We are only at the midpoint of the 2011 NFL Season, but let’s look at who I believe is at the forefront of the Award Races for the year, as well as some original awards given out by yours truly.
QB Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Stats: 2372 Passing Yards, 20 Passing Touchdowns, 71.4% Completion Rate
The Green Bay Packers are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers is the main reason for their success. Rodgers will not blend in with the rest of the pack anymore, as he has elevated his game to the point where he is considered the best QB in the game today. That is quite the praise for a QB in a league with Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Aaron has the highest QB rating in the NFL at 125.7, which if the season ended today, would be the highest rating in NFL history. The reigning Super Bowl MVP should run away with this award.
Honorable Mentions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Buffalo Bills, QB Tom Brady – New England Patriots, QB Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
WR Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions
Stats: 47 Receptions, 804 Receiving Yards, 11 Touchdowns
Megatron….Dominate! Calvin Johnson became the first WR in NFL history to record 2 touchdowns in each of his first 4 games. He is currently on pace to tie Randy Moss’ record for touchdowns by a WR in a season with 23. Even having 3 defenders covering hasn’t stopped him from grabbing touchdowns. He may be the number 1 reason for the Detroit Lions early season success so far. I may have given this award to Aaron Rodgers, but the MVP and OPOY are usually different selections.
Honorable Mentions: WR Wes Welker – New England Patriots, QB Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers, RB LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
DE Jared Allen – Minnesota Vikings
Stats: 34 Tackles, 12.5 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles, 1 Interception
Jared Allen is currently the league leader in sacks and tied for the league lead in fumbles forced. He already has more sacks then he did all last season. The Vikings Defense may not be as feared as a unit as it has been in years past, but the one constant on the defensive line who can still dominate a game on his own is Jared Allen.
Honorable Mentions: CB Darrelle Revis – New York Jets, SS George Wilson – Buffalo Bills, CB Charles Woodson – Green Bay Packers
QB Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Stats: 2393 Yards Passing, 11 Passing Touchdowns, 7 Rushing Touchdowns
He has literally become the entire Carolina Panthers offense, and has made the team relevant again in the National Football League. He has set record after record for rookie Quarterbacks and QB’s in general, including being the fastest player to throw for 1000 yards, as well as being the first rookie QB in history to throw for 400 yards in his first 2 games. If this award was given to the rookie that has helped their team win more games, then Bengals QB Andy Dalton would probably get my vote here. But you can’t deny that Cam Newton has put up amazing and historic offensive numbers up to this point.
Honorable Mentions: QB Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals, RB Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints, WR A.J Green – Cincinnati Bengals
OLB Von Miller – Denver Broncos
Stats: 26 Tackles, 6 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles
On a Broncos defense that has been embarrassed all season long, Miller may be the lone bright spot and the small glimmer of hope the fans can look for on the defensive side. He currently ranks 5th in rookie tackles, 2nd in sacks and 1st in forced fumbles after being picked 2nd overall in this past years draft.
Honorable Mentions: LB Aldon Smith – San Francisco 49ers, CB Patrick Peterson – Arizona Cardinals, MLB Jacquian Williams – New York Giants
QB Alex Smith – San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 95.3 QB Rating, 1267 Passing Yards, 9 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions
Alex Smith may not be lighting the NFL on fire with huge numbers, but he has steadily become one of the more efficient Quarterbacks in the league. He has helped the 49ers garner a 6-1 record to this point, which matches their win total from all of last year. Smith has had criticism in the past for his sloppy play and lack of leadership ability, but this year he has come into his own, gaining the trust of his teammates and the city that once wanted nothing to do with him.
Honorable Mentions: RB Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills, QB Matt Hasselbeck – Tennessee Titans, WR Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers
RB Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
Stats: 302 Rushing Yards, 43.1 Yds/Game, 1 Touchdown
Despite the relative early season success of the Titans, none of the credit should really be going to their once star Running Back Chris Johnson. Chris has been a huge letdown this year, having his rushing yards per game cut in half, averaging less than 3 yards a carry and scoring 1 measly Touchdown, in comparison to the 11 he had last season. Rumor has it that his carries may be cut down and split with backup Javon Ringer. Fantasy owners who took CJ2K in the first round must be drowning in their sorrows.
Honorable Mentions: QB Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens, QB Tim Tebow – Denver Broncos, QB Phillip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
The Buffalo Bills
Record Last Season – 4-12
The Buffalo Bills have gone from Zero to Hero, sitting at the top of a division at which they have been looking up from the bottom for many seasons. Being first in a division with the New England Patriots (Whom they have defeated this year) and the New York Jets is no easy task, but the Bills have found a way to harness all of their young talent and create a winning environment for the franchise. With QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at the controls, emerging star RB Fred Jackson in the backfield (103 rushing yards a game, 2nd in NFL), and a young up and coming defense, led by SS George Wilson, the Buffalo Bills are no early season fluke, and should continue to be the surprise of the NFL until their inevitable playoff berth this season.
Honorable Mentions: San Francisco 49ers (6-1), Cincinnati Bengals (5-2), Detroit Lions (6-2)
The Philadelphia Eagles
Record Last Season: 10-6
Yes, I fully realize that the Eagles have won 2 straight, but they were against 2 teams in worse shape then they were at the time (Dallas, Washington). The Eagles season so far has been very hum-drum, considering the amount of hype behind them entering the year. Despite the EXTREME amount of talent that this team acquired over the off-season and the immense talent pool it possessed before that, you would expect much better results to this point. The Eagles may be starting to get things together, but no one can argue that they had one of the more under-achieving first 8 in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Dallas Cowboys (3-4), New York Jets (4-3), Arizona Cardinals (1-6)
THE TOP 3 NFL PLAYS OF THE YEAR SO FAR according to Chris Walder
Tom Brady to Wes Welker 99 yard Touchdown Pass against Miami Dolphins
Calvin Johnson TRIPLE-COVERAGE Touchdown Catch against Dallas Cowboys (copyright to Fox)
Devin Hester breaks NFL record for most Punt-Returns for Touchdowns (copyright to Fox)