- Jeffri Chadiha, NFL
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Adrian Peterson's dominance in Minnesota's 34-31 win over Chicago reminded me of a conversation I once had with Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
I basically asked Newsome whether he ever thought a freshman could leave college and play in the NFL. His response? He said there was only one player who ever made him consider that possibility. It was the same running back who was racing up and down the field against the Bears on Sunday.
So it should come as no surprise that Peterson, who is a long way from his days as a star at Oklahoma, has blown away the NFL so far in his rookie season. What we're witnessing is the start of what should be an extremely productive career. And please don't talk to me about this being a long season and how Peterson still has a lot to learn. The more this guy plays in the league, the harder it's going to be for teams to tackle him.
Just consider these feats Peterson accomplished Sunday:
1) Two of his three touchdowns came on runs of 65 yards or longer, which makes him just the fourth player in NFL history to do that (joining Detroit's Barry Sanders, Pittsburgh's John Fuqua and Baltimore's Lenny Moore).
2) His 361 all-purpose yards were the third-highest total produced by a rookie in NFL history.
3) His 224 rushing yards were a Vikings team record and the most ever gained against the Chicago Bears.
4) That rushing total also gave him a league-leading 607 yards on the season. Only one player -- Eric Dickerson -- has gained more yards in the first five games of his career.
1. Devin Hester proves me wrong
I have to tip my hat to the Bears' Pro Bowl returner. I thought there was no way he would be as dangerous in his second season as he was in his first, when he scored on an NFL-record six returns. After returning a punt 89 yards for a touchdown in that loss to Minnesota, he already has three scores on returns this season (two on punts and one on a kickoff). Heck, he actually might be getting scarier with age.
The only thing I didn't get wrong with Hester was his potential impact on offense. His 81-yard touchdown catch against Minnesota was his first significant contribution on that side of the ball all season. Before then, Hester had one reception for 3 yards and two carries for 2 yards this year.
2. Brett Favre sets another record
The Green Bay Packers quarterback surely doesn't want his name in the record books for this feat -- he passed George Blanda on the NFL's all-time interceptions list in Sunday's 17-14 win over Washington -- but it definitely is fitting.
Now that Favre's two interceptions against the Redskins give him 279 for his career, I can remind readers why he's one of the top 10 quarterbacks ever but not one of the top five. Bottom line: Favre has been more careless with the football than all the elite signal-callers in NFL history (a group that, in my opinion, includes Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas). And that's the only knock I've ever had against the guy.
3. Sean Taylor's immense talent
Since I'm talking about Favre's interceptions, I might as well give some credit to Taylor, the man who pushed Favre past Blanda on Sunday. Although his team lost, Taylor still played huge against the Packers. He had two interceptions and a forced fumble, and I'm starting to think there isn't anything this fourth-year safety can't do. He already has tied his career high with four interceptions, and he's well on his way to a second straight Pro Bowl.
In fact, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams pointed out recently that Taylor is the best safety in the league when the role the Redskins put him in is considered.
"He's very valuable to what we do," Williams said. "He negates people taking shots down the field."
Need proof? Favre got the win Sunday, but he also threw for just 188 yards.
4. Cleveland's dynamic duo
There have been so many productive receivers in the NFL this season that it's easy to miss what's happening in Cleveland, where tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Braylon Edwards have made life pretty hard on opposing defenses all season.
Edwards caught three touchdown passes in Sunday's 41-31 win over Miami and has seven on the season. Meanwhile, Winslow is averaging 17.4 yards on his 29 receptions. That is a mind-boggling number for a tight end.
This duo is so good right now that only Cincinnati wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are more dangerous. The key for the young Browns receivers? They finally are both 100 percent healthy at the same time. Winslow missed his first two seasons with injuries (a broken leg as a rookie and a torn ACL suffered in a motorcycle crash in his second year), and Edwards tore his ACL in his rookie season in 2005.
At their current pace, Edwards will finish with 1,472 yards and Winslow will have 1,349 yards. Both totals would break Webster Slaughter's single-season team record of 1,237 receiving yards.
5. What happened to the AFC West?
A radio talk show host recently asked me who would win the AFC West. I told him he had asked me one of the toughest questions of the year. This used to be one of the strongest divisions in football. Now I'm wondering whether any of its four teams deserves a playoff spot.
Right now, I'm convinced that 8-8 can win the AFC West. I don't think the Denver Broncos can get there because they're two last-second field goals away from being 0-5 instead of 2-3. I'm not sold on the Raiders, either. They're better, but I can't see a coach as young as Lane Kiffin turning that team around in one season. That leaves Kansas City and San Diego, the two teams tied for the AFC West lead at 3-3.
The Chargers look more dangerous now that LaDainian Tomlinson is out of his slump -- he had 198 yards and four touchdowns against Oakland -- but the Chiefs beat San Diego by 14 on the road two weeks ago. So I'll take the Chiefs, and believe me, I never would've suggested that one two months ago.
6. Jared Allen on fire
Speaking of Kansas City, defensive end Allen is proving he lost nothing during his two-game suspension at the start of the season. After picking up 2½ sacks (and forcing a fumble) in a 27-20 win over Cincinnati, Allen has six sacks in four games. With numbers like that, maybe he should be punished more often. After all, he's a big factor in the improvement the Chiefs have seen in their defense.
Just as important is Allen's maturation. Even when it was apparent that Allen was facing a suspension for two drunken-driving convictions, team sources said he was starting to grow up.
7. Reggie Brown sighting
It's good to know this third-year wide receiver finally is contributing to the Philadelphia Eagles' offense.
Before the season, I was raving about his improvement, mostly because his teammates talked about how much he had grown as a route runner. But before the Eagles' 16-9 win over the New York Jets -- in which Brown caught six passes for 89 yards -- he had only eight receptions all season. Suddenly, he was starting to look like all those other young receivers who started as Eagles draft picks and eventually saw their careers fizzle out.
The most encouraging aspect of Brown's afternoon: a crucial, 13-yard catch on third-and-7 late in the fourth quarter. That play put the Eagles in position to run out the clock and reminded me that there's still hope for Brown to live up to the hype.
8. Tampa won't be denied
Even with all their injuries, I'm putting my money on the Buccaneers to make the playoffs. Why? Because they have more heart than any other team in the NFC South. The Bucs already have 10 players on injured reserve -- including running back Cadillac Williams and left tackle Luke Petitgout -- and they watched Sunday as tight end Alex Smith was carted off the field with what seemed to be a severe leg injury in their 13-10 win over Tennessee. But here's all you have to know about Tampa Bay: The team continues to fight regardless how bleak its situation appears.
If you just looked at the stats in Sunday's win, you'd think it would be impossible for the Bucs to win. The Titans won the time of possession battle (holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes) and gained more yardage (317 to 304). In the end, though, the Bucs made all the critical plays to pull out a win on a 43-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
That resilience makes it hard for me to think another NFC South team -- even the Carolina Panthers I was so high on before quarterback Jake Delhomme was lost for the season to elbow surgery -- can keep pace with the Bucs in the second half.
9. Jags under the radar
Jacksonville easily is the best team nobody is talking about right now. At 4-1, the Jaguars have settled in behind quarterback David Garrard and are playing exactly as they have to play to win games -- with a strong rushing attack led by Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and a sturdy defense.
In fact, the Jaguars have physically dominated their past three opponents while giving up just 39.3 rushing yards a game. So far, this team has the look of that bunch that made the playoffs in 2005.
10. Remember this name
It's time for Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Thomas Howard to gain more attention. He was a standout in his rookie season and is becoming a dominant player in his second. After returning an interception 66 yards for a touchdown in the loss to San Diego, Howard has four interceptions and two scores on the year. If he isn't playing in the Pro Bowl at season's end, something is definitely wrong.
Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.