Yeah, I know we’re a week past midseason, but with the byes and everything we’re more or less in the middle of the actual season. Anyway, here are the honorees:
MVP: Clinton Portis, ‘Skins - He’ll be leading the league in rushing by a country mile even if he lays an egg in tonight’s game. He’s also among the leaders in scoring. He’s also doing this with almost no backup thanks to Ladell Betts’ injury. Shaun Alexander has something like 20 yards on 10 carries. I’d like to see him catch more passes, as he did last year, but part of the reason he isn’t is that every opposing defense is playing with 8 men in the box, making the receivers much better targets for Jason Campbell.
Runner-up: Drew Brees, Saints
Offensive POTY: Philip Rivers, Chargers - I know all the talking heads are creaming themselves over Drew Brees, but Rivers has more touchdowns and one fewer pick. Granted, Brees has nearly 400 more yards, but given that Rivers is on pace for more than 4,000 himself, I don’t think that signifies. Plus, he hasn’t had a bad game all year, and Brees had a stinker against Carolina. Throw in the fact that LT has been a shell of his former self this year, and I think the case for Rivers is strong.
Runner-up: Brees again/Kurt Warner, Cards (tie)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Matt Ryan, Falcons: Blah blah blah Chris Johnson. I know Johnson has been good, but rookie running backs excel in the NFL consistently. Rookie quarterbacks don’t. In any case, Tennessee’s offensive line has played so well that they could line up just about anyone in the backfield and expect big numbers, Shanahan-style. I offer LenWhale White as Exhibit 1. Ryan has been the best rookie quarterback since Peyton Manning. Roddy White should get some of the credit, just as Marvin Harrison did with Peyton, but the Falcons’ other receivers are pedestrian and White is on pace to shatter his numbers from last year even though Atlanta doesn’t need to throw nearly as much this season.
Runner-up: Sam Baker, Falcons/Matt Forte, Bears (tie)
Defensive POTY: Gaines Adams, Bucs: Yeah, yeah, Joey Porter has (lots) more sacks, and Albert Haynesworth is getting lots more pub. However, Porter has been really bad in run defense, and is horrible in coverage, and Haynesworth is the beneficiary of playing on a loaded defensive line that has usually played with a lead. He’s totally disappeared in several games this year, notably against Indy. Adams has been almost solely responsible for the Buccaneers’ ability to put pressure on the passer- he has 5 of the team’s 14.5 sacks, and nobody else on the defensive line has a sack in the first half of a game. He’s only got 19 tackles, but 12 were for a loss, and he’s been able to maintain outside containment on runners despite being a pure pass rusher. He even has two picks, one returned for a touchdown. What’s more, of the team’s 9 other picks, at least four are mostly attributable to his pressure. I’ll admit that this is kind of a homer pick, but I can say with some authority that the team would be lucky to be among the top 15 defenses without him.
Runner-up: Haynesworth, Titans.
Defensive ROTY: Brandon Flowers, Chiefs - If you didn’t believe he was any good, you changed your tune on Sunday. The entire game changed when Flowers was knocked out of the Bucs-Chiefs game, with Jeff Garcia suddenly finding open guys on the left side of the field. Flowers had absolutely blanketed the Bucs’ receivers in the first half, and I haven’t seen him clearly beat all year. He also nearly beat the Jets singlehandedly in the previous week, picking off Favre twice and returning one for a score.
Runner-up: Jerrod Mayo, Pats.
Coach of the Year: Ken Wisenhunt, Cardinals: I could have put Jeff Fisher, Tom Coughlin or even Bill Belichick here, but Wisenhunt gets the nod for one reason - he was smart enough to realize that all that purist crap about how you have to run the ball to win only works if you can run the ball. For a Steelers guy, that’s pretty impressive. The Cards can’t run the ball much, so they’re doing what they were built to do by Denny Green - wing the pig. Sure, the results have been mixed at times, but having a perennially shitty team in first place, even in the NFC West, deserves a reward.
Runner-up: Mike Smith, Falcons - I’m so impressed by Smith that he gets his own write-up even as a runner-up. As a fan of another NFC South team, I’m not happy to see how well the Falcons are playing. As a football fan, I’m thrilled. Atlanta’s offense and defense are ranked 10th and 16th overall, respectively, after being 23rd and 29th last year. The offensive improvement is due in part to the maturation of Roddy White, in part to the free-agent acquisition of Michael Turner, and in part to the drafting of Sam Baker (doesn’t look like a reach now, does he?) and Matt Ryan. Mostly, however, it’s due to Smith’s determination to keep running the football even when the running game isn’t productive, which forces teams to key on the run regardless of the score. The turnaround on defense is even more impressive, given that they didn’t sign any big free agents on defense and didn’t draft any defensive players on day 1. Perhaps most impressive is that the Falcons are in contention for a division title despite playing in the second-toughest division in the league.
Anyway, there are my awards. Discuss!