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The Nickel Package

Times staff writer Sam Farmer breaks down five areas worth watching as the NFL season progresses

November 13, 2005|Sam Farmer

5 MIDSEASON MVP CANDIDATES

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LaDainian Tomlinson,

San Diego, RB

* He's been burning teams with his feet, hands and even his arm.

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Eli Manning, New York Giants, QB

* Who would have dreamed he'd outperform his big brother this season?

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Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis, DE

* Without him, Colts wouldn't be in midst of a defensive revival.

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Steve Smith, Carolina, WR

* He has strung together four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

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Carson Palmer, Cincinnati, QB

* The wait is over: Carson Show is back and dominating the ratings.

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5 HOMEBODIES

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* QB Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville -- Has a touchdown pass in 16 of 18 career home games.

* RB Willis McGahee, Buffalo -- Has rushed for 100-plus yards in eight of his last 10 home games.

* RB Tiki Barber, New York Giants -- Has at least one rushing TD in six consecutive home games.

* QB Jake Delhomme, Carolina -- In last two home starts, has five TD passes without an interception.

* TE Heath Miller, Pittsburgh -- Has four touchdown receptions in four home games.

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5 LOCKS

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* Jacksonville over Baltimore -- With Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on sidelines, the Ravens just aren't the Ravens.

* Indianapolis over Houston -- This won't be a laugher; Texans played Colts tough earlier this season.

* New York Giants over Minnesota -- Brad Johnson makes a difference, but not enough to beat Giants.

* Carolina over New York Jets -- Panther defensive front should keep Brooks Bollinger busy.

* Atlanta over Green Bay -- Packers will drop to 0-5 on the road for the first time since 1979.

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5 STARS ON MOST QUOTABLE

***** Marcellus Wiley, Jacksonville -- His broadcast career could dwarf his playing career.

**** Chad Brown, New England -- Pro Bowl linebacker speaks with authority on most anything.

*** Mike Rucker, Carolina -- When he talks, which isn't always, he draws a big crowd.

** Warren Sapp, Oakland -- A great quote while spitting tobacco at your feet.

* Larry Allen, Dallas -- On a bad day, he doesn't talk. Same as a good day.

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5 TELLING STATISTICS

* Miami rookie Ronnie Brown is averaging 5.7 yards a carry on first down, best in the NFL.

* Since 1983, Chicago is 12-2 at home vs. California teams (3-1 vs. Raiders, 3-1 vs. L.A. Rams, 2-0 vs. San Diego and 4-0 vs. San Francisco.)

* Carolina has increased its scoring in each of its last five home games -- 18, 20, 27, 32 and 38 points.

* Seattle is the only NFL team that has scored in the final two minutes of a half in every game this season.

* Philadelphia has lost four of its last six Monday night games and was shut out twice in those games.

Source: STATS LLC

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