Despite their 4-0 record entering last Sunday's tilt against the Patriots at Invesco Field at Mile High, the Denver Broncos were 3.5-point underdogs. Maybe it was the socks.
But as we all know, the Broncos defense stifled Tom Brady and the vaunted New England attack in the second half. Kyle Orton, Rookie of the Year candidate Knowshon Moreno and the rest of the Josh McDaniels-led Denver offense produced when it had to, scoring the game-tying touchdown with five minutes left in regulation and marching down the field in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
You could argue that the Patriots are the superior team. You could argue that if the coin had flipped the other way prior to overtime, we'd be talking about New England getting back up into the league's top five. But arguing about it now still won't change the final score.
What's done is done. The Patriots are 3-2 and looking to rebound heading into a showdown Sunday against the Titans at Gillette. And those mustard-and-brown-striped Ponies (ahhhh, my eyes!) are 5-0 as they prepare for a Monday night trip to San Diego to take on the Chargers.
But there was more to the Week 5 action that affected our weekly NFL Trophy Case.
Here are my latest predictions for this season's Super Bowl champions, the NFL Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. I'll update my picks each week as the season goes on. I'd love to get your picks as well in the comments section below.
Now let the games begin.
Super Bowl Champs 1. New York Giants (5-0, first in NFC East)
Yes, yes, they were playing the Raiders, but another week, another dominant performance from the Giants. Yikes, 483 total yards? Some of them with David Carr at quarterback? Wow. The playing status of Eli Manning for Sunday's big matchup in New Orleans is still up in the air due to his foot injury, but still. … The No. 2 offense in the league? The No. 1 defense? This is a team with few holes.
1. New York Giants (5-0, first in NFC East)
2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0, first in AFC South)
The Colts throttled the winless Titans 31-9 on Sunday night despite just 58 yards rushing. How is their offense so ridiculous without a dangerous ground game? Peyton Manning is just … that … good. He completed six or more passes to four different receivers — Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne — in the Tennessee game. Their defense is allowing 14.2 points a game, tied for second best in the NFL.
3. New Orleans Saints (4-0, first in NFC South)
The Saints still have one of the league's most potent offenses, led by quarterback Drew Brees, his plethora of capable targets and whomever's lining up at tailback — whether it's Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas or Reggie Bush. Coordinator Gregg Williams has brought a new consistency to the defensive side as well, as his group leads the league with 10 interceptions — despite playing only four games. This week's matchup against the G-Men (Jeremy Shockey's former team) will bring further clarity to how these top squads will shake out.
4. Denver Broncos (5-0, first in AFC West)
Say what you will, but the Broncos made a believer out of me in Week 5. Yes, they may have the ugliest uniforms in the history of sport, but Kyle Orton is playing with a confidence he rarely (i.e., never) showed in Chicago, Brandon Marshall is an exciting, game-breaking receiver and Knowshon Moreno is only going to get better the more action he sees. Oh, and their defense is ranked second in the NFL. Until they prove me wrong, I'm sold.
5. Minnesota Vikings (5-0, first in NFC North)
The Rams are one of the league's sorrier excuses for a team that we've seen in some time — and I've been to games in Detroit. But the Vikes handled them appropriately in Week 5, rolling to a 38-10 win in St. Louis. Brett Favre has been better than most expected, even as he's turned 40, and he has fit in smashingly with the talented, young offense around him. This week, the Vikings welcome the Ravens to the Metrodome in what should be a fun-to-watch, hard-hitting tilt.
Most Valuable Player
1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
An off week didn't do much to help or hurt his MVP cause. He still ranks third in the NFL in QB rating (behind the Manning brothers), fifth in completion percentage (67.4) and will likely stay among the league leaders in passing yards and touchdowns. But like I said above, this week's game against the Giants will be a telling one for Brees and Co. Can they produce against the league's top-ranked defense?
3. Eli Manning, New York Giants
As I've been saying all along, Eli's stats don't stack up well against those of his older brother or Brees. But his consistency and ability to lead the well-rounded Giants attack — yes, it helps when you have running backs like Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw — make him a serious candidate for the award if the Giants stay on top of the standings.
4. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals
Let's welcome the newest candidate to the list of potential MVPs. The highly touted back out of Texas has really blossomed in his fifth season as a pro. He's leading the NFL in rushing yards (487) and has helped revive the career of quarterback Carson Palmer, who, thanks to Benson's success on the ground, now has more room and freedom to throw the ball down the field. Their complementary styles have helped the Bengals to a 4-1 mark that has them sitting atop the AFC North.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers 1. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
The Steelers may not be as dominant as some thought they might be this season. But because of their lack of a consistent running game, Big Ben has been forced to throw the ball a lot more. The result: He's first overall in completion percentage (73.8) and second in the league in passing yards (1,470) behind Peyton Manning. If the Steelers go on a long winning streak and Roethlisberger keeps posting crooked numbers on the scoresheet, he's got a shot at an individual postseason award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Yes, he made just two mulleted tackles against the Rams on Sunday, but his mulleted 52-yard fumble return in the first quarter cemented his mulleted spot atop this list.
1. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
2. James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
After a slow start, it's safe to say that the 2008 NFL DPOY is catching up with the rest of the league. With eight tackles, three sacks (six total this season) and another forced fumble (four this season) against the Lions this week, “Silverback” seems to be well on his way back to the top.
3. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
This week, his defensive unit allowed a horrendous 45 points at home against the Falcons. But Willis was again an absolute stalwart, posting 12 tackles and forcing two fumbles. Last week, his pick and 23-yard return for a touchdown helped the Niners to a big win over the Rams.
4. Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos
He didn't do a whole lot in Week 5 against the Patriots (one tackle), but New England's need to keep an eye (or two) on the league's leading sacker opened things up for fellow linebacker D.J. Williams, who posted a team-high nine tackles. The two combined to help hold the Pats scoreless in the second half and overtime.
5. Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints
The Saints were off last week, but this week's matchup against Giants wide receivers Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks could go a long way toward deciding Sharper's postseason award fate.
Rookie of the Year
1. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
In his first pro start, the rookie back out of Georgia ran 21 times for 88 yards and caught four passes for 36 yards as the Broncos popped the Pats in OT. He leads all rookies in rushing with 337 yards, a tally that's good for 11th in the NFL.
1. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
2. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Where'd all that talk about the "San-chise" go — eh, Jets fans? The right-hander went a mediocre 12-of-24 for 172 yards and a score in New York's MNF loss in Miami.
3. Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts
The largely unknown wideout from BYU caught eight balls for 97 yards and two touchdowns as the Colts pounded the Titans on Sunday night. As long as he keeps making plays, you have to believe that Peyton's going to find a way to keep getting him the ball.
4. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
This playmaker out of Florida had four catches for 66 yards in the Vikes' domination of the Rams. He's a big play waiting to happen on special teams as well, averaging 31.2 yards per kick return.
5. James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams
With six more tackles against Minnesota, this former Ohio State linebacker is tops among rookies with 40 total on the season. In this week's game, he also made his first pro interception, picking off future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.