME: It's not a good season to have the surname Henry.
Wide receiver Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals is serving an eight-game suspension for repeated off-field incidents and it's no coincidence the team's offense has struggled without him.
His namesake, rookie running back Chris Henry of the Tennessee Titans, reportedly faces a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, although it is not believed to be performance-enhancing.
Tennessee's Henry was expected to be notified by the league on Saturday and has five days to appeal. The timing couldn't be worse for the rookie, who has scored a touchdown in each of the past two weeks while spelling starter LenDale White.
Finally, Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry reportedly has a scheduled date of November 16 to appeal a possible suspension for failing a drug test. Travis Henry sat out last week's game with a rib injury but is expected to be ready for Sunday's contest in Detroit.
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