There’s a lot of football left to go, and a lot more struggle to be had this season in the NFL. The Colts’ are still in full limp mode. Monday Night Football isn’t getting any better (the upcoming Rams/Seahawks tilt still looms) and there are still at least 3,000,000 more bad tasting Tim Tebow jokes to come still on Twitter. Luckily, there’s a lot more GREAT to the season than
Tebow God awful to go.
There have been some classic performances this year, and some players have defined everything that is great about real (and fantasy) football this year. Here’s CSP’s take on who’s been the biggest bosses of all the hogs so far in ’11 around the NFL.
Remember: this isn’t a list of who’s the MOST TALENTED or BEST PLAYER (I covered that already a few months ago). Rather this is who’s having the biggest and best impact on the NFL this year.
Quarterback – Aaron Rodgers: The numbers speak for themselves (2,619 yards, 24 touchdowns to 3 only 3 picks and probably like 3 hostages rescued from burning buildings too…yeah, it’s been that kind of year), but it’s the style that’s the loudest. Staying undefeated for half a season is no easy task, especially with an often suspect offensive line and no running game to speak of, outside of himself. Still, Rodgers has taken his game to yet another level just a year after taking his team to the summit of the sport. And barely looks like he’s breaking a sweating doing it.
Running Back – Matt Forte, Frank Gore: These two are carrying their entire teams on their shoulders. Forte often is the Chicago Bears’ offense all by himself: he’s over 1,200 total yards already and leads the team in both rushing and receiving yards. Gore has found his health and has pounded the 49ers to the most surprising start in the league. He’s ripping up defenses for over nearly five yards a run.
Fullback – Lawrence Vickers: Who said Space City only attacked through the air? With Vickers leading the charge this year, the Texans are second in the league in rushing and have two runners in the top 10 yards.
Wide Receiver – Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith: It feels like Megatron has a couple seasons worth of touchdowns already. In a year where he’s finally gotten a consistent quarterback and some consistent health of his own, he’s become the ultimate weapon at receiver and has resurrected the league’s deadest franchise as well. Cam Newton is getting a lot of the buzz, but it’s Steve Smith who’s awakening is the most eye opening, he’s nearly at 1,000 yards already and is averaging 20 yards a catch.
Tight End – Jimmy Graham: The latest hooper turned receiver has become the league’s most productive tight end and Drew Brees favorite target early in the year. If you’re trying to make a name for yourself, that’s a good thing to be.
Offensive Line – Kareem McKenzie, Joe Thomas, Nick Mangold, Logan Mankins, Josh Sitton: Let’s make this quick and to the point:
McKenzie – Eli Manning is delivering comeback wins like John Elway because he can stay on his feet for a change.
Thomas – It’s the AFC North and Colt McCoy is still alive.
Mangold – The Jets line fell apart when he was out, but when he came back even Mark Sanchez has been slander proof mostly. Major accomplishment.
Mankins – There’s a reason why Tom Brady still chills at the front of the pocket like he’s at the crib kicked back in his Uggs; and its Mankins.
Sitton – Same thing here for Rodgers has with the Brady/Mankins team. Only Rodgers only sits back and chills in the most respectable of facial hair arrangements. No furry shoes.
Kicker – Dan Bailey: Even saying the word kicker to a Cowboys fan will make them shake their head in frustration, but this year’s go around has been everything they have asked for forever now. Bailey has nailed all but one kick on the year, including eight from 40 yards and back.
Defensive End – Jared Allen, Jason Babin: One is on the pace to make a push for the single season sack record and the other has been one of the few non-disappointments on a team that’s defined it so far this year. The first honor goes to Allen, who’s 12.5 sacks have him well within shouting range of Mike Strahan’s 23.5 record. Babin has been constant trouble for the Eagles in a good way, has his 9.5 sacks have been a strong point of a weak defense.
Defensive Tackle – Justin Smith, Ndamukong Suh: Smith may be the most versatile defensive lineman in the game, and is a brutal anchor to the start of an impressive Niners defense. Suh gets a lot of headlines for mauling opponents so badly that Roger Goodell feels like he needs to address it via his office, but in the CHEAP SEATS we consider that to be an admirable thing.
Linebackers – DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman: By week 15, Ware and Jared Allen could be trading off holding the season sacks record quarter by quarter. Suggs could get the nod just for shouting out “Ball So Hard University” on Sunday Night Football, but he’s having one of the best careers of his career, so he makes it for that too. It’s no secret that Willis is the best on the inside in the game, but Bowman has come of age and given the Niners yet another sideline-to-sideline rocket in the middle.
Cornerbacks – Darrelle Revis, Johnathan Joseph: For some reason, quarterbacks have started to skip rocks on the beach of Revis Island this year…too which the owner of those parts has replied to in a fashion that’s included two pick sixes already. Don’t act unfamiliar. As for Joseph, he may not be the popular pick, but the Texans secondary that hemorrhaged yards last year has entered the top 10 in the league in least yards surrendered since he joined the crew. That’s no coincidence.
Safety – Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu: Do they need introductions? No. Just know that nothing has changed.
Punter – Shane Lechler: There’s arguably been nobody that’s been better at what he does compared to the pack than Lechler has been. It’s just that he’s a punter, so it doesn’t get the same run. Forget that, he’s the best, and is still averaging over 50 yards a chance with amazing precision this year.
Returners – Devin Hester, Patrick Peterson: Maybe they’ll learn this time around. Peterson should be avoided at all costs (a lesson the Rams learned 99 yards later on his game winning return). Somehow, the lesson still hasn’t been learned about how there’s nothing with just kicking it out of bounds against Hester, who has another two returns for scores this year. Five years later and they still don’t get it. Let’s see if it plays like that for Patrick.
If I’m not here, I’m over on Twitter (and if you look at the left hand side of the screen even when you’re here, I’m on Twitter), so follow me at @CheapSeatFan.