San Diego's Philip Rivers looks to be the ideal man to run that high-powered
offense, and in Kansas City, Damon Huard, after nine years as a backup, has
done a magnificent job filling in for Trent Green. Huard is among the league's
top-rated passers, but will he make the Pro Bowl? First he has to keep the
starting job when Green returns.
Stop Frank Gore, and you stop the 49ers. Seldom do you see a top runner on a
team that's always playing catch-up.
Oversized Saints rookie Marques Colston has become Drew Brees's go-to guy.
Scouts say little Wes Welker is the Dolphins' most feared offensive threat. In
Houston, Andre Johnson is having a breakout year, and it's surprising that the
Colts' exceptionally gifted Reggie Wayne has never been to the Pro Bowl.
With the great exodus of Patriots wideouts, Ben Watson has become Tom Brady's
A pair of left tackles who are playing big this year are Buffalo's Jason Peters
and San Diego's Marcus McNeill, who's arguably the best of the rookie linemen.
The Patriots' quick, heady Dan Koppen is staking a claim as the league's top
center, but my favorite to watch is the Rams' Richie Incognito, a tough young
man who backs down from nobody and is one of the few centers who fought the
Chargers' Jamal Williams to a standstill.
Aaron Kampman of the Packers is a lunch-pail type who suddenly burst out in a
sacking frenzy this season. Bears tackle Tommie Harris has been a terror. On
the nose, the Vikings' Pat Williams is practically unblockable, and the
Patriots' Vince Wilfork is approaching that level. New England end Ty Warren
has become consistently effective, and New Orleans's Charles Grant has become
equally formidable against the run and the pass. Then there's 5'11",
250-pound Elvis Dumervil, who's been called too short forever--and is leading
Denver in sacks. Philly tackle Mike Patterson has earned a contract extension
after only a year and a half, evidence of his value to the Eagles. The Giants'
top pick, Mathias Kiwanuka, came to the rescue in fine style when two defensive
ends got hurt, and their tackle, Fred Robbins, has quietly emerged as one of
the league's soundest. In K.C., defensive end Jared Allen is a constant
Chicago's Lance Briggs and Baltimore's Bart Scott are standouts on two of the
league's premier defenses. Brandon Short has made a terrific comeback with the
Giants, whose D is well run by middle man Antonio Pierce. Arizona's Gerald
Hayes is an active and fiery leader. In Seattle, Julian Peterson is back to the
form of his glory days with the 49ers.
The league's interference rules have made young shutdown corners rare, but the
Cowboys' Terence Newman has been consistently good in man coverage, and the
Cardinals' Eric Green catches your eye with his tenacity. At safety, I like
Bills rookie Donte Whitner for his smarts and Adrian Wilson of the Cardinals
for his violent approach to the game.