THE THING to understand is that this is a work in progress, ever changing throughout the season. Of course, barring an unforeseen disaster, either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning will be my All-Pro quarterback in the end. But at midseason some positions aren't close to being set. Here's where I stand.
Randy Moss (Patriots) is penciled in at one spot. That one-handed catch against the Colts—whew! He's consistently made the spectacular look commonplace. I'm leaning toward T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Bengals) at the other spot. I've got to find a place for Wes Welker (Pats), the King of the Hot Receivers. Maybe slot receiver or something. And how about Reggie Wayne (Colts), who's taken the receiving load upon himself? Oh, yes, don't forget Braylon Edwards (Browns). Sorting through the choices at this position is always difficult.
Adrian Peterson (Vikings, above) has sprinted away from the pack. Last week Minnesota announced he was a starter. His response? An NFL-record 296 rushing yards against San Diego.
This position is always my last. I was very impressed by Lawrence Vickers (Browns) when I saw him play two weeks ago. Unfortunately it was against St. Louis.
Antonio Gates (Chargers). I could list a bunch of others, just to list them, but there are stretches when Gates simply takes over.
I can't find any. In the first two games in which I saw him, 2006 All-Pro Jammal Brown (Saints) looked as if he were on an extended summer vacation. Walter Jones (Seahawks) remains functional, but he's aging. A few years ago I picked Matt Lepsis (Broncos), and he's getting a long look.
The first one's easy: Logan Mankins (Pats) is the best at his position in all phases. In the past few years I don't think I've been fair to Steve Hutchinson (Vikings), but I still don't like him as much as my sleeper, Jason Brown (Ravens). Or maybe Chris Snee (Giants).
I don't see much past Jeff Saturday (Colts) or Dan Koppen (Pats).
Jared Allen (Chiefs, below) is a human ball of pass-rushing fury. K.C. was 0--2 while he was serving a suspension, 4--2 since he came back. I've got a sleeper at the other spot, Marques Douglas (49ers). The only thing that worries me is that he's playing way above his energy level. If he falters, Aaron Kampman (Packers) is ready to move in.
Well, the gigantic nosemen are spending less time on the field. Albert Haynesworth (Titans) is the clear stick-out so far, as an all around DT. He always was a destroyer, but now he sustains it longer.
Always a huge crowd at this position. I'm staying with one of my choices from last season, Lance Briggs (Bears), but after that? It's tough to overlook the year Mike Vrabel (Pats) is having. And how about the guided missile, Ernie Sims (Lions)?
I always pick Zach Thomas (Dolphins), but this year he's been hurt. Kirk Morrison, who keeps the Raiders' defense together, would be a good choice, but I keep coming back to surprising rookie Jon Beason (Panthers). And Patrick Willis (49ers) is another dazzling first-year guy.
Asante Samuel (Pats) is the flashiest, and when I looked at the Giants-Dolphins game in London, Will Allen, Miami's left corner, was off the charts. Sorry, but I've seen Champ Bailey (Broncos) beaten too many times. He's probably been playing hurt, and maybe he'll come on in the last half.
Bob Sanders (Colts) is dynamite at strong safety, but how do we keep him healthy? Last year's sleeper, Sean Jones (Browns), has been up and down. As for the free safety, Sean Taylor (Redskins) maybe?
Dr. Z's Forecast How good are the Giants? I guess we'll find out this Sunday when they host Dallas. The two met in the opener when the Giants were getting used to a new defensive system, and Dallas laid 45 points on them. But this is a different New York team, with a scary pack of four speed rushers who can wear down the massive Cowboys linemen. Giants win it in an upset. Elsewhere, Green Bay keeps it going with a win over Minnesota, Kansas City pours more grief on Denver and Buffalo takes one in Miami, though it wouldn't shock me if it went the other way. I like the Eagles over the Redskins in Washington and, in the Monday-nighter, the Seahawks to handle the 49ers.
Last week 9--3 Season 48--27
BRUCE KLUCKHOHN/US PRESSWIRE (PETERSON)
PETER G. AIKEN/CAL SPORT MEDIA (ALLEN)