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NFL news and notes, Week 9

State of the league at midseason

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We're halfway through the NFL season, so time for our midseason report.

Most surprising team

It seems bizarre to consider a team that is 3-4 as a surprise, but we were tempted to put Miami in this slot. The Dolphins won one game last season and this season already have victories over New England and San Diego. With parity in the NFL, it's surprising when any team is undefeated at the end of October. But who would have thought the Titans would lose QB Vince Young almost from the start and be 7-0 at this point with journeyman Kerry Collins at quarterback? So we go with the Titans.

Coach of the year

Plenty of good candidates out there, such as Washington's Jim Zorn, Buffalo's Dick Jauron, Miami's Tony Sparano and, yes, even Bill Belichick, who has the Patriots at 5-2 without QB Tom Brady. But we're starting to think Tennessee's Jeff Fisher just might be the best coach in all of football. Do you realize he is in his 15th season with the Titans? In fact, he goes back to the Houston days. And he is 122-99 for his career, including an improbable 7-0 this season.

Other surprising teams

The Redskins are 6-2 mostly because QB Jason Campbell, below, has not thrown an interception this season. The Bills (5-2) got off to their best start since 1992. And though they have faded, the Broncos are still 4-3 and lead the AFC West.

Most disappointing team

We knew the Colts were starting to slip a little, but not only are they 3-4, they easily could be 1-6 had it not been for a couple of big-time, fourth-quarter comebacks. They were blown out last week by the Titans, and they likely will not win the AFC South for the first time since 2002.

Other disappointing teams

Some thought Jacksonville was a Super Bowl contender, but the Jaguars sit right with the Colts at 3-4. Cleveland and Minnesota were supposed to be better than 3-4. And although Philadelphia (4-3) and Dallas (5-3) have winning records, both teams have been up and down.

Most surprising player

Quite frankly, we had forgotten Kerry Collins, above, even played in the league. We were reminded when Titans QB Vince Young went down and wigged out after one game. Collins isn't exactly winning games (he has only three touchdown passes), but he isn't losing games, either (he has only three interceptions).

Most disappointing player

He hasn't been a bust, but QB Brett Favre, above, hasn't turned the Jets into Super Bowl contenders. He is having an okay season (15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), and, thus, the Jets are having an okay season at 4-3. Then comes word that he might have shared old Packers secrets with the Lions. Is anyone truly happy this guy unretired?

Offensive MVP

Actually, we're going to go with co-MVPs from the same team. Washington QB Jason Campbell and RB Clinton Portis, above, are playing the kind of football that not only has helped the Redskins build a 6-2 record, but it's the kind that wins in the playoffs. Campbell has been error-free while compiling the fifth-best quarterback rating in the NFL. Meanwhile, Portis averages 118 yards a game and, barring injury, will win the rushing title … easily.

Defensive MVP

Because we went with co-MVPs on offense, we will do the same on defense. We have 11 co-MVPs — the entire Titans defense. Keith Bulluck, above, and the Titans are allowing fewer than two touchdowns a game (12.4 points). Only one team has scored more than 17 in a game against Tennessee, and that was last week when the Colts scored a late meaningless touchdown to finish with 21.

Rookie of the year

Not only has QB Matt Ryan, above, made Falcons fans forget about the past and Michael Vick, but he has them thinking about the future and the playoffs. Maybe the postseason is a stretch, but Ryan is playing better than rookies are supposed to play at that position. He has more touchdown passes (seven) than interceptions (five), and this is the big number: The Falcons are 4-3.

Five biggest stories of the first half

1. Patriots lose superstar QB Tom Brady for the season with a left knee injury.

2. Matt Millen finally gets canned as Lions president.

3. Three coaches get pink slips — Oakland's Lane Kiffin, San Francisco's Mike Nolan and St. Louis' Scott Linehan.

4. Saints QB Drew Brees is on pace to break Dan Marino's 1984 single-season passing yards record of 5,084.

5. Anything and everything that happens with the Cowboys.

Five stories to watch in the second half

1. For how long will the Titans remain undefeated?

2. For how long will the Lions remain winless?

3. Can the Cowboys clean up their mess and get back on track?

4. Can struggling teams such as the Colts, Jaguars, Chargers and Eagles rally to make the playoffs?

5. Who will establish themselves as the Super Bowl favorite? (Bonus answer: We say the defending champion Giants have already done that.)

Playoff predictions

AFC East: Patriots

AFC South: Titans

AFC North: Steelers

AFC West: Chargers

Wild-card teams: Bills, Jaguars

NFC East: Giants

NFC South: Bucs

NFC North: Packers

NFC West: Cardinals

Wild-card teams: Redskins, Cowboys

Super scenario

Our pick, as of right now, of which two teams will be playing in Super Bow XLIII on Feb. 1 in Tampa.

Titans vs. Giants

The Titans get another test today by hosting the Packers, but we think they will pass it. Meanwhile, how impressive did the Giants look beating up on the Steelers last week in Pittsburgh?

NFL news and notes, Week 9 11/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 9:36pm]

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