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  • Jackson contender for most invaluable player

    There typically is no more heated debate -- in any sport -- as to who is the Most Valuable Player. Not just because there are usually at least a half dozen deserving candidates, but also because of this argument: Is he or she the best player in the league or is he or she the most valuable to his or her team?

    After 10 games, New Orleans and Indianapolis are the only undefeated teams. There is no doubt that Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning would be front-runners for the MVP based on both criteria. They are toying with defenses with such ease, it's mind-blowing. If you took either off his respective team, New Orleans and Indianapolis would be in trouble.

    You could make that argument for most quarterbacks on most teams, but when you really break things down, losing Manning and/or Brees would probably prove more catastrophic than Minnesota not having Brett Favre (it did win the NFC North without him last season) or New England losing Tom Brady (the Patriots won 11 games with Matt Cassel taking snaps in 2008).

    I'd probably hand the trophy to Brees if the season ended today, just because he is equal parts spirit, leader and productive player for a team that's arguably the best in the league. Guys feed off of him like no other quarterback -- maybe even player -- in the league.

    By the end of the season, Brady, Adrian Peterson, Favre, Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer will be in the MVP argument with Brees and Manning.

    They'll also be in the argument for MIP -- Most Invaluable Player. That list, however, is much longer, and perhaps more interesting.

    It's a list that includes players who are instrumental to what their teams do. Their teams are what they are because of the heavy lifting these guys have done.

    Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
    There is a good shot he could get snubbed from the Pro Bowl again, as crazy as that sounds, but Rivers is the Chargers' heart and soul and their greatest weapon. He's completed 203 of 321 passes for 2,621 yards, 17 touchdowns with six interceptions. He is tough, becoming clutch, and seems to have matured. San Diego has seized the lead in the AFC West and it should win the division title again, in large part because of its quarterback.

    Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis
    Has anybody noticed that Indy's defense has allowed the fewest points in the NFL (15.7 per game)? That has a lot to do with this high-motored pass rusher who has 9.5 sacks. There are only a handful of defensive linemen in the NFL who occupy a significant amount of the opponent's game plans each week and Freeney is one of them. No slight to Colts DE Robert Mathis, one of the most underappreciated players in the league, but seriously, do the Colts lead the NFL in scoring defense without Freeney?

    Jared Allen, DE, Vikings
    Allen, along with Freeney, might be the hardest-working defender in the league. Neither take a play off. Allen is not only a great pass rusher (second in the NFL with 10.5 sacks), but he's also a stud against the run. His energy is ridiculous. On the rare occasion an opposing player breaks off a run downfield, odds are you'll see No. 69 chasing him. By the end of the season, a serious argument might be made for Allen being the best player in the NFL.

    Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
    While Tennessee might still be a ways away from seriously garnering playoff consideration, Johnson is the guy who could get them there. The second-year speedster leads the NFL with 1,242 rushing yards (211 ahead of the Rams' Steven Jackson), eclipsing his rookie season total (1,228) with six games still left. Even more eye-popping is his 6.2 yards per carry. He also has 30 receptions for 262 yards. There isn't a bigger offensive threat with the ball in his hands, and the Titans are attempting to ride him to the postseason.

    Darren Sharper, S, New Orleans
    An unwanted free agent in the offseason, Sharper has once again shown his value. Production-wise, he is magic. Seven picks, three returned for touchdowns; 40 tackles, and a half sack. He also has re-invigorated a defense that had been the Saints' Achilles' heel. Sharper has been the Brees of the defense, making other players better, including standout MLB Jonathan Vilma.

    Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
    Did someone say decoy? Since MJD demanded the ball, he has delivered behind an offensive line that's taken some time to come together. Pocket Hercules is 74 yards rushing from his first 1,000-yard season, and his 13 touchdowns lead the league. Winners of three straight, the Jaguars are on track to make the playoffs, thanks to their MIP.

    Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
    He is rarely mentioned among the best quarterbacks in the league because he hasn't been asked to win games. He drove some crazy by hanging on to the ball too long, causing unneeded sacks. This season, though, the two-time Super Bowl champ is flat-out balling. Pittsburgh's offense runs through Big Ben, who has completed 69 percent of his passes with an 8.3-yard average -- second only to Brees.

    Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
    Wayne has not only shown everyone what a No. 1 receiver is (Roy Williams, please take note), but he's done it with his No. 2 receiver being a tight end (Dallas Clark) and a group of other wideouts most of us would need a GPS to locate. Wayne (76 catches, 968 yards, eight touchdowns) is clutch, routinely makes the difficult grabs in traffic, and leads the NFL with 15 catches of 20 or more yards.

    Randy Moss, WR, Patriots
    Moss is back to his usual self, tormenting defenses with the deep ball. He ranks second in the league in receiving yards (925), touchdown catches (8), and plays of 20 or more yards (14). And 45 of his 63 receptions have gone for first downs. As good as he's been, the 32-year-old Moss will have ample opportunity to show he's not washed up as New England closes out the final six weeks with four teams vying to get into the postseason.

    Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
    Jackson won't get any consideration for MVP because the Rams are so bad. You also could make the case that if he went down, his team wouldn't be any worse. Still, how many players -- especially running backs who take indescribable weekly poundings -- have put it out there like Jackson has? He is all St. Louis has, every opponent knows it, yet he still has 1,031 rushing yards and 1,262 total yards from scrimmage.

    Steve Wyche

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    by eldfan
    By Nate Davis, USA TODAY
    Who were the NFL's prime performers from the 2010 season? USA TODAY's Nate Davis reviews the team MVPs for all 32 clubs (based on regular-season performance only):

    Arizona Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald. Somehow he managed to reel in 90 catches for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns while toiling on an abysmal offense that never remotely recovered from the offseason retirement of QB Kurt Warner and didn't have WR Anquan Boldin to occasionally draw coverage away from Fitzgerald. And in a league pocked with chirpy wideouts, Fitzgerald never groused while playing with scattershot QB Derek Anderson and two rookie signal-callers.

    Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White. With his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season, White is earning widespread recognition as one of the game's elite wideouts. He topped the NFL with a career-high 115 receptions and paced the NFC with 1,389 yards. And who can forget his game-saving strip of San Francisco ***** CB Nate Clements after he picked off Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the waning minutes of Atlanta's Week 4 win? Ryan subsequently drove Atlanta to a game-winning field goal.

    Baltimore Ravens: LB Ray Lewis. Who else? His bio says he's 35, but the 15-year veteran never seems to age much, which is why he's been a Pro Bowler a dozen times. Lewis finished sixth league-wide with 139 tackles, his highest total since 2004. He also had a pair of forced fumbles, a couple of sacks and two interceptions. But Lewis has never been a man to be measured by numbers, and the emotional fuel he continues to provide his team was a vital component in its 12-win campaign.

    Buffalo Bills: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. His ascendance to the starter's chair in Week 3 helped Buffalo become a more competitive football team, winning four of Fitzpatrick's final seven starts. Before that resurgence, Buffalo lost three consecutive games by three points each to the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears— all playoff teams. Fitzpatrick saw his streak of 15 consecutive games with a touchdown snapped in Week 16, leaving him three shy of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly's franchise record. The former Harvard signal-caller was also the first Buffalo passer to throw for 3,000 yards since J.P. Losman in 2006 and the first to reach 20 touchdown passes since Drew Bledsoe in 2004.

    Carolina Panthers: DE Charles Johnson. Maybe he won't make Carolina fans forget long-gone Julius Peppers, but Johnson stepped up with 11.5 sacks — tied for seventh in the NFL — while filling the breach. Peppers produced eight in his first season with the Chicago Bears, though at a much loftier price tag than Johnson. The pressure Johnson provided helped the Panthers finish 11th in pass defense, a small positive for a team that had little to smile about in a 2-14 debacle of a season.

    Chicago Bears: DE Julius Peppers. Chicago's $92 million man proved worthy of the...
    -01-26-2011, 08:33 AM
  • Rambos
    Defense dominates '08 free-agent class
    by Rambos
    It's never too early to start thinking about next year, and next year is when you can start thinking of retooling your defense through free agency.

    Asante Samuel, 27, would be a catch for any team looking for secondary help. (Getty Images)
    Though some NFL talent scouts label the upcoming free-agent class as nothing more than ordinary, there is extraordinary talent that might be available for the right price.

    And most of it is on defense, where you can find Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth and Chicago's Lance Briggs, as well as Jared Allen of Kansas City, Seattle's Marcus Trufant, Indy's Bob Sanders and New England's Asante Samuel.

    If those names sound familiar, they should: All were named this week to the Pro Bowl rosters. And all stand to cash in on their achievements -- if, that is, they're not designated as their team's franchise players first.

    Samuel and Briggs probably won't be. We already know that. But others aren't so certain, which means two months from now you might find some of these names missing from the Help: Wanted lines.

    In fact, you can count on it.

    Nevertheless, let's take a look at what might be ahead -- with a list of 10 of my favorite free-agents-to-be, in no particular order. Could we have a drum roll, please?

    Asante Samuel, cornerback, New England: When the Patriots signed him to a one-year deal they included a provision that makes it unlikely they would protect him as their franchise player again. OK, then, that means one of two things happens: Either he gains a whopping extension with the Patriots, or he takes the money and runs. A year ago he had a league-best 10 interceptions; this season he has six, tied for second in the AFC. The point is: He's made a name for himself by making plays and shutting down receivers. Cornerbacks are quick to fly off the shelves in free agency, and they usually command top dollar. Samuel, who turns 27 next month, is the best free agent at his position and won't last long -- if, in fact, he makes it to the open market.

    Bob Sanders, safety, Indianapolis: When the Colts suddenly stopped opposing rushing attacks in last year's playoffs, everyone said the difference was Sanders. And it was hard to argue after watching him chop down opposing backs. The guy is a fierce hitter with better-than-average coverage skills. That makes him an attractive catch for someone in free agency, but don't bet the house that he makes it to the market. The Colts don't let valued players walk, and Sanders is one of the two most important members of an improved defense. OK, so the Colts turned out running back Edgerrin James. They had a backup plan then, and it went something like this: Joseph Addai. Thank you very much. But without Sanders, the Indianapolis run defense is back to where it was the middle of last season -- and that is not good. Look for the Colts to keep him...
    -01-01-2008, 10:38 AM
  • RamsFan4ever
    Top 50 players: Fleeting moments of glory... 3 Rams
    by RamsFan4ever

    May 30, 2006
    By Pete Prisco
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Pete your opinion!

    The NFL is a cruel business for its players. I've always believed that, which is why players should enjoy it while they can. It goes so fast, their time in the spotlight limited, the big-money years coming and going, replaced by the reality that it's over.

    That becomes even more evident to me each summer when I sit down to do the CBS list of the Top 50 players in the league, which is something I've been doing the past six years.

    Offseason knee surgery isn't expected to slow down Carson Palmer much. (Getty Images)
    It's amazing to see the change from one year to the next. Players rise, players fall. Age impacts some, their spot taken by somebody with the vigor of youth. The injured get discarded like a worn-out pair of socks, their perch among the game's elite no longer in their grasp.

    Two years ago, the No. 3 player on our list was Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair. The No. 4 player was Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes.

    Want to know where they are on this year's top 50? Scan it all you want. You won't find them.

    Injuries and age have sent those two falling like Tom Cruise's popularity. McNair, who might play for the Baltimore Ravens this year, can still get it done, but he isn't as good as he was in 2004, when he was coming off a co-MVP season.

    In 2003, Holmes ran for 1,420 yards and scored 27 touchdowns, earning him the high ranking in our 2004 Top 50. Since then, he has played in a total of 15 games because of injuries and has rushed for 1,343 yards the past two seasons. There's talk he might be forced to retire because of a neck injury.

    That's so cruel. That's the NFL.

    The flip side is the emergence of young stars, players who have found their way into the top 10, a guy like Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

    When we did the rankings in June 2004, Palmer was coming off a rookie season in which he didn't take one snap. There was no way he could be ranked anywhere close to the top 50.

    Two years later, he's the fifth-ranked player in the league, despite suffering a serious knee injury last January.

    That's how quickly thinks change.

    One thing that hasn't changed is the top-rated player. For the third consecutive year, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning tops the list. Manning had another outstanding season in 2005, leading the Colts to best record in the league before they choked away their chance to win a Super Bowl.

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  • RamsFan16
    Team Postion Rankings
    by RamsFan16
    Team DL rankings: Miami fourth
    Michael Harmon /
    Posted: 4 hours ago

    My off-season fantasy caravan rolls on.

    This week, I'm stepping across the line of scrimmage and giving further inspection to the defensive units. Offensive players are scrutinized with every throw, run and passing route completed. It's high time that the individual components of defenses get their just due.

    Today, I'm examining the defensive lines of each NFL team. In addition to the straight personnel, I'm also evaluating the fantasy contributions we can expect heading into 2006. For example, the Browns and Broncos slide in this form of evaluation. While both are successful at cutting down on total points allowed, their overall contribution in other defensive categories were lacking.

    The defending NFC champions rise to the head of the class. With a ballhawking defense and an offense that will apply pressure of its own, the Seattle Seahawks lead my list of defensive linemen.

    1. Seattle Seahawks
    The Seahawks led the NFL with 50 sacks in 2005. Bryce Fisher and Rocky Bernard combined for 17.5 of those sacks and accounted for 76 tackles. Grant Wistrom provided solid pressure off the other end with 52 tackles and four sacks of his own. Of chief import here was Wistrom's ability to stay healthy through the course of the year. Marcus Tubbs also supplemented the efforts of Chartric Darby and Bernard when he rotated into the game. Tubbs added 40 tackles and 5.5 sacks of his own. Seattle is primed for another run to the top of the fantasy stats with this nucleus returning intact.

    2. Atlanta Falcons
    John Abraham got his wish and exited the Jets this off-season. He now pairs with Patrick Kerney to form one of the most formidable defensive end combinations in the game. And when you add the pressure applied by tackle Rod Coleman (10.5 sacks), the Falcons figure to terrorize opposing quarterbacks throughout the fall. The Falcons will count on Coleman and Chad Lavalais to stuff the run better than they did in '05, when Atlanta ranked 26th in rushing defense at 128.9 yards per game.

    3. Carolina Panthers
    The Carolina Panthers remained among the top defenses in 2005 with great pressure off the edges from Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. The duo combined for 18 sacks and 94 tackles to boost the Panthers to fifth in overall defense. Carolina received great play from Maake Kemoeatu on the interior. He stepped up in the absence of Kris Jenkins, who played in only one game last season. Kemoeatu and Jenkins will team to protect the middle of the line and keep Carolina's lofty ranking in run defense (fourth at 91.6 yards).

    4. Miami Dolphins
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    -06-06-2006, 11:25 PM
  • thoey
    Two Rams WR's listed in Fanballs WR list
    by thoey
    Wide Receivers Preview
    By Christian Peterson, Associate Editor
    August 2, 2005 10:00 AM ET

    Can Randy Moss stay atop the fantasy world in Oakland?

    Running backs are the bread and butter of fantasy football. Thanks to record-breaking seasons by Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper a year ago, quarterbacks are making a comeback – we'll call them the lunch meat, or in Brett Favre's case, the cheese. But you can't have a good sandwich without a little mustard or mayo, right? Welcome to the third in our continuing series of preseason position-by-position previews, where we'll focus on the often overlooked, underappreciated fantasy condiments – the wide receivers. We'll start with the stud wideouts at the top, but we'll also delve into the depths of our rankings to answer a handful of key questions about the entire fantasy receiving class.

    The Superstars
    Like quarterbacks and running backs, the wide receiver crop has one player generally considered to be the No. 1 choice –Randy Moss. However, unlike the other positions, Moss is not clearly head-and-shoulders above the next couple of stalwarts. Hence, three players are clustered very tightly at the top:

    Randy Moss, Raiders: Moss has averaged an impressive 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns per season so far in his career, but for the first time he faces a few question marks now that he won't be catching passes from Daunte Culpepper. Can the historically inept Kerry Collins keep him happy? Are the injury woes that caused him to either sit out or play injured in six games a year ago a thing of the past? The bet here, obviously, is that Moss has enough talent to put up great numbers despite the obvious downgrade at quarterback. Collins has enough talent to work with in Moss, Jerry Porter, and LaMont Jordan, he almost has no option but to succeed in this offense. Right?

    Terrell Owens, Eagles: Coming off a season in which he racked up 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 14 games, Owens should give Moss a run for his money atop the wideout rankings. But an offseason of constant holdout speculation and bickering between he, his agent, Eagles management, and even Eagles teammates bumps T.O. a notch below. Although the soap opera continues just as the Eagles open camp, for now we have to Assume Owens will be back in the fold in time for week one of the regular season. As long as his off-the-field antics don't become too much of a sideshow, expect another great season from Owens, who has proven repeatedly he can do as much talking on the field as off.

    Marvin Harrison, Colts: Apparently wanting to fit in with T.O. and Moss, the usually squeaky-clean Harrison got into the act off the field this offseason as well. The allegations that Marv assaulted a couple of young autograph seekers before last season's Pro Bowl makes him an official, card-carrying member of the enigmatic superstar receiver class, as...
    -08-03-2005, 12:10 PM