With the season nearly halfway over and the Bills currently enjoying a bye week, I thought it’d be interesting to hand out some “midseason” awards for both the Bills and the NFL.
NFL: QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
No team is unbeatable, but if you have any other team besides the Packers as your favorite to win the Super Bowl right now, you’re wrong. Just wrong. It all starts with Rodgers, who has been nearly flawless as the Packers have rolled to a 6-0 start. His stats are just mind-boggling right now: 70.3% completions, 17 TD (against just 3 INT), 122.4 QB rating, 9.75 yards per attempt. With Rodgers slinging the ball around like that, it’s going to be awfully tough to stop the Packers.
Honorable Mention: QB Tom Brady, New England; RB Darren McFadden, Oakland; RB Fred Jackson, Buffalo; WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Buffalo: RB Fred Jackson
It’s almost impossible to understate how good Jackson has been this season. Some numbers should help demonstrate his dominance thus far in 2011. He’s got 601 yards rushing (second in the NFL) with a whopping 5.7 yards per carry average and six touchdowns. Jackson also has 279 receiving. His pass blocking has been fantastic. He hasn’t fumbled. He’s broken roughly 10,542 tackles (possibly an exaggeration). What more could you ask for in a running back?
Honorable mention: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, S George Wilson
NFL: QB Cam Newton, Carolina
I’ll admit it: I was a Cam Newton doubter. I was adamant Buffalo shouldn’t take the guy if he was available in the draft. I thought he’d have some success, but I wasn’t confident he could be a top-level quarterback. I just thought the tremendous athletic advantage he had in college wouldn’t be enough to bring him success in the NFL.
And I was right about that…but Newton brings so much more to the table than I ever dreamed. This man has poise, confidence, and can flat out sling the ball. Whatever the “it” factor is, Cam Newton has it. And the crazy part? He hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he’s going to be. The Panthers SUCK. It’s the same group that went 2-14 last season. They are dumping way too much on Newton way too early, and he’s unsurprisingly made some mistakes (see his nine INTs). But as the Panthers build around Newton while he continues to improve? Holy crap. I may hate myself for saying this later, but Cam Newton might be a quarterback revolution.
Honorable Mention: LB Von Miller, Denver; QB AndyDalton, Cincinnati; WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati; LB Aldon Smith, San Francisco
Buffalo: DE Marcell Dareus
Not a lot of competition for this one, as the Buffalo rookie class was just decimated by injury in training camp. Dareus hasn’t been spectacular yet, but you can see the physical presence he has on the line. He played his best game of the season last week against the Giants, including that huge goal-line hit late in the fourth quarter that forced the Giants to settle for a field goal on their final drive. As Dareus improves and (hopefully) linemate Kyle Williams can get healthy, this could be a very tough D-line for opposing offenses to handle.
Honorable Mention: LB Kelvin Sheppard
NFL: San Francisco 49ers
I know I thought the 49ers were going to be a train wreck this season. But they’re very much for real. Whatever Jim Harbaugh is doing there, it’s working. Their last two wins – a destruction of Tampa Bay and a great road win at Detroit – would not have happened if this team wasn’t legit. I don’t know if they can score enough to hang around with the likes of Green Bay, but they’ll be a very serious threat in the NFC playoffs. (Assuming QB Alex Smith can avoid a meltdown.)
Buffalo: LT Demetrius Bell and the offensive line
Who would have ever thought the team’s probable biggest liability would become a strength? The much-maligned O-line was among the main reasons no one gave Buffalo much of a chance for success coming into this season. In particular, the play of LT Demetrius Bell was much fretted about, especially when he was nearly benched in preseason for Andy Levitre (who’s a guard). But somehow, someway, this group has kept QB Ryan Fitzpatrick mostly upright and opened up some big holes for Fred Jackson. If they can keep it up, the Bills will keep scoring points.
Coach of the Year:
NFL: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco
A lot of guys who could deserve this award right now, but it’s hard to overlook what Harbaugh has done with the long-downtrodden 49ers. There’s no reason to think they won’t cruise to an NFC West title and become a very tough out in the playoffs. Harbaugh got just the right mix of insanity and intelligence to succeed. Will his shtick eventually get old for the players? Maybe. But for now there’s no arguing with the results.
Honorable Mention: Jim Schwartz, Detroit; Hue Jackson, Oakland; Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati; Chan Gailey, Buffalo
So that’s my take. Got your own opinion? Leave your thoughts in the comments.