Halfway through an NFL season filled with the usual dose of surprises, disappointments, and assorted other highs and lows, we offer up our mid-season award winners:
MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos. Amazingly, at age 37 and not far removed from FOUR neck surgeries, Manning is on pace to shatter single-season records for touchdown passes and passing yardage.
Offensive player: Manning. We like to spread the wealth with these awards, but it’s silly to even consider giving it to someone other than Manning, who already has 2,919 passing yards and 29 touchdowns in leading Denver to a 7-1 record.
Defensive player of the year: Justin Houston, LB, Chiefs. Big reason for the Chiefs’ unbeaten record is their vastly improved defense, and Houston is at the forefront of the pass-rushing stats with 11 sacks. That’s already a career high, and we’re only at the midway point.
Most improved: Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: Looked like he was on the downside of his career, but Rivers now leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.9) and is second to Manning in passer rating (111.1).
Offensive rookie: Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. A terrific running/receiving threat, Bernard gets the nod over Green Bay’s bruising tailback Eddie Lacy because of his versatility.
Defensive rookie: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Jets. Richardson was the player the Jets got in the Darrelle Revis trade, and the returns are already impressive. He’s a major force on the inside.
Coach of the year: Andy Reid, Chiefs. His time was up in Philly last year, but Reid has done a masterful job in leading the Chiefs to a stunning 8-0 record so far.
Breakout player: Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos. Played just one year of college football after switching from basketball. After just one catch in his first two NFL seasons, already has 39 receptions and eight TDs.
Biggest surprise: Chiefs. At 2-14, we knew there would be some improvement ahead under Reid. But the only unbeaten team at the halfway point? Amazing.
Biggest disappointment: Giants. This was a playoff-caliber team coming into the season, but poor play by Eli Manning and other key contributors, a spate of injuries, and Tom Coughlin’s inability to get this team going early led to an 0-6 start. Only the fact the Cowboys can’t run away with the NFC East keeps the Giants in contention. At least for now.