Season's greetings to everyone in the NFC Central as we hand out this year's awards.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Although he raised some hackles by declaring in early December that the Packers couldn't win without him, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was dead right. Even defensive end Reggie White, a perennial All-Pro, said that if the Packers had to lose one of their main cogs, he would rather it be himself than Favre.
MIRACLE MAN OF THE YEAR: An ordained minister, White claims to possess supernatural healing powers. One day it looks like season-ending surgery, the next it's back to practice.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Out of the league after injuring his leg in a 1989 game for the Raiders and then battling a drinking problem, Tampa Bay kick returner Bobby Joe Edmonds came back this season and played effectively. Through 15 games he is fourth in the NFC in punt-return average.
COACH OF THE YEAR: We're tempted to go with Wayne Fontes, who has led the Lions to six consecutive wins since receiving a play-offs-or-else ultimatum from owner William Clay Ford. But Mike Holmgren gets the prize for producing Green Bay's most viable Super Bowl contender since that Lombardi guy was coaching there.
THE FREDDY KRUEGER, HE JUST WONT GO AWAY AND DIE AWARD: Fontes, naturally. He's the winningest coach in Lion history. He needs only five more defeats to become the losingest coach in Lion history. It takes a special man to do that in only seven-plus seasons.
MEDICAL MARVEL AWARD: On Nov. 12 Lee Remmel, the Packers' executive director of public relations, saw his 100th consecutive Packer-Bear game, a string that dates to 1944. He is living proof that a steady diet of press-box hot dogs is not necessarily lethal.
STAT OF THE YEAR: Since Dennis Green arrived in Minneapolis in 1992, the Vikings are 10-0 in the games immediately preceding and following their bye weeks.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Viking free safety Orlando Thomas, a second-round pick from Southwestern Louisiana, leads the league with eight interceptions.
MOST DISAPPOINTING ROOKIE: Bear punter Todd Sauerbrun, I also drafted in the second round, arrived in camp this summer driving a Mercedes with vanity plates that read HANG TIME. What hang time? After averaging an NCAA Division I-A best 48.4 yards per kick last season for West Virginia, Sauerbrun's at a pathetic 37.7 yards this year. The vanity plates are gone.