1. The Redskins are halfway through the season with a 6-2 record. It’s time for awards. First up is the offense:
Lindsay Czarniak's picks
MVP: Jason Campbell. As the quarterback goes, the team goes. I had faith in what he could do but I never expected him to be so successful, so dominant and so unfazed in this West Coast offense. The sole reason I say Campbell is because he’s got the obvious tools in Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, but without him the machine wouldn’t be running.
Surprise: Clinton Portis. Five consecutive games of more than 120 yards? If you had told me that in the beginning of the season, I would’ve checked your temperature. I am shocked in part because he’s had so many opportunities in a pass-happy system.
Disappointment: What’s mindboggling is the fact that I’m sitting here having a difficult time actually coming up with one. I don’t have an offensive one so I’m going to say the punting game because the Redskins kept a pick (Durant Brooks) that couldn’t get it done. I think they’re on the right track now with Ryan Plackemeier.
Ryan O'Halloran's picks
MVP: Clinton Portis. One prediction I actually got right during the preseason was the offense going through Portis in the first half of the season. Portis leads the league with 187 carries for 944 yards. The good sign for the Redskins is that Portis is getting to the second level more often and he can still make people miss when in a 1 vs. 1 situation.
Surprise: Jason Campbell. Who knew he would acclimate so well so quickly to the West Coast passing game? Who knew he would not have an interception in his first 230 throws? Nobody. Campbell’s ability to dodge pressure in the pocket has been impressive and he just looks like he now has the "it" which all good quarterbacks possess.
Disappointment: The three second-round draft picks. A combined seven catches for Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis. I didn’t expect them to do a lot, but not this little.
2. The Redskins’ defense, despite many injuries, are ranked sixth in fewest yards allowed. The awards:
MVP: London Fletcher. He is the quarterback of this defense. He is a playmaker and a game-changer. Beyond the hits and the stops he makes all over the field, he is the glue that holds this unit together -- a true example of someone who leads by example.
Surprise: Carlos Rogers. The Redskins didn’t even expect him to be able to play the first few games of the season after knee surgery last year, and there you have it -- he not only plays, he comes out like a new person, raising his level to the height of the best cover corner on the team. Sometimes watching him now, I think he looks like Sean Taylor out there with the hits he lays on his opponents.
Disappointment: Jason Taylor. If he was healthy, he wouldn’t be the focus of this category, but the Redskins got him for a reason and he’s had to miss game after game because of his compartment syndrome. The good thing is, the other guys on the defensive line have really stepped up but Jason isn’t able to contribute as they thought he would.
MVP: Carlos Rogers. I agree with L’s decision on Fletcher because he is the heartbeat of that defense, but I want to recognize Rogers, too. He could also fall in the surprise category because nobody expected him to rebound so well. With Springs hobbled throughout the season, Rogers has developed into a No. 1-quality corner.
Surprise: Chris Horton. Seventh-round picks occasionally don’t even make the roster, much less start, and much less lead a team in takeaways. But Horton has four of the Redskins’ eight takeaways. He plays well beyond his years.
Disappointment: Shawn Springs. Springs has played well ... when he’s played. He miss four games during the first half because of a calf injury. Every so often Springs comes up and says, “When are you going to be a believer?” My response is always, “Stay on the field.”
3. Among the six wins, which was most impressive?
Lindsay: Dallas was the best win because of the rivalry, because that win got them rolling heading into the second divisional road game at Philly. To me, that game solidified Jason Campbell’s knack in this system. He really showed that he was able to read his options and make sound decisions as far as his offensive targets. He led the Redskins back from a deficit and was fantastic under pressure. I remember after that game feeling like this team had something special going on and I was curious to see if they’d be able to do it again the next week, which they did.
Ryan: Philadelphia. The Cowboys victory was impressive but the Eagles game was as well because the past couple of Redskins teams wouldn’t have handled prosperity as well this team did. Even when it was 14-0 Philly in the first quarter, the Redskins stuck with their game plan. Portis rushed for 145 yards, part of a great October for him.
4. Looking ahead to the second half, what are the biggest issues facing the offense, defense and special teams?
Offense: Clinton Portis’ health. He’s obviously banged up. If something happens to CP, the Redskins will have the support with Shaun Alexander but no one in the league is churning out yards like Portis this season and with that you have to look also at the health of the offensive line.
Defense: Health of the secondary. I worry about when Shawn Springs returns and now that they’ve got Chris Horton a bit banged up, it’s tough for the Redskins to rely on guys like Mike Green (although he did well in his debut start last week) to pick up the slack.
Special teams: Plackemeier’s consistency. The Redskins need a solid performance from him.
Offense: I agree on Portis’ health because Shaun Alexander hasn’t impressed in his two games and Ladell Betts will be a welcome addition after the bye. The second guy they need to keep healthy is Santana Moss.
Defense: Takeaways and sacks. The Redskins have only 10 sacks in eight games and only four in the last five games; they have only eight takeaways (one in the last four games). The offense often has to go a long way to score so the defense has to do a better job of setting up short fields.
Special teams: More from the punt return game (Moss’ touchdown was a good start). That also plays into giving the offense good field position.
5. Both of you will be at FedEx on Monday night for Steelers-Redskins. What is a key and who wins?
Lindsay: The Redskins have shown that even with winless teams, they play into situations where they put their backs against the wall. They can’t do that against the Steelers. This is going to be rough. The league’s best defense matching up against the league’s leading rusher in Clinton Portis. If anyone can shut down the run game and at the same time find a way to hamper the Redskins options downfield, it’s the Steelers. My grandma is still sad that her Steelers lost Antwaan Randle El. She told me her team is bringing heat and the Redskins should be worried. I think she’s right but the Redskins will pull this one out with help from Chris Cooley. Redskins 24-20.
Ryan: Wow. Lindsay may have just de-invited herself from the family Christmas party by going against the Steelers. But I agree. This is going to be a tractor pull-type of game and Jim Zorn said as much after practice on Wednesday. The game will be won by the team with the best running back and that’s the Redskins with Portis. He knows he has two weeks to recover so he’ll be asking for as much work as possible. The Redskins’ defense should be able to harass Ben Roethlisberger. Redskins 14-10.
BONUS 6. With just about every team completing half their schedule, which team is the biggest surprise and which is the biggest dud?
Surprise: Tennessee. When Vince Young went through his quagmire, I thought the wheels would fall off and here they are the only undefeated team in the league.
Dud: Cleveland. The league had high expectations, basically giving them a Monday night game every week, but they have gotten off to a very slow start and frustrations are mounting this first half of the season.
Surprise: Tennessee. What Lindsay said.
Dud: Jacksonville and Indianapolis. The top two teams last year in the AFC South are both 3-4 and neither have done well at home. The Jaguars are 1-3, the Colts 1-2. Injuries have certainly played a part but their records should be better.