Tired of hearing about most valuable players, or rookie of the year candidates, or feel-good stories of the year, or education reform, or homeland defense? Well, here's your oasis. There will be none of that as we turn our attention to the final eight weeks of the NFL season.
Instead, here are 10 players who obviously have been placed in witness protection. How else to explain their disappearances? Coming soon to a milk carton near you:
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs: Maybe playing basketball is in his future. Or maybe the K.C. brass decided to make a point: Tony, you're a tight end, which is why we're not paying you like a wide receiver. With 429 yards receiving, Gonzalez isn't even the AFC's leading TE, much less the NFL's. In all fairness, he does have six touchdowns, though three came in one game.
Curtis Martin, RB, Jets: Yeah, there have been some nicks, but what running back isn't dinged up, aching and paining his way through the masses of humanity each week? Martin has 389 yards rushing and three touchdowns this year. Those used to be three-game totals for him.
Warrick Dunn, RB, Falcons: After signing a lucrative offseason deal (six years, $24 million) with Atlanta, Dunn (527 total yards, 5 TDs) was supposed to be the go-to back. After Day 1 of the NFL draft, you had to see this coming: With the 18th pick, the Atlanta Falcons select running back T.J. Duckett, Michigan State. And the rookie has comparable numbers (398 yards, 3 TDs).
Quincy Carter, QB, Cowboys: Once upon a time, Dallas was the envy of the NFL universe. It was the 1970s, when class and stability went hand-in-glove for America's Team. All that went out the door Feb. 25, 1989 -- when Jerry Jones bought the team. When a former minor league baseball player becomes the franchise's starting QB in his rookie season, what does that say for Carter (7 TDs, 8 INTs, 72.3 rating), who Dallas moved up to pick in last year's draft?
Terry Glenn, WR, Packers: He was supposed to be on the receiving end of Brett Favre's downfield missles. Instead, he's been a bit player -- 425 yards, 1 TD -- in a box-office smash. If this were a movie, Glenn would be listed under "Rest of Cast Listed Alphabetically" on imdb.com.
Kris Brown, K, Texans: It wasn't Heinz Field after all. Brown has converted 9 of 14 field-goal attempts (64 percent). He's 0-fer from 50-plus and only 6 of 9 between 40-49 yards. The good news: If the Texans score a TD, he's money on the PAT (10 of 10).
Kordell Stewart, QB, Steelers: The Haley's Comet of NFL quarterbacks, Stewart shows up about as often -- is even a sight to behold at times -- then vanishes. Now, he's vanquished, replaced by a former XFL QB for crying out loud! Maybe someday Kordell (3 TDs, 5 INTs, 66.2 rating) will take comfort in knowing he led Pittsburgh in passing as many times (4) as Bubby Brister, Mark Malone and Bobby Layne.
Neil Rackers, K, Bengals: This is the best thing to say about Rackers: His FG percentage is up for the second consecutive season, a whopping 71 percent compared to 60 and 57 the previous two years. Rackers has hit 5 of 7 attempts and is the lowest-scoring kicker with 29 points. (And don't bring up the Vikings' Hayden Epstein; he hasn't even attempted a kick in two games and still has 28 points.)
Az-Zahir Hakim, WR, Lions: Nice investment, Matt Millen. Hakin signed a five-year, $15 million contract in March, and has 384 yards and two TDs to show for it. Just for the record, that's a little more than $39,000 per yard -- or $7.5M per TD.
William Green, RB, Browns: Where is Leroy Hoard, the last Cleveland back to top even 600 yards rushing in a season, when you really need him? The 16th player selected in April's draft, Green has carried the ball more than 10 times in only two games this season -- and he's yet to top 36 yards. This will be the fourth consectutive year since their return that the Browns will have a different leading rusher.
The Chargers are playing for their first 7-2 start since 1994 when the team advanced to Super Bowl XXIX. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer is 3-1 vs. the Rams. St. Louis WR Isaac Bruce needs 100 yards to become the first player in franchise history with 30 career 100-yard receiving games.
Chiefs QB Trent Green has 16 TD passes and is on pace to set the club record, surpassing Hall of Famer Len Dawson (30, 1964). Niners QB Jeff Garcia leads the NFL with a 134.7 passer rating on third downs, including 10 TDs and 0 INTs. He has nine TDs and two INTs in the past six games vs. an AFC foe.
Monday Night Football's 500th game features the NFL's top offense (Raiders, 407.4 ypg) against the AFC's best defense (Broncos, 270.8 ypg). Denver has won eight of the past nine games in this series (12 of the past 14 overall), and is 5-2-1 vs. Oakland in Denver on MNF.
Sacks allowed by Lions through eight games. Detroit gave up a league-worst 66 last season.
Percentage of catches this season for Seahawks’ Bobby Engram that have resulted in a first down (18 of 20).
Total yards (420 rushing, 149 receiving) for Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson in five career games vs. an NFC opponent.
Three for 19
Think there have been a lot of winning streaks in the NFL this season? If you break it down into three-game win streaks, there have been 19 teams so far this year, close to topping the season totals for 2000 (21) and 2001 (20).
Since Monday Night Football -- -- the longest-running primetime entertainment series in television history -- went on the air in 1970, there have been: 319,551 total yards; 20,723 points scored; 2,391 TDs; 1,337 FGs; 1,210 INTs; 35 punt-return TDs; 14 kickoff-return TDs.
Yada, yada, yada
"We did everything we could. ... We put Charles Woodson on him one-on-one, we had double-coverage, we had bracket coverage. We had every conceivable coverage known to man, but he continued to break our secondary down." -- Raiders head coach Bill Callahan after Terrell Owens' 12-catch, 191-yard game.
CNNSI.com's Richard Harris says WR Koren Robinson will be the Seahawks' primary target for much of the remainder of the season because Darrell Jackson likely will be brought back slowly after suffering a severe concussion and a life-threatening seizure Oct. 27. Robinson caught a career-high eight passes for 100 yards in Week 9. For more insider info, check out this week's Tip Sheet.
The seventh overall draft selection in April's draft, McKinnie a 6-foot-8, 340-pounder from the University of Miami, Fla., is expected to see his first NFL action Sunday against the Giants. The Vikings say McKinnie will be on the field for 15-to-25 plays Sunday.
McKinnie was a junior-college transfer who started at left tackle in 2000-01 for the Hurricanes. He was All-Big East those seasons, and an All-American last year. McKinnie did not work out at the Combine in February, but ran a 5.11 during individual workouts. He completed only 20 repetitions on the bench press with 225 pounds.
After reaching a contract agreement with Minnesota last week (five-years, $13.3 million, including a $9.35 million bonus), McKinnie participated in his first practice with the team Monday.
"I'm very pleased that he's a lot more ready to play than I would've hoped," head coach Mike Tice said.
Last week's topic: What was the best decade (1950s-present) for football -- and why?
The 1970s, without a doubt. That was before the era of the players' ego, coaches could still "coach" and free agency hadn't yet made the game into a "buy a great team for a year."
Ray -- Cincinnati
The 1960s was truly the golden age of football. Lombardi, Halas, Landry, Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath, Sam Huff, Ray Nitschke, and the list goes on and on. It truly was the decade of legends. The transition period to the modern era. The merger and the birth of the Super Bowl changed the NFL forever. Marc -- Lexington, Ky.
The 80s was the best decade for football because there weren't any of the pansy rules of today, and that is also when the best players ever to play the game were on the field. Chris -- Philadelphia
I like the 70s. Teams for the most part kept all of their significant players on the roster. Then you had some of the greatest teams ever competing against each other (Miami, Oakland, Dallas, Washington) and the best of them all, Pittsburgh. It will never be that way again. Ron -- Atlanta
1960's. Football was becoming the modern sport as we now know it, but it wasn't yet poisoned by commercialism. Yes, football was football. Butkus, Nitschke, Lombardi, Halas ... Ahhh, the mud and the glory. Allen -- Milwaukee, Wis.
The 1980s. Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, Jerry Rice, Pre-multimillion dollar salaries ... and the Cowboys were bad. David -- Fort Wayne, Ind.
The 1960's, without a doubt! You have the emergence of the AFL, Lombardi's Packers, Jim Brown, Gayle Sayers, Dick Butkus ... football played outside, on real grass, you know, the way it's supposed to be by men who truly loved the game! Guy -- Denver
I'd have to say the '70s were the premium decade for football. That was the decade football really stepped up, taking its rightful place as the king of all major sports in North America. The Super Bowl went from obscure to the most-watched, most-anticipated event in all of sports. Andrew -- Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
The '70's was the best decade because of one word: dynasties. Pittsburgh, Dallas, Oakland ... others can make their claims. But with so many teams so good all within the same 10-year span, before free agency and before the salary cap, really speaks volumes about the level of talent. Jonathan -- Cranberry Township, Pa.
I would have to say the 1980s. Although that decade was particularly hard on my hometown Broncos, the best players ever to play their positions were playing at their peak during those years. Jerry Rice and Joe Montana in San Francisco; Walter Payton in Chicago; Lawrence Taylor in New York; John Elway in Denver; Anthony Munoz in Cincinati among others. All decades have had good players. The above mentioned are generally considered the best. John -- Boulder, Colo.
Any decade before the '90s. That was long before the Bengals took the sad, sad dive into the bottomless pit of Mike Brown's greed. Long before he decided that keeping money was more important than putting together a good football team. Ah, if he could only be like his father.... Michael -- Cincinnati
Definitely had to be the 1970s. I remember all of the families that we knew watched football. The emergence of the NFL. It was a time when we needed something to take our minds off of the Vietnam War. And football was there. As the years pass, I will always remember how and why those guys played: love of the game, not money! Bill -- PeWee Valley, Ky.
No decade showcased more players who impacted the game as the 1980s. While the 1960s and '70s were dominated by dynasty teams, the 1980s were the decade of the superstar, highlighted by players like Montana, Marino, Rice, Taylor and Payton, all of whom played their best ball in the '80s. Andrew -- Vancouver, Wash.
1955-1965, When the stories in the sports pages were about football, not probation officers, substance abuse programs, agents, lawyers and "capologists." When "colorful" players had personalities (Bobby Layne, "Night Train" Lane, Deacon Jones, Paul Hornung), not rap sheets or bad attitudes (Sebastian Janikowski, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss). Rick -- Covington, La.
Hands down, the 1960's. Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Vince Lombardi and his lengendary Packers, The Ice Bowl, Joe "Wille" Namath, the birth of the Super Bowl, Gayle Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Dick Butkus and Y. A. Tittle just to name a handful of things that still define the NFL. Diego -- Toledo
I don't know about the best decade for football but I'd say the worst is '95 to present. With free agency and the salary cap there are no dynasties. Even when I hated a great team, I at least respected them for their greatness. Now there is little greatness. Robert -- San Antonio
I'll take the 50's because it was pure, unadulterated football being played by tough men who respected it and played for the love of the game. Prima donnas and slackers weren't tolerated. Records lasted decades. QBs still called their own plays. You could hear the hits in the stands without a microphone. Owwies were not allowed. Championship games honored the game and the players and are not remembered for the commercials. But best of all, I can still remember watching football on TV with my dad with no commercials except at halftime or a timeout. Kim -- Spring Hill, Kan.
Starting from scratch, who would be the first player or coach you would enshrine into the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- and why?