Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
1. Tommie Harris, Chicago defensive tackle: It’s hard to pile on after Harris apologized for punching Arizona guard Deuce Lutui. But we all know there’s nothing Harris can do to erase the image of punching a defenseless player on the fourth play of a game with playoff implications. Harris denied intentionally getting himself ejected from the game, but regardless, this episode suggests Harris doesn’t have many more chances to stick with the team that drafted him in 2004. His immaturity might be running its course.
2. Matthew Stafford, Detroit quarterback: He threw five interceptions in the Lions’ 32-20 loss at Seattle, bringing his season total to 12 (against only five touchdown passes) in the six games he’s played. In two games since returning from a knee injury, Stafford is completing 48 percent of his passes. This is all part of the typical and expected inconsistencies of a rookie quarterback starting right away for a bad team that is struggling to run the ball. An optimist would call this stretch a good learning experience for a young quarterback. A pessimist might suggest it is setting back the development of good habits. Unfortunately, we won’t know the answer for a few years.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay quarterback: We’ve defended and praised Rodgers’ play throughout the first half of the season, but there’s no excuse for throwing three interceptions to a Tampa Bay defense that, on paper, should have been overmatched. Coach Mike McCarthy seemed to indicate the same Monday when he said: “We felt that our passing game would have been a strength versus their secondary, and if we played them again tomorrow, we would go right back at their secondary.” You never know what the long-term impact can be on a quarterback who has been sacked as often as Rodgers, but it's up to him to separate that issue from his decision-making in the pocket.
1. Greg Olsen, Chicago tight end: Lost in the Bears’ blowout loss Sunday was a breakout game of sorts for Olsen, who caught a career-high three touchdown passes. It was his first multi-touchdown game of any sort and continued to illustrate the type of red zone weapon he can be. Teams have been devoting exceptional defensive attention to him in the middle of the field, but Olsen’s size and ball skills can overcome those schemes in the close confines of the red zone. Suddenly, Olsen is tied for second among NFL tight ends with six touchdowns this season. Only San Francisco’s Vernon Davis (seven) has more.
2. Ahman Green, Green Bay tailback: Amazingly, Green has risen from the trash heap to give the Packers a productive backup for starter Ryan Grant and a fill-in kickoff returner who at least maintains possession and knows where to run. Sunday at Tampa Bay, Green rushed for 45 yards on seven carries, including a 26-yarder, and also had a 37-yard kickoff return. The Packers deserve some blame for not having a better original backup plan for Grant, but throw them some credit for giving Green a midseason chance. His presence can only help Grant, who might have needed a little internal push anyway.
3. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit tight end: Like Olsen, Pettigrew didn’t make the play-by-play impact his team had hoped for during the first half of the season. But Pettigrew caught a career-high seven passes for 70 yards and his first NFL touchdown Sunday against the Seahawks. As most rookies do, Pettigrew took a midseason step back and struggled most notably in a 26-0 loss at Green Bay last month. But the Lions spent the No. 20 overall pick to bring him into the mix and are determined to let him play through the ups and downs of a rookie season. On Sunday, he gave Lions fans a glimpse of what the team saw in him before the draft.