Speaking of Defense

In the same article as listed below they had a sidebox listing the current front runners for Defensive Player of the year.  They are:

Brian Urlacher, Bears, MLB: Urlacher is on pace for his first double-digit sack season while at the center of the league's third-ranked defense. He might need more highlight-reel plays down the stretch and to be involved in some turnovers. Leading the Bears to the playoffs will help. Chances to stand out: at Pittsburgh, Atlanta, at Green Bay.

Dwight Freeney, Colts, DE: Teams are scheming around Freeney when they play the undefeated Colts, and his linemates have been reaping the benefits. Robert Mathis leads the league with nine sacks. Freeney has six and might have the edge because he'll be credited with turning around a unit that has struggled for years. Chances to stand out: at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, at Seattle.

Troy Polamalu, Steelers, SS: Polamalu had three sacks in one game against Houston and returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown last week at Green Bay. He's incredibly versatile and can be used as a linebacker for the fourth-ranked Pittsburgh defense. Chances to stand out: at Indianapolis, Cincinnati.

FOR COMPARISON'S SAKE

Here are Brian Urlacher's statistics at the midpoint of the season for the last three years. (Note: He played only six of the first eight games in 2004.)

Year    T    So    TFL    Sa    PD    FF
2005    89    50    5    6    1    1
2004    73    46    5    4    2    1
2003    75    55    5    1.5    3    0

Key: T--tackles; So--solo tackles; TFL--tackles for loss; Sa--sacks; PD--passes defended; FF--forced fumbles

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