The NFL is halfway through its season and awards discussions are starting to heat up. The MVP, players of the year and rookies of the year are definitely going to be talked about in the coming weeks an awful lot.
At this point in the season, it’s interesting to see who the front-runners for all of these different races are.
And on top of that, some of the best storylines throughout the season are always going to be worth noting. Through the first eight weeks of the season, the awards have been clearing up and the best candidates are starting to show themselves.
Here are a few of our personal takes on the season, followed by the traditional big NFL awards favorites.
Biggest surprise of the season: Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback situation
Most of the world went into the season expecting Tony Romo to lead the Cowboys now that he was finally healthy. Then Romo got injured, and rookie Dak Prescott took over. No one would have thought Prescott would be performing as well as he has to start the year, but he’s been tremendous and could be up for a Pro Bowl bid. That’s one heck of a surprise.
Biggest bust of the season: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars as a whole have a lot of issues. Blake Bortles looks like he’s declined a bit, and the defense is completely under-performing, given its talent level. Gus Bradley is on the hot seat with a 14-41 record during his first three-and-a-half years, and it’s obvious that he’s the weak link for the team.
Wildest player in the NFL: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski
The NFL is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be wild and crazy. And the best example of that is the good-natured bad boy of the league, Rob Gronkowski.
Most likely to tank for a better draft pick: Cleveland Browns
After losing their first eight games of the season, the Browns are already almost mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Their best player might be the man they just traded for in Jamie Collins.
The Browns are are 0-4 in one-score games to bad teams like the Jets, Titans, Ravens and Dolphins. And they get blown out by any good team they play. No. 1 pick, here they come!
Most Likely to Wind Up in a Tie: Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Washington
In a six-day span, the Seahawks and Cardinals tied out in the desert while the Bengals and Washington tied in London. In what has already been a weird season, giving the world two ties in NFL games in less than a week makes it just that much weirder.
This dubious honor hopefully won’t be repeated in the second half of the season.
And now for the traditional awards…
Offensive Player of the Year: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green
A.J. Green has single-handedly taken over games for the Bengals during the 2016 season and has been arguably the best offensive weapon in the league. He has four games with eight or more catches for 120 or more yards receiving. He’s been able to help the Bengals stay in games with some of the best teams in the NFL. As the schedule heats up, Green could be in for even more yards.
Defensive Player of the Year: Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller
Speaking of taking over games, Von Miller has been able to help the Broncos win more games than they should be winning with how poor their offense has played this season. His play off the edge is spectacular. He’s second in the NFL in sacks and has been able to help the Broncos continue to feature one of the top pass defenses in the NFL.
Comeback Player of the Year: Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham
After tearing his patellar tendon in 2015, there was a real question about whether Jimmy Graham could even play in 2016. He’s currently on pace to have a season that matched his 2014 campaign with the Saints outside of touchdowns scored. If he gets more red zone targets, that will be a likely occurrence and would make him a shoe-in for the season-long award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott
When he was taken No. 4 overall, there was no question that Ezekiel Elliott was heading to the best possible team for both his style and his potential success. The current NFL leader in rushing yards has utilized his amazing athleticism and vision to average around 5.0 yards per carry on his rushes. Oh, and he’s on pace for the fifth-most rushing yards in a rookie year…ever.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jacksonville Jaguars edge defender Yannick Ngakoue
Despite there being quite a few talented defensive rookies out there like San Diego’s Joey Bosa, Atlanta’s Keanu Neal and Deion Jones or Oakland’s Karl Joseph, Yannick Ngakoue has been better than all of them for the Jaguars.
A rare bright spot on this team right now, his four sacks, three forced fumbles, two pass deflections and one interception make him the rookie defender that has made the biggest impact in the NFL and an easy winner.
Most Valuable Player: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan
Sure, Tom Brady has a better passer rating and the Patriots are 4-0 with him starting. He also has good stats, but they were 3-1 before he came back from suspension.
Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to multiple close wins. If he had not elevated his play in 2016, the Falcons would be closer to a 2-6 team than a 5-3 team this season.
Coach of the Year: Minnesota Vikings’ Mike Zimmer
If a head coach loses his starting quarterback and one of the best running backs in the NFL while playing those replacements behind a makeshift offensive line, it would be surprising to see his team even come close to winning some games.
Mike Zimmer has the Vikings leading the NFC North with one of the best defenses in NFL history due to his coaching. If he can keep this team winning in the second half as the battle of attrition comes to bear all the more, he’s a guaranteed winner.