While watching the NFL games this past weekend, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was how impressive the Chicago Bears defense was in their dismantling of the Tennessee Titans. What also stood out was how all of the major talking heads on TV were practically jumping out of their chairs trying to tell us, the viewers, how awesome that defense is and that Charles Tillman is the most underrated player in the league. Of course, there were plenty of people saying this all year but most people were slow to catch on. Now that the Bears have clearly cemented themselves as the league’s best defense, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon and raved about the Bears.
This reminded me of when there’s a great new TV show that people aren’t watching. Slowly but surely, those that are watching start spreading the word to everyone they know. They tell their friends, they post on forums, they write blogs about it and before you know it, more and more people are watching. I’m usually one of the last people to join the “cool club” and watch shows like this, but after being told two or three dozen times that something is awesome, I usually cave in and check it out. My most recent case of this happening was with Homeland, which is indeed downright awesome. Everyone was right. It hooked me in so quickly and strongly, that I was completely torn on whether to watch the new episode Sunday night, or watch the Cowboys choke away another late night game. Anything that even made me consider not watching football must be pretty excellent, right? So excellent, in fact, that I decided to honor the show by naming my mid-season NFL awards after it. And since we are all about the Jets around here obviously, I’m handing out the league awards and also Jets team awards, all in one. Heeeere we go…
THE CARRIE MATHISON MVP AWARD
NFL: Matt Ryan (honorable mention: Peyton Manning) - Carrie may not be the greatest agent, but she gets things done, and without her, her CIA team wouldn’t be nearly as effective (although I can do without her crying every single episode). Same goes for Matt Ryan. I don’t think he will end up winning the award at the end of the season, but you can’t deny he’s had an excellent first half in leading the Falcons to the only undefeated record in the league. His stats are not particularly eye-opening, but he’s done everything right, made the big plays, and he narrowly edges out Peyton for the top spot.
JETS: Antonio Cromartie - Sadly, there isn’t even much competition here.
THE ABU NAZIR OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
NFL: Brandon Marshall – Nobody on Homeland knows how to go on the offensive or cause more damage than terrorist Abu Nazir, both mentally and physically. Brandon Marshall isn’t a terrorist or anything, but he’s been doing a ton of damage to defensive secondaries this season, and has been the best offensive player in the league. The guy has just ben an absolute monster, racking up 59 catches, 797 yards, and 7 touchdowns through 8 games. Double those numbers to project him over a full 16 game schedule and you’re looking at one of the greatest receiving seasons in the history of the NFL.
JETS: Ummm….. Nick Mangold? – A case can be made for Jeremy Kerley, who has stepped up big time since Santonio Holmes got injured, but it’s clear nobody on this offense should be getting any awards.
THE DAVID ESTES DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
NFL: J.J. Watt (honorable mention: Charles Tillman and the entire Bears Defense) – A lot of people don’t seem to like Estes, but I enjoy him and think he does a great job doing a little bit of everything in trying to defend against any and all attacks. In the NFL, nobody has done a better job doing a little bit of everything on defense or been as downright awesome as Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt. He knocks down passes better than any lineman I’ve ever seen, and he’s destroyed offensive linemen en route to a league leading 10.5 sacks. Oh, and he’s doing that as an interior lineman, which makes it all the more impressive.
JETS: Antonio Cromartie – There hasn’t been much competition here, but that doesn’t minimize Cromartie’s season in any way. The guy has been playing the best football of his career, and ever since Darrelle Revis went down with an injury, he’s been arguably the league’s best cover corner. If he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl, it will be a travesty.
THE SAUL BERENSON COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD
NFL: Bruce Arians – Yes, Mike Smith has his Falcons sitting pretty and undefeated, but no coach has done a better job than Bruce Arians this year. Just like Saul has his hands full dealing with Carrie and all the other things he’s in charge of, Bruce Arians has had to deal with more than any other coach in the league and done an excellent job throughout. After Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer and had to leave the team, it would have been easy for this Colts team to feel sorry for themselves, just pack it in and go 2-14. Instead, Arians has led them to a 5-3 record and they’re right in the thick of the playoff race. Remarkable.
JETS: Dennis Thurman – Again, there’s not much competition here, but I’m giving this one to the Jets secondary coach. Hmm, Antonio Cromartie plays in the secondary, I’m starting to see a theme here with the Jets awards. Other than Cromartie having the best season of his career, the Jets safeties have performed admirably well, and even Kyle Wilson hasn’t been a complete disaster, due in large part to Thurman’s coaching.
THE AGENT QUINN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD
NFL: Andrew Luck – Yes, Doug Martin is the hot name right now, but this award belongs to Andrew Luck. Just like Agent Quinn in season 2, Luck arrived on the scene and immediately made a strong impact, making those around him better in the process. The Colts were the worst team in the league last year, but now are legitimate playoff contenders thanks to the strong play of their rookie signal-caller. He’s the real deal.
JETS: Demario Davis narrowly over Quinton Coples- Wow, these Jets awards are getting harder and harder to pick. In the long run, I absolutely think this will belong to Quinton Coples, but through the first half of the season, Davis has done a little more, and brought a whole new element to the defense: Speed. He’s also been a major special teams contributor, which gives him the nod. I’m just happy we still have a few rookies that weren’t cut almost immediately after being drafted. Thanks, Mike Tannenbaum!
THE TOM WALKER COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
NFL: Peyton Manning & Adrian Peterson (tie) – It’s nearly impossible to pick between these two. In Homeland, Walker was a forgotten man who came back out of nowhere to show that his skills were as awesome as ever. Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson did the same things this year. Manning looks as good as ever, as he is on pace for 4,800 yards, 40 TD’s, and a league best 108 QB rating. Peterson, despite tearing his ACL last December, is leading the league in rushing while running for a ridiculous 5.7 yards per carry. Cut this award in half and give it to both.
JETS: Shonn Grenee – Not many options here, so I’m giving this to the beleaguered running back, Shonn Greene. He was completely left for dead by nearly all Jets fans at the beginning of the season, but he has shown serious signs of life the last 3 or 4 games. While he’s not an ideal starting running back, he’s also proven not to be the useless slug many thought he was.
THE DANA AND VP’S SON HIT & RUN SUBPLOT THAT MAKES NO SENSE AWARD
NFL: Ray Rice & Lesean McCoy usage – Just like the out-of-nowhere subplot involving Brody’s daughter and the Vice President’s son getting involved in a bizarre hit and run incident, the usage of these two elite running backs makes NO SENSE. Why The Ravens and Eagles insist on eschewing their stud runners in favor of letting their bad quarterbacks pass the ball more is about as baffling of a coaching move as you’ll ever see. Honorable mention goes here to the Chargers and Norv Turner, who seem to think it’s a good idea to play Ronnie Brown a lot, despite him having a giant fork sticking out of his back.
JETS: Tim Tebow Usage – We’ve been over this time and time again, but the way the Jets have used Tim Tebow this year is completely and totally insane. I have never wavered on my belief that Tebow shouldn’t be the quarterback here in any way, shape, or form, but there is no way he shouldn’t be used more often, especially in short yardage situations, or as a change of pace to spark the offense. What makes it even more confusing to me is how the Jets had their best offensive game of the season in week 1 when Tebow had his most snaps, and then they just scrapped the whole thing. If you aren’t going to use him on 3rd and 1 down by the goalline, when he’s basically UNSTOPPABLE, then what the hell is the point of having him on this roster? I will never understand this. It could turn out that Dana Brody is actually an undercover 34-year-old secret terrorist from Canada plotting to assassinate Mickey Mouse and it would make more sense than Tim Tebow’s usage.
THE “WHO SLIPPED THE RAZOR BLADE?” AWARD (for Guy Most Likely Playing For the Other Team)
NFL: Matt Cassell – So who slipped the razor blade to that terrorist guard allowing him to slit his wrists and avoid further interrogation in season 1? Was it Brody? Was it Saul? Was it someone else? We may never know, but what I do know is if there was a mole in the NFL who was secretly plotting to destroy his team, it would be Matt Cassell. There are few players who could inspire their home fans to actually cheer when he gets hurt, but he managed to pull it off. I guess losing 7 fumbles and throwing 11 interceptions in 6 starts will cause fans to turn on you. Can’t say I totally blame them.
JETS: Calvin Pace – It’s hard to pick just one for this award, but I’m going with the guy who is paid $7.3 million this year to not sack the quarterback. On the bright side, he really seems to have mastered the “run into the offensive lineman, stick arms straight out, and stop” pass rush move, so there’s that.
THE NICHOLAS BRODY MOST POLARIZING FIGURE(S) AWARD
NFL: The Atlanta Falcons – Is Brody good? Is he bad? What about the Falcons? It’s rare you see a team appear to be so good, yet have so few people actually believe in them. They’re undefeated and running away with their division. They’re going to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have the league’s first half MVP and two superstar wide receivers. Yet if you said the Giants or Packers were going to Atlanta in the second round of the playoffs, who would you pick to win that game? Exactly.
JETS: Mark Sanchez – Pretty obvious one here. Just like with Brody, no matter how many bad things Sanchez does on the field, he still manages to do a few things all the time that make you think deep down he’s really great. Just like Brody, Sanchez was dealt a really crappy hand throughout his tenure with the Jets. Maybe he wasn’t quite kidnapped and tortured for 8 years, but he did have to spend plenty of time being taught by Brian Schottenheimer and Matt Cavanaugh, and that’s just as bad. And just like with Brody, I still believe in Mark Sanchez. Perhaps I’m a sap or I’m just hoping against hope, but in the end, I think both are going to do great things and convince a lot of people that they aren’t so bad after all.