Author Dan Latto
The NFL season has reached the halfway mark which means it is time to look at the major awards and the possible winners if the season were to end today.
MVP: Tom Brady
Tom Brady, seemingly against all odds, has continued his peak performance this season in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are showing no signs of a championship hangover this season, as they sit atop the NFC South at 6-2. Brady himself has been purely dominant, tying his record for 400-yard passing games in a season, and he’s only eight games in. He also has two, five-touchdown games this season, which would put him at nine in his career, only two behind former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Disregarding his career records, which could be talked about for hours, Brady has been electric this year with what is probably the best receiver core he has had in his entire career. With Antonio Brown coming back into the fold playing as well as he had on the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, the Bucs have built a formidable offense around Brady. Each receiver has a chance for a 1000 yard season, which if successful, the Bucs will become the sixth team in NFL history to achieve that feat.
Brady’s only “bad game” this season came in their week eight loss against the Saints. In that game, he threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns but had three turnovers, including a pick-six that came in the final two minutes in the game when the Bucs were looking to finish off a comeback and fell short.
Besides that, he had a mediocre game against his former team, the New England Patriots, in what was one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, but he was still able to secure the win. Brady has been all gas, no breaks this season and if he can continue his play well, he has a chance to lead the Bucs to their 19th divisional title, along with a possible sixth MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt
After many agreed last season that Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt got snubbed from his first defensive player of the year award, he has come back better than ever. This season, Watt has been fun to watch, marking his fingerprint on every game he’s played this season.
After a huge performance against the Chicago Bears this past Monday, Watt ranks second in the NFL in sacks at 11.5, half a sack behind Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns. Watt finished the previous season with 15 sacks, so he is well on his way to eclipsing that career-high. He finished the Bears game with three sacks, which is a single-game career-high for Watt. Additionally, he had a huge pass defended at the line, which looked a lot like his brother J.J. Watt, who is notorious for his ability to defend passes at the line of scrimmage. He is tied fourth in the league for forced fumbles with three, including one huge forced fumble in overtime to help the Steelers hold off the Seattle Seahawks and keep their win streak alive. Watt and fellow front four-man, Cameron Heyward, have been an enormous reason why the Steelers are on a four-game win streak right now, and Watt’s play has somehow improved from an exceptional previous season.
When I began this article, I wanted to give it to Trevon Diggs, phenom defense back of the Dallas Cowboys. However, after seeing Watt this weekend, the decision became clear on who to pick. Diggs has had an amazing season himself, reaching seven interceptions in his first seven games this season, which is a league-high. Though his ability to force turnovers has been unmatched this season, his coverage otherwise has been inconsistent at times. There have been multiple instances where he has let up big plays due to his gambling play style. He ranks 29th in completion percentage when targeted, and has let up the ninth most yards in coverage.
At the end of the day, Watt is my pick for defensive player of the year, and hopefully, he can win the award this year with his efforts.
Rookie of the Year: Jamarr Chase
Jamarr Chase is having an unbelievable rookie season as he reunited with former LSU teammate Joe Burrow this season on the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals made a clear effort to build a great offense around Burrow. Since drafting him last season, they drafted a multitude of offensive linemen and wide receivers to add security and playmaking ability to the offense. The best move they made though, was drafting Chase this season.
Chase is running away with the Rookie of the Year award, putting together an elite receiving season, which would even be impressive for a veteran. He ranks third in the league in receiving yards, however, out of the players in the top ten, he has the least amount of receptions, which demonstrates his big-play ability that he provides to Burrow and the Bengals.
He is tied for fourth in the league in receiving touchdowns as well and is only one of two receivers that has a 200-yard receiving game. He did that against the Baltimore Ravens, who had previously shut down an explosive Los Angeles Chargers offense just the week before. Chase has been special to watch, as he flaunts his unmatched route running ability and ability to find weak spots in zone defenses presented to him. Even with a year apart, Chase and Burrow have not missed a beat and look to continue to be a dangerous duo for years to come.
Comeback Player of the Year: Dak Prescott
Last season, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle injury that cost him the majority of his season. Prior to that injury, Prescott was on pace to shatter the single-season passing yard record, as he reached 400 yards three times in four games, and one of those games he threw for 500 yards. Prescott was clearly itching to get back onto the field and try to resume that success this season, this time with a much better defense. So far, he has not let down Cowboy and NFL fans who were waiting for his return.
In his first game back, he fell just short of victory in a wild game against the defending champions, the Bucs. Brady and Prescott went back and forth but unfortunately, Brady got the ball last and led his team to a game-winning field goal. Though he lost, Prescott had an unbelievable game, throwing for 403 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 72.4 completion percentage with just one interception. Since then, he has been great for the Cowboys, leading them to a 6-2 record and to the head of the NFC East in a fairly uncompetitive division. He reached the 400-yard clip, a second time in an overtime victory against the Patriots, and has been consistently good throughout the season.
Prescott had his first bad game against the Denver Broncos this past Sunday where he and his team were just not clicking offensively. Other than that, Prescott has been one of the better QB’s in the NFL, ranking fifth in yards and completion percentage.
His only competition for the Comeback Player of the Year award is Bengals QB Joe Burrow, who tore his ACL last season. Prescott, though, has been much more consistent, especially taking care of the ball as he only has five interceptions this season compared to Burrow’s 11. Cowboy fans have a lot to look forward to, as this young team with great young receivers like Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb are only going to get better the more time they spend together on the field.