The one name that sticks out for the Kansas City Chiefs, as far as a good year is concerned, has to be running back Larry Johnson. Very quietly Johnson has showed himself to be moving towards that upper echelon of running backs in the league. Johnson averages 5.1 yards a carry and is just 32-yards shy of 1000 for the season. His most memorable run was a game winner on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line when he leaped over the pile for a touchdown to beat the Raiders with no time on the clock. What made that even more special was the fact that he had the pass reception to set up the gutsy Dick Vermeil call instead of having to settle for a long field goal attempt.
Safety Greg Wesley always seems to have a knack of finding the ball from his safety position. This has to be his best year so far in his sixth season. He has six interceptions so far on the season, a tie for his career best. He should finish with over 70 tackles on the season.
His teammate in the secondary has also quietly been an over-achiever. Cornerback Patrick Surtain has only one interception and just 29 tackles. It seems that he is forgotten about on the field and that his name is never called. Well his name isn't called. He's a shutdown cornerback with the respect of every team they have virtually faced. Quarterbacks don't try to throw to his side instead throwing towards Eric Warfield. Surtain has been a valuable pick-up for the Chiefs revamped defense.
Tony Gonzalez stands out as one of the under-achievers. His numbers match his 1998 campaign. So far on the year Gonzalez has just one touchdown and only four receptions for over 20 yards.
The man who has the worst hair cut in football may be the biggest over achiever in the division if not the entire NFL. Quarterback Jake Plummer has been the leader of the 10-2 Denver Broncos all year long and by far this is his best season as a professional. His quarterback rating of 92.5 is the best he's ever had. Plummer who is known for throwing bad interceptions has only four picks on the year. Five times in his nine years Plummer has thrown 20 or more interceptions. His yardage numbers won't finish as high as they have in years past but his completion percentage should be in the top two of his career if not the best by season's end. That tells how much of a valuable game manager Plummer has become under Mike Shanahan.
This is Mike Anderson's sixth season and the steady running back is having his best year since his rookie year while sharing duty with a pair of backups. In fact, Anderson has 813 yards and eight touchdowns in limited duty. Even more so he is a savvy veteran that can be looked up to by Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne who both seem to have over-achieved themselves.
Cornerback Champ Bailey has been not necessarily an over-achiever but the player that the Broncos always thought that he might turn out to be. Bailey has a career high six picks so far and two touchdowns, one more than he has had in any season. Bailey anchors an impressive defense the Broncos have fielded this season.
On the other end wide receiver Ashley Lelie has to be the biggest disappointment for the Broncos. In his fifth year Lelie was going to be the guy that would stretch the field for Denver. That hasn't happened yet and his time may be running out. Lelie averages fewer than three receptions a game with one touchdown. He only has three receptions for over 20 yards.
The San Diego Chargers have had a mild quarterback controversy between quarterbacks Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers for some time. Jokingly, it may be LaDainian Tomlinson that is their best quarterback. Besides his 17 rushing touchdowns, Tomlinson is 3 for 4 passing on the year with three touchdowns. After beating the Redskins in overtime on a 42-yard touchdown scamper, Marty Schottenheimer called Tomlinson the best player ever to play running back. "L. T." is a clear over-achiever.
Rookie linebacker/defensive end Shawne Merriman has seven sacks as a rookie. On the year Merriman has 27 tackles. After a lack-luster training camp after holding out and then suffering an injury. Merriman has bounced back in a big way. He is one of the most effective first round draft picks from last year's draft. Merriman has also forced a couple of fumbles and it appears the future is bright for this young star.
Linebacker Donnie Edwards may be one of the most under appreciated players in the game. With 74 tackles so far on the season Edwards is having another monster year. Without question he's the defensive leader. Edwards consistently finishes with over 100 tackles in a season. Edwards has two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles this season and he can be counted on for always being around the football.
Truth be told it's hard to find an under achiever on the Chargers. They are well balanced and head strong in almost every phase. If we have to pick one we'll go with Nate Kaeding with last year's playoff performance against the Jets and the two missed field goals against the Redskins last week. Kaeding has to get credit where it's due. He started the season 14 for 15 in field goal attempts. All three misses he's had were from over 40 yards.
It's hard to call the Oakland Raiders Randy Moss an under-achiever but his nagging injuries and a huge presence from defenders, opposing teams have given him back to back years where his numbers that are far below average. In his first 11 games as a Raider Moss has only 38 catches and just five touchdowns. Only once in his career has Moss finished with less that 10 scores in a single season.
To the spoils go the victors and Moss's bad luck seems to have benefited Jerry Porter. He is on pace for a career best in catches and he is already having his second best season in touchdowns with 12 on the year and 5 games to play.
LaMont Jordan has done his part for the Raiders since coming over from the Jets. The bulldozer which the Raiders list as a running back has 9 scores and 789 rushing yards. He also has 59 catches, the best of any running back in the NFL. Jordan also has two touchdowns receiving with 483 total receiving yards. This year Jordan is the best free agent acquisition at running back.
If Jake Plummer was the most pleasant offensive surprise in the division, then Derrick Burgess is a run away winner on the defensive side. The free agent from Philadelphia has 11 sacks in as many games. He also has 31 tackles, 6 more than his previous best season. Burgess has become one of the best bookends in the National Football League.
Who is he biggest under-achiever for the Raiders? Well the scapegoat was either going to be Kerry Collins or Norv Turner. Collins is actually third in the league in passing yards. Turner will have to take the blame. With the amount of talent and speed at the wide out position, Turner has not overloaded the other teams secondary forcing them to cover five receivers. Sometimes he falls on the right track getting the ball to LaMont Jordan in the flats for big yards, but then the Raiders go away from a spread attack. The Raiders had all the potential in the world to be in the leagues top five in scoring offense. They are currently the 14th best and 4-7 on the year.
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