By ROBERT TATA
As the National Football League hits its midway point going into Week 9, it is time to discuss midseason awards to come out. The league’s TV ratings have been down because of a multitude of reasons: NFL Redzone, the presidential election, players kneeling during the National Anthem, and the overall crackdown on players having fun and being creative with their celebrations.
Yet, it is still the most watched professional sport in America; people need not to be worried. This season has taken twists and turns, but at the end of the day the league continues to lust viewers into a daze on Sunday’s.
Fantasy football is now so popular it seems like everyone and their grandmother is joining leagues. Despite the ups and downs the media likes to portray, the overall product produced by the players is still simply amazing. Here are my midseason awards:
Most Valuable Player:
The league’s MVP is the most luxurious award. Winning this award can skyrocket you all the way to Canton, Ohio where the NFL Hall of Fame is located. This year, there are several players in contention, including, Matt Ryan, Von Miller, maybe even up-and- comer Derek Carr; however, my midseason NFL MVP has to go to Tom Brady. I’m a New England Patriots hater, but even I would be a fool to discredit the remarkable year he is having.
Almost any NFL analyst could have predicted Brady playing above average this season, but few would have predicted a year quite like this one. Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games as part of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s pathetic attempt at bringing down a historic franchise, known as, Deflategate. People have already heard way too much about that absurdity; still the guess was Brady would come back with vengeance– and boy, he did.
Through four games Brady has led his team to four wins. While throwing 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brady leads quarterbacks in completion percentage and passer rating. He is third in passing yards per game, and with Peyton Manning now retired, he is hands down the best in-game pre-snap quarterback. Whether you love Brady of you hate him, you cannot deny the incredible year he is having.
Rookie of the Year:
Looking simply at the stats the race is hands down between two players from the same team. That team? The Dallas Cowboys. Both of these rookies have helped propel their team to a 6-1 record, one of only two teams with one loss.
These two rookies are QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliot. Both of these players had incredible college careers at Mississippi State University and Ohio State University, respectively. Both Prescott and Elliot were seen to be good professional players, but no one expected them to be ruling the league like this.
Elliot was the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, making the expectations sky high. Prescott was selected No. 135 overall and had the luxury of coming in as a backup to a Dallas “legend” Tony Romo. However, with a preseason injury to Romo, Prescott got the start and has not backed down.
So far this year Elliot is leading all running backs in yards with almost 800 through seven games, not to mention five touchdowns. These are numbers that even a five-year veteran would be thrilled with. Prescott, meanwhile, has thrown over 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns with only two interceptions. But it’s not just the numbers that make Prescott a legitimate ROY candidate, it is the way he has taken control of his team, an especially tall order given that his team is the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team.
All things considered, I would have to give the edge to Elliot just because of the way he wows everyone who watches him, even getting comparisons to the great Emmitt Smith.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Statistically speaking the Minnesota Vikings are the best defensive team in the NFL so far this year. The combination of safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr help Minnesota form a menacing defense. But the team that I believe no one ever wants to play late in the season and heading into the playoffs is the Denver Broncos.
This is largely due to the highest paid defensive player in the league, Von Miller. Miller is second in the league in sacks and makes his presence known to every quarterback that steps on the opposing sideline. Miller is the frontrunner for DPOY if he keeps it up, and unless injury plagues him I would put my money on Miller taking over like he has done in previous years.
Coach of the Year:
This might be the most difficult one to give out, as a team can hit a winning or losing streak at any point. The two things I look at most when deciding who deserves the Coach of the Year are consistency and improvement as a program. An obvious choice for this award is New England legend, Bill Belichick.
Belichick dealt with the Deflategate scandal and won three of his first four games with inexperienced Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. With Brady back, Belichick hasn’t lost a game and the Patriots are front- runners for another Super Bowl, adding to their decade of dominance. All that being said I would still opt out on giving Belichick the COY award because of my second main criteria: “improvement as a program.” Jack Del Rio is in his second year as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Prior to Del Rio taking over, the Raiders won three games in 2014. He quickly raised that number to seven wins in 2015. This year the Raiders look like a potential Super Bowl contending team that already has six wins with their record being 7-2. The Raiders still have a lot to prove to a lot of naysayers, but they truly do have potential and with their team being as young as it is, Oakland will be a team to watch in the future, thanks in a large part due to Jack Del Rio.
Thankfully we still have tons of football to watch and none of these awards are guaranteed. But it is still fun to predict what will happen and also acknowledge the players who are playing well in the first half of the season. Cheers to an exciting second half of the season!