WASHINGTON — With NFL Week 9 all wrapped up with a nice, neat little bow (via the
NFL Week 9 Recap, of course), the 2018 season is now halfway over, inching us closer to knowing with virtual certainty which teams are who we thought they were and which players completely caught us off guard.
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.
Without further ado, here’s the Midseason Review (I like to rhyme).
Most Surprising Team: Kansas City Chiefs
I flirted with taking the Redskins here, but Kansas City is far better than anyone reasonably thought they’d be. The offense is video game good, scoring 36.3 points per game with playmakers at every position. The defense is ranked last in yardage, but ranks in the top 20 in points allowed (25.1) and tied for 13th in takeaways (13) — which are far more important categories. This is one of the best teams in the league because…
Honorable mention: Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Most Surprising Player: Patrick Mahomes
…Patrick Mahomes is way ahead of schedule. I don’t care how optimistic you were about the second-year passer — you didn’t see this coming.
Mahomes has a whopping 3,185 passing yards and 29 touchdowns in just 10 career games — both NFL records. The 23-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the game’s great, young passers, and now stands one TD pass away from breaking Hall-of-Famer Len Dawson’s 54-year franchise record. It feels like Mahomes is going to be must-see TV for a long, long time.
Honorable mention: James Conner, Adrian Peterson
(AP Photo/David Richard)
Most Disappointing Team: New York Giants
Of the NFL’s one-win teams, this is the only one that had a plausible chance at being good this year. Star skill position players like Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley and Landon Collins diverted our eyes from the Giants’ biggest flaw: the lines. On both sides of the ball, New York is getting pounded at the point of attack and it’s made the next entry a really easy call…
Honorable mention: Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders
(AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)
(AP/Jason E. Miczek)
Most Disappointing Player: Eli Manning
Giants brass gambled that Eli has a couple good years left, even though they put him behind a turnstile offensive line. They lost that bet. Badly. (To be fair, so did I.) Manning is the NFL’s most sacked QB (31), and he’s so shell-shocked that the Giants are still considering benching him for a rookie that just landed on the wrong side of the law. It’s an unequivocally awful ending to one of the most polarizing careers.
Honorable mention: Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, Derek Carr
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley
Yeah, I know this post has turned really Giants-centric, but Barkley is on pace to become the first rookie to register 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 more receiving. Though Big Blue has been a big flop, his individual performance has been stellar and this is, after all, an individual award.
Honorable mention: Calvin Ridley, Kerryon Johnson, Baker Mayfield
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Derwin James
Like I did with my OROY, I’m sticking with my preseason pick here too. James has been a versatile piece for the Chargers defense, credited with 55 tackles (including a season-high 11 in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks) and registering 3.5 sacks and an interception so far. I give James the slightest edge over reigning Rookie of the Month Bradley Chubb because he’s a key player on a better unit than Denver’s, and Chubb has the benefit of playing on the other side of perennial Pro-Bowler Von Miller.
Honorable mention: Bradley Chubb, Darius Leonard, Daron Payne
(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Justin Setterfield)
Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Mahomes
I mean, do I really have to show my work here? Mahomes leads the league in passing yards (2,901) and total touchdowns (31), and his 116.7 passer rating is second only to Drew Brees. And he’s doing it with both hands! I know he’s got a ton of weapons around him in Kansas City, but he might be the greatest of them all.
Honorable mention: Todd Gurley, James Conner
(AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Defensive Player of the Year: D.J. Swearinger
This was almost certainly Khalil Mack before he got hurt, but Swearinger has somewhat quietly (before his big game against the Giants, anyway) developed into the best safety in pro football. Most of his league-leading four interceptions were crucial in Redskins wins, and he’s also tied for the team lead in fumbles forced (2) and recovered (1). This isn’t a top 10 defense without him.
Honorable mention: Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, J.J. Watt
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Comeback Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson
I give AP the slight edge over J.J. Watt because everyone (myself included) expected Watt to return to form. Peterson was signed days before the start of the season and almost instantly became the focal point of the Redskins rushing attack, rushing for 604 yards (fifth-most in the NFL) and scoring a team-high five total touchdowns. AP has seemingly made history with every big game, the Redskins offense has only gone as far as he’s been able to carry them so far.
Honorable mention: J.J. Watt
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay
The 32-year-old wunderkind continues to amaze, leading the L.A. Rams to the league’s best record and No. 1 rated offense, and transforming them into a Super Bowl favorite just a year and a half into his head coaching career. He’s going to win this award a few times before it’s over.
Honorable mention: Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn
(AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)
SECOND HALF PREDICTIONS The Eagles will leapfrog the Redskins for the NFC East title.
As I spelled out last week, the Redskins lead the division now but they probably have to beat the Eagles at least once to keep it that way at season’s end. The ‘Skins have a slightly more favorable second-half schedule than the Eagles, but the injury bug has bitten them hard and Philly has the better QB and championship pedigree. I think the Redskins’ Monday night woes continue in the first meeting between the two teams, and the Eagles win the NFC East on FedEx Field’s sloppy turf in Week 17.
Neither the Chiefs nor the Rams are going to the Super Bowl.
If anything has been proven in NFL history, it’s that it’s not how you start — it’s how you finish. Kansas City and L.A. are hot as they come right now, but I have no reason to come off my preseason pick to win it all, which leads me to my next second half prediction…
(AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)
The New Orleans Saints will lose only one more game this season.
Yes, they have a tough remaining schedule. Yes, they’re on everyone’s radar. But the Saints are the most complete team in the NFL, and they’ll get a well-earned homefield advantage and cruise to the Super Bowl. A Monday night loss in Carolina in Week 15 will be their last.
The NFL’s weekly scoring records will end.
Every week this season, the NFL has notched a new scoring record. Blame it on the new roughing the passer penalties, blame it on better overall QB play, blame it on the alcohol … but this torrid pace will start to tail off as the weather gets colder and injuries start to mount.
(AP Photo/Bill Feig)
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