By Connor Bond
About halfway through the NFL season, the races for the marquee NFL awards are becoming more defined. Who is fighting for each award has become clearer, with both old and new names in the running. There have been many surprises when it comes to both individual and team success this year in the NFL. If the season were to end today, here is who should receive each award.
MVP: Tom Brady
Since returning from his four-game suspension, Tom Brady has been absolutely dominant. His QBR is the highest in the league at 133.9, and he has thrown zero interceptions thus far. Brady also has a 73.1% completion percentage, throwing an average of 329.8 yards and 3 touchdowns per game. Brady is playing like a man possessed, and his dominance has enabled the Patriots offense to reach new heights at a time when it needed to most. What is scary is that Brady may actually improve as the season progresses as he will have more time to play off rust and build a stronger repertoire with his new targets Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan.
Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Ryan
Arguably Brady’s biggest competitor for MVP, Ryan is having the best statistical season of his career. His QBR of 119.0 is second only to Tom Brady, and his play has enabled Atlanta to have the lead in the NFC South. Ryan’s 69.6% completion percentage has helped him to throw about 331.1 yards per game and 23 touchdowns on the year. In addition, he has only 4 interceptions in 313 pass attempts. Without a strong showing by the Atlanta running backs so far, Ryan has been relied on more than ever before to carry the Falcons’ offense. If it weren’t for Brady, Ryan would be the clear MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller
Miller’s defensive prowess has enabled the Broncos’ defense to help the team stay competitive in a wide open AFC West. The Super Bowl 50 MVP’s presence makes everyone around him better, and his talent is undeniable. Thus far, Miller has 35 total tackles to go along with 9 sacks. Since Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler’s departure, the Broncos’ offense has not been as strong as it was in years past. Miller’s leadership on defense has enabled his team to stay competitive without a truly reliable offense. The outside linebacker is the clear front runner for Defensive Player of the Year, and his play is showing he is worth every penny of his six-year, $114.5 million contract.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott
Oftentimes, NFL running backs are viewed as easily replaceable as much of their success depends on the success of the offensive line. Ezekiel Elliott is an exception to such a statement, justifying Dallas’s decision to choose him with fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Elliott is arguably the best running back in the league at this point. His 891 rushing yards lead the league while his seven rushing touchdowns have him tied for fifth most in the league. He is averaging 5 yards per carry, and he has also caught 16 receptions for 155 yards. Elliott is a dominant offensive weapon, so much that NFL analysts have begun to discuss him as a legitimate MVP candidate.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa
After Joey Bosa missed much of the preseason due to a contract dispute with the Chargers, many NFL experts believed his rookie year would be wasted. They believed that because he missed so many offseason workouts, he would fail to catch up to the speed of the NFL in enough time to have an impactful rookie season. Though he did not play in his team’s first four games, Bosa is on the field now, and he is playing better than anyone thought he would. Five games into his career, Bosa already has 4 sacks to go along with 15 total tackles. Bosa has made a bigger impact defensively than any of his other fellow rookies.
Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer
When Teddy Bridgewater became injured and was said to be done for the year, many believe the Vikings to be out of playoff picture. Then the team added Sam Bradford, and under head coach Mike Zimmer, the team is in the midst of a tight playoff race. Zimmer has enabled the Vikings to be in first place in the NFC North, and his guidance and leadership have helped to steady a team that was thought to be an afterthought following the loss of its star quarterback.
Comeback Player of the Year: Demarco Murray
Last year was not a great year for Demarco Murray. After being a dominant running back in Dallas for years, Murray decided to take his talents to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2015 season and beyond, signing a five-year, $42 million contract with the team in March of 2015. His first year there was a great struggle, with him only rushing for 702 yards and 6 TD’s over the course of the entire year. He wore out his welcome in Philadelphia, and, after retry turning his contract, was traded to the Titans. Murray is now back to looking like the 2014 version of himself. He has already rushed for 807 yards and 7 TD’s, more than he did in 2015 for either statistic. Murray has truly experienced a return to form.