Can you believe we’re already halfway through the 2017 NFL Season? It seems like just yesterday everyone was still locked in on the Patriots 16-0 talk, the Jets 0-16 talk, David Johnson as MVP, Martavis Bryant’s comeback saving the Steelers, etc. We’ve had last second comebacks, major upsets, and out of nowhere the most active trade deadline in NFL history. As we hit the halfway mark, lets take a minute to hand out some (half-deserved) awards, look back on the biggest storylines of September and October, and peek ahead to what the rest of the season has in store for us. Let’s start with the current award races through 8 weeks.
NFL MVP: Carson Wentz, Eagles QB
Wentz has taken the NFL by storm in his sophomore season. Despite questionable talent around him going into the season, Wentz has made the most of a sub-par receiving corps, throwing an NFL high 19 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards in 8 games. Quarterbacking the team with the best record in the NFL is always a fast track to the MVP award as well. Can he keep it up? Wentz seems to have put to rest every question about the Eagles offense going into the season. But even with his historical first half, Alex Smith and Tom Brady are breathing down his neck in the MVP race. A big second half surge from either (read: Brady) will shake things up.
Defensive Player of the Year: DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys DE
This award often ends up with the NFL sacks leader, so we’ll default there. Lawrence has dropped the quarterback 10.5 times just far in 2017, to go along with three forced fumbles. While the Cowboys offensive line has been the headline of that team recently, Lawrence is making the defensive line just as much of a threat. Can he keep it up? Lawrence will have to put the pedal to the metal if he wants to walk away 2017 NFL DPOY in February. Without Zeke (who’s suspension was upheld last night), the Cowboys will face more rushing situations, taking pass rush opportunities away from Lawrence. He has the sack lead by only a .5 margin; Calais Campbell (JAX) and Everson Griffen (MIN) are right behind him with 10 apiece. The other name to keep an eye on is former Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (BAL), who leads the NFL in tackles with 51, and has a pair of interceptions as well.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt, Chiefs RB
This is probably the tightest award race through 8 weeks. Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson are neck and neck, with many other viable candidates not far behind. What put Hunt over the top is not only the success he has had, but also the way it has affected his team. The Chiefs were the last undefeated team in the NFL, and are serious AFC contenders, thanks in a large part to Hunt’s performance. Can he keep it up? Hunt has the award if the season ended today, but it doesn’t. All the momentum stands with Watson, and if he can get the Texans into the playoffs (3-4), he should be the one who ends up winning ROTY. Leonard Fornette, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey could also factor in with big second halves. The real shame in this is Dalvin Cook tearing his ACL; he may have run away with things if he stayed healthy.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcus Maye, Jets FS
Maye was the second safety taken by the Jets in the 2017 draft (Jamal Adams), but he has been the most impressive through 8 games. He ranks second among all NFL rookies in tackles (42, behind Kendell Beckwith of TB) to go along with a pair of INTs. You’ll be hard pressed to find a rookie this year who’s been a better all around player than Maye. Can he keep it up? Maye has been getting better and better with each week, if he can keep that up there is no reason he won’t win the award in January. That being said, keep an eye on Eddie Jackson, who had the 2 touchdown performance last week versus Carolina.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Greg Zuerlein, Rams K
Zuerlein is tied for the NFL lead in field goals made (21) and field goal percentage (95.5%, minimum 12 attempts). He is 10-10 on kicks of 40 yards for more, and has hit more extra points (21) than anyone else in football, without missing one. Can he keep it up? Greg The Leg’s only competition will come from Kai Forbath (MIN), who is also 21-22 on field goal attempts this year, and is 9-9 on 40+ yard kicks. What stops the Vikings kicker from being the favorite right now? He is a lowly 12-16 (75%) on extra points this year.
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Rams
As the youngest coach in league history, McVay wasn’t facing high expectations when he took over a struggling Rams team in 2017. But through his first 8 games, McVay has turned a team that was 4-12 a year ago into the AFC West favorites, at least. And perhaps more relevant, he has brought Jared Goff back from the brink of draft bust lore. Can he keep it up? There is no reason to think he can’t. The Rams have proven to be a dynamic team, winning games in multiple ways. Anything 9 wins or better should earn McVay the Coach of the Year award.
Super Bowl Favorite: Philadelphia Eagles
Let me clarify… having the best record in the NFL (7-1) makes the Eagles the de facto Super Bowl favorite heading into week 9. Their lone loss came in week 2, a 27-20 nail biter at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. However, of their 7 wins, only one came against a team currently .500 or better (@ Carolina, Week 6). We’ll really find out what they’re made of in the second half; their schedule includes games at Seattle, at the Rams, and a pair of games against Dallas. Can they keep it up? If history tells us anything, no. The Eagles have a history of fading in the second half, and their schedule isn’t doing them any favors. Part of what has been so entertaining about this season is the lack of a clear-cut favorite. After the Chiefs lost 2 of 3, the Patriots and Steelers seem to be leading the pack in the AFC, but each team has clear flaws. The NFC favorite seems to change week-to-week, with 6 5-win teams through 8 weeks.
Top 5 Storylines of Weeks 1-8
- Tony Romo In the Booth
- Emergence of Rookies Deshaun Watson Kareem Hunt, and JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Wild Trade Deadline
- Superstar Injuries
- Player Protests/Reactions
Top 5 Storylines to Watch For Weeks 9-17
- Will Alex Smith Throw an INT?
- Roger Goodell’s Contract Situation
- Andrew Luck’s Future
- Ezekiel Elliot Suspension Saga
- Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, Just a Flash Or the Real Deal?
8 Bold Predictions for the NFL’s Second Half
-The Patriots will be the only AFC East team to make the playoffs.
-Despite playing the season with a backup QB, Minnesota finishes with a top-5 ranked offense.
-The Atlanta Falcons will miss the playoffs, and Dan Quinn is fired.
-The top 2 picks from 2015 (Winston, Mariota) will be on the quarterback hot seat by the end of the year.
-Eagles @ Rams Week 14 will be the most exciting game of the year.
-The Chargers will set a 10-year NFL low for single season home attendance.
-The San Francisco 49ers will win multiple games
-None of the 2004 quarterback draft class (Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers) will be starting on their current teams to open 2018 training camps.
*Bonus NFL/NHL cross-over bold prediction* The Patriots will win 10 games before the Boston Bruins.
Thoughts? Feelings? Eagles fans want to rip me a new one? Get at me on Twitter @The_Real_Alex_B.
Written By: Alex Barth (@The_Real_Alex_B)