by Jim O'Dell
November 4, 2005
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    Well, the NFL season is just about half over, and the surprises continue.  If the season ended today, the playoffs would look a lot different from last year.  The division winners would be New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver in the AFC, with the wild cards Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, and in the NFC, the division winners would be the New York Giants, Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle, with Carolina and Tampa Bay as the wild cards.  A far cry from last season.  There are some surprises and as well as some old standards atop the fantasy leader boards too.  Now, let's take a look back at the "second quarter" of the NFL season from a fantasy standpoint.

Quarterbacks:  Carson Palmer has proved he is an elite fantasy quarterback, as he leads the NFL in yardage (2,037), touchdowns (16) and is second in quarterback rating (104.1) through the first half of the season.  Although he has cooled off a bit, Donovan McNabb is right on Palmer's tail (2,034 and 15).  A big surprise this year is the resurrection of Drew Bledsoe for the Cowboys.  He has the Cowboys at 5-3 going into their bye week and will be near the top of the division until the end of the season.  Eli Manning is having a solid year so far, with a 15-6 touchdown to interception ratio for the NFC East leading Giants.  Others wish the season could start over.  No one would like that more than Dante Culpepper.  He is now out for the year with a torn MCL, but before that, he threw twice as many picks (12) than TDs (6).  David Carr can stay upright long enough to throw a pass it seems. Trent Dilfer is in jeopardy of losing his job in Cleveland to rookie Charlie Frye.  Joey Harrington looks horrible and was replaced by Jeff Garcia.  J.P. Losman was also replaced in Buffalo by Kelly Holcomb.  A few guys who started off slow have turned it up a notch lately.  Jake Delhomme is starting to play better, as is Trent Green.  Before last week, Mark Brunell looked like his old self.  Big Ben Roethlisberger has only thrown two interceptions to his eleven scores and leads the NFL in QB rating (112.4).

Running BacksWhen you look at the top 10 running backs yardage wise, three names stand out to me as a bit of a surprise.  Warrick Dunn is at #4 with 732, but only two scores.  At #6, Thomas Jones continues to hold off rookie Cedric Benson, rushing for 713 yards and six touchdowns.  And at #10, one half of the RBBC in Denver, veteran Mike Anderson has 604 yards and four touchdowns.  Then, there are the old standbys on the top.  Edgerrin James leads the league in rushing with 801 yards and 7 scores.  Also near the top is Shawn Alexander, with 776 yards and a league leading 12 TDs.  And, LaDanian Tomlinson has 10 romps into the endzone with his 728 yards.  Teams have not yet figured out how to stop LT2 from throwing touchdowns as well, as he has three in three pass attempts.  Other backs are struggling to find their rhythm.  Kevin Jones is having a hard time getting it going in Detroit, as is the rest of thier offense.  Corey Dillon has been banged up, although he does have seven TDs. No one is more depressed over Jamal Lewis than me, as he is one of my favorite players.  He continues to struggle and can get it going this year.  Duece McAllister's season is over as the injury bug bit him this year.  Ruben Droughns has yet to see the end-zone this season in Cleveland. As the season progresses, look for Tiki Barber to be a top three fantasy back.  He got on track last week, rushing for over 200 yards and a score.  I see that as a sign of things to come for the Giants feature back.  I think Lamont Jordan will have a nice second half for the Raiders too.  Another guy I like to have a strong finish is Kevan Barlow.

Wide ReceiversJake Delhomme's man love for Steve Smith continues.  Smith leads the league in yardage (797) and is still a big reason my fantasy team is 8-0.  A Moss, not Randy, but Santana, is having a fantastic fantasy year, with 777 yards and five TDs.  Terrell Owens will be slowed the next few weeks with an injury, but is still having a Terrell-like year.  TE Antonio Gates is Drew Brees' favorite target, as he has scores six times after missing the first week of the season.Plaxico Burress is on the same page with Eli Manning and is having his best year as a pro too.  A pair of wiley veterans in Dallas, Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson have combines for over 1,100 yards and eight TDs.  Injuries have hampered several big names so far this season, like Joe Horn, Andre Johnson, Isaac Bruce, Darrell Jackson and Drew Bennett.  Others have been plagued by poor quarterback play, Like Lavernues Coles, Roy Williams, Lee Evans and Eric Moulds,Nate Burleson, and Brandon Lloyd.  Michael Clayton has been bitten by the sophomore slump and the improved play of Joey Galloway.  Muhsin Muhammad has not yet clicked with rookie Kyle Orton in Chicago.  Guys who hope to have strong second halves are Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, Chris Chambers, Eddie Kennison, Jimmy Smith and Antonio Bryant.  Look for Bryant to come on strong for Cleveland.

So, with the season almost halfway home, there have been some mild surprises, some big ones too and some guys who are always near the top.  Hopefully, the names atop the leader boards are the ones you called out on draft day.  Are the playoffs in your reach?  Or will you fade down the stretch with the wrong waiver wire pickups?  Well see you in four weeks for the next installment, the "Third Quarter" of the season.

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