Heading into the home stretch of the 2008 season, we take a look at which NFL players have made the biggest impacts for their teams so far.
Number 5) Joey Porter, LB, Miami Dolphins – One of the biggest reasons for Miami’s incredible turnaround from 2007’s 1-15 finish to their current 6-5 record has to be the most dominant player on their defense. Porter leads the league with 14.5 sacks on a defense that is doing just enough to keep the Dolphins in every game. He has picked up the slack after the departure of sack master Jason Taylor better than anyone could have predicted.
Number 4) Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – No 2008 rookie has played a more critical role in his team’s playoff push than Ryan, whose first round selection in the draft is already paying huge dividends for Atlanta. His 11-6 touchdown to interception ratio is way ahead of schedule for a first-year quarterback, and he’s doing it with no marquee receiving targets to speak of. Just one season after the Michael Vick debacle, the Falcons have already found the new face of their franchise.
Number 3) Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints – Despite serious injuries to each of his top targets, (Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, and Jeremy Shockey have all missed multiple games) the Saints quarterback leads the NFL in passing yards with 3,574. With their porous defense and lack of a consistent running game, New Orleans can thank Brees alone for keeping their playoff hopes alive at 6-5.
Number 2) Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins – With a rookie head coach, the Redskins were universally picked to finish last in the ultra-competitive NFC East, but thanks largely to the violent running of tailback Clinton Portis, Washington enters Week 13 of the season in the thick of the playoff hunt. Fighting through multiple injuries, Portis leads the league with 1,206 yards and a staggering 4.9 yards-per-carry. He is on pace to break his own club rushing record set in 2005.
Number 1) Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals – With the Cardinals one win away from their first division title in more than a decade, no single player is more responsible for the team’s resurgence. Warner was left for dead after Arizona’s first round selection of quarterback Matt Leinhart, but coach Ken Whisenhunt’s decision to start the wiley veteran this season has paid off. His 3,506 passing yards are second in the league, and his 102.4 passer rating has led the Cardinals to a dominant 7-4 record in the weak NFC West.
Stats Source: NFL.com