We’re just about over the halfway point of the 2015 NFL season and I can tell you one thing, there’s certainly been plenty of surprises and disappointments. In a league that prides itself on parity and a flow of different consistent competition, the 2015 season culminates all of those sentiments.
As is the cliche tradition around the inter web parts, I’ve decided to go through the players and teams that have been the best or worst so far with general awards like MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and more. Remember, these are not an exact science. They are just who deserves what at or around the midpoint of an exciting season. (Don’t take my opinion personally please)
With that let’s get to my midseason awards for the 2015 NFL season. You won’t be disappointed.
MVP: Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
Was there any doubt on this one?
The 38 year old future first ballot Hall of Famer is arguably having the most efficient season of his career in leading a 9-0 defending champion Patriots team. With a 111.1 QB rating, 3, 043 yards, 24 TD’s, and only three INT’s thrown, Brady is the epitome of a wine that has only gotten better with age.
The four time Super Bowl champion will look to add to his trophy case with this award and more come January and February.
Others considered: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals, Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
Offensive Player of the Year: Carson Palmer, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
Despite the historic season of Brady, others deserve some love for their performance as well.
In that light, Carson Palmer deserves the Offensive Player of the Year at helm of arguably the most complete team in the NFC. Coming off of the heels of a huge win against incumbent defending NFC champion Seattle on the road, Palmer only seems to be ascending.
After tearing his ACL in the late season last year, Palmer hasn’t missed a beat in leading the NFL’s 2nd best scoring offense with 33.4 points per game. Palmer also is effectively being utilized by head coach Bruce Arians’ system where his cannon arm can be shown off while also showing a measure of efficiency. A stat line of 2, 749 yards, 23 TD’s, only seven INT’s, to go with a 108.0 QB rating says it all.
As Arizona powers its way through the NFC, Palmer will be at the center of it all.
Others considered: Julio Jones, WR, Falcons, Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
Defensive Player of the Year: Josh Norman, Cornerback, Carolina Panthers
For a team that’s 9-0, one would think other superstars like Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly would have been the best players so far for the Carolina Panthers, but that isn’t the case.
You know who’s been the best cornerback in the league this season? It hasn’t been Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, or Darrelle Revis. Josh Norman has taken over the 2015 mantle.
The league’s 10th ranked defense yardage wise and 6th ranked in scoring has been galvanized by the 27 year old shutdown corner who has seemingly come out of nowhere as a lockdown player. He’s been so good that teams are only completing 45.1% of their passes against him, while opposing passers only have a 24.1 rating. That’s insane. That means you might well chalk up your entire game plan to attack a different player if playing Carolina this year.
As Carolina tries to make it’s Super Bowl push, Norman will be counted on to continue this transcendent performance.
Others considered: Charles Woodson, S, Raiders, Aqib Talib, CB, Broncos
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Oakland Raiders
It’s always fun to monitor the rookie award race either offensively or defensively to get a glimpse at the next superstars of the league. The offensive rookies have not disappointed this year. There’s guys like “THE MESSIAH” QB Marcus Mariota in Tennessee or RB Todd Gurley in St. Louis, but one man stands above them all.
One half of the new “AC/DC’ duo with 2nd year QB Derek Carr, rookie WR Amari Cooper has been electric in dominating opposing corners and secondaries. A 4-5 Raiders team isn’t exactly ready to compete yet, but the 4th overall pick from last year’s draft in Cooper gives Oakland an impact playmaker it hasn’t had in years.
Everyone knew the guy would be good. No one knew he would be THIS good from the outset.
With 50 receptions, 732 yards, and four TD’s, Cooper has been regularly abusing defenses that game plan specifically for him. The most impressive thing to note on his end is how quickly he’s adapted to NFL passing and route concepts using his polished route running. He looks like a 10 year veteran.
It’s so scary to think how much more room he has to grow and improve along with his team in Oakland.
Others considered: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams, Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Kansas City Chiefs
In an increasingly pass heavy NFL, great cornerbacks come at a premium. If you can find a lock shutdown #1 corner, you have hit the jackpot. In drafting and acquiring Marcus Peters with the 18th overall pick this past May, the Chiefs have found their man.
A guy that originally supposedly slipped due to character concerns, Peters fell perfectly into the lap of the Chiefs. By all accounts, most scouts pegged him immediately as a Pro Bowl/All Pro type talent, and he hasn’t disappointed.
Even with the Chiefs overall underachieving disappointing defense, Peters has been one of the bright spots. With 40 tackles and four INT’s, as well as a slightly worse coverage percentage than Norman, Peters looks like a natural dominant cover corner than can last in this league a long time.
Others considered: Leonard Williams, DE, Jets, Ronald Darby, CB, Buffalo Bills
Coach of the Year: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Coach of the Year often features someone unexpectedly coaching a team to the playoffs or someone pushing a roster to true greatness.
Marvin Lewis in his 13th season as head coach in Cincinnati, 2nd only to Bill Belichick in tenure, falls under the latter category.
Lewis has made the playoffs six times in his career and never won a playoff game. He’s had some incredibly talented rosters that many would argue were or are the best in the league. It seems he’s finally climbed over that hill.
At 8-1, the Bengals are arguably the best team in the NFL. Andy Dalton is enjoying the best season of his career. The defense is playing at it’s typical high level. Overall, there just seems to be a new air of confidence and high level play around this Bengals team than in year’s past.
All of the credit needs to go to Lewis as he pushes his team towards a first round bye and potential Super Bowl.
Others considered: Mike Zimmer, Vikings, Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Comeback Player of the Year: Carson Palmer, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
In what may be a season full of postseason hardware for the 35 year old, it should come as no surprise that he is the top contender for this award.
As mentioned earlier, he is coming off of his 2nd torn ACL and hasn’t missed a beat in leading an excellent Arizona team. Palmer deserves all of the praise for the work he put in to get back to this level of play after a horrible injury and have the Cardinals contend.
Others considered: Eric Berry, S, Chiefs, NaVorro Bowman, LB, 49ers
Most Pleasant Surprising Player: Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears
After a 2014 season mired in controversy and disappointment that coincided with an overhauled complete regime change for the Chicago Bears, the last thing many people expected to see was an efficient and consistent playmaking Jay Cutler in the 2015 season.
Efficient is an understatement for the 32 year old, at least career wise, as new offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been working wonders. The scouting report on Cutler coming out of college was that he could be a special quarterback so long as he’s effectively coached to be able to use his talents on a consistent basis while eliminating bad habits.
In having a 95.3 passer rating, along with 2,045 yards, 13 TD’s, to go with only five INT’s, Cutler is currently playing like a special quarterback. Most of those numbers listed are career high’s for him as he also has over a 2:1 TD-INT ratio and his highest yards per attempt on passes. Gase has gotten Cutler to remove his backbreaking turnovers and maximize the playmaking ability he’s always had that scouts loved.
It’s even more impressive to note that the leader Cutler is doing all of this on a severely shorthanded and not exactly talented Bears team. It’s not to say he’s doing it by himself, but he is the primary reason the team is exceeding expectations overall as well.
It’s been a delight to see.
Others considered: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals, Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills
Most Disappointing Player: Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle, Miami Dolphins
After signing a contract with the Dolphins in the offseason that gave him almost $60,000,000 million in guaranteed money, Ndamukong Suh, formerly one of the truly dominant players in the NFL, has been a major disappointment to say the least.
There are many reasons as to why the underachieving Dolphins haven’t met expectations this season, and Suh is a big one. The 28 year old All Pro talent went six games without a sack or impact play in the backfield to start the season. That’s not good enough.
He has actually gotten that number up to four sacks at this point, but that is underwhelming for a Dolphins defensive front that was expected to dominate from the beginning and help Miami contend in the AFC East. Suh especially vaults to the top of this sentiment because of his huge contract and how much the Dolphins invested in him.
Others considered: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts, Demarco Murray, RB, Eagles
Most Surprising Team: Minnesota Vikings, 7-2, 1st place in NFC North
Undoubtedly the biggest dark horse so far in the 2015 season, the Minnesota Vikings led by head coach Mike Zimmer are on a roll as they have attained first place in the NFC North.
Somewhat boosted by the easiest schedule of the first half, Minnesota is indeed showing that they are legitimate as they currently boast the 2nd overall defense in the NFL. They are playing quality complimentary football with running back Adrian Peterson and 2nd year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well.
The schedule gets tougher now with two games against Green Bay and a road contest at the Cardinals so we’ll see how for real this Vikings team is, but for now they’ve been more than a pleasant surprise.
Others considered: New York Jets, Washington Redskins
Most Disappointing Team: Baltimore Ravens, 2-7, Last in AFC North
The chic pick of many to represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl, the Ravens have been a major disappointment. There just hasn’t been that missing fire element as the team has plenty of talent but seems to be completely lacking cohesion.
The Ravens haven’t actually been bad on offense with the 12th ranked attack, but it’s the defense that has let them down. A 20th ranked defense has been regularly gashed and it feels as if the early season loss of All Pro Terrell Suggs wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
By no means is head coach John Harbaugh on the hot seat given his prior reputation but changes will have to be made on the roster and on his staff (*cough* Marc Trestman *cough*) for this talented but flawed team to return to contention in 2016.
Others considered: Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs
Worst Team: Detroit Lions, 2-7, Last Place in NFC North
The Lions weren’t supposed to take this big a step back with only one huge free agent loss in Ndamukong Suh. They were still supposed to be able and ready for at least the Wild Card, yet at seems that head coach Jim Caldwell has lost his troops.
Perhaps the window of contention for a formerly talented core has expired. 30 year old receiver Calvin Johnson for example, is still putting up great numbers with 54 receptions, 740 yards, and three touchdowns, but he just doesn’t seem like the same explosive freak we saw earlier in his career.
Matthew Stafford has also effectively regressed as he has just an 84.5 rating and has been doing some stat padding offensively.
All of it added up to an 0-6 start to the season for Detroit as well as just the 27th ranked offense and 24th ranked defense respectively. No one expected the Lions to be in contention for the #1 overall pick come next May, but here we are.
Others considered: Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens
Best Team: New England Patriots, 9-0, 1st Place in AFC East
Was there any doubt on this question?
The defending champion Patriots haven’t missed a beat. Tom Brady is enjoying the best season of his career. They have the highest scoring offense and fourth ranked scoring defense as they are showing no chinks in the armor.
A loss like slot receiver star Julian Edelman will hurt New England, but there’s no reason to expect that they can’t keep the train rolling and effectively clinch the AFC #1 seed by December. Head coach Bill Belichick is just working his team as per usual.
Others considered: Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals
Midseason Super Bowl L Pick: Patriots over Cardinals
The two most complete teams in the NFL will meet in Santa Clara, California on February 7th, 2016, in the Patriots and Cardinals. We should be in for an instant classic as this is arguably a matchup of the two best head coaches in the league at the moment in Bruce Arians for Arizona and Belichick in New England.
Arizona will be looking to win it’s first championship in franchise history and will be highly motivated to finish the job. However I just can’t see the Belichick-Tom Brady duo fail to acquire immortality as maybe the greatest all time dynasty in the NFL. No one has enjoyed the kind of sustained success the Patriots have had recently and perhaps no one ever will again.
A fifth Super Bowl and a repeat to boot will only cement that legacy come February.
Robert Zeglinski is a student writer and broadcaster who absolutely loves all the nitty gritty that comes with pro sports. He is currently attending Aurora University in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigZags82 or reach him through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions or feedback.
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