The usual NFL Most Valuable Player suspects are doing their usual things. They're putting up huge numbers, winning big games and getting their faces splashed across TV and laptop screens.
But as much as they are deserving and popular, with entire Web sites dedicated to some MVP causes, suppose we think outside the blog.
Most valuable. It doesn't say anything about quarterbacks or running backs, although those two positions have dominated the award since 1986.
We offer, then, six non-QBs and RBs quietly making legitimate MVP noise. They won't be in most MVP discussions ... but should they?
Who knows how much Payton would be willing to part with to keep Sharper in the groove he's been in since opening day. If Sharper does not define what "most valuable" means, then no one does. And if Sharper continues his game-breaking play-making, it's all over but the parade in the French Quarter: No one will beat Dem Saints.
Sharper has not single-handedly turned the Saints into the Super Bowl favorites out of the NFC, but he certainly has had a hand in just about everything they've done on the defensive side of the ball.
When the Saints acquired Sharper in the offseason, all they really wanted was some veteran experience to hold the secondary together, and a smart player who could bring a stronger play-making presence to the scene. What they got was a big-play machine who already has seven interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. He had a fourth interception return for a touchdown called back in the Saints' win over the Giants. Sharper is on pace to establish career highs in virtually every defensive category.
It's often difficult to gauge just how dominant an elite NFL cornerback is, because few teams dare to throw in their direction. In the case of Revis, some teams have hard-headedly tried to test him, with not much to show for it.
The Jets have faced some of the most dominating wide receivers in football and most every time Revis has left otherwise productive players with slim pickings.
In Week 1, the Texans'
Still just 24, Revis is showing limitless talent at a position that constantly is limited by rule-changes in the offense-first NFL. Revis makes plays with great instincts and ball-hawking ability. Without fail, opposing receivers talk of being unable to gain separation from Revis.
The Jets are struggling after a hot start to the year and the challenges are mounting for Revis and the defense. Quarterback
He is nasty, consistent and motivated. The most-watched player on the Vikings is Brett Favre. The most reliable is Adrian Peterson. The most electric is
But the best player on the team could well be Allen, whose 10.5 sacks is tied for the NFL lead. Allen also has forced three fumbles, recovered two and scored a touchdown.
He has helped raise the Vikings' defense to another level not only with big plays, but also with intensity and consistency at the end position. Some have called Allen a dirty player, and certainly he's felt his share of fines. But there is no doubting production, as his play against the run has improved, with Allen tied for fourth on the team in total tackles.
And as the 7-1 Vikes begin their second half, the schedule certainly looks sack-friendly for Allen, with three home games in a row against the Lions, Seahawks and Bears.
On the day
Johnson separated himself from the Cards' best cornerback. He crossed into coverage over the middle. He caught the ball and immediately took a full-speed, shoulder-down shot from 250-pound Arizona linebacker
But it was Hayes who bounced off and crumbled to the ground. Johnson then turned toward the end zone and lowered his head into safety
Andre Johnson happened. He has been a man on a mission in every way for the Texans this year, ranking sixth in the NFL in receptions (54), first in receiving yards (800), fifth in receiving yards per game (88.9). Since being held to 35 yards on opening day, Johnson is averaging 101 yards receiving per game and is third in receptions for more than 40 yards, with four.
Dumervil, who's tied with the Vikings' Allen with 10.5 sacks, is on pace for a career-high in tackles and has forced two fumbles, recovered one and been stellar in pass coverage when lining up at linebacker.
The Broncos have become one of the league's brightest underdog stories in 2009, and nothing reflects their story more than this smallish end who plays at a torrid pace, with a lion's heart.
The No. 1 draft pick in the 2006 draft was Texans end
Technically, Austin ranks a very pedestrian 54th in the league in receptions. But anyone who has seen what Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys have done this year knows much better than to call Austin pedestrian.
And, oh, by the way,
After starting the year 2-2 and struggling mightily, Cowboys coach
Most important, the Cowboys are 4-0 since Austin became a starter and have taken over the NFC East lead. If you're measuring true value to a team, Austin is off the charts, making big play after big play, including the game-winning 49-yard touchdown reception in Sunday's win at Philadelphia.