EVERYONE deserves a second chance, right? If the season ended today I would have picked eight out of 12 playoff teams correctly, which isn’t a bad strike rate. To celebrate the middle of an enthralling NFL season though I took the opportunity to update my postseason picks, taking into account the eight games most teams have already featured in. What better time to include my award picks from the first half of the year as well?*
*Spoiler alert the Rams make a lot of appearances
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Comeback Player of the Year – Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Honourable Mentions: Deshaun Watson & J.J. Watt
SOMETIMES the comeback player award becomes a bit of a novelty, but there is a deserving winner this season. After missing all of the 2017 season with shoulder issues, Andrew Luck is back to his best both physically and mentally, keeping Indianapolis in the hunt for an AFC South crown. A pair of Texans in Watson and Watt have made great returns from injury, but with Luck on track to throw for over 4,000 yards and reach career high’s in touchdown passes and completion percentage he’s the clear favourite.
Coach of the Year – Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Honourable Mentions: Jay Gruden & Andy Ried
NO disrespect to Andy Ried, who deserves a ton of credit, Sean McVay is in a class of his own right now. This L.A. team is loaded, but McVay has got the most out of them by using all of the weapons at his disposal. With Jared Goff and Todd Gurley leading the charge McVay, has developed the Rams into a juggernaut on offense thanks to his creative playcalling. It’s crazy to think that McVay is only his second year of head coaching as well.
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Offensive Rookie of the Year – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Honourable Mentions: Calvin Ridley & Phillip Lindsay
AS the debate rages on over how the Giants should have spent last years’ draft pick one thing is certain; Saquon Barkley is the real deal. At the halfway point of the year, Barkley has 519 rushing yards and 497 receiving yards to his name, nearly projected to chalk up 1,000 yards in both the rushing AND receiving (497 yards). That’s something that has only been achieved twice in league history. So yeah, he’s probably worth the second overall pick.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
Honourable Mentions: Denzel Ward & Darius Leonard
THIS award might be the toughest race to pick with all three players viable winners. Darius Leonard is the popular choice leading the league with 88 tackles through the first half of the year. My pick is do-it-all safety Derwin James, who has been a big reason the Chargers are winning a bunch of ball games this season. There aren’t many NFL players that can sack the quarterback, defend passes and force takeaways, but James is doing all three and then some. Impressive.
Offensive Player of the Year – Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Honourable Mentions: Todd Gurley & Adam Thielen
DO I really need to elaborate on Patrick Mahomes’ eye-popping numbers? We all knew that he was a gunslinger but none of us saw this electric, rookie performance coming. He is on pace to become just the third quarterback ever to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season, steering his team to a potential first-round bye in the process. Mahomes has been better than advertised and only injury will stop him from talking home some form of award come NFL honours night.
Defensive Player of the Year – Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Honourable Mentions: J.J. Watt & Khalil Mack
AARON Donald has some stiff competition for this trophy, which makes his win all the more impressive. Donald is leading the league as the only guy with a double-digit sack total (10) right now. What’s more impressive is the fact that those sacks all came within the last five games! A contract holdout over the summer had the potential to upset the apple cart, but since signing the dotted line Donald’s pursuit for back-to-back DPOY’s is only gaining merit.
MVP – Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Honourable Mentions: Drew Brees & Patrick Mahomes
THE high-octane offense that is today’s NFL doesn’t benefit everyone, with teams like Buffalo (7 total touchdowns), Tennessee (8), Arizona (12), Jaguars (13) and Oakland/the New York Giants (14) finding it hard to reach the end zone with regularity. Todd Gurley alone has fifteen touchdowns and is on track for 2,300 yards from scrimmage. Woah. Gurley might be our best non-quarterback chance to take home the award in years with a QB claiming 10 of the last 11 MVP’s. Another famous running back in Adrian Peterson (2012) is the only exception and if Gurley can maintain these numbers he might join ‘All-Day’ Peterson. History is stacked against him, but if anyone can break the chain it’s Gurley.
SECOND CHANCE PICKS
WE’VE reached the midway point of the NFL season, with some expected teams holding down a potential playoff spot and others surprising us through the first eight weeks of action. Five of the AFC teams I picked in the preseason have a playoff spot as it stands right now, but I wasn’t as accurate with my NFC choices. Here’s how the standings would pan out if the playoffs started right now.
- Los Angeles Rams (8-0)
- New Orleans Saints (6-1)
- Washington Redskins (5-2)
- Chicago Bears (4-3)
- Carolina Panthers (5-2)
- Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
WITH eight straight W’s to their name, the Los Angeles Rams are the universal front-runner to win it all at the moment. By no means is a trip to Atlanta guaranteed though, with some feisty competitors eager to leave their mark including the New Orleans Saints. Even before their impressive victory over the Vikings, the Saints looked like genuine Superbowl LIII contenders. They sit in a tier above the teams below them, which has NOLA sitting in a great position to make a run all the way to the Super Bowl.
TRAILING them are the other two division-leading Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears followed closely by the two wildcard teams. Both Washington and Chicago will face an uphill battle to hold their spots with the NFC East and NFC North still wide open. After counting out the Panthers in the preseason, a few fortunate W’s and some injuries to the Falcons has seen them leap into a wildcard berth and they should put the pressure on New Orleans all season. Seattle is almost the odd team out at the moment, with Pete Carroll’s men leaning on a born-again defense that has helped them win four of their last five games.
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)
- New England Patriots (5-2)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1)
- Houston Texans (5-3)
- Los Angeles Chargers (5-2)
- Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
I hate to say I told you so, but well I told you so. My pre-season choice of a 13-3 Kansas City team pacing the AFC for wins might be my greatest achievement to date as a blogger. In all seriousness, the Chiefs have hardly put a foot wrong with their only blemish coming at the hands of the Patriots. Der. Of course, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were able to defeat a team that no-one else has been able to combat. Until I see Brady and co sent home early I will always have them high on the contender’s list.
ALL the worry we had earlier in the season for Pittsburgh chances has quickly fallen by the wayside. They are going to have to work for a home playoff game though with Cincinnati doing their best to stay in touch with their AFC North rivals. I need to give credit to the Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans who early on looked like their 2018 season was lost. To see both squads accumulate five wins and come back from a 1-2 and 0-3 start respectively is pretty impressive. Time will tell if they can hold on.
SECOND CHANCE PICKS
TAKING everything into account; season form to date, trade deadline moves, injuries, remaining schedule and so I’ve taken another chance at choosing 12 playoff teams.
- Los Angeles Rams
- New Orleans Saints
- Minnesota Vikings
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Carolina Panthers
- Washington Redskins
BAD news Seattle fans, I don’t see it. If their running game can keep producing in their subpar conference then they might just surge to a wildcard spot. However, I have the Panthers holding their spot and Washington clinging on (barely). The Redskins can cause some noise and hold off the reigning Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles and the same could be said with the Bears holding out the Vikings. However, I think the two teams who are currently on the outside looking in will figure their woes out before postseason action begins. Carolina has a Week 17 game with the Saints that could go a long way into determining the final seedings, but I think these six teams are the creme of the crop in the NFC.
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Houston Texans
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Baltimore Ravens
KANSAS City and New England speak for themselves, but things could get weird in the AFC. I feel fairly confident in most of these teams holding their spots, especially the teams leading their division. However, the Steelers, Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are all gunnin’ for the playoffs, with one of the group likely to miss out.
IF I was a betting man I’d side with Baltimore, on nothing more than a gut feeling. Two games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the next fortnight could all but determine their fate. The other team I have my concerns about is the Texans. Even though landing Demaryius Thomas at the deadline was nice, they still have glaring holes on their roster and it might be their undoing if the Colts or Titans find their mojo.