The halfway point of the NFL season is here and for the most part, we know who the contenders and pretenders are to this point. From a rabid NFL junkie, here’s my take on the midseason award winners.
Most Valuable Player:
We may as well jump right in to the most important one. Jokingly I’d like to say Dak Prescott because the Cowboys have been a complete and utter disaster since Prescott dislocated and broke his ankle. But seriously, the real MVP is Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Wilson has been the best player in football for going on three or four years now despite everyone being in awe of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Wilson isn’t surrounded with near the talent level Mahomes is but yet still is able to will his team to win on a regular basis. There is nothing Wilson can’t do and he is one of the most complete quarterbacks to ever play the game. With how fantastic Wilson is playing, it’s hard to imagine him not being in the Super Bowl come February.
Defensive Player of the Year:
In a season with limited offseason practice, it seemed like defenses were going to be ahead of offenses that need time to build chemistry and rhythm. However, that has not been the case and defenses are on pace to be historically bad. The last remaining undefeated team is the Pittsburgh Steelers and on a defense with so many stars and great players like Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden — and the list could go on and on — Bud Dupree has stood out amongst them as the X-factor and has been the one popping off the screen as I watch in my living room on a week-to-week basis. Dupree has been virtually a bust since he was drafted by the Steelers in 2015 but has really turned it on this season. The safe bet by season’s end will probably be Aaron Donald of the Rams, who is playing great per usual I might add, but we could see some Donald fatigue from voters. Plus Dupree is deserving after making enough plays and forcing turnovers to help his team remain undefeated to this point.
Rookie of the Year:
This is probably the hardest award to give out as of right now. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow is the real deal and proving he is worthy of the first overall pick. Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert was taken sixth overall and although not as consistent on a drive to drive basis as Burrow, Herbert seems to flash signs of having a higher ceiling than Burrow due to his height and arm talent. Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool has been better than all the first-round receivers taken before him and the Steelers prove they are once again the kings of drafting weapons for Big Ben. Chase Young has done things as a rookie I’ve never seen at the defensive end spot for Washington and when we look back in a couple years he could be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
But the Rookie of the Year in my eyes right now is Antoine Winfield Jr., the rookie from Minnesota. Winfield has been the do-it-all safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season and has been the leader in the secondary that was considered the weak link coming into the season. Winfield makes plays all over the field whether it’s being a ball hawk and intercepting the ball or a hard-hitting thumper in the middle of the defense or even rushing the passer, he can do it all. He is the prototypical safety for today’s game like Jamal Adams is today or Troy Palamalu was back in the day. He will receive little praise from main stream media being on a stacked team led by Tom Brady, but nothing gets past these eyes.
Comeback Player of the Year:
Sorry Alex Smith, throwing a couple passes doesn’t get you the award in my eyes. Tampa Bay’s Rob Gronkoski has looked better the last couple weeks but was so atrocious the first month of the season, morally I just can’t give it to him even if he is an all-time favorite player of mine. How could I not go with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisburger for this award. Big Ben was essentially left out to dry by the media. Most considered Big Ben done after he tore his UCL in his throwing elbow, but he has come back and looks to be just as good as he was in his late 20s, helping lead his team to an undefeated record at 7-0 after going 8-8 last season without their gunslinger.
Coach of the Year:
While it would be easy to just say Brian Flores of Miami is Coach of the Year and call it a day, I feel like if the Dolphins weren’t at least a .500 team right now Flores would be in trouble. The Dolphins are a talented team following all the draft picks and free agents Miami acquired this offseason. The coach I’m picking for this award is one I thought wouldn’t work because of his patience, or rather lack thereof and that’s Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Gruden is known for being cynical toward his own quarterbacks and it looked like Derrick Carr was on his way out the door, but Gruden has stuck it out with Carr who I believe is underrated and together the two have helped carry a below average roster to wins over the Chiefs and the Saints this season. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have whiffed on some high draft picks in their short time in silver and black but have found ways to win despite. The Raiders are far from a finished product and are not real contenders this season, but I think they are trending up and their stock is on the rise.
Ryne Gallacher is a sports writer for The Outlook.