We are at the closest point mathematically to straight-up midseason in the NFL, so that must mean these are our King Sport Halftime Awards:
• MVP: Peyton Manning, Broncos QB. Manning leads the league in passer rating, has Denver playoff-bound, is beloved around the league and already has the comeback award sewn up after coming off multiple neck surgeries. I mean how do you not vote for this guy? 1Q winner: Matt Ryan, Falcons QB.
• Offensive Player of the Year: Manning, Broncos QB. Nobody is jumping out here; nobody is on pace for a major record. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (25 TDs) is making a run to get in the mix, and keep an eye on Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. 1Q winner: Ryan, Falcons QB.
• Defensive POY: J.J. Watt, Texans DE. He leads the league with 10 1/2 sacks for a great defense, and also has 10 passes defensed (tips). But keep an eye on hard-charging Bears CB Charles Tillman, who has seven forced fumbles and two picks returned for TDs. 1Q winner: Watt.
Offensive Rookie: Andrew Luck, Colts QB. Watch voters look right past Robert Griffin III’s superior passer rating and give Luck credit for having Indy in playoff contention. Luck’s rookie record of 433 yards doesn’t hurt in what is a very strong field for this award. 1Q winner: Griffin.
• Defensive Rookie: Chandler Jones, Patriots DE. Has six sacks and stands out in a relatively weak crop of challengers. 1Q winner: Jones.
• Coach of the Year: Greg Schiano, Buccaneers. He isn’t particularly popular, but the team he took over already has as many wins as it had all last season. Will solidify as candidate if Tampa hangs in playoff chase in a field where no clear frontrunner has emerged. 1Q winner: Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals.
• Dolphins MVP: Randy Starks, DT. Run defense is this team’s forte right now, and Starks is main reason Miami has not permitted an opposing 100-yard rusher in 22 consecutive games. Wide-open race also including sackman Cameron “Earthwake” Wake, RB Reggie Bush and QB Ryan Tannehill. 1Q winner: Bush.
Scatter-shooting the league:
• Our weekly updated playoff outlook courtesy of makenflplayoffs.com, entering Week 10: AFC top six — Texans 97.1 percent; Ravens 86.8; Broncos 72.3; Patriots 70.5; Colts 61.5 and Steelers 57.3 (with Dolphins now eighth at 37.8). NFC top six — Falcons 96.9 percent; Bears 87.6; 49ers 80.4; Giants 76.9; Packers 63.3; and Vikings 36.7.
• Teams at 4-4 (like Miami) might take heart that 10 teams that were 4-4 have gone on to make the players over the past five seasons. But only two 3-5 teams have.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin reached win No. 60 in his 88th game. Only coaches zero-to-60 faster: George Seifert (75 games), Joe Gibbs (84) and Mike Ditka (85).
• The league scoring average (45.7) is the highest it has been since 1965, and it is being driven by record-pace TD passes (395 so far) and 300-yard games (73).
• Four teams entered Week 10 having already surpassed or equaled their 2011 season win totals: Colts (plus-3), Vikings (plus-2), Rams (plus-1) and Bucs (even).
• Dolphins punter Brandon Fields is averaging a league-leading 51.6 yards, threatening one of NFL’s longest-standing records: Sammy Baugh’s 51.4 set in 1940.
• Bucs rookie Doug Martin’s 486 scrimmage yards the past two weeks are the most in a two-game span since Walter Payton in 1977.
NFL games are the 14 most-watched TV shows since the season began, led by the Sept. 9 Steelers-Broncos game that drew an audience of 27.6 million.
• Matthew Stafford’s arm tired yet? Lions QB is on pace to break Drew Bledsoe’s 1994 season pass-attempts record of 691.