We’ve reached the halfway point (well, I suppose it was around 3 pm that we reached the 50% mark in minutes played in the NFL), so it’s time to take a look back at the players and performances that have stood out. Without further doo doo, here are your first half awards and whatever the opposite of awards are.
MVP: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Amazing. The MVP award is very much up in the air in the league right now, with several quarterbacks in position to make a claim. Right now, though, I have Manning as the leader of the pack ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.
We didn’t know if he was going to play again at this time last year. He has 20 touchdown passes at the halfway mark, and the schedule opens up considerably. Even as he learns to play with his new teammates, we are finding out how badly things were getting in Indianapolis, if last year wasn’t proof enough. Manning is over 8.0 yards per attempt for the first time since 2006, throwing touchdowns at his highest rate since the record setting 2004 season, and leading the league in passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt.
Rookie of the First Half: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
My goodness, what a first half for rookies, especially at some glamour positions. On defense, Chandler Jones, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly . On offense, Doug Martin has been huge, Trent Richardson looks as good as advertised when healthy, Alfred Morris has been a revelation, Matt Kalil has done a fine job at left tackle for Minnesota, while several young signal callers have excelled.
So, Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck? The answer is Yes, but I’m going with Luck over Griffin. It’s not just because of recency, either. Luck was playing better than his numbers before the last two weeks, and is having a lot more put on him.
Defensive Player of the First Half: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
While the Bear Den is scoring at a prodigious rate, it is J.J. Watt who has been the single most disruptive force for the first eight games. Watt deflects passes, gets sacks, and generally creates havoc out of the 3-4 DE position that is not supposed to be one that puts up those kind of numbers. Justin Smith last year and now Watt are turning that on its ear.
Coach of the First Half: Mike Smith, Atlanta.
Atlanta has shaken off last year’s playoff embarrassment and come out of the gates 8-0. Mike Smith, as always, runs a consistent and disciplined program, and the Falcons execute when it matters. One of the best head coaches in the game, he is doing it again. Now, Atlanta fans want him to be the coach of the second (playoff) season.
Comeback of the First Half: Denver at San Diego.
This game very well could have decided the AFC West early, as Denver now has a game in hand, an easy schedule, and the home game remaining against the Chargers.
Most Exciting Finish: Green Bay at Seattle
How can we forget one of the craziest and most impactful endings in the last ten years? A few days after the Golden Tate controversial touchdown, we had Jeff Triplette back.
Worst Coach: Romeo Crennel
I mean, come on. There is plenty of competition for this title, but Crennel just seems like the clueless, lovable uncle. He doesn’t know why Jamaal Charles only got six carries in a game, and he doesn’t know why things keep falling apart. He was supposed to bring good defense and the defense has been inconsistent. He’s a puppet for Scott Pioli, and it’s going worse this time around than when he was in Cleveland. One and done.
Most Valuable Personal Punt Protector: Tim Tebow, NY Jets
Tebow can fake it and go straight up the field for a short gain on a punt as well as anyone.
Most Exciting Player: Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin has been electric this year. Christian Ponder is way worse than his numbers (and they aren’t good) benefitting from Harvin and Peterson. Harvin makes plays even without a good quarterback, and is a hybrid player that can rush, catch short passes, play on special teams, and go on deeper routes.
Comeback Player: Peyton Manning, Denver
I know the sentiment is to give this to Adrian Peterson, who missed the last four games after tearing his ACL and is on his way to over 1,600 yards. We knew Peterson was coming back, it was just how soon and how quickly he reached top form. Let’s not forget that people were talking about Manning not being able to throw and possibly never play again seven months ago. Oh, and he missed an entire season.
Bounce Back Player: Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
He wasn’t hurt, but Freeman had a year last year that caused many to question him. This year, with improved coaching around him, Doug Martin, and the addition of Vincent Jackson, Freeman is again back in the young quarterback discussion. Remember, he’s only 24 years old.
Biggest Disappointment (Team): New Orleans Saints
I know that this has been an unusual season and they are without their head coach, but the Saints losing at home to Kansas City is inexplicable. They had several games that they could have won with better execution, and now they look to be too far back in the NFC to challenge for a trip to the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Defense has never been a strong suit, but this year they are 32nd in net yards per pass, 31st in rushing yards per carry, and 30th in points allowed. That’s a bad straight to have.
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Darren McFadden, Oakland
He’s now out with what looks like a high ankle sprain, but McFadden never looked explosive and never looked comfortable in the new Oakland blocking scheme. He was averaging 3.3 yards per carry before the injury.
Biggest Upset: Arizona over New England in Foxboro
When we look back, this one has to be it. Arizona frustrated Tom Brady, but won despite a lackluster offensive game. Since starting 4-0, the Cardinals have lost 5 in a row, and are likely to be an underdog in the majority of the remaining games.
Surprise Team: Miami Dolphins
I know they just lost to the Colts, and the Colts also are among the contenders here, but I’m looking at more than just the record. Indianapolis is a flawed team with a great young quarterback and Reggie Wayne, and some stars still on defense who can make plays. While the 5 wins is surprising, the way they have played, and the style is not.
Miami on the other hand, was thought to be a train wreck. One week in, after getting hammered by Houston, the majority of people I polled thought the Dolphins were the worst team in the league. There was far less confidence in Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, Hard Knocks left everyone thinking they were inept, and that they had no receivers after the failed Ocho Cinco circus. Instead, they are squarely in the mix, and two of the losses were in overtime. They now get the Titans and Bills back to back before hosting the Seahawks, and could be poised for a move.
[photo via US Presswire]