When looking at who is the favorite to win each major award heading into the midway point of the season, it’s important to take a step back and look at some names that might not normally top these lists.
Sure Peyton Manning is going to be considered a top choice for the MVP award, but how many does he need to win in his career, and is he really the most valuable to his team THIS year? That’s a question that remains up in the air right now. Jason Garrett may have his Dallas Cowboys on top of the football world right now, but there are other coaches out there who might deserve the award more than him.
Today’s article is going to check in on the top candidate for each major NFL award heading into Week 7 of the season. You might not agree with the selections, but there is a whole heck of a lot of evidence to back us up here. Feel free to join the conversation in the comment section below.
Most Valuable Player: Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) October 16, 2014
This is close between Rivers and DeMarco Murray. One has put up the best five-game stretch in the modern history of the NFL for a quarterback. The other is on pace to destroy almost every major statistical record for a running back. When in doubt, go with the quarterback.
What Rivers has done thus far this season for the Chargers, who are tied for the best record in football, is absolutely amazing. He leads the NFL in quarterback rating (117.6), yards per attempt (8.8) and adjusted yards per attempt (9.9). He’s leading the the fifth-ranked scoring offense by accounting for 76 percent of its total yardage output. That’s a sign right there that Rivers is the most valuable player to his team this year.
While Peyton Manning is having yet another stellar season in Denver, there is no reason to believe that he’s been more valuable to his team than Rivers through six weeks. That in and of itself speaks volumes about just how much Rivers himself has turned it around on the field.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
If Murray is in the conversation for MVP, he’s most definitely the favorite for this award. Let’s just get to the facts quickly here. Not only does Murray lead the NFL in rushing by over 200 yards, he has more rushing yards (785) than all but five teams. The former third-round pick leads the league in attempts, yards, touchdowns, yards per game and total yards from scrimmage. He’s on pace for an NFL record 424 attempts and a total of over 2,500 yards.
If that wasn’t enough, by virtue of his 115-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks last week, Murray joins Jim Brown as the only running backs to start the season with six consecutive 100-yard performances. He’s also representing nearly 40 percent of the Cowboys yardage output through six games. That’s absolutely ridiculous for a running back.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans
Well, duh! At this point in the season, Watt has to be in the MVP conversation. What he is doing from the defensive end position has to be one of the most eye-opening things in the recent history of the league. The All-Pro performer has put 20 hits on the quarterback through six games, which would destroy the league record if he continues at his current pace. More than that, he’s the No. 1 player in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus official grades (subscription required). And to be honest, it’s not that close. Watt grades out at +35.9 with Muhammad Wilkerson coming in at second at +18.2.
He’s scored two defensive touchdowns, has racked up four sacks, has put up six passes defended and is among the most dominating players that this one scribe has had the pleasure of watching. If there was a lock for any major award heading into the midway point of the season, this would be it.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Derek Carr, Quarterback, Oakland Raiders
— Bill Williamson (@BWilliamsonNFL) October 16, 2014
Carr is the only rookie quarterback that has started every game this season, and he’s shown improvement each week. Coming off a great four-touchdown performance against the San Diego Chargers, Carr is now on pace to put up 3,200 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’s completing over 61 percent of his passes and really hasn’t had that one bad game that all young quarterbacks put up as rookies. That’s what separates Carr from the rest of the pack here.
A close second as it relates to this award would have to be Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin, who is already playing at a Pro Bowl level on the best offensive line in the NFL. But let’s be real here for a second: no offensive lineman will win this award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jason Verrett, Cornerback, San Diego Chargers
Charles Woodson was the last defensive back to win Defensive Rookie of the Year some 17 years ago. As rare as it might be for a cornerback to win this award, Verrett has simply been the best defensive rookie in the NFL through six weeks. He’s allowing just a 44 percent completion and a 54.4 quarterback rating when targeted this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Verrett is also the second-best overall cornerback in the NFL behind teammate Brandon Flowers through six weeks. And while looking at stats is perfectly fine, Verrett’s tape speaks for itself. He hasn’t shown any of the normal issues with technique that we usually see from rookie cornerbacks. This has enabled Verrett to avoid getting beat on double moves or for long completions thus far this season.
Comeback Player of the Year: Rolando McClain, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys
Should we hand Rolando McClain NFL Comeback POY award right now?
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) October 15, 2014
Some will point to Julio Jones as the top candidate for this award. And while that makes some sense, it’s important to note that the Atlanta Falcons receiver was putting up one of the best single-seasons at his position when he went down with a season-ending injury last year.
As it relates to McClain, he was completely out of the league and with no realistic hope of ever playing again at this point last year. Now years removed from being considered one of the biggest busts in recent NFL history, McClain has gotten it together off the field. This has enabled him to focus on playing up to his talent level on the field. Through six games, the former Oakland Raiders top-10 pick is playing at a Pro Bowl level. He’s been equally as good against the pass as he has been in the run game, which continues to surprise most experts due to the fact that McClain wasn’t considered a three-down linebacker entering the NFL. This is only magnified by his game-clinching interception against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Raise your hand if you had Arizona in first place heading into Week 7. I didn’t think so. And while the Cardinals will face a tremendous push from both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks down the stretch this season, there is no reason to believe this team isn’t for real. Including the final nine regular season games last year, Arizona is 11-3 in its last 14 outings.
Facing an injury to Carson Palmer in a Week 1 win over the San Diego Chargers, Arians and Co. had to turn to veteran backup Drew Stanton to right the ship. While Stanton didn’t play outstanding football, he did lead the team to two wins in three starts. This enabled the Cardinals to remain a fixture atop the NFC West while Palmer was recovering. Now that Palmer is back and with a somewhat difficult schedule in the coming weeks, the Cardinals look to remain on top of the toughest division in football. And for that, Arians deserves a ton of credit.
Photo: USA Today