Thoughts at the midpoint of the season

November, 14, 2009
11/14/09
9:02
AM ET

Ten quick-hit NFL thoughts at the midpoint of the season:

1) One trend that stands out is the impact of rookie receivers such as Percy Harvin (Vikings), Mike Wallace (Steelers), Austin Collie (Colts), Johnny Knox (Bears) and Julian Edelman (Patriots). Coaches often mention receiver being one of the toughest positions for rookies to emerge quickly.

2) I don't give the Steelers or quarterback Ben Roethlisberger enough credit. Watching them, you can't help but appreciate their toughness and how they wear opponents down.

3) The Colts are one team I badly misjudged entering the year. Thought the transition from Tony Dungy to Jim Caldwell, and uncertainty with top assistants Tom Moore and Howard Mudd, would hurt them more than it has.

4) But choosing between the Colts and Saints for best NFL team right now, I'd still take the Saints even though I'm not completely sold on their defense.

5) Getting strong vibes that this is the week the Patriots move practice squad receiver/quarterback Isaiah Stanback to the active roster. Stanback played the role of Ronnie Brown last week in practice, running the Wildcat. Wouldn't be surprised if he's active vs. the Colts.

6) Watching 49ers-Bears on Thursday night, it made me appreciate the high level of play I've seen from the Patriots -- specifically at quarterback -- over the last nine years. A lot of people were wrong about Jay Cutler, and Josh McDaniels wasn't one of them.

7) Maybe I've missed it, but running back Cedric Benson's re-emergence in Cincinnati seems to have flown a bit under the radar. Has there been another top-4 pick that didn't emerge with his first team but then turned it around so quickly with his new club?

8) Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is averaging just 5.58 yards per pass attempt after averaging 7.16 last season. That's another way of saying there are few combinations as lethal as Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

9) Even though they are 3-5, I think the Dolphins are better than they were last season when they finished 11-5. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith could be another Surtain/Madison combination in time.

10) I wouldn't have guessed a team with LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles would rank last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (69.6) and average yards per carry (3.1). It's all the more reason to be impressed with quarterback Philip Rivers and his top receiver, the emerging Vincent Jackson (7 TDs).

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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