Dean's Best And Worst

The first half of the 2006 NFL season is in the books. The bye weeks are over and every team will play every week from here on out. Some teams' success has come at no surprise while others lack thereof has simply left us scratching our heads. With eight games left to play, each game becomes more important and divisional races will heat up.

It's time to look at the best and worst of the first half of 2006.

Best Team – Indianapolis Colts (8-0)

Honorable Mention – Chicago (7-1)

Had the Bears not succumbed to a less-than-great Dolphins team, this decision may have been harder. However, with the Bears playing a soft schedule and the Colts beating up on the likes of the Giants, Broncos and Patriots (all on the road), this decision was a fairly easy one. The Colts are the first team since the 1929-31 Green Bay Packers to start back to back seasons 8-0. Can they run the table? No way. Teams inevitably have a let down game, just ask Chicago. Look for the Colts to secure home field advantage, but they'll lose at least two the rest of the way.

Worst Team – Arizona Cardinals (1-7)

Honorable Mention – every team at 2-6 (they're all bad)

With the sudden resurgence (if you can call it that) by the Oakland Raiders, and Miami's win at Chicago, the Cardinals are now all alone as the league's bottom feeders. Having lost seven in row since winning their season opener, the only question that remains is how much longer will Dennis Green last in the desert? The over/under is week 13.

Best Coaching Job – Sean Payton, New Orleans (6-2)

Honorable Mention – Herm Edwards, Kansas City (5-3)

Herm Edwards is a close second, but the job Payton has done in the bayou has been nothing short of amazing. Off to their best start since 2002, the revamped Saints lineup has playmakers all over the field. Who would have thought that the offensive rookie of the year would come from the Saints and NOT be Reggie Bush? I'm speaking of wide receiver Marques Colston, who is absolutely shredding defenses in tandem with Drew Brees. Look for the Saints to march right into the playoffs.

Worst Coaching Job – Dennis Green, Arizona (1-7)

Honorable Mention – Art Shell, Oakland

The offensive line wasn't performing and Green called them out publicly. The offense as a whole wasn't clicking so you "reassign" your offensive coordinator. Guess what? Your team still sucks. I'm not sure what gave Green the idea that throwing his players and staff under the bus was conducive to NFL success. One more thing, Denny: every team you play from here on out is who you think they are.

Best Division – AFC West

Honorable Mention – NFC East

Since the divisions were realigned in 2002, no division has won more games than the AFC West. Denver, San Diego and Kansas City will fight to the death for the division crown, and Oakland will be playing the role of spoiler. The NFL Network couldn't have picked a better game for their live debut when Denver goes to Arrowhead on Thanksgiving night. Look for both wild card spots to come out of the West.

Worst Division – NFC West

Honorable Mention – AFC North

Had Seattle not been riddled by injuries to star players and the Cardinals not been led by an inept coach, the AFC North could have taken this one. Nevertheless, the NFC West is downright anemic. The winner of this division will be lucky to finish with a winning record. It's disappointing to see Rams quarterback Marc Bulger having his best season while his team underachieves. Whoever does come out on top, their stay in the playoffs will be brief.

Biggest Surprise – Damon Huard, Kansas City

Honorable Mention – Marques Colston, New Orleans

When Trent Green went down in the season opener, Chiefs fans seemed fairly willing to concede the season. Damon Huard had other plans. Huard, now 5-2 as a starter this year, is making a viable case to be the starter for the rest of season. He's second in the league behind Peyton Manning in passer rating and already has as many 100-plus rated games (five) as Green did all of last season. If the season were to end today, Huard might even be the recipient of a few MVP votes. Edwards insists that Green will start when he's cleared, but with Huard's success, Green's margin for error will undoubtedly be short.

Biggest Disappointment – Pittsburgh Steelers

Honorable Mention – Cincinnati Bengals

The defending Super Bowl champions have managed to wreck their season much the same way that Ben Roethlisberger wrecked his Hyabusa before the season started. It's obvious he's not the same quarterback he was a year ago. We all knew that Jerome Bettis was the glue that held this team together, but we had no idea that when he retired things would fall apart so quickly. How exactly to you hold an Oakland Raider team to less than 100 total yards and still manage to lose? The Steelers will be fortunate to win seven games this season.

Best Off-Season Acquisition – Javon Walker, Denver

Honorable Mention – Drew Brees, New Orleans

Walker was a huge step up from Ashley Lelie, and he's proving it week in and week out. His ability to draw the attention of opposing defenses has helped the rest of Denver's receivers tremendously. He's also among the league leaders in receiving yards, yards per catch and touchdown receptions. After Sunday's performance it looks like he can run the ball, too.

Worst Off-Season Acquisition – Edgerrin James, Arizona

Honorable Mention – Daunte Culpepper, Miami

Edgerrin James must love money more than he loves having success as an NFL running back. He left the green pastures of Indianapolis for the desert of Arizona. His game has proven to be just as dried up as well. Does anyone else think that even Jim Brown or Barry Sanders would have trouble running for the Cardinals? They haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since 1998, and that trend will continue. Enjoy your journey into the sunset, Edge.

On to the second half…

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