By Kenneth Arthur

There isn't an exact midway point in an NFL season because there are 17 weeks, so giving out awards or updates can be tricky due to the fact that certain players have played more or less than other players.

But due to the current state of injuries and suspensions, some players will constantly be playing less than others. We can only evaluate what we have and evaluation is key when asking the important questions like "Is Manning better than Rodgers?" and "Is anyone going to take away the title of 'Shortest Human Being' from Russell Wilson?"

This is what we have: About a half of a season in which some more passing records could be broken, sacks record and even a rushing record too. There's plenty to evaluate, so here are some of the things worth noting at the midway-ish point of 2014.

MVP: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Despite playing in only seven games through eight weeks, one less than many other notable names, Manning still leads the NFL in touchdown passes (tied with Andrew Luck at 22) but has just three interceptions. That helps make him the leader in passer rating (119), yards per attempt (8.5) and adjusted yards per attempt (9.7.)

Manning came to Denver in 2012 as a 36-year-old quarterback with a career-threatening neck injury and he's thrown 114 touchdowns in less than two and a half seasons. For comparison, Alex Smith has 113 career touchdowns.

If you put Manning on any roster in the NFL, he might not win the Super Bowl, but he'd be a lock for the playoffs. What's more valuable than that?

BEST ON-SCREEN COUPLE: Andrew Luck and TY Hilton, Colts

In 10 seasons, Manning and Reggie Wayne locked up for over 10,000 yards and 69 touchdowns, but the next generation of Colts playmakers could surpass that.

As mentioned earlier, Luck has 22 touchdown passes and is leading the NFL in passing yards by 351, most of which are directed at the reliable, quick Hilton, who leads the league in receiving yards at 866. 

Hilton has 680 yards over his last five games. Hey, if he could keep up a pace like that it will only take him about 74 games to get to 10,000! Probably not realistic to see him get there that quickly, but there's no reason to think that these two can't break some franchise records that you'd think are unbreakable.


This is a tougher award to give out than MVP because people don't typically assign "value" to the DPOY, so wins don't really matter. At least not as much as they do for offensive players and the MVP.

Justin Houston has 10 sacks in seven games, so the sacks record is within reach. Gerald McCoy is a force of nature. Von Miller is back and he has the Broncos looking like a defense you actually would fear in the Super Bowl. Cameron Wake is the most universally underrated player in the NFL every year. Earl Thomas shouldn't retire without winning the award once. But JJ Watt is …

JJ Watt.

Watt dominates the line of scrimmage like no other player. The Texans are only competitive because of him and with Jadeveon Clowney back in the mix, they could still make a playoff run. He's among the league leaders in sacks while absolutely destroying other defensive lineman in categories like QB hits, QB hurries and batted passes. Other guys are defensive players, and Watt is practically an entire defense on his own.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers

Jerick McKinnon has been a savior of sorts for the Vikings, the trio of rookie quarterbacks have shown flashes of an idea that they'll be better one day, and Sammy Watkins hasn't disappointed in the slightest. In fact, Watkins has the same number of catches and touchdowns as Benjamin, with a few more yards.

But given that Carolina sort of entered the season with a "Eh, it'll figure itself out!" attitude about the wide receiving corps, Benjamin has turned in some stunning catches to give hope for the future of the Panthers skill players. It's hard to fault Watkins after turning in a solid performance for a Bills team that's actually in the playoff hunt, while playing with EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton, but if there's a tipping point to the scale, it might be Benjamin's incredible leaping catch over two All-Pros on Sunday.


It's rare for any defensive player to directly win a game for his team, but that's exactly what Barr did in Week 8 when he stripped Bucs rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins to force a fumble and then returned it for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. That alone might not be enough to justify crowning him as the best defensive rookie in the game, but then again he may have already held that title before that moment.

Barr's 43 tackles is the second most among rookies behind CJ Mosley's 47, and his three sacks are first in his class. He's also got three fumble recoveries and three pass deflections.

Not bad for a guy that was a running back three years ago at UCLA.

The Vikings and general manager Rick Spielman have come under fire this year for their handling of the Adrian Peterson situation, but a draft class of Barr, Bridgewater and McKinnon is doing them a lot of favors right now.

BEST KISS: Seahawks kissing Percy Harvin goodbye

Eight months after he returned a nail-to-the-coffin kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, Harvin was sent to New York for almost nothing other than the fact that he wouldn't be in Seattle anymore. That's how bad things apparently got.

Rumors about his inability to get along with certain teammates are just that. Rumors. What's indisputable is that he averaged only six yards per catch this season and has yet to have one truly explosive play other than a 51-yard touchdown run that should've been called back when he stepped out of bounds.

But an in-season trade of a marquee name is so rare in the NFL that it has to get its own award.


On Monday night the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins and reminded everybody that 1995 was a long time ago, but it's really Murray who is playing football like he's in an era of days gone by. Murray extended his NFL record by rushing for 141 yards, his eighth straight game with at least 100 yards to open the season.

This would be unbelievable even if it happened in 1994, but it's almost unfathomable in 2014. Murray has almost 300 more yards than the guy in second place, Arian Foster. He has more than double the rushing yards than any other player in the NFL with the exception of four other guys. This is not an era where you are supposed to rush for 1,500 yards a season anymore, but Murray is halfway through the season and he's on pace for 2,114. That would break Eric Dickerson's NFL record.

Is Murray going to get there? It's hard to say. By next week he'll embark on a new career high in carries in a single season, so is his body prepared for 16 games? Even if he doesn't, he's already accomplished a lot and in this era where few teams run with a single back system with much success, he's a rare breed that deserves acknowledgment.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Bruce Arians, Cardinals

I've always found it too simple to just give this award to the guy who is running a team that's made the most surprising turnaround, and often those guys don't typically carry that success for long. The last time that a coach won the award in the same season that he won the Super Bowl (which you would think is the ultimate goal for the best coach in the NFL) was 1999 with Dick Vermeil and the Rams.

Arians could actually be the next to do it.

The Cardinals are not so much of a surprise, because they went 10-6 last year in the league's toughest division. But eight weeks into the season they have the best record in the NFC at 6-1.

Arians won the Coach of the Year award with the Colts in 2012 after he took over for Chuck Pagano when the latter was in treatment for cancer. Indy went 9-3 under Arians (2-2 under Pagano) and that makes his overall career record stand at 25-10.

NOT COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Smith, Falcons

Smith won the award in 2008 after helping Atlanta turn things around with Matt Ryan -- seven years later he has exactly one (barely made it) playoff win.

The Falcons are one of the worst teams in the NFL and they have been for two years now. There aren't any excuses to be made. They've turned the ball over in every game this season, and 22 straight games overall. They've lost five in a row. Five of their six losses have been by more than a touchdown. 

The only reason that GM Thomas Dimitroff won't be firing Smith is because owner Arthur Blanks will probably fire them both at the same time.


Kenneth Arthur is a freelance writer currently covering the NFL at Rolling Stone and the Seattle Seahawks at His work can also been found at Football Outsiders and SB Nation.