By John Pinto
If you are a big football fan, chances are you have an opinion on who will win the NFL MVP award. Should it be this guy, or should it be this other guy? Do you give it to the guy who has been throwing three touchdowns weekly on a great team, or the guy whose team would be completely lost if he were gone? It’s all relative, depending on your definition of a Most Valuable Player. Here are my mid-season award winners.
MVP: DeMarco Murray, RB #29 Dallas Cowboys
Murray is the obvious choice for Most Valuable Player because of how effective he has been in changing the fortunes of the entire Dallas Cowboys organization in one year.
In the past few years, the Cowboys were a passing-oriented team and put all of their eggs in the basket of quarterback Tony Romo, and it resulted in the team being an annual disappointment, going 8-8 for each of the past three years.
This year, the Cowboys adopted a run-heavy philosophy, and Murray has made the move pay off exponentially. He broke an NFL record in week 7 against the New York Giants for most consecutive 100-yard games to start off a season, breaking Jim Brown’s previous high of six consecutive games during the 1958 season.
As of week 8, Murray extended his record to eight straight games with over 100 yards, and leads the NFL in rushing with 1,054 yards, which is 288 more yards than the 2nd leading rusher in the league, Arian Foster. Murray is averaging over 130 yards per game, which would put him on pace for 2,108 yards for the season and would break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record by three yards. He is also tied for the most rushing touchdowns in the league with seven (tied w/ Arian Foster).
The only thing I see derailing Murray from claiming the MVP trophy at the end of the season is an injury. He has run 206 times in eight games, an average of almost 26 a game, and is on pace for an astonishing 412 rushing attempts for the season. At this rate, Murray would be second on the list for most rushing attempts in a season.
The problem with having so many carries in a season is that the constant pounding you take on a weekly basis as a running back wears on you and makes you more susceptible to getting injured, and it tends to cut promising careers short (see Larry Johnson of the Chiefs or Jamal Anderson of the Falcons). I don’t see DeMarco Murray surviving the whole season, unless the Cowboys coaching staff bring his workload down. Hopefully he stays healthy, because he is a joy to watch.
Offensive Player of the Year: Philip Rivers, QB #17 San Diego Chargers
If you only look at the numbers, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has a slight advantage in his bid for Offensive Player of the Year.
Manning has won enough awards in his lifetime and doesn’t have enough room in his trophy case so I have chosen Philip Rivers as my pick for Offensive Player of the Year.
He is sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 2,213, and has thrown 20 touchdowns to his 5 interceptions. He is third in the league in highest passer rating among starters at 109.9.
Keep in mind that a perfect passer rating is 158.3. He has resurrected his rapport with future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates this season, connecting with him for nine touchdowns and helping Gates become the leading receiver in Chargers franchise history.
The Chargers have been 9-7, 7-9, and 8-8 in the past three seasons, respectively. Rivers solid play has the Chargers sitting at 5-3 so far this season.
Defensive Player of the Year: JJ Watt, DE #99 Houston Texans
Justin James Watt is a beast, a warrior, a god amongst mere mortals. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year is making a strong case to defend his crown this season, and hasn’t looked back.
As of week 8, Watt has 32 tackles, seven sacks, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, and an interception that he returned 80 yards for a touchdown. JJ Swatt (as he is affectionately called by fans) also has seven pass deflections and blocked kick. He remains the most disruptive defender on the planet, even though opposing offenses know what he is capable of and double-team him often.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kelvin Benjamin, WR #13 Carolina Panthers
As of week 8, Benjamin leads all rookie receivers with 38 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns, and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in September.
He was selected 28th overall in the draft out of Florida State University. At 6’5 and 240 pounds, Benjamin provides a big target and red zone threat for quarterback Cam Newton, and he has developed into Carolina’s number one option in the passing game. Benjamin is a tight end-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver with a rare wingspan and has the strength, length and wide catching radius that demands extra attention to be paid to him by opposing defenses.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, CB #23 Chicago Bears
As of week 8, Fuller has 37 tackles, three forced fumbles, six passes deflected, and also leads all defensive rookies with three interceptions on the season. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in September.
Fuller was selected 14th overall in the draft out of Virginia Tech. He has keen instincts and route recognition, making up for what he lacks in speed with a high football IQ. Fuller is my mid-season Defensive ROY, but I don’t think he will end up winning the award because of injuries.
He suffered a hip pointer and broke his right hand during the Bears week 7 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Even with both injuries, Fuller still suited up and played against the Patriots this past Sunday before leaving the game after aggravating his hip injury, and playing with his injuries should earn him even more respect.
Comeback Player of the Year: Rolando McClain, MLB #55 Dallas Cowboys
McClain was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the eighth overall pick of the 2010 draft.
He underachieved greatly in Oakland and was released in 2013, with most labeling him as a draft bust. After “retiring” twice and being completely out of football for the whole 2013 season, McClain unretired and joined the Cowboys.
As of week 8, McClain has 38 tackles, one sack, three passes deflected, one forced fumble, and two interceptions. McClain has gone from being a first round draft bust, to a retired first round draft bust, to being one of the leaders of the Cowboys defense. Last year, the Cowboys defense was horrendous, and was easily one of the worst defenses in the league. This year, the Cowboys defense is a lot better than critics thought it would be. They currently rank 14th in total defense, and McClain has played a big part in their improvement, ranking third on the team in total tackles.
John Pinto is a Comment Columnist.