Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Adrian Peterson are all awesome. The Kansas City Chiefs aren't.
Welcome to the halfway point in the 2012 NFL regular season. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about that. On one hand, we've had a very memorable season thus far even though we are nine weeks in. On the other, no season passes quicker than the NFL's. While baseball and basketball feel like long, drawn out marriages that have lost their spark, football is a hot weekend in Cabo San Lucas with a harem of super models, a couple of gallons of gin, and a bucket of cocaine!
MVP (so far): Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Screw giving him the "Comeback Player Award." He's the best quarterback in football right now, playing at a level so high that it has many league observers surprised. All this despite Peyton being on pace to throw for the fewest attempts in one season during his career. The winner of the MVP award a record four times prior, Peyton is used to tossed up the rock 40-50 times a game. Now, he's doing it an average of 36 times a game.
Yet, despite throwing less, he is being even more efficient with his passes and getting more out of them.
His 69% completion percentage is the best of any season he's ever had, and his 8.2 yards-per-completion are the best for him since 2005! He's on pace to throw for 35-40 touchdowns! That's insane, especially for a guy who has clearly lost arm strength and overall durability. In typical Peyton fashion, he's altered his game, somewhat, to compensate. The results are MVP-caliber. His Broncos sit at 5-3, atop the underwhelming AFC West. Still, last year this time, Denver was 3-5 before they sold their souls to the Tebow Cult.
Best Rookie (so far): Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
When all is said and done, Andrew Luck was the primary reason Jim Irsay sent Peyton Manning packing in March of this year. Sure, Manning's four neck surgeries, including spinal fusion, played a significant part in the decision, but if your team has an opportunity to draft a 23-year-old phenom like Luck, it's a no-brainer. So far, Luck has not disappointed.
Consider that, at the midway point, both Luck and Manning have the exact same passing yards: 2,404. Both their teams have identical records (5-3). The main difference between them is Manning has thrown 20 touchdowns while Luck has tossed 10 while also rushing for 3. Manning has 6 interceptions while Luck has 8.
Still, considering that Luck is playing on a less-talented team than Manning, the fact that their stats are so similar reflects very well on Luck. It also doesn't hurt that Luck has already broken rookie records for yards in one game (433 against the Dolphins) and most 300 yard games in one season (4).
Obviously, there are some who probably think Robert Griffin III should get the nod here. I say no. RG3 is a great young talent, but he is clearly an inferior quarterback at this stage compared to Luck, especially when you factor in how Griffin is still running the Baylor offense in Washington while Luck has mastered an entirely different pro-style offense than the one he ran at Stanford.
The man from Wisconsin has been a destructive force on defense all season. He already has 10.5 sacks and 10 passes patted down, with more than a few of those deflections resulting in interceptions returned for touchdowns!
Charles Tillman of the Bears deserves consideration here, but Watt gets the nod because he is the single most important player on the entire Texans roster. Forget Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, or Andre Johnson. Watt's play is what carries the Texans who, like the Bears, are 7-1.
Best Coach (so far): Joe Philbin, Dolphins
Early season prognostications for the Dolphins were extremely low (except for me, but that's because I'm just awesome that way). After trading their best receiver (Brandon Marshall), shipping out their best corner (Vontae Davis), and the Hard Knocks chronicled Chad Ochocinco disaster, the Dolphins were the laughing stock of the NFL, specifically after getting blasted in Week One by the Texans in Houston.
However, that Texans game seems to have the exception rather than the rule for Miami. They won three of their next five, with both loses coming in overtime. One of those loses was to the Jets, who the Dolphins then blew out 30-9 five weeks later.
Adjustments like that are why Philbin gets the nod here. Unlike Mike Smith's Falcons or Lovie Smith's Bears, the Dolphins have precious little talent. Yet, the team has bought into Philbin's philosophy, and they are playing a tough, winning brand of football. All this while breaking in rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, who has completed 58% of his passes for 1,762 yards, 5 passing TDs, 1 rushing, and 6 picks. The Dolphins sit at 4-4, still in the hunt in the AFC East.
Comeback Player (so far): Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Peterson has lost some breakaway speed. Whether or not that is the result of his devastating knee injury, suffered late last season, is a subject for debate. The man is also 27-years-old, and the shelf life for "All Day" backs like him is very short.
Still, despite age and the knee injury, Peterson has been phenomenal this season. He can cut. He can shake. He can make people miss. It's these sorts of moves that, coming off that knee, he wasn't supposed to be able to do anymore!
His 5.6 yards-per-carry is his best since his rookie year in 2007! He's on pace for 1,700 yards and 10-12 touchdowns. Like Peyton Manning, those aren't just "comeback" numbers. Those are MVP numbers. However, QBs rule this league now, as Minnesota's 5-4 record demonstrates.
Surprise Team (so far): Indianapolis Colts, 5-3
If you told people, especially those employed in the Sports Department of the Indianapolis Star, prior to the start of season that the Colts would have the same winning record at the midway point as New England, they'd have dismissed you as a homer blogger who lives in his mother's basement (yeah, they still like to use that insult; their minds are perpetually frozen in 2005).
Despite all the turmoil and turnover the team has had to endure, in particular the cancer diagnosis of their head coach, Chuck Pagano, they have managed to scratch out five wins. Actually, it should be six wins if you consider how badly they blew their Week Three game against the Jaguars.
Regardless, amazing record thus far for the Colts. They are playing inspired football.
Worst Player (so far): Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs
This guy was given a truckload of money in 2009 after he guided the Tom Brady-less Patriots to a 11-5 record. Since then, he's been this generation's Steve Bono. In 2012, Cassel has the third worst QB rating in football, only slightly better than 29-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden and the comic genius known to us as John Skelton of the Cardinals.
Cassel has 11 INTs and has lost 7 fumbles. When you play worse than Mark Sanchez or the turnover bazooka that is Michael Vick, you're bad. Really bad. Plus, he was benched for Brady Quinn. Anyone who has that distinction is truly a horrible quarterback.
Worst Rookie (so far): Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars
I'm tossing Blackmon in here because this guy was supposed to be the best WR coming out of the draft. Instead, all I've seen is a sloppy route-runner who has already been questioned for his work ethic. Don't forget, he came into this season with some serious baggage from his college days at Oklahoma State. I could have put Blackmon's former OK State teammate Weeden here because of his turnovers, but at least Weeden is out there competing.
Blackmon? He might be a bum.
Also, Weeden was taken 22nd overall. Blackmon was the No. 5 overall pick, and a player the Jaguars traded up to get! Can't have this lack of production from someone taken that high.
Worst Team (so far): Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)
This team has completely imploded. Many expected them to compete in the AFC West.
Sorry, but I didn't.
The Chiefs simply aren't constructed well-enough to win in the modern NFL. No big-time QB. A head coach who doesn't understand offense. An offensive coordinator who doesn't utilize weapons like Jamal Charles enough.
Consider that, for the entire first half of the season, KC has never had a lead in regulation! Ever!
Their lone win was in overtime against the craptastic Saints, but that was a result of tying the game in the fourth quarter.
Worst Coach (so far): Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs
He was a bust in Cleveland. So, naturally, this means he'll be the next Bill Belichick in KC!
It's gotten so bad for Crennel that he just fired himself as Chiefs defensive coordinator. Considering that defense is about the only thing Crennel knows how to coach, it's a safe bet that he will not be employed by the Chiefs when the 2012 season concludes. Crennel is 3-8 since taking over as head coach late last season. KC has the 30th ranked (adjusted) defense in football, per Matt Grecco's The Winning Stats.
Best Moment (so far)
Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano's Week Nine post-game speech to his team, his first since being diagnosed with leukemia.
Worst moment (so far)
This post is sponsored by Jack in the Box.