Sports

Time for midseason NFL awards

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

1. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: I'm going with Brees because he's playing his position about as perfectly as it can be played on a team that is 7-0.

2. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: The defending MVP could easily win his fourth. He is completing 71.1 percent of his passes with 15 TDs and four INTs on a 7-0 team.

3. Brett Favre, QB, Vikings: Who wouldn't love to see a 40-year-old guy win his fourth MVP? Other than Packers fans, of course.

COACH OF THE YEAR

1. Josh McDaniels, Broncos: Despite last week's 30-7 loss to the Ravens, McDaniels is 6-1 despite inheriting a defensively-poor 8-8 team, trading away QB Jay Cutler and briefly suspending receiver Brandon Marshall.

2. Sean Payton, Saints: Payton is off to a 7-0 start after last year's 8-8 season. He's the brains behind the offense and he also put $250,000 of his pay toward hiring defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

3. Jim Caldwell, Colts: You can make a case for Vikings coach Brad Childress being in the top three or even top two. But Caldwell is one of only two rookie coaches to start 7-0.

DEFENSIVE MVP

1. Jared Allen, DE, Vikings: He leads the NFL with 10 1/2 sacks. He had 7 1/2 of them and a safety against the Packers. Even when he's not sacking the QB, he's usually disrupting an offense because he never stops being a pain in its rear.

2. Darren Sharper, S, Saints: Sharper probably will win this award. He is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, three of which he has returned for touchdowns.

3. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Broncos: Denver has made quite the turnaround defensively. They brought in several free agents, such as safety Brian Dawkins. But another reason is the play of Dumervil, who has 10 sacks and two forced fumbles.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Jarius Byrd, FS, Bills: A second-round draft pick, Byrd is tied with Sharper for the NFL lead in interceptions with seven. Byrd also has 16 passes defensed.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Percy Harvin, WR-KR, Vikings: There are some challengers, such as Colts WR Austin Collie and Bears WR-KR Johnny Knox, but Harvin has three TD catches, two kickoff returns for touchdowns and six catches of at least 20 yards.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: An elbow injury limited Palmer to four games during the Bengals' 4-11-1 season a year ago. He's back and the Bengals are 5-2 and tied for the lead in the AFC North.

BEST FREE-AGENT SIGNING

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings: Considering the Vikings might be 3-4 or 4-3 without Favre, who is fourth in passer rating (106.0) while completing 68 percent of his passes with 16 TDs and three INTs.

HOTTEST SEAT

1. Jim Zorn, coach, Redskins: Zorn was told he will coach the rest of the season. Something tells me Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will then fire him faster than the 10 minutes or so it took Zygi Wilf to fire Mike Tice after the Vikings' 2005 finale.

BIGGEST SURPRISES

1. Broncos start 6-1 under rookie coach McDaniels, a strong defense and QB Kyle Orton.

2. Bengals start 5-2, beat Steelers.

3. Saints start 7-0 after finishing 8-8 and last in the NFC South last year.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. Titans start 1-6 after posting a league-best 13-3 record a year ago.

2. Carolina is 3-4 after going 12-4 and earning the NFC's No. 2 seed in '08.

3. Despite having the most talent, San Diego trails Denver by two games in a weak AFC West.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THE SECOND HALF

5 Will the Bucs go 0-16?

Already 0-7, they have to play the Saints and Falcons twice apiece. That's 11 losses right there. They have three remaining opponents that have losing records (Dolphins, Panthers and Seahawks). But they play each of them on the road.

4 Will Favre's arm hold up?

It seems strange to keep saying this about a guy who has not missed a game since 1992. But he is 40, his arm did give out last year and it did topple the Jets' once-promising season.

3 Will the Saints and/or Colts go 16-0?

The 2007 Patriots are the only team to have a 16-0 regular season. The 2009 Patriots travel to New Orleans and Indianapolis during a three-week stretch this month. They are at the Colts for a Nov. 15 Sunday nighter and at the Saints for a Nov. 30 Monday nighter.

2 Will the Steelers defend their title?

They need to play better if they are going to win the AFC North and have a better chance to repeat. Starting Monday, the Steelers have a four-game stretch that could leave them 6-5 and desperate. They play at Denver, at home against a Bengals team they lost to, at Kansas City and at Baltimore.

1 Will Tony tease us again?

The Cowboys are looking good again. But hang on. It's still early considering quarterback Tony Romo's late-season failures in Big D. Romo can't be considered an elite QB until he wins a big game. He's 5-10 in December and January, including 0-2 in the playoffs.

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