Here are 10 players—none of whom is named Peyton or Ryan—who have risen to prominence in the first half of the season.
1. TY LAW, Patriots cornerback Tied for the league lead in interceptions, with five, he talks a good game, then goes out and backs it up. Early in 1995, his rookie season, Law began badgering then coach Bill Parcells, saying, "Let me take the other team's receiver out of the game. Stick me on him, Coach." Parcells never did use him that way regularly, but successor Pete Carroll has, and Law, playing a clinging and physical corner, hasn't been beaten on a touchdown pass in eight games this year. "I'm long overdue for the Pro Bowl," says the 24-year-old. Who could argue?
2. RANDY MOSS, Vikings wideout A new emphasis on the deep passing game is the biggest reason that Minnesota is one game up on Green Bay in the NFC Central, and Moss is right in the middle of it. He is averaging 19.1 yards per catch, has scored six touchdowns and is on pace to become the first rookie to rack up 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches in a season.
3. VONNIE HOLLIDAY, Packers defensive end Green Bay traded up 10 spots in the '98 draft, to 19th, for the opportunity to select this 6'5", 300-pound North Carolina product. Now we know why. With six sacks and 37 tackles in the first half of the season, Holliday has already developed into a great bookend opposite Reggie White.
4. SAM MADISON, Dolphins cornerback "A shut-'em-down corner," Miami coach Jimmy Johnson says of the 1997 second-round draft pick from Louisville. Madison and rookie reserve Patrick Surtain could be the league's best cornerback tandem by 2000.
5. CHARLIE BATCH, Lions quarterback What makes this rookie such a surprise is not just his precocious play (57.5% completion rate) at a time when Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf have struggled mightily. It's also his commanding presence in the huddle.
6. TONY PARRISH, Bears free safety Rookie second-round pick has been a starter and punishing hitter from Day One.
7. CHARLES WOODSON, Raiders cornerback The league's best rookie corner since Deion entered the league in '89.
8. JERMAINE LEWIS, Ravens wideout-return man This third-year player is an explosion waiting to happen on every kick or catch.
9. TAKEO SPIKES, Bengals linebacker Rookie reminds foes of a young Mike Singletary.