WASHINGTON – Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. Week 9 is over, which means I turn the NFL Recap around to look back at the first half of the NFL season. Every team has played at least eight games, and we now have a pretty good sense of who’s good and who’s bad, who’s contending and who’s pretending. Think of it as halftime for the season.
I’m no James Brown, but I’ll try and give this the halftime show treatment anyway.
Most Surprising Team: New York Jets
Most people would take the Chiefs here, but I’m not most people. While I didn’t think they’d still be undefeated, I did think KC would author the biggest turnaround of the 2013 season. Meanwhile, I couldn’t see the Jets winning five games all season, let alone in their first nine games. Their defense is stout, their ground game improved and rookie QB Geno Smith has been pretty good at times after a rough preseason. Thus, New York gets the edge.
Honorable mention: Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts
Most Disappointing Team: Atlanta Falcons
Another “winner” by just the slightest of margins. This was supposed to be the year Atlanta finally made the big step up to Super Bowl heavyweight. Instead, they’re imploding at a time when surefire-Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez postponed his retirement to make a championship run. The Falcons get the nod over the Texans simply because it’s a team-wide failure and not just the fault of crappy QB play (although these days Matt Ryan can’t even throw for 300 yards the right way).
Honorable mention: Houston Texans, the entire NFC East
Most Surprising Player: Robert Quinn
Did you see what Quinn did for the Rams against the Seahawks last Monday night? Dude looked like a one-man wrecking crew. In prime time. Against the team I picked to win the Super Bowl. Quinn is among the league leaders in sacks with 10 and has an NFL-best four forced fumbles. Count him as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dim St. Louis season.
Honorable mention: Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas
Most Disappointing Player: Matt Schaub
This was tough. Eli Manning leads the league in picks with 15, but that’s not an NFL record. Schaub’s four consecutive games with an interception returned for a touchdown is an NFL record. And it probably would’ve been five straight if he hadn’t gotten hurt (his backup came in and threw a pick-six of his own). Houston has the league’s top defense (in yards and points allowed) and a productive ground game, so Schaub is the reason their season is basically over.
Honorable mention: Eli Manning, Mike Wallace
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy
Lacy is on pace to become the first Packers running back to top 1,000 yards since 2009, and is giving the offense much-needed balance at a time when they might be without Aaron Rodgers for awhile. Green Bay’s Super Bowl run three years ago was fueled by the ground game in the playoffs — so if Rodgers stays healthy and Lacy gets better as the season wears on, the Pack just might steal the Seahawks’ thunder come January.
Honorable mention: Jordan Reed, Andre Ellington
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kiko Alonso
If we could re-rack the 2013 NFL Draft, no chance this guy makes it to the 46th pick. Alonso entered Week 9 with the second-most tackles in the league along with four interceptions and a sack. He’s quickly proven himself to be an impact player on a Bills team desperate for one. And it doesn’t hurt that his name perfectly fits one of my favorite Al Jarreau songs of all time.
Honorable mention: Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, David Amerson
Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning
Need I say more? The man opened the season with a seven-TD game against the defending champs and is currently on pace to throw for close to 6,000 yards, 58 TDs and only 12 picks. You can’t even do that on “Madden.” Trust me … I’ve tried.
Honorable mention: Calvin Johnson
Defensive Player of the Year: Robert Mathis
Mathis is on the wrong side of 30 (32, to be exact), playing linebacker for just the second season of his career and doing so without his long-time bookend rusher Dwight Freeney drawing most of the attention. All he’s doing is leading the league in sacks and sitting tied for second in forced fumbles. Not bad.
Honorable mention: Muhammad Wilkerson, Justin Houston, DeAngelo Hall (Yes, I’m serious.)
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid
Andy Reid has the Chiefs rolling. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
As I said last week, Reid has made history by transforming the Chiefs from a 2-14 mess into an undefeated contender. The offense is surprisingly balanced, and the defense borders on dominant. I’m still not quite sold on their viability as a Super Bowl contender, but my preseason stance that Kansas City would be this year’s 2012 Indianapolis Colts looks pretty good right about now.
Honorable mention: Sean Payton, Jim Schwartz
Comeback Player of the Year: Philip Rivers
Rivers is quietly having a career year in San Diego. His 72 percent completion rate is best in the league. His 106.5 QB rating and 17 TD passes put him on pace for career-highs in both categories. Not to mention, he’s got the Chargers on a path to return to the right side of .500.
Honorable mention: DeAngelo Hall
MVP: Peyton Manning
See the Offensive Player of the Year entry above. ‘Nuff said.
Honorable mention: There’s just no close second. So I won’t even sully Manning’s fifth MVP by trying.
OK, enough of the pageantry. Time for the meat:
Bengals 20 Dolphins 22 (OT)
On Halloween night, we saw a Jekyll-and-Hyde home team (Miami) edge out a road team that perpetually dresses like it’s Halloween (Cincinnati). Any surprise this game ended on a safety in overtime?
Chargers 24 Redskins 30 (OT)
Memo to ‘Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan: Your team ran 40 times for 209 yards and four TDs against a pretty good defense. If you did this every week, you’d probably be 5-3 instead of 3-5.
Vikings 23 Cowboys 27
How bad is Minnesota? They got the obligatory late-fourth quarter Tony Romo interception and still lost. If Leslie Frazier’s squad drops the Snickers at home against the Redskins to fall to 1-8, it’s gonna be pretty hard to justify his return in 2014.
Chiefs 23 Bills 13
OK, it’s time to ask the question: Is Kansas City this good or just lucky? Because getting two defensive touchdowns in a game you won by 10 on the road (against an undrafted rookie QB, no less) really can be viewed either way.
Titans 28 Rams 21
It was just like old times: St. Louis sporting the classic blue and yellow jerseys from the 1999 Super Bowl season, and Jeff Fisher standing on the losing sideline with his arms crossed.
Saints 20 Jets 26
Rex Ryan owns his twin brother Rob. That’s the only viable explanation for how New York can beat a powerhouse like New Orleans.
Falcons 10 Panthers 34
Carolina is very quietly in the midst of a four-game win streak and sporting one of the league’s best defenses. If Cam Newton continues his progression, the Panthers might actually give the Saints some competition in the NFC South.
Eagles 49 Raiders 20
Oakland has thrown for seven TDs this season. Nick Foles threw for seven TDs in this game. I like to call that “perspective.”
Oh, and Mike Vick? Time to spruce up your resume. You’re gonna need it in March.
Buccaneers 24 Seahawks 27 (OT)
This season, Seattle has won just about every possible way you can win.
And Tampa Bay has found every conceivable way of losing.
Ravens 18 Browns 24
Welp … the Ravens’ 11-game win streak over the Brownies is history. Perhaps the Factory of Sadness is moving from Cleveland to Baltimore like the original Browns did.
Steelers 31 Patriots 55
Either the days of dominating Pittsburgh defenses are over, or Tom Brady sensed I was going to add him to my list of disappointing players. Either way, New England just got a bunch of Boston fans dreaming of another World Series/Super Bowl combo pack come February.
Colts 27 Texans 24
Houston was obviously preoccupied since their coach collapsed at halftime. Even still, this game was about the young QBs: Case Keenum is showing why he should be the Texans’ starter and Andrew Luck is quickly establishing himself as the most clutch QB in the league after 10 come-from-behind wins in just a season and a half in the NFL.
Bears 27 Packers 20
The Aaron Rodgers shoulder injury wasn’t just devastating to Green Bay. It was a blow to “Monday Night Football.” I stayed up to watch Josh McCown vs. Seneca Wallace for one simple reason: I was paid to.