Not much has gone to plan in the NFL this season.
We’re roughly to the midpoint of the NFL season, with nine weeks in the books (with most teams having had their bye) and eight to go. Our NFC first-place teams are the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Bet nobody saw that coming. Our MVP front-runner might be a second-year quarterback from the Eagles, or a revived Alex Smith in Kansas City. Or, of course, living legend Tom Brady.
In this crazy season, we try to figure out who has earned the first-half awards. Our seven voters from Shutdown Corner: Jay Busbee, Kevin Kaduk, Shalise Manza Young, Zach Pereles, Blake Schuster, Frank Schwab, Anthony Sulla-Heffinger. Here are the awards and our updated Super Bowl picks:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
QB CARSON WENTZ, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
At the halfway point, it seems like a two-man race for MVP. Wentz has more touchdowns (23-18), Brady has more yards (2,541-2,262) and has been a little more efficient. Wentz can also make plays with his legs, and his Eagles have the best record in the NFL. That gave Wentz the slight edge for the first-half award. It should be a fun race between the 24-year-old Wentz and the 40-year-old Brady the rest of the way.
Votes: Wentz (4), Brady (3)
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The voters weren’t allowed to take the same player for MVP and offensive player of the year, but Wentz voters gave single votes to Smith and Gurley and Wentz made it a sweep.
Votes: Wentz (3), Brady (2), Alex Smith (1), Gurley (1)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DE CALAIS CAMPBELL, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
When people tell you free agency doesn’t work, they’re wrong. Free agency can work very well if done right. There’s no better example this season than Campbell. The mountainous Campbell got a four-year, $60 million deal from the Jaguars, and leads the NFL in sacks with 11. That’s already his career high. Also, the other player to get a vote from our panel was Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde … also a free-agent acquisition.
Votes: Campbell (5), Hyde (1)
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
RB KAREEM HUNT, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Hunt wins but it’s clearly a good rookie class. It will be interesting to see if Watson, who was on his way to a historic season, gets any votes at the end of the season for his half-season of excellence.
Votes: Hunt (3), Watson (2), Leonard Fournette (1), Alvin Kamara (1)
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
CB MARSHON LATTIMORE, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints wanted Patrick Mahomes in the draft, then had to change course when the Chiefs moved up and took him the pick before. New Orleans ended up hitting the jackpot with Lattimore, who has helped transform the Saints’ defense. They seem to have a lockdown cornerback in place for a long time.
Votes: Lattimore (5), Watt (2)
COACH OF THE YEAR
SEAN MCVAY, LOS ANGELES RAMS
McVay replaced Jeff Fisher and his never-ending stream of terrible offenses, and the Rams have done a 180. The Rams have gone from the worst offense in the NFL last season by far, to one of the best this season. And McVay is 31 years old. It seems like a franchise-changing hire for the Rams.
Votes: McVay (5), Doug Pederson (2)
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams are 6-2, in sole possession of first place in the NFC West, and it doesn’t look like a fluke. The offense is on solid ground and the defense under coordinator Wade Phillips has looked a lot better over the last four games. In a wide-open NFC, why can’t the Rams win it?
Votes: Rams (4), Jaguars (2), Saints (1)
BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER
QB ALEX SMITH, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
A couple former first-round picks battled for this. The stories are a lot different. Smith’s statistical explosion has been truly surprising after many seasons of solid but unexciting play. Goff, on the other hand, looked like a bust his rookie season but a huge upgrade in the Rams’ coaching staff has entirely turned around his career outlook. Smith, who is right in the MVP conversation with Brady and Wentz, barely won.
Votes: Smith (3), Goff (2), Kareem Hunt (1), Demarcus Lawrence (1)
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM
ATLANTA FALCONS AND TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (tie)
How about that for the NFC South? The Falcons haven’t been terrible, but they were coming off an incredible season and an NFC championship. The Buccaneers, on the other hand, have been terrible. A popular sleeper pick, the Buccaneers are 2-6.
Votes: Falcons (3), Buccaneers (3), Giants (1)
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER
ELI MANNING AND JAMEIS WINSTON (tie)
A couple votes each for a pair of struggling quarterbacks. Winston can blame an injured shoulder, and Manning can blame a bad offensive line and a ton of injuries at receiver. The bottom line is both are well below what we figured from them.
Votes: Winston (2), Manning (2), Julio Jones (1), Trevor Siemian (1), Marcus Mariota (1)
ONE BOLD PREDICTION
Manza Young: Teddy Bridgewater will start the last six games of the regular season and lead the Vikings to the NFC title game.
Pereles: Teddy Bridgewater ends the season as the starter for a playoff-bound Vikings team.
Schuster: The Jaguars will have a top-five offense by the end of the year.
Sulla-Heffinger: Jacksonville goes 7-1, earns a first-round playoff bye.
Busbee: Dallas misses the playoffs in a competitive NFC.
Kaduk: The Bills, Rams and Jaguars all end their playoff droughts.
Schwab: The Patriots don’t lose another game the rest of the season, including playoffs.
UPDATED SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
Manza Young: Eagles over Patriots
Pereles: Steelers over Eagles
Schuster: Chiefs over Rams
Sulla-Heffinger: Eagles over Steelers
Busbee: Steelers over Eagles
Kaduk: Eagles over Patriots
Schwab: Patriots over Seahawks
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