With nine weeks of football behind us, we have reached the halfway point of the NFL season. It has been, by my estimation, a pretty terrible year of football. Not just as a Giants fan, but as a football fan, there’s been a lot to dislike about this season: Major injuries to the game’s most exciting and marketable stars, a ton of mediocrity without any consistently dominant teams and a never-ending supply of unresolved controversy, from Colin Kaepernick to Ezekiel Elliot.
That is not to say, however, the season has not had its moments and standout players. Sure, it’s depressing to watch a Sunday of football with no sign of Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson or Odell Beckham Jr., but other players have done their best to fill the void. Without further ado, here are my picks for NFL midseason awards. For each award, I’ve given my pick for who would win if the season ended today and a prediction for who will ultimately take the prize in February.
Most Valuable Player: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
It pains me to write this, it really does, but the Eagles are too good right now to ignore. Is it sustainable? I bet not. Their defense has yet to prove it can shut down potent offenses, and I don’t think their offense is as great as it seems, as its been taking advantage of weak defenses as of late. But quarterback Carson Wentz has been undeniably brilliant. His 23 touchdowns easily lead the league and, most impressively, he hasn’t been forcing the ball this season as he did in the past, shown by a miniscule five interceptions so far. He’s also been surprisingly mobile, with over 200 yards on the ground, third in the league among healthy quarterbacks. He’s an integral reason why Philadelphia has amassed a league-leading 8-1 record. If you’re a subscriber to the belief that the MVP should be the best player on the best team, that’s Carson Wentz.
Prediction: The Eagles offense will slow down eventually, especially with injuries to the offensive line. With a bunch of threatening defense lines to face in the second half, Wentz’s numbers will fall off somewhat. That’s why I’m going with a pick that pains me even more: Tom Brady. I’ll leave it at that.
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, LA Rams
Right now, this is essentially a toss-up between McVay and the Eagles’ Doug Pederson. I’m going with McVay, partly because there’s no way I’m giving two awards to the Eagles, but also because I think his work has been more impressive. The Rams, if you’ve forgotten, were terrible last year. With such a young core, it was only a matter of time before they turned it around, but no one saw it happening this soon. After an embarrassingly bad rookie season, I wondered if Jared Goff was even starter quality. Others said Todd Gurley was a bust. Yet McVay, the youngest coach in the NFL, has turned that duo into an unstoppable machine. Some of that comes from improving what was an abysmal offensive line (Giants, take note), but McVay has been masterful.
Prediction: The Eagles will probably slow down. The Rams? I’m beginning to believe they may just be the best team in the NFC. I think McVay will win it.
Rookie of the Year: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
(Technically, the NFL gives out a ROTY award on both sides of the ball, but I’ll merge them for the sake of brevity.) What a cruel, cruel world the NFL is. Deshaun Watson was one of the sole bright spots in football this season. He was more than just a bright spot, he was freaking supernova of brightness. He’s an electric player to watch and he was absolutely shredding defenses, in the air and on the ground, in a way that no rookie should ever be able to do. Then, a week ago, while Houston fans were still celebrating a World Series championship, the unthinkable happened: Watson tore his ACL in practice and will miss the rest of the season. Watson was a lock for the offensive ROTY and was even a legit MVP candidate. Now we’ll have to wait until next year to see him on the field again.
Prediction: Well, obviously, the NFL is not going to give an award to a player who missed more than half the season. So instead, I’m thinking it’ll go to Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Remember him? He set the league on fire for the first five weeks of the season, but has fallen off as of late, with only nine carries for 37 yards on Sunday. Assuming the Chiefs stick around as a contender, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before Hunt’s workload increases.
Comeback Player of the Year: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas may not be a household name, but he is one of most surefire Hall of Famers in football today. That said, when he suffered a devastating broken leg last season, some wondered if he’d ever be the same. To add to the worries, Thomas himself tweeted he was considering retirement. But Thomas has returned this season and many quarterbacks probably wish he hadn’t. The three-time Pro Bowler has two interceptions this season, and is the heart and soul of the trademark Seattle defense.
Prediction: Barring an injury (and that is a far from a safe assumption this season), this one is as much of a lock as any on the list. However, I would keep an eye on Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who’s coming back from a torn ACL. He’ll likely take over the reigns too late to compete for the award, but it’ll be a great comeback story nonetheless.
Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a tough one. Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence has had a phenomenal season with 10.5 sacks. He is, however, a Cowboy (that’s not why I didn’t pick him, just wanted to remind everyone). Minnesota’s Everson Griffen has 10 sacks on what is probably the best defense in the NFL. But I’m favoring Campbell, not only because he tops both in sack total at 11 and quarterback hits at 19, but because he is an integral part of the miracle that is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Prediction: Defensive backs, meaning cornerbacks and safeties, rarely win DPOY, because it’s harder to stand out statistically than it is for a defensive end like Campbell. But I think this year it may very well go to a player who has rapidly established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in football: Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey, also of the Jaguars, has been in the news lately for his brawl with A.J. Green, but don’t let that overshadow how dominant he’s been. He’s only going to get better and I think by season’s end, especially if the defensive end battle remains close, he’ll take the award.