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Midseason awards

Now that every team has at least eight games in the books, it's midseason review time in the NFL. You know the drill ...

• Offensive Rookie -- Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota -- The Vikings' super-back didn't just have his second 200-yard rushing game of the season against the Chargers on Sunday, topping the 1,000-yard mark on the season (1,036) in the process, he had a 253-yard half. Are you kidding me? We've never seen that one before.

The fear is that Peterson's reckless running style will lead to an injury-shortened career, but if he's the proverbial shooting star, what a spectacular flash it promises to be while it lasts.

• Kudos to:Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo, Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City, and JoeThomas, Cleveland.

• Defensive Rookie -- Amobi Okoye, DT, Houston -- The 20-year-old wunderkind leads the improved Texans defense with five sacks (one more than fellow first-round pick Mario Williams), and he's handling a demanding position that would challenge any first-year player.

While San Francisco middle linebacker Patrick Willis has been strong for the slumping 49ers, leading the NFL in tackles with 83, Okoye's greater production should give the Texans their second consecutive defensive ROY, after linebacker DeMeco Ryans won it last year.

• Kudos to:Patrick Willis, San Francisco, and LaRon Landry, Washington.

• Most Valuable Player -- Tom Brady, QB, New England -- Brady has missed out on MVP awards in the past because he lacked the eye-popping statistics that generate buzz. But the buzz is all his this season, and those 33 touchdown passes, four interceptions, and 73.2 completion percentage make his case an overwhelming one. Brady has never played better, or been surrounded by more play-makers. He's having a season for the ages, on a team that looks bound for history.

• Kudos to:Randy Moss, New England, Brett Favre, Green Bay, and TonyRomo, Dallas.

• Offensive Player -- Randy Moss, WR, New England -- Whenever possible, I like to distinguish between MVP and offensive POY. I think you can do that with the unparalleled weapon that Moss has been this season. Brady's value to New England is greater, but Moss has been the NFL's ultimate difference-maker thus far, leading the league in receiving yardage (924) and touchdowns (12), scoring more in nine games as a Patriot than he did in 29 games as a Raider (11 touchdowns).

And Moss has been the picture of consistency, scoring in eight of New England's nine games, and topping 100 yards receiving six times. In the biggest game of the season -- Pats at Colts last Sunday -- Moss was the guy Brady looked for when everything was on the line. That says it all.

• Kudos to: Tom Brady, New England, Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, PlaxicoBurress, Giants, Brett Favre, Green Bay.

• Defensive player -- Jared Allen, DE, Kansas City -- In the six games he has played after serving the two-game suspension the league handed him for his two DUI arrests, Allen has 8½ sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. He's the best player on an underrated Chiefs defense that is giving up just 18.2 points per game and some how keeping Kansas City in the thick of the AFC West race. The Chiefs were 0-2 without him, and are 4-2 since he returned to the lineup.

• Kudos to:Mike Vrabel, New England, Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee, Osi Umenyiora, Giants, and Aaron Kampman, Green Bay.

• Comeback player -- Randy Moss, WR, New England -- The Raiders decision-makers said he looked like he had lost a step and his legs were starting to go. Uh, no. He just knew a minor league outfit when he saw one, and there wasn't a quarterback in Oakland who could get him the ball. All of that has changed in New England, where questions about how he'd fit in with the Patriots now seem comical in retrospect.

• Kudos to: Brett Favre, Green Bay.

• Coach -- Tom Coughlin, N.Y. Giants -- We've seen the Giants fade in the second half before, but we're giving Coughlin the nod for now based on his accomplishment of keeping his team together after that ugly 0-2 start, which some how gave way to a six-game winning streak. New York hasn't really had an eye-opening win, but this week's first-place showdown against visiting Dallas would certainly qualify.

• Kudos to: Dick Jauron, Buffalo, Mike McCarthy, Green Bay, HermanEdwards, Kansas City.

• AFC Surprise team -- Kansas City -- The Chiefs in the preseason appeared to me destined for a top-three draft slot, and gave HBO's Hard Knocks reality series an ironic twist on the title. Despite their offensive shortcomings, they're 4-4 and tied for first in the AFC West at midseason. Go figure.

• Runners up: Cleveland and Tennessee.

• NFC Surprise team -- Detroit -- The Lions and Packers have both had the Cinderella story line working this season, but while Green Bay did manage to finish 8-8 last year, Detroit was 3-13 and owns the NFL's second-longest playoff drought behind Arizona (the Lions and Bills both last made the postseason in 1999). Matt Millen for NFL Executive of the Year?

• Runners up: Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and the Giants.

• AFC Disappointing team -- N.Y. Jets -- So many to choose from, but New York's slide from 10-6 and in the playoffs in EricMangini's first season to 1-8 and oblivion gets our vote. New York isn't just a bad team, it's a boring bad team.

• Runners up: San Diego, Cincinnati, and Denver.

• NFC Disappointing team -- Chicago -- Did the Bears really own a second-quarter lead over the Colts in the Super Bowl just nine months ago? They can't even match up with the Lions this season. Their defense is injury-riddled and intimidates no longer, and their offense can't run the ball or find a long-term answer at quarterback.

• Runners up: Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco.

• Trend -- Running back troubles -- LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson and Larry Johnson all got off to painfully slow starts in the first half. Mix in the underachievement of Frank Gore, Shaun Alexander, Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, and the injuries to Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, and you have the makings of a lost year in many a backfield.

• Runner up: Icing the kicker with a last-second timeout just before a game-winning field goal try.

• Game -- New England 24, Indianapolis 20, Week 9 -- The hype was right. The latest ever matchup of undefeated teams in NFL history did not disappoint, and puts the Patriots into solid position to challenge the 17-0 Miami Dolphins of 1972.

• Runner up: Dallas 25, Buffalo 24, on Monday Night Football in Week 5.

• Play -- It only amounted to a two-yard gain, but against New England in Week 6, Cowboys running back Marion Barber broke about six attempted tackles and fought his way out of his own end zone and all the way to the other side of the field, running about 25 yards in total. It was a staggering individual effort, and if you saw it, you remember it. Absolutely no one in the NFL runs with more ferocity than Marion Barber.

• Runner up -- AntonioCromartie's 109-yard return for a touchdown on a missed Minnesota field goal attempt, Week 9.

• Best story -- The Patriots' run at a perfect season -- At 9-0, New England is rolling to historic point totals, and its dominance this year points to a season that has the potential to be remembered above or alongside the NFL's standard of perfection: the 1972 Dolphins.

• Runners up: The resurgence of Brett Favre and the Packers, and the Browns and Lions becoming winners.

• Worst story -- The Patriots' Spy-Gate -- Setting aside the Michael Vick saga that largely played out during the NFL's offseason and preseason, New England's cheatin', video-taping ways put a black mark on BillBelichick's reputation and prompted some to call the Patriots' legacy into question. And for a competitive edge that New England clearly doesn't need.

• Runner up: The Falcons' continued implosion in the fall-out of the Vick controversy.

• Worst injury -- Bills tight end Kevin Everett -- On opening day at home against Denver, Everett, a second-year veteran, suffered a life-threatening spinal injury while covering on a kickoff. His story of recovery from paralysis riveted us in the following days, and he's now at home in Houston, where he has in recent weeks taken steps with the aid of a walker.

• Runner up: TrentGreen's most recent concussion.

• Position hardest-hit by injury -- Quarterback -- Half the league, 16 teams, have already started at least two quarterbacks this season. Matt Leinart (shoulder) is gone for the season, as is Jake Delhomme (elbow) and TrentGreen (concussion). And the list of the walking wounded is significant: MattSchaub (concussion), Steve McNair (groin), Trent Edwards (wrist), TarvarisJackson (concussion, finger), Vinny Testaverde (Achilles), David Carr (back), and David Garrard (ankle).

• Runner up: Offensive lines across the league.

• Best coaching hire -- Wade Phillips, Dallas -- He was lampooned as a three-time loser when Jerry Jones tabbed him to replace Bill Parcells, but who's laughing now? The Cowboys are 7-1 for the first time since 1995, when a jokester named Barry Switzer won the franchise's most recent Super Bowl title, and they have arrived at midseason as the odds-on favorite to represent the NFC in Arizona in February.

Runner up: Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh.

Worst coaching hire -- Cam Cameron, Miami -- The Dolphins are a train wreck, and it's certainly not all Cameron's fault. But at 0-8, you can't claim his presence has been a difference maker.

• Runner up: Bobby Petrino, Atlanta.

• Coach on the hot seat -- Scott Linehan, St. Louis -- The Rams have been decimated by injuries, but St. Louis was thought to be an ascendant team that many (including me) picked to win the NFC West.

• Runner up: Mike Nolan, San Francisco.

Forgotten man -- JaMarcus Russell, Oakland -- He was on top of the world in late April when the Raiders picked him first overall, but the ex-LSU quarterback signed ridiculously late and is still waiting to step foot on the field in a regular-season game. If he doesn't use it this year, I wonder if he can retain his rookie status in 2008?

• Runner up: Steve Smith.

• Best acquisition -- Randy Moss, New England -- I'd say he's already been worth that fourth-round pick the Patriots paid to Oakland for him.

• Runner up: Wes Welker, New England.

Worst acquisition -- Joey Porter, Miami -- The Dolphins gave the mouthy ex-Steelers linebacker a five-year, $32 million deal, including $20 million guaranteed. It's those kind of calls that has Miami in the desperate condition it's in.

• Runner up: Trent Green, Miami.

• Best front office work -- New England -- The Patriots offseason talent haul hasn't just paid off, it has been hit-the-jackpot material. Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth made the difference in the fourth quarter at Indianapolis on Sunday.

• Runner up: Tampa Bay, for the Jeff Garcia signing alone.

• Worst front office work -- San Francisco -- Nate Clements. DarrellJackson. Tully Banta-Cain. Ashley Lelie. Michael Lewis. Stop me when I get to a 49ers acquisition who has been worth the effort and money it took to land him.

• Runner up: Miami.

• Best rise to prominence -- Derek Anderson, Cleveland -- If Anderson winds up playing his way onto the AFC Pro Bowl roster, do the Browns have a what-do-we-do-with-Brady Quinn problem?

Runner up: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota.

• Quickest fall from grace -- Charlie Frye, Cleveland -- Nobody's fall is in Vick's class, but going from opening-week starter in Cleveland to No. 3 in Seattle -- all within two days -- is unprecedented in its haste.

• Runner up: Eric Mangini, N.Y. Jets.

• Best assistant coach -- Jason Garrett, Dallas offensive coordinator -- With the Cowboys scoring an NFC-best 265 points, I'd say the novice play-caller has proven his mettle.

• Runner up: Dallas receivers coach Ray Sherman, who has tamed T.O.

• Worst assistant coach -- Chuck Bresnahan, Cincinnati defensive coordinator -- Somebody has to take some blame for the debacle that the Bengals are on defense. Head coach Marvin Lewis, he of the defensive pedigree, certainly deserves his share of the heat.

Runner up: Jim Hostler, San Francisco offensive coordinator.

• Best division -- AFC South -- All four teams have four or more wins, and the division is an NFL-best 22-11 overall. The Colts (7-1), Titans (6-2) and Jaguars (5-3) could all make the playoffs.

• Runner up: NFC East, which is 21-11 overall with three winning teams.

• Worst division -- NFC West -- There are no winning teams in the division at midseason, and the combined record of 9-23 is the NFL's worst showing. Seattle (4-4) could win this division at 7-9.

• Runner up: AFC East, which is 14-20, but just 5-20 without the Patriots.

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