The Award Section
Offensive Player of the Week
Based on opening-day salaries of every roster, there are approximately 1,018 players who make more in base salary than Jerome Harrison's $535,000. Harrison broke the Browns' single-game rushing record (held by Jim Brown) by 49 yards Sunday, rushing for 286 yards in a victory over Kansas City.
Defensive Player of the Week
DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas.
Sermonize if you wish about the intelligence of Ware playing six nights after being removed from the field on a body board, fully immobilized. But Ware was a force all night. At the end of the first half, he stopped a Saints' drive with a strip-sack of Drew Brees, leading to a Dallas field goal and a 17-3 halftime lead. Then, with the Superdome crowd exploding with 12 seconds to go at the Dallas 42, Brees went back on a last, desperate throw, and he never made it. Ware stripped him again, nose man Jay Ratliff recovered, and the Saints weren't unbeaten anymore. Ware saved his best game of the year for the most important game of the year.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Josh Cribbs, WR/KR, Cleveland.
Now we've seen it all from this guy: two 100-yard touchdown returns in one half of football. In fact, they came 17 minutes apart at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs and gave him eight for his career, an NFL record for kick returns for touchdown. Late in the first quarter, he took a Ryan Succop kick at the goal line, shrugged off two arm tackles, weaved, then sped for a 100-yard touchdown. One quarter later, Cribbs broke through initial traffic and put the burners on; no one came close to tackling him.
I've said this about Josh Cribbs a few times this season. He's 26, he's the 30th-highest-paid player on the Browns (2009 salary: $620,000), and he's the best special-teams player and returner in football. Pretty valuable asset for the Browns heading into another offseason of rebuilding.
Coach of the Week
Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator, Dallas.
I thought he had a brilliant gameplan, well-executed by Tony Romo and well-designed by himself. The Cowboys put up 439 yards and went 8-of-15 in third-down conversions in the deafening maw of the Superdome, where offensive players had trouble hearing adjustments by Romo at the line of scrimmage.
On the vital fourth-quarter drive that ate the clock and should have resulted in a game-ensuring gimme field goal (that was missed) by headcase Nick Folk, Garrett had no problem with having Miles Austin, John Phillips and Sam Hurd be Romo's targets on consecutive plays with the season on the line. That's trusting your roster.
Goat of the Week
Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans.
There haven't been many games played by left tackles in 2009 worse than the one Bushrod threw out on the floor of the Superdome. After being abused several times during the night by DeMarcus Ware, Bushrod got turnstiled on the last two offensive snaps of the game for the Saints, leading to a pressure and an incompletion, then to a strip sack by Ware to end New Orleans' last-gasp chance in a 24-17 loss. Bushrod's going to need help against the kind of speed-rushers he's sure to see in the playoffs.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Played another classic Thursday night, four touchdowns and a pick (through the hands of Dallas Clark), and, barring an upset in the last two weeks, should win his fourth MVP. That's how I see it, anyway.
2. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego. Another game-winning drive, this one in the final minute to set up a field goal that gave the Chargers their ninth win in a row over a game Cincinnati team. It's a mark of how great Brees is playing right now that Charger fans actually Tweet and e-mail me, moaning about letting Brees get away. People: You've got a great quarterback on your team -- and he should be dropping back for you for the next decade. In the last 11 games (nine of them wins), Rivers has thrown 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.
3. (tie) Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota, and Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. I tie these two because they're coming off poor games brought on, in part, by leaky play by the tackles.
5. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets. Well, Matt Ryan didn't throw that dagger-in-the-gut, winning touchdown against the New York Jets at Revis, who had Roddy White covered. That's because you just don't throw at Revis this year.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
T-shirts are being sold in New Orleans with the religious fish symbol on the front, with the word Breesus in italics beneath.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
I love the legroom on JetBlue. I love the satellite TV on JetBlue. I've come to the conclusion that the only reason I don't fly JetBlue and AirTran (with the WiFi) more often is the airline points. That's going to be my New Year's Resolution: Be more comfortable when I fly, not just points-minded. Well, one of my New Year's Resolutions.
Tweet of the Week
"McKinnie attending the Flozell Adams school of pass pro?''
NFL Truth & Rumors