Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) signals a touchdown after...

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) signals a touchdown after throwing his 508th career touchdown pass during the first half of a game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Denver. Credit: AP / Brennan Linsley

Our midseason awards:

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos. Having one of his best years at 38, the same age at which Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Phil Simms retired.

Offensive player of the year: DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. Has set an NFL record with eight straight 100-yard games from the start of the season.

Defensive player of the year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans. Eight-year, $108-million contract extension hasn't led to any complacency. The guy goes a million miles an hour on every play.

Offensive rookie of the year: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers. Already has 40 catches for 589 yards and five TDs.

Defensive rookie of the year: Kyle Fuller, CB, Bears. Already a starter with three interceptions.

Coach of the year: Bruce Arians, Cardinals. Has his team atop the NFC West despite losing Darnell Dockett for the season and Carson Palmer for three games.

Coordinator of the year: Rod Marinelli, Cowboys. This was an historically bad defense last year; it's the reason this year's Cowboys may be headed for the playoffs.

Comeback player of the year: Rolando McClain, LB, Cowboys. Looked as if he was washed up as a first-round pick in Oakland. Missed the entire 2013 season but now anchors a much-improved defense.

Best free-agent signing: Steve Smith Sr., WR, Ravens. Former Panthers star has plenty left at age 35 with 41 catches, 675 receiving yards and four TDs.

Worst free-agent signing: Dmitri Patterson, CB, Jets. Scored a $3-million contract and didn't even make it to the opener. The Jets should have used the money to re-sign Antonio Cromartie.

Biggest surprise: Cowboys. Looked as if the defense would be its Achilles' heel; instead, it's one of the team's biggest strengths. Now the Cowboys hope Tony Romo's back holds up.

Biggest disappointment: Jets. After an 8-8 season, they talked of a playoff run. Instead, it's 1-7 and shades of the Rich Kotite era.

Most improved: Brian Hoyer, QB, Browns. Held off Johnny Football in training camp and has the Browns in the thick of the AFC North race.

Least improved: Geno Smith, QB, Jets. Stunning regression has landed him on the bench.

Breakout player: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers. Third in the AFC with 691 rushing yards. A major reason behind improved offense.


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