For my money this has been one of the least predictable NFL seasons I can remember. Granted, many of the familiar favorites from years passed are still relevant, still capable of getting hot and winning it all; but it’s the overall quality of the teams, the league depth that has peaked my interest thus far in the 2013 NFL season.
If the Ravens winning the title last year proved anything, it proved any good team can get hot at the right time and win a championship. Going into last year’s playoffs I remember how average the Ravens seemed. They’re offense didn’t scare anyone, their defense was old, and Joe Flacco was more famous for his poor mustache choices than his actual play on the field. As that team kept winning games, eventually surviving the 49er’s late comeback in the Super Bowl, I kept asking myself, “How is this happening?”
Today, the defending camps are sitting at 3-5 in their division; behind the upstart Bengals and the…Cleveland Browns (?!) led by none other than the one, the only, Mr. Jason “Al Saunders ruined my career” Campbell. The Cleveland Browns are alive! (Cut to every Browns fan silently waiting for the bottom to fall out).
Long story short, as I sat down to hand out my mid-season awards it was apparent just how wide-open this season has been. Nearly every division is up for grabs; injuries have leveled the playing field all around the league, and an influx of young playmakers on both sides of the ball has created excitment for almost every franchise (sorry Jacksonville).
As we head down the final stretch we’ll find out who’s for real and who was just pretending. Who, if anyone, wants to win the NFC LEast? With Aarron Rodgers slated to miss time, can the Packers survive, or did they just conceed the division? Is Tom Brady back? Can the Chiefs beat the Broncos and win the AFC West? Is Case Keenum the second coming of Ty Detmer (cut to Ty Detmer sitting on his couch eating Cheetos, nodding)? Will (can?) the Jaguars win a football game?
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.
Let’s get to the awards:
OMVP: Peyton Manning, QB Denver Broncos (2nd: Calvin Johnson , DET, 3rd: Cam Newton, CAR)
Say what you will about Peyton in cold weather or Peyton in the playoffs (and there’s plenty to say), but this guy’s been robotic the first half of the season. He’s already thrown for 29 TD’s with only 6 INT’s while piloting the #1 offense in football. Need I say more?
I put Calvin Johnson 2nd because I’m convinced if he wasn’t on the Lions, they’d be a 2 win team at this point. And Cam, oh Cam, I’ve never been a fan, but the Panthers would be dead in the water without him.
There’s a ton of football left to be played, but barring an unforeseen injury, this one’s Peyton’s to lose.
DMVP: Robert Mathis, DE Indianapolis Colts (2nd: Justin Houston, KSC, 3rd: Sean Lee, DAL)
This one was tough, mostly because at the halfway mark there’s no clear favorite. I went with Mathis because he was second-fiddle to Freeney for so many years, now he’s leading the league in sacks as the #1 pass rusher for the Colts (also, currently on pace to break the sack record, but don’t hold your breath).
ORookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy, RB Green Bay Packers (2nd: Geno Smith, NYJ, 3rd: Keenan Allen, SDC)
Maybe watching Lacy gash the Bears D last night on MNF is what did it, but man he’s starting to look like the real deal (cut to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson Alabama highlights). While there are plenty of impact rookies to consider, Geno Smith being the next man up, Lacy has a shot at being the best of the bunch (the injury to Aaron Rodgers might hurt Lacy’s chances, or bolster them…I’m not sure)
DROY: Kiko Alonzo, LB Buffalo Bills (2nd: Star Lotulelei, CAR, 3rd: Tyrann Mathieu, ARZ)
Let’s be honest, unless you’re a Bills fan you don’t know who Kiko Alonso is. Furthermore, unless you’re a Bills fan you don’t know where Buffalo is, but that’s beside the point. He leads the team in tackles and INT’s, and hasn’t missed a snap for a surprisingly good Bills front seven.
Comeback: Robert Griffin III, QB Washington Something’s (2nd: RG3’s left knee, 3rd: RG3’s right knee)
As a Redskins fan, the health of RG3’s knees has become one of my pastimes. I read about them, watch them on every play, and sometimes even dream about them. Is there anyone else making a comparable comback this season? He’s still way too reckless for my liking, but nine weeks in he’s starting to look somewhat like himself again. Kudos to Washington for handling RG3’s rehab the only way they knew how; terribly.
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (2nd: John Fox, DEN, 3rd: Mike McCoy, SDC)
Every shot of Andy Reid in a bright red windbreaker is worth the price of admission. Also, wishing John Fox good health and I’m legitimately surprised by Philip River’s improvement in year one under new HC, Mike McCoy.
Biggest Surprises: The New York Jets, Terrelle Pryor’s upside, the Browns defense, any Browns QB not named Brandon Weedon, the Packers running game, hey look it’s a fun Buffalo Bills Team!, the AFC West, the NFC West, Cam Newton figuring it out, the Titans D, Greg Schiano still has a job.
Biggest Disappointments:The Atlanta Falcons, exporting the Jaguars and Vikings, the New York football Giants, the Houston Texans running game, the Bears defense, the Chip Kelly revolution (game, blouses), the Miami Dolphins buddy-system, Justin Blackmon’s long-term career goals, paying Joe Flacco $20 Million, the devolution of Ray Rice & MJD, “With the 3rd pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select…Trent Richardson.”
My Division Winners:
NFC East: That team in Texas NFC South: New Orleans NFC North: Detroit NFC West: San Francisco
AFC East: New England AFC South: Indy AFC North: Cincy AFC West: Denver
Super Bowl Pick:
San Francisco vs. New England