There was a lot of hype — and money — tossed around at free agents this past offseason, with the likes of DT Albert Haynesworth, WR Terrell Owens and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh gathering their share of attention (and money). But with the season more than halfway over, several free agents (some big names, some not) have proved the most worthy of the investment for their new teams.
QB Brett Favre, Vikings
Though most were probably tired of following the Favre saga, whether he'd stay retired or come back (again), the future Hall of Famer proved he still has it. Of course, having RB Adrian Peterson helps. But Favre, 40, has been one of the league's best quarterbacks, completing 68 percent of his passes, boasting a quarterback rating of 106 and throwing 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions. And, most important, the Vikings are 7-1, and it's hard to believe they would be there without him.
S Darren Sharper, Saints
This signing went under the radar in the offseason, with Sharper trying to prove he still had something left in the tank. Mission accomplished. The 34-year-old has been one of the league's best defensive players (and surprises) this season, with seven interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), and has proved to be one of the unsung heroes of the Saints' 8-0 start. And he is well on pace to make his fifth Pro Bowl.
S Brian Dawkins, Broncos
Dawkins, 36, is arguably one of the best safeties to have ever played. Eagles coach Andy Reid said that himself. But when Dawkins left Philadelphia to sign a five-year, $17 million deal with Denver, nobody knew how much of an impact he would have. Turns out, it has been big. Though Dawkins' numbers (53 tackles, no interceptions) don't pop off the page, he has been the unquestioned leader for the Broncos, who boast the NFL's third-best defense and a 6-2 record.
Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez, left, made an interesting side trip during the team's bye week. He studied film from the first half of the season and wanted to correct what he had done wrong. So he went to his old high school, Mission Viejo High in Southern California, and had players there run routes. Sanchez even served as the Diablos' scout team quarterback, trying to mimic San Clemente High QB Chase Rettig (a Boston College commit). Apparently, it worked. Mission Viejo crushed San Clemente 55-7. Will Sanchez have similar success today against the Jaguars?
With a 300-yard performance and a win today against the Colts, Patriots QB Tom Brady will have 15 straight victories when passing for 300 yards, which would be one shy of tying Johnny Unitas (16) for the most consecutive victories with 300 passing yards or more.
Little guy plays big
Vikings rookie Percy Harvin, below, has flashed the speed and playmaking ability that made him a star with Florida. But what has equally impressed his coaches and teammates is his toughness, lowering his head and running up the middle on kickoffs. "As I said, he's not afraid to die," coach Brad Childress said.
"He's built like a running back," QB Brett Favre said of Harvin, who is 5-11, 185 pounds. "He plays like he's 6-5."
Veteran CB Ty Law was thrown right into the fire Monday night against the Steelers, playing 32 snaps just 48 hours after signing with the Broncos. And Law, a five-time Pro Bowl player, held his own, with S Brian Dawkins impressed with how he handled himself. "That is a tough, tough, tough position to be in. Give him props big time for being able to come in and do what he did as many snaps as he did in that game," Dawkins said.
Bold prediction of the week
Raiders CB Chris Johnson, right, told the Oakland Tribune that he thinks they can run the table after starting the season 2-6. "If you really want to look at it, you can go 8-0 and you might end up 10-6," Johnson said. "There's a possible way you can actually do it."
Nashville's Music Man
Titans RB Chris Johnson likely gets his share of attention in Nashville as the NFL's leading rusher. But Johnson had lunch last week with an even bigger celebrity, country singer Faith Hill. The two spent about 45 minutes together at the restaurant Swett's. Johnson couldn't remember how the meeting was arranged but said Hill asked a bunch of questions, and he gave her an autographed jersey. "She's a real big fan. I'm a fan of hers now, too," Johnson said.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo has been at his best during November the past three years. Since 2006, Romo has won 13 straight starts in that month, and with another victory today against the Packers, he can set the record for most consecutive wins in November since 1970.
Times wires, the Associated Press, SI.com, yahoo.com, the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review and the NFL contributed to this report.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
NFL WEEK 10
Patriots (6-2) at Colts (8-0)
In a battle of megastar quarterbacks, Tom Brady, right, will help hand Peyton Manning and the Colts their first loss.
Quote of the week
"He's one of the all-time greatest safeties. … He's awesome. There's no other way to say it; he's the best safety in the NFL, point blank, period."
Steelers S Ryan Clark on teammate and fellow S Troy Polamalu, right