After eight weeks of NFL action, it’s time to review the first half of the season and assign some favorites for the awards presented on NFL Honors show in the early February.
MVP: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Entering his fourth season, there was no doubt that Gurley would be one of the best running backs. He leads the league in rushing yards (through Week 8) and rushing TDs with 11. He has been the best player on the Rams’ league best offense. He’s seen significant improvement in the passing game, and still produces on the ground. His emergence as a receiver out of the backfield rounds out his game. With Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and David Johnson’s struggles, there is no doubt that Todd Gurley is the best running back in the league. His best performance of the season saw him rush for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. He also recorded 3 rushing touchdowns twice in only 8 games of action. Unless he falls off significantly, or one of the many other candidates improves greatly, I don’t see how Gurley could not win the MVP this year.
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees
OPOTY: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
The sophomore QB out of Texas Tech had an unprecedented opening to his season, breaking the record for most passing touchdowns within the first two weeks of an NFL season, and the record for passing touchdowns in a playerâ€™s first three career games. Mahomes benefits greatly from the talent surrounding him, which includes speedster Tyreek Hill, All-Pro Travis Kelce, and the dual threat of Kareem Hunt. Through the first 8 weeks of the season, Mahomes has 26 Passing TDS to only 6 Picks to go along with a passer rating of 115.3 and an additional 2 touchdowns on the ground. Andy Reid’s system fits the young gunslinger perfectly, his excellent play has lead the Chiefs to a 7-1 record, the only loss being to the Patriots. The Chiefs were not looked at as a team that would compete for the playoffs, but that narrative changed quickly due to the play of Patrick Mahomes.
Honorable Mentions: Drew Brees, Todd Gurley, Adam Thielen
DPOTY: Aaron Donald
Previous to Week 7, Donald only had 4 sacks, however those stats did not represent the dominance of Donald week to week. Against the 49ers, he doubled his sack total from 4 to 8 and racked up an additional 6 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. Donald’s play this season has been well deserving of his mega extension worth 135 million. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the #1 defensive tackle, and I believe that he is the #1 overall defensive player this year. There is a reason the Rams are 8-0, and he is a key player on the best team in the NFL. His stats may not jump out of the box Pre-Week 7, but that does not reflect the impact he has on the game. After his match up with the Packers, Donald now leads the NFL in sacks. The pairing of him and Ndamukong Suh is a offensive play caller’s nightmare.
Honorable Mentions: J.J. Watt,
OROTY: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Barkley’s impressive rookie campaign hasn’t led to team success, but that doesn’t damage the amazing season he has had so far. His ability to catch the ball and his skill as an open field runner has allowed him to amass 519 rushing yards and 497 receiving yards through only 8 weeks of play. Earlier in the year, Calvin Ridley might’ve had a chance at winning offensive rookie of the year, but Barkley’s consistency makes him a shoe-in at this point. This season, Saquon has been a top 10 player at his position and in some games has single handedly carried the Giants offense. For example, take Week 6 where he put up 130 rushing yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts and added 9 catches for 99 yards.
Honorable Mention: Calvin Ridley, Sam Darnold, Phillip Lindsay
DROTY: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
Leonard has been a monster for the Colts this season, he is the only rookie this year to record 10+ tackles in two games, and 13 combined tackles in 3 games. Add 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles to what has been a very successful first portion of the season for the linebacker out of South Carolina St. Last year the Colts defense was abysmal, but this year Leonard has been part of the reason that the Colts were able to shore up the middle of the field. Pro Football Focus has Leonard ranked as the tenth best linebacker this so far this season.
Honorable Mention: Denzel Ward
CBPOTY: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Watt is finally back on the field, and all football fans should be appreciative. Arguably the best defensive player post 2012, Watt has been a consistent defensive superstar. His long awaited return to football has been impressive to say the least. He is tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 8, and has forced 4 fumbles. The Texans sit atop the AFC South, and Watt and the swarming Texans defense is a major reason why.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson