NFL Midseason Awards
Kuechly earned this award not because of his individual numbers, but because of the impact he has had on the team. He does have an interception, three passes defended, and a fumble recovery, but those numbers aren't what gives him the edge over the likes of Chandler Jones and Bobby Wagner. The reason Kuechly is the best defensive rookie is because he is the leading tackler on a defense that improved from 28th in yards allowed in 2011 to 13th in 2012. Kuechly is the only major difference on that side of the ball, and as the leading tackler, he deserves the most credit for the turnaround.
Honorable Mention: Chandler Jones, Bobby Wagner, Harrison Smith, Tavon Wilson
Comeback Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson (RB, Minnesota Vikings)
Adrian Peterson suffered a devastating knee injury in Week 16 of last season, leaving him likely to start the 2012 campaign on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Not only did Peterson beat the odds by starting in the Vikings' season opener, but he ran the ball for 84 yards and two touchdowns less than nine months after tearing both his ACL and MCL. Nine games into the season, Peterson now looks as good as ever, leading the NFL in rushing at 957 (106.3 yards per game). He's on pace for 1701 rushing yards, but will likely surpass that projection if he keeps improving on a weekly basis. Over the past three weeks, Peterson has averaged 152.7 yards per game on an unbelievable 8.3 yards per carry. He also has four touchdowns over that span.
The reason I can't pick Peyton Manning for this award is because I pretty much expected him to come back as his old self. Doctors said time and time again that if Peyton could regain feeling in his right arm, there would be no ill effects and he would be the same as he always was. Peterson, on the other hand, worked extensively to rebuild the muscle around his surgically repaired knee, beat his recovery timetable significantly (Peyton took much longer than his original timetable), and is displaying unprecedented burst after a serious knee injury. A lot of running backs can't come close to returning to their old form after tearing up a knee, but Peterson looks even better than he did in the past.