Join Date: Mar 2005
Quarterly Report: The current picture, but a long way to go
By Pete Prisco
We're four weeks into the 2005 NFL season, and the picture is about as clear as that grainy Kate Moss cocaine video making its way through the Internet.
Do we really know who's good at the quarter point of the season?
Are the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for real?
Is the New England Patriots dynasty about to end?
Are Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts ready to get past their playoff demons, or is their quick start just another tease until January?
These questions all remain unanswered after four weeks, but things will clear up by the halfway point. They always do.
By then, the contenders will emerge and the pretenders will fall out of sight. Stars will emerge while September flashes fade away.
If the first month of the NFL season has taught us anything the past 40 years it's this: Don't think it will look this way come December.
So all of you holding that Tampa Bay-Cincinnati Super Bowl parlay ticket, you might want to hold off on telling the boss his lunch somehow always seems to wind up on his tie, and you've about had it with his way of doing things.
Those with tickets on the Washington Redskins to win the NFC East, you also might want to hold off on that Rolex you've been eyeing or the Cristal Halloween party you had planned for your friends.
The first four weeks are just a starting point, nothing more. Until the Santa goes up on the lawn, the picture is usually unclear.
Four weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings were a chic Super Bowl pick. Now their alphabet owner, Ziggy Wilf, has given Mike Tice a second vote of confidence in a month. Want to bet it's three Wilfs and he's out?
The NFL landscape as we know it now is far different than what we expected when the season began. A month from now, it will look different again, but at least things will be more in focus.
Here's our CBS SportsLine.com Quarterly Report:
MVP: Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles. Anyone who reads me regularly knows I thought McNabb was overrated a few years back. He's not anymore. What a start he has had to this season. Runners-up: Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals; Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs; Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts.
Offensive player of the quarter: McNabb. He has 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions and 1,333 passing yards -- all of it coming while playing through pain. Runners-up: Palmer, Williams, Terrell Owens, WR, Eagles.
Defensive player of the quarter: Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts. He's only fourth in the league in sacks with four, but he changes the way teams play the Colts defense. His pass rush is amazing, and teams are doubling him more and more. Runners-up: Brian Kelly, CB, Bucs; John Henderson, DT, Jaguars; Bob Sanders, S, Colts; Bryant Young, DE, 49ers.
Offensive rookie of the quarter: Williams. He has juiced-up the Tampa Bay running game in a big way. Williams has that ability to make people miss in traffic -- that's an art. Runners-up: Jammal Brown, T, Saints; Dan Buenning, G, Bucs; Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars.
Defensive rookie of the quarter: Odell Thurman, LB, Bengals. The kid had first-round ability coming out of Georgia, but there were attitude questions. There has been none of that in Cincinnati, and he has been a big-time player. Runners-up: Mike Patterson, DT, Eagles; Derrick Johnson, LB, Chiefs; Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seahawks; Darrent Williams, CB, Broncos; DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys.
Coach of the quarter: Jon Gruden, Bucs. Who thought his team would be 4-0? Gruden can flat-out coach. Runners-up: Marvin Lewis, Bengals; Tom Coughlin, Giants; Tony Dungy, Colts.
Assistant coach of the quarter: Monte Kiffin, defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Bucs. His unit is ranked first in the league. He gets better with age. Runners-up: Ron Meeks, defensive coordinator, Colts; Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator, Redskins; John Hufnagel, offensive coordinator, Giants.
Biggest surprise: (tie) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins. They're all undefeated. Who could have imagined that? Runners-up: Willie Parker, RB, Steelers; Packers at 0-4.
Most-improved player: Eli Manning, QB, Giants. He isn't in his brother's class yet, but he's moving in that direction quickly. Runner-up: DeAngelo Hall, CB, Falcons.
Biggest disappointment: Minnesota Vikings. They added all that defensive help and thought it would result in a Super Bowl. It doesn't look that way. Runner-up: Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers (no sacks).
Best free-agent pickup: Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants. He has become a go-to guy for Eli Manning. Runners-up: Reggie Hayward, DE, Jaguars; Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE, Titans
Game of the quarter: It has to be the Eagles rallying from a 24-6 deficit to beat the Chiefs on the road 37-31 in Week 4. Runners-up: Washington rallying with 14 fourth-quarter points to beat the Cowboys on the road in Week 2; Indianapolis beating Jacksonville 10-3 in a defensive war in Week 2.
Best trend: Parity. It's great to see teams like Cincinnati and Tampa Bay at the top of their conferences. Runner-up: Less use of the fullback. I call handing off to a fullback Donate-a-Down.
Worst trend: Bad offensive line play. Quarterbacks are taking a beating. It has to get better or the passers won't make it through the season. Runner-up: Coaches clamming up. Too many coaches are way too paranoid.
Best moment of the quarter: The league raising $5 million for Hurricane Katrina relief with a Monday night doubleheader. Runner-up: The way fans in Carolina treated the Saints on opening day. That was class, folks.
Worst moment of the quarter: The Saints being forced to play a home game at Giants Stadium by the league. That one will become a major issue in December, wait and see. Runners-up: Week 3. We had too many big-name players, such as Rodney Harrison and Takeo Spikes, go down with injuries; the replay official costing the Lions a victory in Week 4 against Tampa Bay.