We’re halfway through the 2012 season, so it’s time to hand out some awards for the first half of the season.
MVP: Peyton Manning, Denver
I briefly considered Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers for MVP, but I have to go with Peyton at this point. Considering how many questions surrounded his playing future prior to the season, he is trending towards incredible and has the Broncos offense looking like a perennial powerhouse.
The best part about it is that they aren’t. This is essentially the same offense that went on vacation for three quarters a game last season with Tim Tebow under center. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have both flourished catching passes from Manning and Willis McGahee has worked well out of the backfield.
Eessentially, it’s just Peyton being Peyton.
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Usually reserved for Drew Brees, but after the dreadful start to the Saints’ season, I’m forced to go another direction.
How about Aaron Rodgers. The Packers didn’t exactly leap out of the gate themselves, but Rodgers certainly isn’t to blame for this.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston
Even with Charles Tillman playing out of his mind in Chicago and DeMarcus Ware playing…like DeMarcus Ware, this one was a no-brainer.
On a team stacked with talent on both sides of the ball, the Texans are 7-1 because of defensive end J.J. Watt. In just his second season (seriously, his second season) he’s been an unstoppable pass rushing force and is on pace to contend for Michael Strahan’s sack record.
As with all of these awards, a lot can still change between now and the end of the season, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll be mentioning Watt’s name at the end of the season, barring injury.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
This has to be one of the best rookie classes in a long time. Five are starting at quarterback and impressing, while running backs Doug Martin and Alfred Morris are putting up some of the best rushing numbers in the league.
But Andrew Luck has still stood head and shoulders above the rest. With the unenviable task of following Peyton Manning (and Curtis Painter), Luck has had a very Manning-like impact on the Colts this season.
As it stands, he ironically has the same passing amount of passing yards as Manning up to this point and has done so with an even worse supporting cast, outside of Reggie Wayne.
With so much hype coming out of college, it’s scary to think that Luck is meeting and exceeding the lofty expectations. Though he may give himself a “C” for the first half of the season, he gets an “A” in my book.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chandler Jones, New England
On defense, there is a ton of rookie potential, but not many eye-popping performances. Guys like Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, or Harrison Smith have found their footing in the pros pretty quickly, but haven’t looked DROTY-like up to this point.
At this point, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones gets the nod. Bellichick and the Pats front office were praised for taking Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the first round. And with 7.5 sacks so far, the Jones pick has especially paid dividends through eight games.
Comeback Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
It sounds crazy if you don’t think about it: how can Peyton Manning win midseason MVP, but not Comeback Player of the Year?
The simple answer to this question is Adrian Peterson. Barely removed from a torn ACL that he suffered last season, Peterson has already bounced back, leading the league in rushing and looking better than he ever has.
He claims that his knee isn’t 100 percent yet, but most fans will tell you that 90, or even 75 percent of A.D. is too much for opposing defenses to handle.
What Peyton’s doing is mind-blowing. But Adrian is doing something that seemed impossible this time last season. I have to give each of them some kind of recognition.
Now let’s pick. Last week was another great one, going 11-3 and bringing my season total to 83-49.
And without further ado, we dive in to the second half of the season. If it’s anything like the first, we’ll all be in for a wild eight weeks.
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
While many called for the Thursday night upset, it was only for the sake of Thursday Night Football. Jacksonville had nothing to offer the Colts.
Tampa Bay over San Diego
If you want an idea of just how good Vincent Jackson is, think about how Josh Freeman has looked with him in Tampa Bay and how Philip Rivers has looked without him in San Diego. There’s probably still a little bit of spite towards his old team, soI’m expecting another huge day for Jackson.
New England over Buffalo
The defense is looking better. That’s the good news in Buffalo, after the new signings failed to impress at the start of the season (Mario Williams).
But unless New England still has a hangover from playing in London, they should cruise to a victory.
Denver over Carolina
Another reunion, as Broncos coach John Fox returns to Charlotte to face his former team. While I give Carolina a shot if they keep the offense balanced, I expect Peyton to eventually pick the defense apart and take home the W.
New York Giants over Cincinnati
Last week’s loss to Pittsburgh was a surprise for Giants fans. While I like Cincinnati’s defense and love A.J. Green, I can’t see the Giants dropping consecutive games.
Miami over Tennessee
Tennessee will be happy to have Jake Locker back at quarterback after he suffered a shoulder injury early in the season. But Tannehill continues to improve and I’m expecting another breakout performance from Reggie Bush today.
Atlanta over New Orleans
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: New Orleans doesn’t look any better than it did Week 1. The passing game is still well intact, but the defense can’t hold teams. Atlanta
Baltimore over Oakland
Baltimore has been a shell of itself since losing LaDarius Webb and Ray Lewis for the season. Oakland, for what it’s worth, has been in most of its games and should make a game out of today as well. Baltimore in a close one.
Detroit over Minnesota
Christian Ponder has regressed so much since the start of the season, and that’s with a healthy Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson. Today, with the Vikings missing Harvin, I can’t imagine Ponder looking any better.
Seattle over New York Jets
Seattle at home rarely gets the short end from me. Against the Jets is no different. They’ll need a solid game from their offense too, but the Seahawks defense will frustrate Sanchez all day.
Dallas over Philadelphia
What happens when you put two unpredictable teams against one another in a divisional matchup? Well, anything is possible. But until Philly’s offensive line proves otherwise, DeMarcus Ware will be spending a lot of quality time with Michael Vick in the backfield.
San Francisco over St. Louis
Just like Arizona last week, St. Louis offers nothing that the 49ers defense can’t handle. The Rams will need to force Alex Smith to make mistakes if they want any chance of winning today.
Houston over Chicago
Two 7-1 teams that 1) I love to watch, 2) have a great QB-WR combo, and 3) pride themselves on playing great defense. While I don’t put it past the Bears D to force more turnovers, what gives Houston the edge is Chicago’s offensive line. To me, if they allow six sacks in one half to Carolina decent D-line, they’ll give up nine to J.J. Watt alone.
Pittsburgh over Kansas City
Ben Roethlisberger and former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley (now with KC), miss each other but for different reasons. Ben thinks that the current Steelers offense is “dink and dunk,” while Todd Haley just misses running a competent offense. It could get ugly at Arrowhead tomorrow.
Record (Week): 9-5
Record (Season): 92-54