AROUND THE LEAGUE

At NFL midseason, Peyton Manning is runaway MVP

 

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

Seventeen of 32 NFL teams have now played eight (or in one case nine) games, and the other 15 teams play their eighth game this weekend, so by my math it’s time for the King Sport Halftime Awards as we reach midseason:

• MVP — Peyton Manning, Broncos QB: Peyton has his team on an all-time scoring pace and positioned as the Super Bowl favorite, and he leads the league in most every major passing category. Somebody has to be second, and it’s the Saints’ Drew Brees, but MVP is a one-man race right now. 1Q leader: Manning.

• Offensive Player of the Year — Manning: This is more of an individual/stats award, so how’s this: Manning is on pace to pass for 5,838 yards and 58 touchdowns and comfortably break the season records held by Drew Brees (5,487, 2011) and Tom Brady (50, 2007). Don’t talk to me about Lions WR Calvin Johnson. His receiving yards pace (1,642) would rank 10th al -time. 1Q leader: Manning.

• Defensive POY — Earl Thomas, Seahawks S: He has 53 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles as the catalyst for a very good team that wins with defense. Also keep on eye on his teammate, CB Richard Sherman, and on Colts LB Robert Mathis, the NFL sacks leader with 11 1/2. 1Q leader: Justin Houston, Chiefs LB.

• Offensive Rookie of the Year — Eddie Lacy, Packers RB: He has rushed for 395 yards in the past four games, his emergence finally giving Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers the ground game they’ve lacked. Keep an eye on QB Geno Smith if Jets hang in the playoff chase. 1Q leader: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans WR.

• Defensive ROY — Kiko Alonso, Bills LB: He’s a tackling machine and already has four interceptions. Also in the hunt: Jets DT Sheldon Richardson and Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu. (Yes, the Honey Badger!) 1Q leader: Alonso.

• Coach of the Year – Andy Reid, Chiefs: He took over a team that was 2-14 last season. They are 8-0. Any questions? Saints’ Sean Payton might be a distant second. 1Q leader: Payton.

• Dolphins MVP — Brandon Fields, P: Fields is averaging 48.8 yards per punt and leads the NFL with a 43.3 net average, but this is a protest vote. It is with sadness that I can find no other player who has excelled more consistently. 1Q leader: Ryan Tannehill, QB.

Scatter-shooting

• Playoff likelihood entering Week 9, via makenflplayoffs.com computers: AFC — Chiefs 96.6%, Broncos 87.4, Bengals 80.1, Patriots 79.7, Colts 75.4 and Chargers 32.6. (Dolphins stand 10th at 16.7). NFC — Seahawks 91.6, Saints 87.6, 49ers 75.4, Packers 64.8, Cowboys 61.3 and Lions 52.9.

• The 614 touchdowns scored thus far broke the NFL eight-week record of 593 set in 2002. The 371 passing TDs also are a record for this date.

• Why Chiefs fans are smiling: KC is the 16th team to be 8-0 since the 1978 advent of the 16-game season, and the previous 15 made the playoffs, with eight winning the Super Bowl.

• AFC West teams are a combined 22-8 (.733) after eight weeks. Best division record through nine weeks is .689, also by AFC West, in 1984.

• Johnson’s 329 receiving yards last week were second only to Flipper Anderson’s 336 for the L.A. Rams in a 1989 game. Pretend you knew that Flipper’s QB that day was Jim Everett.

• You know how all coaches preach the importance of turnovers? They ain’t lyin’! Teams with a plus-differential have won at a .786 pace over the previous five years. This season it’s .840 (21-4).

• Take heart, struggling masses: Since 2000, 32 teams at 4-4 or worse at midseason have made the playoffs, including at least one such team every season.

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