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Inside the NFL | Midseason awards: Current, former Colts lead the way

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11

 

With the first half of the NFL season in the rearview mirror, it is time to evaluate player performances thus far in 2012. There have been those who have exceeded their preseason expectations — such as our MVP — and others who have failed to live up to their potential. Here are The Daily’s midseason award winners:

Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

No disrespect whatsoever to Matt Ryan, who has put together an MVP-caliber season himself, but what Manning has accomplished in his first half-season in Denver has been nearly unprecedented. After missing the entire 2011 season with what could have been a career-ending neck injury, Manning has transitioned flawlessly into the Broncos’ offense, throwing for 2,404 yards and 20 touchdowns through eight games. These numbers look even more impressive considering that the Broncos’ offense had just 2,434 yards and 20 touchdowns in the entire 2011 regular season with virtually the same receiving corps. Read that again: Manning has nearly matched the production of the 2011 Broncos passing attack in half as many games. If he maintains this level of production while Denver keeps winning games, Manning will add a fifth MVP trophy to his collection.

Least Valuable Player: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

Now in his fourth season as the starting quarterback of the Jets after being selected fifth in the 2009 NFL Draft, Sanchez has shown no signs of improvement. After showing potential in his first two seasons, Sanchez has become one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league and is largely responsible for the woes of the underachieving Jets this season. Sanchez has a 72.8 passer rating, good for 30th in the NFL and his worst since his rookie year, and averages a measly 6.38 yards per attempt. No quarterback has been given the chance to succeed like Sanchez has, but his time as a first-string quarterback is dwindling. Don’t be surprised if Tim Tebow starts to see increased playing time in the Jets’ matchup against Seattle on Sunday.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

In a league driven by quarterbacks, defensive end J.J. Watt is the best there is at putting pressure on an opponent’s play caller. Watt leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks and is a major reason why the Texans have the league’s third-best defense in terms of yards allowed per game. 

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

While most of America has been captivated by the play of Robert Griffin III, Luck has quietly been the more effective of the two rookie sensations. Praised as the best NFL prospect since John Elway, Luck has exceeded all expectations. The No. 1 pick of the 2012 draft has led the Colts to a 5-3 record just a season after the team finished 2-14. In last week’s comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins, Luck broke the rookie record for passing yards in a game with 433. He is also tied for fourth in the league in total passing yards, accumulating the exact same number of yards as former Colts superstar Peyton Manning.

Coach of the Year: Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Coming off of a 2-14 season, the Colts were expected to be cellar dwellers again in 2012 while their young players gained NFL experience. Chuck Pagano, however, has managed to turn a rebuilding Colts squad into a playoff contender despite being diagnosed with leukemia in September. With help from offensive coordinator and interim head coach Bruce Arians, Pagano has mentored a young quarterback while transforming the defense into a 3-4 scheme. If the Colts continue their strong play and earn a spot in the playoffs, Pagano should be a shoo-in for coach of the year. 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Breathe a sigh of relief, Panther fans, the future of your defense is in good hands. After a 15-tackle performance last week against the Redskins, his second of the year, linebacker Luke Kuechly has made it clear that he will long be a defensive force in the NFL. The Boston College graduate has 77 tackles this season, the third-most in the NFL and the highest total among rookies. 

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