Officially halfway through the season and you know exactly what that means – it is time for the NFL Midseason Awards.
Below, we take a look at the top performers through the first half of the 2014 NFL season including MVP, offensive and defensive stars, top coach, most impressive rookies as well as the most surprising and most disappointing teams of the year thus far.
MVP – Andrew Luck (Indianapolis)
To put it simply, the Indianapolis Colts would be in deep trouble if it weren’t for their star quarterback. On pace for 5,484 passing yards (an NFL record),Luck is currently leads the league with 26 touchdown passes, four more than Peyton Manning‘s 22 touchdowns. With 3,085 passing yards already this season, Luck is carrying the Colts on his back to a 6-3 record atop the AFC South.
Other candidates: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt, DeMarco Murray
Offensive Player of the First Half – DeMarco Murray (Dallas)
The total emergence of DeMarco Murray has given new life to the Dallas Cowboys. After going the first eight games of the season rushing for at least one hundred yards in each (a new NFL record), Murray has been the workhorse for the Cowboys. And when they shy away from saddling their cart to Murray, the team finds themselves struggling to win. With an injured Tony Romo, the importance of Murray because even more critical for the Cowboys and their success.
Other candidates: Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Antonio Brown
Defensive Player of the First Half – J.J. Watt (Houston)
This guy is a freak, and that is the highest compliment that we can pay him. Watt has 8.5 sacks, 39 tackles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, a forced fumble, seven passes defended and an interception returned for a touchdown. Watt may be more important to one team’s success than any non-quarterback player in the league. As the heart and soul of a surprising defense, Watt has taken it upon himself to lead the Texans to a 4-5 record, a place many did not expect them to reach.
Other candidates: DeMarcus Ware, C.J. Mosely, Justin Houston, Von Miller
Coach of the First Half – Bruce Arians (Arizona)
It cannot be understated just how great Bruce Arians has been as the coach of the Cardinals since arriving. Unlike many many other teams with winning records, the Cardinals have beat some strong teams – San Diego, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco. Regardless of who is quarterbacking the team, Arians constantly has his team ready to play as they are, without a doubt, by far the most prepared team in all of the league week in and out.
Other candidates: Jim Caldwell, Mike Zimmer, John Fox
Offensive Rookie of the First Half – Sammy Watkins (Buffalo)
Sammy Watkins had a strong start to the season, but the replacement of EJ Manuel with Kyle Orton has done wonders for Watkins as he has collected 67 percent of his receiving yards for the season in the last four games alone. When given the opportunity, Watkins has shown that he is not only the most impressive rookie in the league, but he is also one of the most explosive receivers in the game.
Other candidates: Zack Martin, Kelvin Benjamin, Derek Carr (serious)
Defensive Rookie of the First Half – Anthony Barr (Minnesota)
Coach Mike Zimmer raised some eyebrows when the team selected Anthony Barr early in the first round, but it was a pure Zimmerian pick. No one is questioning that pick now. As if this play wasn’t enough to show just how dominating Barr has been, then we don’t know what is. On the season, Barr has collected 58 tackles, a forced fumble, three passes defended and four sacks. He has been the center of a defense that is starting to become incredibly dangerous under the leadership of Zimmer.
Other candidates: C.J. Mosely, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett
Surprise of the First Half – Detroit Lions
Raise your hand if you had the Detroit Lions with a 6-2 record at the halfway point? Yeah, didn’t think so. Regardless, they have been incredibly impressive. While the offense has survived without Calvin Johnson (thanks, Golden Tate), the defense has been simply sensational. Many of us grumbled (get it?) at the Lions’ offseason moves of signing Tate and drafting tight end Eric Ebron before address their struggling defense, but the joke is on us. Who knew that an offensive-minded head coach (Caldwell) would get the Detroit defense playing better than their former defensive-minded coach (Jim Schwartz)?
Other candidates: Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins
Letdown of the First Half – San Francisco 49ers
To be fair, this award could go to half of the teams in the NFC West, but we will settle for the San Francisco 49ers (heck, it could go to the entire NFC South). Not only are they reportedly trying to force out coach Jim Harbaugh, but they have struggled to reach a .500 record this year. For a team so incredibly loaded with talent, there is no reason they should be losing to team such as the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. Harbaugh is undoubtedly gone now after the season, and there will likely be a few players who will follow him out the door – voluntarily or involuntarily. Regardless, for a team that had reached back to back conference championship games, a 4-4 record through the first half of the season is an epic letdown.
Other candidates: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons
Cover Photo: Matt York/Associated Press
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