NFL Midseason Awards
Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons)
At this point in the season, this is an obvious choice to me. With an aging Michael Turner and developing aerial weapons at his disposal, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter stated that he would put the offense in Matt Ryan's hands this season. Ryan has made Koetter proud of his decision, throwing for 295 yards per game, completing 68.9% of his passes, throwing for 17 touchdowns with only six interceptions, and posting an exceptional 103.0 quarterback rating.
It's not just the numbers, however, that make Matt Ryan the MVP. Ryan has led his team to a league-best 8-0 record with the league's 25th ranked rushing offense. This Falcons team goes as Ryan goes, and the team is going very well - perfectly, in fact. Ryan has also been calm and composed in big moments, leading two fourth quarter comebacks along with a league-leading four game-winning drives.
Ryan's biggest threat for MVP is Peyton Manning. I can understand the argument for Peyton, as he has thrown for 300.5 yards per game and leads the league with a 108.6 quarterback rating. However, Peyton has, at times, failed to get his offense going early and has gotten his team in a hole. The Broncos - a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow behind center - have a mildly impressive 5-3 record, and we want to give their quarterback the MVP? No way. Matt Ryan is your NFL MVP... for now.
Honorable Mention: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Arian Foster
Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning (QB, Denver Broncos)
As I mentioned before, Peyton Manning's numbers are staggering this season. The reason I couldn't give him the MVP was because many of his too-little-too-late performances weren't resulting in wins. The OPOY award, however, doesn't take wins into account as much as MVP does. Throwing for over 300 yards a game, and posting league-leading marks in completion percentage and quarterback rating, Peyton has the most impressive passing numbers in the league. He's thrown for 2+ touchdown passes in seven of his eight games, and has thrown three touchdowns in each of his last five games.
Peyton's possibility of returning to pre-injury form was strictly based on whether or not he could regain full feeling in his right arm. He's definitely got that feeling back, so we're seeing good old Peyton Manning again.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Arian Foster
Defensive Player of the Year: Charles Tillman (CB, Chicago Bears)
The problem with picking a Bears player for DPOY is that there are so many incredible playmakers who contribute to the Bears' defense. Regardless, Tillman is having an incredible enough year to receive the award. Tillman is the leading tackler for the league's 2nd ranked scoring defense; a defense that has given up only two more touchdowns than they have scored themselves. Tillman has intercepted two passes this season, bringing both back for touchdowns. He also has six passes defended and an astounding seven forced fumbles on the season.
Close behind Tillman for DPOY honors is Houston Texans' defensive end JJ Watt. With a league-best 10.5 sacks and 10 batted passes, Watt probably causes more headaches for quarterbacks than anyone in the league. However, I have to say I'll take seven forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns over 10.5 sacks any day of the week. Watt has also yet to force a turnover, while Tillman himself has as many or more turnovers than seven entire teams.
Honorable Mention: JJ Watt, Lance Briggs, Patrick Willis, DeMarcus Ware
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III (QB, Washington Redskins)
I hope RG3 and Andrew Luck are used to being compared to one another by now, because their long careers of media-created competition with one another are just getting started. These players were the two hottest topics coming into the most recent NFL Draft, and they have completely lived up to expectations in their rookie seasons.
Robert Griffin has been absolutely outstanding, turning heads every Sunday, regardless of whether his team wins or loses. He's completed a very impressive 65.6% of his passes, while throwing eight touchdowns to only three interceptions.
Andrew Luck is a hot pick for OROY right now due to his historic performance against the Dolphins on Sunday. If Luck can keep that up, he could definitely make a run at the award, but here are some numbers to consider: Luck completes a very mediocre 56.5% of his passes, and his 10:8 touchdown to interception ratio is far from remarkable. Compared to RG3, Luck passes for much more yards per game, but when you factor in rushing yards, Luck is only ahead by 38.8. When factoring in rushing touchdowns, RG3's TD:INT ratio is 14:3, compared to Luck's 13:8.
I understand that Luck has led his team to an improbable 5-3 record (compared to RG3's 3-6), but OROY doesn't take wins into account as much as, let's say, the MVP award does. In addition, Luck has significantly better receiving options, simply due to the presence of Reggie Wayne. If you saw the Redskins' game against the Steelers, in which Redskin receivers must have dropped 10+ passes, you understand the lack of skill players that RG3 is working with. Finally, the Redskins have the 28th ranked defense, while the Colts' defense is ranked 18th.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Ryan Tannehill
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly (LB, Carolina Panthers)
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.