QB—Drew Brees (Saints) is running away with it, with almost 500 more passing yards than his closest pursuer.
RB—Last year's rookie phenom, Adrian Peterson, has been slowed by a bad hamstring, leaving the field to Clinton Portis (Redskins). No one plays with more emotion than Marion Barber (Cowboys), who could slip in here if he starts piling up yards.
FB—The importance of this position keeps diminishing, but every now and then a fullback is thrust into a runner's role to devastating effect. Le'Ron McClain (Ravens) was a 260-pound wrecking ball against Pittsburgh in Week 4.
WR—The clear stickout is Andre Johnson (Texans), who keeps putting up 100-yard days (four in a row October). Brandon Marshall (Broncos) grabbed 18 passes against the Chargers.
TE—No one's close to Jason Witten (Cowboys), but he'll have to hold up under the terrible beatings he takes. I do enjoy watching Marcedes Lewis (Jaguars) putting DEs on their backs with his blocks.
T—Jordan Gross (Panthers), whom I once picked as an RT, is thriving on the left side. Michael Roos (Titans) is an LT standout on one of the best OLs, and Marc Colombo (Cowboys) has fully realized his mean streak on the right side.
G—Last year Pete Kendall (Redskins) was great in the early going but then faded. Now he's great again. Chris Snee (Giants) is a hard-nosed mauler on a quality unit.
C—I like quick guys at the position, which is why Tom Nalen practically had a permanent berth on my squad. Ryan Kalil (Panthers) is a worthy successor. I like Nick Mangold (Jets) better than all of New York's high-priced OL imports.
DE—Justin Tuck (Giants) is a Michael Strahan--type: solid. John Abraham (Falcons) is hustling—and sacking—more now, and Juqua Parker (Eagles) had a huge game against the Steelers. Against the same team, rising phenom Mario Williams (Texans) rolled the tackle, the blocking fullback and the ballcarrier into one big pile.
DT—I put 3--4 end Brett Keisel (Steelers) here because he reduces down in rush situations, and he's technically as skilled as any tackle. The monsters are at it again: Albert Haynesworth (Titans) and Shaun Rogers (Browns), who's back from the doghouse. Kris Jenkins (Jets) is a good 30-play-a-game man. Kevin Williams (Vikings) is grading highest on my charts.
OLB—Rushers abound. DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) probably is the most effective, but Joey Porter (Dolphins) can get into a zone and become unstoppable. James Harrison (Steelers) stands out on a talented defense. Lance Briggs (Bears) is still my best all-arounder. And I saw highlight-filled games from D.J. Williams (Broncos) and Leroy Hill (Seahawks).
MLB—Coaches could use film of Barrett Ruud (Bucs) to teach how to play the position. Not flashy, just tremendously sound.
CB—Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders) could read a newspaper out there because everybody's afraid to go at him. Wild man Cortland Finnegan (Titans) is the most fun to watch. Or maybe the second most, after tough little Antoine Winfield (Vikings). Charles Woodson (Packers) is having a quality year, and I've always liked Will Allen (Dolphins).
S—Pittsburgh doesn't let many great players get away, but it did with Chris Hope (Titans). Chris Harris (Panthers) and Donte Whitner (Bills) are comers. Troy Polamalu (Steelers) makes more big plays than anyone.
Dr. Z's Pick of the Week
The silliest notion I heard on the squawk shows was how good Tennessee's chances are to go undefeated. Deadly talk, especially with the Titans on the road this week against a mean bunch like Chicago. It's their second NFC team in a row, with Jacksonville, a serious AFC South rival, next in line. The longer this unbeaten talk goes on, the more the Bears will want to hang one on Tennessee. A run-oriented team should be just right for their D.
Chicago's coming off a close shave against Detroit—Detroit!—and Tennessee is favored by a measly three points. Vegas is begging you to send it in on the Titans. Sorry. I'm picking the Bears.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (BREES)
UNTOUCHABLES Brees (9) is a clear choice at QB, as is Asomugha at CB.
PETER READ MILLER
[See caption above]