Tag:Top Ten
Posted on: December 15, 2010 12:18 am
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Super Bowl contenders

New England has to be considered a Super Bowl contender (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s getting to be about that time.

The time when we really can crack down on the best teams in the NFL and really figure out which squads are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Preseason favorites (like, ahem, the Jets) have begun to show cracks in the foundation, while other teams – in this case, it’s just one team, really – have begun pulling away.

Three weeks left in the regular season, so we should have a pretty good indication of which team is going to do what once it makes the playoffs (if it, in fact, makes the playoffs at all). Without further ado, here’s your guide to which squad will be spending February in Dallas.

10. Jaguars: Why they will: Why the hell not? I mean, they won’t really. But RB Maurice Jones-Drew is fun to watch, and QB David Garrard has played great football lately. Jacksonville is just a fun underdog to watch. Why they won’t: I’m not even sure they’re good enough to get to the playoffs.

9. Chargers: Why they will: QB Philip Rivers is still having a fantastic season and is still an MVP candidate. Plus, San Diego is the No. 1 defense in the NFL (you can look it up!). Why they won’t: They simply haven’t played well for most of this season. Losses that look like this: 27-20 to the Seahawks; 35-27 and 28-13 to the Raiders; 20-17 to the Rams.

8. Bears: Why they will: They’ve surpassed many people’s expectations for the season while dragging coach Lovie Smith off the hot seat, so why can’t the surprises continue? I mean, if Jay Cutler can play fairly well on a consistent basis, anything can happen. Why they won’t: The offense isn’t good enough, and the defense isn’t good enough to overcome one of (statistically) the worst offenses in the league.

7. Ravens: Why they will: They’ve got plenty of talent at the WR position, and much of the time, QB Joe Flacco can even get his receivers the ball. Plus, there’s always Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis. Why they won’t: Did you see the way the defense collapsed Monday vs. the Texans? That’s unlike the Baltimore defense we’re accustomed to seeing every season. That secondary struggles, as well.

The duo of B. Jacobs and A. Bradshaw has been big for New York this year (US Presswire). 6. Giants: Why they will: The Giants offense, though beat up in the WR corps, still picks up the yards. Once they figured out their roles, the running back duo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw has been outstanding. Why they won’t: For one, Eli Manning doesn’t have very many healthy receivers. For two, the team won’t stop turning the ball over to its opponents.

5. Eagles: Why they will: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson can lead this team anywhere. The proof lies in the league-leading 402 yards of offense Philadelphia produces per game. Why they won’t: Some injuries on defense – CB Asante Samuel, LB Stewart Bradley and DE Brandon Graham – certainly don’t help. Plus, it seems like Vick would have to play perfect all the way through, doesn’t it?

4. Steelers: Why they will: The Steelers played well without QB Ben Roethlisberger, and now with him in there – even though he’s less than 100 percent – they’re nearly unbeatable. Plus, you know, Troy Polamalu. They don’t win ‘em pretty, but they win ‘em anyway. Why they won’t: The offensive line isn’t very good. Like, not very good at all.

3. Saints: Why they will: New Orleans has played progressively better as the season has neared its end. Even if the Saints can’t catch the Falcons in the NFC South, the wild card should be there for the taking, and hopefully for them, they would catch one of the NFC West teams on the road. Why they won’t: They’re not as good as they were last year.

2. Falcons: Why they will: They have the quarterback, they have the running back, they have the receivers, they have the TE and they have the coaching (and a pretty decent defense). There’s a lot to like about this Atlanta squad. Why they won’t: Not a ton of guys on the team have been on teams that have made deep playoff runs. Unlike, say, the New Orleans Saints.

1. Patriots: Why they will: It’s obvious. Rewatch their last two games – destructions of the Jets and the Bears. Why they won’t: Can Tom Brady really keep up this unbelievable pace? Isn’t the young – and, at times, ineffective – secondary eventually going to get the team in trouble? Especially if the Patriots face somebody like Philip Rivers or Drew Brees?

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: December 9, 2010 12:43 am
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Non-Brady MVP votes

M. Ryan would be the top MVP candidate in the league right now if it wasn't for a guy named T. Brady (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

This week, seemingly everybody is proclaiming Patriots QB Tom Brady as the player who should be named MVP – including his former teammate, Troy Brown, who I talked to for this week’s Five Questions (or more) segment. After watching Brady dissect the Jets on Monday, that’s hard to argue.

But we’ve still got four weeks of regular-season NFL football, so Brady can’t be named the Most Valuable Players quite yet (I think that’s actually in the rules). That said, there are a number of players who have done quite a bit to help their respective teams this season that also must be in the conversation for MVP. What happens, after all, if Brady throws 10 interceptions in the final four games and the Patriots go 0-4 in that stretch?

Thus, this Top Ten With a Twist pays homage to those who are having hellaciously good years for teams good and bad and could creep into a voter’s conscience (assuming he/she doesn’t simply write Brady’s name in every possible space on the ballot). I’m not saying most of these guys should win; I’m just saying they should be considered.

10. Julius Peppers, DE, Bears: In his first season in Chicago, the defense, ranked as the third-best in the NFL, is a huge reason why the Bears are 9-3, lead the NFC North and own the second-best record in the conference (tied with the Saints). He’s recorded seven sacks and a very strong six passes defended and he’s forced three fumbles. You could also make a case for Brian Urlacher in this spot.

9. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: So many other quarterbacks have made big headlines this season – some for good reasons (we’ll get into those candidates later) and some for bad reasons (ahem, Brett Favre) – and it seems like Brees has been slightly ignored. That’s also because he isn’t the top quarterback in his division at this point and because the Saints are in danger of not winning the NFC South (more on the Falcons below). But the fact is that Brees is statistically the most-accurate quarterback in the league, and the Saints are 9-3 with a chance to return to the Super Bowl. That’s not too shabby.

8. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers: Remember how amazingly fast Matthews started the season, recording six sacks in the first two games? Well, he’s slowed considerably since then, and even Miami’s Cameron Wake has surpassed him for the league lead (Wake has 12 sack to Matthews’ 11.5). Matthews only has one sack in the past three games, but he’s still got a good shot at defensive player of the year (along with Julius Peppers, Steelers LB James Harrison, Eagles DE Trent Cole and Bills NT Kyle Williams), and he’s still having one heck of a year. 

7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 5.9 yards per rush and finished 2009 with 1,120 yards and seven TDs, Kansas City rewarded him by going out and getting (gulp!) a legitimate RB in Thomas Jones. In his first two games of the season, Charles averaged 11 carries and 70.5 yards per contest, leaving some of us to wonder what was going on in Kansas City. But Charles has been awesome for the resurgent 8-4 Chiefs, averaging a ridiculous 6.2 yards per carry while gaining 1,137 yards.

6. James Harrison, LB, Steelers: You’d be forgiven if, the other day when Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin was defending Harrison in another laborious discussion about fines, you would have scoffed when Tomlin said Harrison was having an MVP-type season. But look at the plays he’s made and the numbers he’s produced. Harrison is third among linebackers with 10 sacks, he’s defended six passes and produced two interceptions, and he’s forced six fumbles, best among LBs. And he does it for a top-five defense which could help the Steelers to a deep postseason run. He's the MVP of NFL fines, but he might be the MVP overall as well.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: You’ve got Matthews on defense, and now you’ve got Rodgers as the catalyst for an offense ranked in the top-10, despite a dreadful running game. Rodgers has been so impressive (a 65.4 completion percentage, 3,243 yards, 23 TDs and nine INTs) without the benefit of Ryan Grant and having to play with very little support in Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn (they rank 30th and 50th in rushing in the league, respectively). His MVP candidacy obviously will ride on whether he can get Green Bay into the playoffs.

4. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: A week ago, I might have picked Rivers a little bit higher, but he’s coming off a bad, bad home loss to the Raiders that dropped San Diego two games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Not that Rivers played poorly, because he wasn’t bad. But it’s tough to get excited about a QB leading a 6-6 squad who very well could miss the playoffs, even if he is the guy who’s led his team to all six of those wins.

M. Jones-Drew has made himself a strong MVP candidate in the past five weeks (US Presswire). 3. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: What would you say if I told you that Jones-Drew has rushed for at least 100 yards in his past five games and helped Jacksonville win four of its past five to take over first place in the AFC South? Would you say that man would be an MVP candidate? I would.

2. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: Yes, he’s missed three games because of injury, but other than that, Vick is, bar none, one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he’s having a career season in a year in which he wasn’t supposed to be the starter (you might have forgotten about a guy named Kevin Kolb). He could, throughout his career, always change the game’s dynamic with his running ability (and he’s got 467 rushing yards, a 6.3 average and six scores this season), but he’s showcased his arm this year as well (63.8 completion percentage, 2,243 yards, 15 TDs, two INTs). He is absolutely a complete quarterback and absolutely an MVP candidate.

1. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: The “Matty Ice” moniker has already worn thin – unlike the “Pocket Hercules” nickname for Jones-Drew – but there’s no question that it’s reflective of his playing ability. Even when he doesn’t play altogether well – an example would be last week in Tampa Bay – he still somehow finds a way to lead Atlanta to a win. At this point, the Falcons are the best team in the NFC, and Ryan is the biggest reason for that. If Brady falls off in the last month of the year, my vote at this point would go to Ryan.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:55 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Biggest and best insults

Jeff Fisher and V. Young aren't exactly getting along these days (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Part of the reason we all follow sports is for all the insult material. I insult your team. You insult his team. You all insult my intelligence. There’s nothing better than a solid day of watching football and insulting all your buddies and having them insult you right back.

Unless it’s watching other people insult each other. Which happens ALL the time in the NFL. I’m not necessarily talking about players woofing at each other on the field, though that obviously has its place on any top-ten insults list. But I’m talking about the crowd insulting a player, a team insulting one of its own or a player insulting a coach in front of the rest of his teammates (psst, this last one might have occurred this past week).

So, let’s explore the best of what the NFL has to offer as far as metaphorically slapping people in the face. And if you choose to ignore this story, your mother wears Army boots.

10. Jonathan Stewart to Panthers offensive line: We’ll start it off relatively mild. After Stewart rushed for 30 yards on 14 carries vs. the Rams in Week 7, he complained about how his offensive line wasn’t opening enough holes. Sure, Stewart has a rushing average of 3.0, but unless Mike Goodson (220 combined yards in the past two games, 12 yards MORE than Stewart’s season total) is rushing behind a different offensive line, I’m not buying Stewart’s argument.

9. Thirty one NFL teams to Marc Mariani: The rookie, drafted in the seventh round this year as the No. 222 overall pick has been a breakout performer for the Titans. Listen, just because he played at Montana doesn’t mean he can’t hang in the NFL. Look at his stats as a punt returner. He’s third in the NFL with a 17.1 yards per punt average and his 87-yard TD return Sunday was his second score of the year.

8. Carson Palmer to Chad Ochocinco: Palmer has found a new play toy with Terrell Owens – who’s got 12 more catches and four more TDs than Ochocinco. Partially, it’s because Ochocinco, at times, doesn’t run the most technically-proficient routes. Of course, Owens gives up on plays some of the time, but there’s little question Owens has been much more effective this season. And Palmer knows it.

7. John Fox to his bosses/fanbase: I’m not sure this qualifies as an insult because I’m not sure exactly what’s going on in Fox’s head. But here’s what I know: he won’t be back as coach in Carolina next year and he decided not to use backup QB Tony Pike and started Brian St. Pierre last week instead, although St. Pierre was a stay-at-home dad the week before. Pike, a rookie, probably wouldn’t have done much better, but this was an odd move.

B. St. Pierre made his first career start last week, even though he was a stay-at-home dad the week before (US Presswire). 6. San Francisco’s Week 2 MNF crowd to Alex Smith: When you call for David Carr to replace your starting quarterback, Candlestick Park crowd, you insult EVERYONE.

5. Michael Vick to dog lovers everywhere: This is an interesting dynamic. If you’re a dog lover, is it impossible to root for Vick? I love dogs, but I think Vick has paid his debt to society and he shouldn’t be scorned for the rest of his life. I also have friends who would like to see Vick ripped limb by limb by one of his former pets, and they always will hope for that moment. Is it me, or do people make a bigger stink about Vick than they do about, say, Ravens WR Donte Stallworth who pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and then served only 24 days in jail?

4. Dallas Cowboys to Wade Phillips: Weird how, as soon as Jerry Jones pick-slips Phillips, Dallas suddenly plays some of its finest football of the season. Interim coach Jason Garrett probably should get a tiny bit of credit, but why suddenly are the Cowboys on a two-game winning streak? Probably because they all hated Phillips and wanted him to fail and fail hard (I kid, I kid).

3. Terrell Owens to Donovan McNabb: It’s beyond me why Owens would feel it necessary to comment on McNabb’s new contract with the Redskins, asking how the new deal could be justified while Washington and McNabb were taking a beating by the Eagles. McNabb came back and basically asked why a guy playing on a 2-7 (now 2-8) team was criticizing anybody. And it was a good point. A better point: why do we listen to Owens at all when he talks this kind of trash?

2. Vince Young to Jeff Fisher: Just one paraphrased quote when Young departed the Titans locker room Sunday while Fisher was giving his postgame talk said it all. “I’m not walking out on my teammates; I’m walking out on you.” The repercussions of that statement will be felt by Fisher and Young for years to come.

1. NFL owners/players to NFL fans: This one hasn’t happened yet, but it’s been hanging over the entire season like a low-lying storm cloud that’s ready to unleash hell at some point soon. Of course, I mean the impending owner lockout, which would stop all work in the NFL. I have a hard time believing the owners and players won’t work something out before the start of the 2011 season, but it’s entirely possible they could give you the biggest insult of all: no football.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: November 16, 2010 4:45 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2010 4:55 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Potential head coaches



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With Wade Phillips getting the pink slip last week and with much discussion about the job security of Minnesota’s Brad Childress, it’s become obvious that it’s that time of the year when fans debate the merits of firing the coach of their favorite teams. That obviously equals bad times for coaches like Marvin Lewis, John Fox, Gary Kubiak, Norv Turner, Josh McDaniels and Mike Singletary.

Since Phillips is gone and Childress might as well be gone, let’s dive into the intriguing possibilities of who will be available – some long-time assistants who hunger for their first shot at a head coaching job, some former head coaches who wouldn’t mind getting back into the business and maybe a college coach or two who want to test himself at the pro level.

Many of the following likely will get interviews after the season when the current coaches who can’t work themselves off the hot seat clean out their offices. Until then, let’s speculate on who might be available.

10. Dick LeBeau: I know, I know. He’s probably not going anywhere, and his three-season stint as the Bengals coach wasn’t so good (12-33). But LeBeau has been such an innovator on defense, I’d like to see the Steelers defensive coordinator get another shot at running a team. It’s not going to happen, because he’s 73 years old, but there would be a ton of smiling faces around the league if he got another chance.

9. Rob Ryan: We need – I mean, we NEED – another Ryan brother as a head coach in the NFL. Aside from being the most entertaining coach out there today – publically, at least – Rex Ryan has done a wonderful job turning the Jets into Super Bowl contenders. Now, Rob Ryan, the Browns defensive coordinator, needs to get his chance. With the marked improvement in Cleveland, does Ryan deserve the shot? Probably not at this point. But how awesome would it be if somebody gave him a job?

8. Mike Zimmer:
He arguably performed his best coaching job of his career last year when, despite the death of his wife and of Bengals WR Chris Henry, the defensive coordinator led Cincinnati’s defense to the No. 4 ranking in the NFL. For as long as the Bengals have tried to improve their defense, Zimmer finally was the one to make it happen. Cincinnati’s defense ranks 15th this season, but his players respect him and his coaching style. At some point, you’d think a team will take a chance on him.

7. Jon Gruden/Bill Cowher: Yes, they’ve both got lucrative analyst deals with ESPN and CBS, respectively, and both seem to do a pretty nice job (although Gruden spends a little too much time being a little too positive on his Monday Night Football gig). It’s hard to tell if Cowher is serious about getting back into coaching, but it wouldn’t be hard to believe Gruden wanting to jump at the chance (those are the whispers you hear, at least). He just seems hard-wired for the long hours, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he were to return. For Cowher, it’d probably have to be the perfect job. And I’m not sure that kind of job will appear in the offseason.

6. Marty Mornhinweg: The 5-27 mark he recorded while coaching the Lions is pretty difficult to swallow. But one of the biggest achievements this season made by Mornhinweg – the Eagles offensive coordinator – has been the transformation of QB Michael Vick from a playmaker with brilliant talents to a complete quarterback that’s nearly unstoppable with his legs and his arm. The Eagles rank second in points scored and third in yards per game, and much of that is a credit to Mornhinweg.

5. Cam Cameron: It’s a testament to Cameron that the Ravens, previously known as a strong defense that couldn’t score points, are now known as a high-powered offense that has a more difficult time stopping opponents. Cameron has weapons (QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, a plethora of receivers), and he knows how to use them. It might not happen for a few more years, but Cameron deserves another chance (if a prospective owner can overlook the 1-15 season he had while running the Dolphins).

4. Perry Fewell: He had a taste of head coaching last season after the Bills fired Dick Jauron and made Fewell the interim. He led Buffalo to a 3-4 record – looking back on it, it was almost miraculous – but he and the rest of the coaching staff were fired anyway. Now, he’s the Giants defensive coordinator , and not surprisingly, they’re the No. 1 defense in the NFL in yards allowed.

3. John Fox:
He doesn’t have much longer in his current role, as the head coach in Carolina, and despite the team’s putridicity (?) this season, he remains a well-respected figure in the league. Why, you ask? Well, he led the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII, two seasons after a George Seifert-led Panthers squad went 1-15. Overall, he’s 72-65 as the coach in Carolina, and you can be sure Fox will have a job somewhere in the NFL. And quite possibly as a head coach.

2. Jim Harbaugh: If the Stanford head coach still wants an NFL job, he will have an excellent shot to get one. The brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Jim – a 14-year NFL QB who made the Pro Bowl in 1995 – has done wonders in Palo Alto. The previous two coaches before Harbaugh went a combined 16-40, and in the past two seasons, the Cardinal has gone a combined 17-6. He already interviewed for the Jets job that Rex Ryan eventually won two years ago, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before he beats out somebody else for a head coaching position.

1. Leslie Frazier: How long will it take before Frazier – perhaps the most respected assistant coach in the league - finally lands the head coaching position he so obviously wants? Well, considering his office is just down the hallway from Childress’, it would make sense for Minnesota to hire its current defensive coordinator when it fires Childress. For a defense that hadn’t been good in more than a decade before Frazier took over, he’s transformed the unit and made himself indispensible. No doubt about it, he should be a head coach.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .





Posted on: November 9, 2010 4:43 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2010 4:44 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Delightfully average

Miami, despite what the sign says, has been delightfully average this season (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We’re halfway through the season, which means we get plenty of first-half best-of lists from every corner of the Internet. Which, don’t get me wrong, is totally cool. In fact, here are two well-done lists – one from our own Pete Prisco and one from our own Clark Judge .

Or you can go snarky and talk about the worst of the worst through the first nine weeks of the season (Cowboys, Bills, Panthers, etc.) That’s fine too. I certainly don’t mind a worst-of list every now and again. As long as I’m not on it.

But I’ve decided to play to the middle: how about an award for the Most Delightfully Average (fill-in-the-blank)? I think this needs to happen, because, really, most of us in life are pretty average (present company excluded, of course. I’m talking about those other people that aren’t reading this article – which, by the way, is far above delightfully average).

There are a handful of us that are really, really good at what we do, and there are some of them who are absolutely terrible at their jobs. Yet, most of us fit somewhere in the middle. That said, here are the most delightfully average awards from the first half of the season.

10. Average offense – Bengals: They rank 15th in yards per game (345.0) and 17th in points per game (20.9), and despite the terrific addition of WR Terrell Owens (who would have guessed we’d be saying that a few months back?), the offense seems stuck in mud. Much of it rests on QB Carson Palmer’s arm, because he has plenty of weapons around him. He just hasn’t been very good.

9. Average defense – Colts: For a potential Super Bowl contender, this defense sure is mediocre. In order to go far in the playoffs, the Colts will have to improve on their 344.6 yards allowed average (20th in the NFL), their 21 points allowed (tied for 14th), and, in particular, the 140.9 rushing yards allowed (29th). Not having S Bob Sanders or his replacement, Melvin Bullitt, because of injury hurts the secondary, but the defensive line, even with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, has just 17 sacks. Which ranks, you guessed it, 16th in the 32-team league.

8. Average quarterback – Jay Cutler, Bears: When you think of Cutler, you might rank him somewhere near the bottom of the quarterbacks list. Perhaps that’s because, whenever the Bears are playing on national TV, he always seems to be throwing four interceptions per game or taking a big-time pounding from the opposing linebackers. Plus, he has that sour look on his face that probably just makes you sad. But no, Cutler ranks 16th in passer rating, 18th in passing yards, 19th in touchdown passes, 12th in interceptions and 19th in completion percentage. So, he’s simply stuck in the middle.

7. Average running back – Brandon Jackson, Packers: After Ryan Grant was placed on the IR list following an ankle injury, it was left to Jackson and John Kuhn, the only two running backs remaining on the roster, to try to replace his production. Jackson has been fine, though unspectacular. He rushed for 115 yards in Week 5, but he averages 4.3 yards per carry for a Green Bay rushing game that ranks 20th in the league. QB Aaron Rodgers probably wouldn’t mind a little more assistance.

6. Average wide receiver – Michael Crabtree, 49ers: I’m sure this is what San Francisco expected when it took him with the 10th overall pick in 2009 and then waited as he embarked upon an extended hold-out. On the season, he ranks 32nd in the NFL with 31 catches, and he averages 12.4 yards per reception (just kind of meh). One silver lining to Crabtree’s game, though: 80 percent of his catches go for first downs.

5. Average fans – Bengals: There wasn’t much analysis with this one. I just went down the list of total attendance by percentage of seats sold, and at 98.0 percent, Cincinnati was No. 16 (No. 1 is Dallas at 108 percent?!? (Wade Phillips must have been REALLY popular in the Big D); No. 32 is Oakland at 71.6 percent).

4. Average saliva-tosser – Le’Ron McClain, Ravens: If you’re going to spit into somebody’s face, you either have to be discreet or you have to go all-out (think Roberto Alomar spitting into John Hirschbeck’s face (I can’t believe that I didn’t have to look up the umpire’s name to make that analogy)). McClain did neither. He wasn’t discreet, you see his face move forward forcefully toward Miami’s Channing Crowder in the video, and he didn’t just hawk the loogie like Alomar did. Really, just an average performance.



3. Average division – AFC South: If the NFC South (with three teams at 5-3 or better) is the best division in the NFL and if the NFC West (nobody better than .500) is the worst, the AFC South has to be the most average. The Colts and Texans are tied for first place at 5-3, while the Jaguars and Texans are tied for last with 4-4 records. All of these teams have shown major flaws during their quest to compete for a division crown. I don’t think the Jaguars have much of a chance, but of the other three, I really don’t have any idea who will make the postseason.

2. Average coach – Gary Kubiak, Texans: Three weeks ago, there’s no way Kubiak would have “won” this award. Behind Kubiak, the Texans surprised the Colts in the opener with a big victory, and despite losing to Dallas (who in the hell loses to the Cowboys, anyway?), Houston was 4-2. But the Texans have lost their last two, and for some reason, Kubiak forgets about RB Arian Foster at times while his defense plays horribly. Once again, the Texans might not make the playoffs, meaning Kubiak might be gone at the end of this season.

1. Average team – Dolphins: Miami has been a rather tough team to pin down this season. Sometimes, the Dolphins look very good, using a tough defense to beat the Vikings and Bengals, or being resilient enough to upend the Packers. Other teams, they look absolutely horrid (last week’s 26-10 loss to the Ravens, and the 41-14 debacle to the Patriots). It feels like Miami should be better, but in the end, the Dolphins are humbly – and delightfully – average.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: November 2, 2010 3:29 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: New Faces

L. Tomlinson has been one of the most impressive players in the NFL this season (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Some arrived via free agency. Some were left on the garbage pile and only had one or two teams show interest. Some didn’t have much of a choice if they wanted to continue playing NFL football. And some were highly-touted rookies who commanded humongous signing bonuses and who have lived up to their end of the bargain.

Today, we spotlight the top-10 players who are performing brilliantly in their first year with a new team. We’re talking about rookies, we’re talking about free agents, we’re talking about those whose careers were left for dead.

All of the following have impacted their new teams in many ways and all have made the front offices who signed them seem clairvoyant in the process (though, in the case of a couple players, the decision to add them wasn’t exactly brain surgery). So, here’s to those who have found a new lease on life (or a new burgeoning career) with their new team.

10. Jason Babin, DE, Titans: The career-high sack total for Babin, a seven-year veteran, was five coming into this season – set in 2006 while in Houston. This year, through eight games, he’s got seven. So, what happened this season, especially after recording just 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year with the Eagles? According to Babin, it’s just been a matter of getting more playing time. OK, if you say so.

9. Colt McCoy, QB, Browns: Aside from any rookie QB not named Sam Bradford, McCoy has done pretty darn well as a first-year signal-caller. He’s only played the past two games for Cleveland, but he’s hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for a touchdown, two picks and a QB rating of 76.5. OK, he’s not great, but he’s been light years ahead of Jimmy Clausen and Max Hall. Plus, he’s coming off a win against the Saints.

8. Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: You still have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Owens. He’s the kind of player who, often times, doesn’t put out special effort to knock down a bad pass so the opponent doesn’t pick it (this happened at least twice last week), but he’s also still the kind of player who can rack up a team-leading 45 catches for 629 yards and five touchdowns. Ultimately, it was probably the right move for Cincinnati to sign him. In three weeks, though, that might not be the case.

7. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers: Pittsburgh’s first-round pick beat out Justin Hartwig at the beginning of the season for the starting center role, and Pouncey has performed well thus far. He’s really helped glue together a Steelers offensive line that had major questions raised about it coming into the season.N. Suh has begun to dominate the opponent's offensive line for Detroit (Getty).

6. Dez Bryant, WR/PR, Cowboys: One of the bright spots in Dallas this year. We knew Bryant was going to be a good one, and he has not disappointed, catching 29 passes for 349 yards for three touchdowns (Roy Williams, by the way, is 22 for 327 and five, respectively). But he’s been downright electric while fielding kicks, returning two punts for touchdowns and averaging 16.5 yards per punt, second in the NFL for those who have at least 10 returns.

5. Thomas Jones/Ryan Torain/Peyton Hillis, RBs, Chiefs/Redskins/Browns: Yes, I’m cheating a bit here, listing three players in one spot, but that doesn’t take away from how well these guys have played – and how unexpected their production has been. The Jets figured they didn’t need Jones any more, but he’s rushed for 538 yards through seven games with the Chiefs. Torain has replaced Clinton Portis pretty well, and Hillis (460 yards, five touchdowns) has been the biggest surprise at all (he certainly has surprised Denver coach Josh McDaniels, who let go of Hillis after last season).

4. Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins: Marshall has typical diva receiver tendencies, but he’s been one of the best players in the league so far this season. After Marshall was traded away from Denver (ahem, McDaniels), he’s done nothing but produce in Miami, ranking fourth in the league with 47 catches for 588 yards. The one disappointing stat: he’s only recorded one touchdown.

3. Earl Thomas (Seahawks)/T.J. Ward/Ndamukong Suh, S/S/DT, Seahawks/Browns/Lion: Sigh, again I’m cheating. But considering all these first-year players are vying for defensive rookie of the year honors, it makes sense to lump them all together. Thomas has proven that he’s one of the most instinctual players in the league with four interceptions, tied for third-best in the NFL. Ward took some heat for the nasty hit he put on Cincinnati’s Jordan Shipley, but his big-hit ability has helped lead him to 60 tackles (fourth-most among safeties). And Suh is living up to his lofty billing, blowing up interior offensive linemen and recording 6.5 sacks. He’s going to be a monster for as long as he steps on the field.

2. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: I’m not sure most of us could have expected Bradford, the No. 1 pick from last year’s Draft, to play so well a mere eight games into this pro career. He’s completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,674 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The numbers don’t look fantastic, but you have to take into account his poise and his savvy and the fact he doesn’t have a big-name receiver upon whom he can lean. Plus, he’s got the Rams, one of the worst NFL teams coming into the season, at the 4-4 mark. He has been pretty outstanding. Not bad considering he missed most of last year at Oklahoma with the shoulder injury.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets: Somehow, Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth. It wasn’t in San Diego apparently. Perhaps it was in New Jersey the whole time. On the season, Tomlinson has gained 544 yards and five touchdowns and has taken Shonn Greene’s job away from him. He has been perhaps the most surprising player in the league this year. He’s definitely been the No. 1 new face.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com