1. SANTANA MOSS, WR, Redskins In four seasons with the Jets, Moss was pigeonholed as a guy who stretched defenses with his speed but wasn't effective over the entire field. After his trade to Washington in the off-season for his good friend wideout Laveranues Coles, Moss is relishing the chance to be an all-around receiver. "I can play whatever role they have for me-short, deep, intermediate-I don't care," says Moss, who has 38 catches for an NFL-high 743 receiving yards and five touchdowns. "Laveranues had 90 catches last year on a hundred-something opportunities. I had 68 balls thrown to me in New York and caught 45. If I get more than 100 balls thrown to me, what more could a receiver ask for?" In Week 2 Moss caught two Mark Brunell touchdown bombs in the final five minutes to shock the Cowboys, and a new Redskins star was born. His ability to beat corners deep and his willingness to run shallow crossing routes have made him a favorite of coach Joe Gibbs, and given him the satisfaction he never had with the Jets. "All those years I'd see other guys having great years, and there was this perception that I wasn't a playmaker," said Moss, who's on pace for his first 100-catch season. "I hope people are seeing the complete receiver I think I am."
2. KYLE VANDEN BOSCH, DE, Titans After jousting with Vanden Bosch in an Oct. 16 game, Bengals tackle Willie Anderson told him, "You're going to lead the NFL in sacks." He could be right-through seven games Vanden Bosch is second in the league with 7 1/2 takedowns. A Cardinals second-rounder in 2001, he had reconstructive surgery on both knees, causing him to miss most of his rookie year and all of 2003. He started just one game last season, and Tennessee signed him as a free agent for the NFL minimum. Seemingly fully recovered, Vanden Bosch has given the Titans strong play against the run as well as the pass. "We caught lightning in a bottle," says Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. "He never wants to take a play off, and he's been a perfect leader for our young guys."
3. KELLY HOLCOMB, QB, Bills Before being benched by coach Mike Mularkey, unproven J.P. Losman had completed only 47.9% of his passes in Buffalo's 1-3 start. In came the 11-year veteran Holcomb, a free agent from the Browns, who delivered 38-of-52 efficiency in wins over the Dolphins and the Jets combined (and went 19 of 27 in Sunday's loss at Oakland). He's been a much-needed steady hand in the pocket. "There's not a blitz he hasn't seen," says Bills linebacker London Fletcher, "and he understands who to get the ball to in those situations."
4. TODD SAUERBRUN, P, Broncos Last season Denver punters averaged 40.5 yards per attempt, ranking 24th in the league. After coming over from Carolina in a trade, 11-year vet Sauerbrun is averaging 46.8 yards, and the Broncos are fourth in the league. Though Sauerbrun and several other Carolina players were implicated in a steroid scandal, Denver wasn't scared off. His 45.9-yard average from 2001 through '03 is the highest over any three-year period in NFL history, and the Denver altitude has made him even more prolific.
October 31, 2005
5. ANTHONY HENRY, CB, Cowboys Another free-agent pickup from the Browns, Henry could turn out to be the defensive MVP on a playoff contender. The five-year, $25 million contract Dallas gave him last March raised eyebrows around the league, but in his fifth season Henry has been the ball-hawking physical presence Dallas had hoped for in pairing him with fellow quarterback Terence Newman, a 2003 first-round draft pick. Henry is second on the team in tackles (35) behind safety Roy Williams and has two interceptions, one of them a crucial pick at the Cowboys' one-yard line in the second half of a 16-13 win over the Giants on Oct. 16. Henry is a high-motor guy with a good work ethic-two traits required by coach Bill Parcells.
With the Skins, Moss has shown he can be more than just a deep threat.