We’re roughly to the midpoint of the 2016 NFL regular season, so it’s time to figure out where we stand and make a few new predictions for the second half.
This week we voted on player awards, some general awards like our games and plays of the first half, and updated our Super Bowl picks. The panel was our Yahoo NFL writers: Jay Busbee, Eric Edholm, Kevin Kaduk, Shalise Manza Young, Charles Robinson and Frank Schwab.
One rule for the awards: Our voters couldn’t pick the same player for MVP and offensive/defensive player of the year. All player award votes reflected just the first half of the season, and not a projection on who will win at the end.
Voting results: Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan (4), New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (1), Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr (1)
The Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback is off to a remarkable start, leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns. He added to his résumé last week with a final-minute touchdown pass to beat the Green Bay Packers.
Voting results: Brady (2), Carr (2), Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson (1), Ryan (1)
There was a tie among two quarterbacks playing very well. Brady and his 133.9 rating is hard to ignore, even in just four games. So is Carr’s early season performance, leading the Raiders to many comeback wins and a 6-2 record. Carr’s 513-yard game in a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week gave him a late boost.
Voting results: Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller (3), Seattle Seahawks DE Cliff Avril (1), Kansas City Chiefs CB Marcus Peters (1), Buffalo Bills OLB Lorenzo Alexander (1)
We can be pretty sure that someone other than J.J. Watt is winning this year. Three-time winner Watt is on injured reserve. Miller has at least a half-sack in seven of eight games, and is the key piece to a defense that has carried the Broncos to a 6-2 start. The surprise on the list is Alexander, a 33-year-old who has been mostly a backup and had nine sacks before this season. He has nine sacks in the first half of this season.
Voting results: Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (4), Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (2)
Think the Cowboys are happy with their draft? It’s hard to go wrong with either player here, though it’s tough to deny Elliott. He leads the NFL in rushing yards and is a major reason the Cowboys are 6-1. Prescott, with a 99.6 passer rating, would be a great pick too.
Voting results: San Diego Chargers DE Joey Bosa (4), Chargers LB Jatavis Brown (2)
Speaking of good drafts, the Chargers are getting a lot out of their rookies. Brown has 54 tackles and three sacks. But after missing the first part of the season with a holdout and a hamstring injury, Bosa has been very impressive. The third pick of the draft has four sacks and has been disruptive in all four of his games.
Voting results: Patriots coach Belichick (3), Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (1), Raiders coach Jack Del Rio (1), Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (1)
Hard to go against Belichick, who didn’t have future Hall-of-Famer Brady for four games and went 3-1 without him. The Patriots lead the AFC East by three games just halfway into the season. Also worth noting the vote for McDaniels by Manza Young, after the Patriots’ offensive coordinator has led the third-highest scoring offense in the NFL despite three different starting quarterbacks.
Voting results: Tennessee Titans RB DeMarco Murray (4), Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (1), Ryan (1)
Murray has had a career revival in Tennessee after a tough season with the Philadelphia Eagles. Murray already has more yards this season than he did all last year with the Eagles. It’s interesting that five of the six votes went to players who are coming back from their own struggles last season. Graham got a vote after returning from a devastating knee injury to be a factor for Seattle’s offense.
And now our other superlatives from the first half …
Oakland Raiders 35, New Orleans Saints 34, Week 1
(Shalise Manza Young, Kevin Kaduk)
Our only game to get two votes. This one had a lot of offense and the exciting decision by Raiders coach Jack Del Rio to go for a two-point conversion and the win in the final two minutes.
Dallas Cowboys 27, Washington Redskins 23, Week 2
This game was exciting, with the Cowboys taking the lead in the fourth quarter and the defense holding on, but it was also an important game. Instead of Dallas falling to 0-2 with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, it rallied to win in the fourth quarter and hasn’t lost since.
San Diego Chargers 33, Atlanta Falcons 30 (overtime), Week 7
The Falcons got off to a huge lead, the Chargers stormed back in the second half, and then Falcons coach Dan Quinn made the controversial call to go for it in his own territory on fourth-and-1 in overtime. The Falcons didn’t get it.
Arizona Cardinals 6, Seattle Seahawks 6, Week 7
Pretty? Nope. But the tipping point we need to fix … everything.
Dallas Cowboys 29, Philadelphia Eagles 23 (overtime), Week 8
The Cowboys stormed back from 10 down in the fourth quarter to tie it, then Dak Prescott led a marvelous drive in overtime to win a thriller.
A.J. Green’s Hail Mary
(Busbee, Kaduk, Schwab)
Our winner, with three votes, is Green’s unbelievable juggling catch in the end zone to end the first half against the Cleveland Browns.
Landon Collins’ pick six
(Edholm, Manza Young)
Collins’ interception and remarkable run for the touchdown got two votes. It gave London fans something to cheer about.
Brandin Cooks’ 98-yard score
Cooks ran right by the Raiders’ defense for the longest touchdown in New Orleans Saints history.
Houston Texans QB Brock Osweiler
(Busbee, Robinson, Schwab)
Our “winner” got three votes. Forget the $72 million contract, Osweiler has been a big disappointment no matter his paycheck.
Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles and WR Allen Robinson
(Edholm and Kaduk)
This duo goes hand in hand, getting a vote each. The Jaguars’ passing game has been a mess.
New York Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
After all the offseason drama, Fitzpatrick ended his holdout … and has been arguably the NFL’s worst starting quarterback.
This was unanimous. It’s hard to pick against a team that was 15-1 last season, brought back nearly its entire roster and started 1-5.
Dallas Cowboys/Dak Prescott
Five of our six voters mentioned the Cowboys, or Prescott playing much better than anticipated. Edholm voted for “all rookie QBs other than Goff playing well,” so we’ll lump his vote in with the others for the 6-1 Cowboys and the incredible season Prescott is having.
The staggering amount of poor football on display
And one vote for how bad the NFL’s product has been in the first half, a complaint that is getting a lot of steam and might be playing into the television ratings dip.
(Edholm, Kaduk, Manza Young)
The leading vote-getter in this category is the Titans, who three of our writers expect to make a big run in the second half behind quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Carolina Panthers make the playoffs
And two writers think the Panthers can dig out of that 1-5 hole to make the playoffs.
Tony Romo will start for Cowboys in the playoffs
And one vote for the return of Romo. That seemed like a given weeks ago, now it seems like a given that Prescott will keep the job … but one way or another it just feels like Romo will reemerge this season.
(Edholm, Kaduk, Schwab)
Bradley, the struggling Jaguars coach, got the most votes here. The Jaguars have been a huge disappointment.
No coach will be fired
(Manza Young, Robinson)
Midseason firings have become more popular recently, but for a long time they were pretty rare in the NFL. Two of our writers think all 32 coaches will survive the season.
The Colts are having a rough season, and one of our writers thinks Pagano will pay the price for it before the season is done.
Patriots over Seahawks (3 votes: Schwab, Manza Young, Robinson)
Patriots over Cowboys (2 votes: Edholm, Kaduk)
Patriots over Falcons (1 vote: Busbee)
That’s right, all six votes for the Patriots winning the Super Bowl this season. That’s a big difference from the preseason predictions, when only one of our writers (Manza Young), picked the Pats to win it all.
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