2019 NFL Midseason Report

It’s that time of year again, folks. The NFL season has reached its official halfway point, and like any good halftime highlights show, it’s only right to look back on what’s happened in the first half and make some predictions for the second half.

I’m sticking with the same format as in past years — giving you the most surprising and most disappointing players and teams, calling out my front-runners for the major awards, and making some bold predictions for the second half of the season.

So, enjoy the show and don’t forget to catch up on the NFL Week 9 Recap.

Most Surprising Team: San Francisco 49ers

Most people thought San Fran would be good in Year 3 of the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch era, but I don’t know anyone who thought they’d be the last undefeated team in the league halfway through the season. Jimmy Garoppolo is starting to look like the franchise QB everyone assumed him to be. The run game is dominant and so is the defense. They’ll probably come back down to earth once they embark on a tougher second-half schedule but nobody wants to see this team in the playoffs.

Honorable mention: Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers

Most Surprising Player: Shaquil Barrett

Since they’ll get their props in the Rookie of the Year section, I shied away from deserving first-year stars Gardner Minshew and Terry McLaurin here. Only halfway through his first season in Tampa Bay, Barrett has a career-high 10 sacks after registering only 14 in five seasons in Denver. If the undrafted Baltimore native didn’t play for a last place team, he’d be in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.

Honorable mention: Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, Preston Smith

Most Disappointing Team: Atlanta Falcons

Mostly for the purposes of my pride and reputation, this is the last time I’ll reference picking Atlanta to win the Super Bowl. A team with former MVP Matt Ryan, a newly paid Julio Jones and returning defensive stars Deion Jones and Keanu Neal should at least win more games than it loses. Neal is the only one out for the season, so the Falcons’ bottom-out season is that much more perplexing.

Honorable mention: Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Chicago Bears

Most Disappointing Player: Jared Goff
Goff gets the slight edge over Baker Mayfield because he’s actually done something relevant in this league, not just talk about it. Even though several big-name players on the Rams’ roster have a hand in their slow start, Goff’s drop off from last year is pretty notable. His passer rating has plummeted from a career-high 101.1 in 2018 to a meager 86.8 this season. His completion percentage is down from 64.9 to 61.1, and he’s on pace to throw for 10 fewer touchdowns and two more picks than he did last season. The Rams fortunes improve only if Goff does down the stretch.
Honorable mention: Mayfield, Mitchell Trubisky

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Terry McLaurin

I know Gardner Minshew is everyone’s pick, but hear me out. McLaurin is catching passes from a cavalcade of mediocre QBs, and became the first player in NFL history to have five catches and a touchdown in each of his first three games, leads all rookies in catches (32) and receiving touchdowns (5), and grades out as the second-best offensive rookie in the league. Josh Jacobs will probably win the award in real life but McLaurin gets my much more prestigious cyber trophy.

Honorable mention: Jacobs, Minshew

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Nick Bosa

I shouldn’t even list honorable mentions, that’s how great Bosa has been. He’s been a difference-maker on the NFL’s top-ranked defense; Bosa is tied with Jacksonville’s Josh Allen for the most sacks among rookies (7), his 12 tackles for loss are tied for third-best in the entire league, and he’s got an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. It’s not a question of whether he gets DROY, but whether he’s about to join Lawrence Taylor as the only players to win Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie.

Honorable mention: Devin Bush, Josh Allen

Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey

The single-season record for yards from scrimmage is 2,509. CMC is a legit threat to beat that. The league’s second-leading rusher is on pace for 2,488 total yards this season and his 13 total touchdowns are tops in the NFL. Oh, and he’s basically carrying my fantasy team.

Honorable mention: Dalvin Cook, Michael Thomas

Defensive Player of the Year: Stephon Gilmore

At a time when Jalen Ramsey has been labeled the league’s best corner — despite missing time and getting trade amid a tumultuous last few months in Jacksonville — Gilmore has quietly gone about his business, playing the part of shutdown corner on the NFL’s best team. For once, the not-so-squeaky wheel should get the oil.

Honorable mention: Cameron Jordan, Nick Bosa

Comeback Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp

This dude tore his ACL in Week 10 and was right back in the lineup for the Rams’ season opener, catching seven passes and looking like the reliable target he’d always been for L.A. Kupp has already played as many games as he did in 2018, and has 18 more catches and 226 more yards than he did a year ago. We haven’t seen a comeback from a late-season ACL tear quite like this since Adrian Peterson came nine yards shy of the single-season rushing record in his 2012 MVP season.

Honorable mention: Dalvin Cook, Jimmy Garoppolo, Travis Frederick

Coach of the Year: Frank Reich

I give the former Maryland QB the slight edge over Sean Payton because his franchise QB retired days before the start of the season, yet Indianapolis remains in the mix for a division title, and maybe more.

Honorable mention: Sean Payton, Kyle Shanahan, Bill Belichick

MVP: Russell Wilson
In one of the most tightly contested MVP races in recent memory, Wilson edges out Lamar Jackson and finally gets his due for carrying Seattle to the playoffs without top-tier passing targets and a Seahawks defense currently ranked in the bottom third of the league in yardage and points allowed. Still, Wilson leads the NFL in passer rating (118.2) and passing touchdowns (22), while completing a career-high 68.3% of his passes for 2.505 passing yards (third-best in the league). Oh, did I mention he’s only been intercepted once? If he’s not the MVP, there’s no such thing as an MVP.
Honorable mention: Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, Deshaun Watson

Second Half Predictions:

The Redskins finish 3-13.

Somehow it feels like I’m overrating them. The only game in which they could plausibly be favored is the home game against the equally-putrid Jets, but as we’ve seen in Landover, the ‘Skins don’t have a home-field advantage at all. A 2-14 finish feels more likely, but I’m banking on them stealing at least one more somewhere we don’t expect. Let’s just hope Dwayne Haskins doesn’t get killed in the process.

The Browns get it together (kinda). 

Not enough to make the playoffs, mind you. But the only team with a winning record on Cleveland’s remaining schedule is the Ravens, who the Brownies beat handily in Baltimore in Week 3. I’m not saying they’ll run the table, but going 4-4 or better in the second half will help the Dawg Pound feel like not all is lost.

The Saints beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LIV.

I picked the wrong NFC South team to represent the conference in Miami so now’s the time to bail on my worst preseason pick and jump on the bandwagon of the team I picked to win it all last year.

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