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12-03-2004, 04:32 PM
All Under-.500 NFL team
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Jay Glazer / FOXSports.com
Posted: 54 minutes ago

The Pro Bowl balloting is in full swing, and all too often the votes are swayed by those on high-profile winning teams. It doesn't take a brain surgeon (or NFL Insider) to point to guys like Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb or Terrell Owens and know they are locks for the postseason free trip to Hawaii.

So in an effort to spread a little love to those mired in the depression of losing football, we will honor those who have exuded stellar play this season despite performing for a losing team.
The following is our Under-.500 All-NFL team. It may not be as nice as a Mai Tai after a Pro Bowl practice but at least it shows we're watching, guys.

Chiefs QB Trent Green of the 3-8 Chiefs Green narrowly edges out Brian Griese of the 4-7 Bucs, but only because Griese rode the pine for the first half of the season. However, the son of Bob has an eye-opening 104.2 quarterback rating. Green has thrown for 3,052 yards and 15 scores for the shockingly floundering Chiefs. Despite the record, Green has a career-high 66.4 completion percentage and a 93.8 QB rating (his best as a Chief), and that includes having most of his receivers injured for the beginning of the year. He has five 300-yard outputs this year, matching his total from his entire Pro Bowl season a year ago.

Rudi Johnson has already rushed for over 1,000 yards this season for the Bengals. (Andy Lyons / GettyImages)

Bengals RB Rudi Johnson After a slow start, Johnson has torn up defenses in the last several weeks. Had the Titans' Chris Brown not gotten hurt a few weeks back and, of course, Priest Holmes stayed healthy, then both would likely get the nod here. However, you've got to give this brute some points for durability. His 1,049 rushing yards puts him with just five other backs to top the 1,000-yard plateau thus far.

Bills FB Damian Shelton This mild-mannered, soft-spoken lead blocker carries a very loud and heavy steam, leading the way for Travis Henry and Willis McGahee. Don't ask us, just listen to what Dolphins All-Pro LB Zach Thomas told us when asked about Shelton.

"He hit me one time earlier this year, it may have been the hardest I've been hit in my career," Thomas said. "He'll knock the heck out of you and he doesn't really whiff either. He's solid."

Said Bills coach Mike Mularkey: "If there's someone in the league playing that position better than Damian I want you to show me who it is."

Shelton and the 49ers' Fred Beasley are the best in the biz right now at leading the way, although Beasley isn't utilized enough in the Niners offense.

Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez Gonzalez is on pace for 93 catches, which would equal the franchise record he set in 2000. He's also on pace for 1,219 receiving yards, which would be a career high. Despite the hoopla around fellow roundballer Antonio Gates of San Diego, Gonzalez leads all NFL tight ends with 838 receiving yards. Eric Johnson of the Niners also gets some votes here on a horrific 49ers team. He has more catches than Gonzalez but isn't half the blocker as Tony G and has fewer yards.

Texans WR Andre Johnson The Texans have disappointed this year but Johnson has not. Several coaches and players who have faced the Texans this year told us that Johnson is quickly emerging as a top-three receiver in the entire league. Joe Horn and Chad Johnson also garner votes with stellar numbers, but Johnson keeps his mouth shut more than nearly every other receiver in the league.

Rams WR Isaac Bruce Last year was Tory Holt's turn to turn those receiving numbers upside down. This year it's Bruce who is lighting up the stat column. Despite Holt's success a year ago, Mike Martz has decided to feature Bruce in this year's offense and the wideout has stepped up the challenge. Bruce is the only receiver to top the grand mark this year with 1,026.

Chiefs O-Line The Chiefs' eight losses have nothing to do with the offensive line. Once again, they are playing like the most dominating unit in the league. Both Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock have carved up defenses and Green's numbers are terrific again.

Julius Peppers might be becoming the best defensive player in the NFL. (Brian Bahr / GettyImages)

Panthers DE Julius Peppers Head coach John Fox insists that Peppers is primed to become the best defensive player in the NFL. Fox is probably on to something here. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder is faster than many of the LBs in the league and has matured tremendously as a pass rusher. This off-season he studied film of Michael Strahan, Jevon Kearse and old John Randle video to learn how to go from move to move to move to get to the QB. No longer is he pulling up if he doesn't get to the passer off of his first move.

"I can see how much he's grown from where I am," said safety Mike Minter. "You see him now get quarterbacks on his third and fourth moves. Once he started to learn that, the sky's the limit for him."

Buffalo DT Sam Adams It's hard to imagine a 380-pound man getting lost somewhere, but the Bills' DT has gotten lost in Buffalo. Adams is enjoying perhaps his finest season in years but not enough folks watch the Bills to notice. The Bills' defense is one of the league's stingiest and Adams' play in the middle has been a huge reason for the success. He deserves another trip back to Hawaii.

Lions DT Shaun Rogers With the Panthers' Kris Jenkins on the shelf with an injury, Rogers may be the best defensive tackle on any field these days. This is by far his best season, which bodes well for him considering he's set to become an unrestricted free agent.

Cardinals DE Bert Berry Can a man get more sacks more anonymously than Berry? For the second consecutive year, Berry has been a sack master yet nobody has noticed. Berry can rush the passer, for those who have yet to notice. He currently, and very quietly, has the lead league for sacks with 10. When did that happen? Honorable mention goes to Kevin Carter, who is a jack of all trades for the Titans' injury-ravaged team.

Titans LB Keith Bulluck Bulluck is the next great up-and-coming linebacker. Despite being mired on the 4-7 Titans, he's playing like a winner. Bulluck does more than just make tackle after tackle. He's a play-maker and steps up for the Titans at huge times.

"He's one of the most talented defensive players I've ever been around in my career," said linebackers coach Dave McGinnis. He's quickly becoming Derrick Brooks, Jr.

Dolphins LB Zach Thomas Despite missing the team's last game, Thomas leads the NFL in tackles. For the first time in his pro career he's on a losing squad, and despite the misery that comes along with rampant losing, his play has not suffered in the least.

Bills LB London Fletcher Like Adams, Fletcher is also lost near Canada. Also like Adams, he's been tearing it up defensively with more than 100 tackles in the first 11 weeks. Fletcher is the emotional leader of that Bills defense and still covers an awful lot of ground.

Redskins CB Shawn Springs The play of Springs this year has made trading Champ Bailey much, much more palatable. Springs was supposed to be on the decline and the 'Skins were criticized inside the league for paying him $10 million to sign. So far, he's been worth every penny.

Bucs CB Ronde Barber It's amazing how infrequently teams throw at the Bucs' playmaker. Barber is still the team's most reliable blitzer and provides their best chance for a big-time play in the secondary. Honorable mention goes to Nate Clements of the Bills, who also stands out on special teams.

Bills safety Lawyer Milloy Milloy does it all for the Bills defense. He is the only member of the secondary who the Bills send after the QB on a consistent basis. Plus, with Troy Vincent sidelined for the last month, Milloy has picked up his play in his absence.

Dallas S Roy Williams The only member of the 4-7 Cowboys to make the team. Williams' play isn't as lofty as it was a year ago but that's because he's missing two starters in the secondary and is playing out of position. Regardless, he's still a major force any offense must contend with.

Rain Man
12-03-2004, 05:02 PM
It was kind of lazy to pick the OL as a group, though it works to our advantage.

We still can't put anyone on the defensive team, though, despite knocking all of the top teams out of the running. I wonder how many teams would have to be eliminated before we could get a defensive player on the All-XXX team. 20? 25? 30?

12-03-2004, 06:58 PM
Apparetnly that haven't seen our OL pass block in 4th quarter trying to drive to win the game.

12-03-2004, 08:58 PM
It was kind of lazy to pick the OL as a group, though it works to our advantage.

We still can't put anyone on the defensive team, though, despite knocking all of the top teams out of the running. I wonder how many teams would have to be eliminated before we could get a defensive player on the All-XXX team. 20? 25? 30?

I heard the Pro-bowl defense would be better with no players than to have a Chiefs' defensive players on the team.