There isn't much more that can be said of the current situation surrounding the Patriots. There's an air of exasperation permeating Foxborough coming off the 20-17 defeat at the hands of the Washington Commanders. At 2-7 the team's playoff hopes have been all but dashed at this point, and other than finding ways to get young players more involved there aren't a lot of things to get excited about as a Patriots fan.
Rather than continuing to belabor the same points after each game regarding the team's nature of falling short, this week we'll focus on the league and offer some midseason award winners. Perhaps the trip to Germany will be a welcome respite for a team struggling to find its footing.
Meanwhile, I will continue to look forward to watching Demario Douglas, hoping to see more of Keion White and Marte Mapu and actually any of Kayshon Boutte in an effort to figure out if the rookies can be a legitimate part of the future.
Until then, enjoy.
MVP – Tyreek Hill, WR, Dolphins – It's hard to imagine a player having a bigger impact for his team than Hill did over the first half of the season. He remains on pace to break Calvin Johnson's single-season record for receiving yards and remains as explosive as ever.
Other candidates – A.J. Brown, WR, Eagles; Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens; Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins
Offensive Player of Half-Year – Christian McCaffrey, RB, 49ers – In reality this is likely Hill's award as well, but McCaffrey has been outstanding for a Niners offense that has been explosive. The versatile back gives the Niners a touchdown threat from anywhere on the field.
Other candidates – Hill; Brown; Raheem Mostert, RB, Dolphins
Defensive Player of Half-Year – Myles Garrett, DE, Browns – Garrett has been a one-man wrecking crew for a Browns defense that has won games despite little support from an offense missing Deshaun Watson. Check out his game tape against Indianapolis to see perhaps the best singular performance of the season.
Other candidates: Maxx Crosby, DE, Raiders; Danielle Hunter, DE, Vikings; T.J. Watt, DE, Steelers
Offensive Rookie of Half-Year – C.J. Stroud, QB, Texans – This might be the tightest race in years with several solid candidates. Stroud gets the edge based on position, and his ability to lift those around him. Throwing for 470 yards and five touchdowns while leading a last-second touchdown drive Sunday certainly helps the cause.
Other candidates – Puca Nakua, WR, Rams; Jordan Addison, WR, Vikings; Bijan Robinson, Falcons
Defensive Rookie of Half-Year – Jalen Carter, DT, Eagles – Disruptive player with power and speed combo that will make him a problem for years to come. He's still a bit raw and undisciplined at times but he's been a force for a solid Eagles front.
Other candidates – Will Anderson, LB, Texans; Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seahawks; Byron Young, LB, Rams
Coach of Half-Year – John Harbaugh, Ravens – The Ravens revamped their offense under Todd Monken and now look as formidable as ever despite a rash of injuries. The added balance should benefit Lamar Jackson and Baltimore come playoff time.
Other candidates – Robert Saleh, Jets; Dan Campbell, Lions; Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Surprise Team – Houston Texans
Disappointing Team – Buffalo Bills
Team photographers David Silverman and Eric J. Adler present their best photos from the Patriots Week 9 game against the Washington Commanders at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023.
Roughing the passer calls have become some of the more polarizing penalties in the league in recent years. As the NFL's competition committee has worked to protect passers more and more, the officials seem to almost always err on the side of penalty when it comes to quarterbacks getting hit.
It seems there's at least one egregious call every week, and the latest came in the Patriots favor in the loss to Washington. K.J. Henry blindsided Mac Jones early in the third quarter, hitting the quarterback with a textbook form tackle from behind for a 9-yard loss that would have forced a punt.
But referee Adrian Hill tossed the flag, ruling that Henry landed on Jones with "full body weight" and gave the Patriots a first down instead. That call eventually led to a field goal.
Hill was asked about the call in a pool report after the game, and his explanation seemed to defy what we all saw.
"The ruling on the field was that the defender came down with forceable contact, chest-to-chest," Hill said. "He didn't perform one of those acts to remove most of that body weight – a gator roll or a clear to the side when he was coming in. He came down directly with that force on the player, so the category was full body weight."
When asked what Henry's alternatives may have been, Hill continued to contradict the actual outcome of the play.
"There are two common techniques. One we call the 'gator roll' where if he takes that player and rolls to the side so they both land on their side, that 90-degree rotation as he comes around. Or he comes down and breaks the fall first with hands and knees almost like in a crab-like fashion on top of the quarterback."
Let's start with the first comment. Hill claims Henry came down with forcible contact chest-to-chest. In reality he hit Jones in the back, and landed on his back with Jones facing the turf. The second part also didn't hold up as Henry clearly used his hands to brace the fall and basically slid over the top of Jones so as not to land on the quarterback with his full body weight.
These calls are especially tough to legislate but it would certainly help if the officials would watch the replays and see what everybody else sees and admit an error. Dean Blandino, Fox's officiating expert, made no bones about his feelings immediately by saying it was a bad call. But until the officials who are actually making the rulings see things similarly these potential game-changing mistakes will continue to happen.
AFC North dominance
At the halfway point of the season (or as close to it as we can get in a 17-game season), the entire AFC North division is currently in playoff position. The Ravens lead the way at 7-2 and have easily been the cream of the crop. Baltimore dismantled a pair of NFC division leaders in Detroit (38-6) and Seattle (37-3) in recent weeks and Lamar Jackson has been flashing his old MVP form.
Cincinnati (5-3) shook off another slow start and appears poised to regain its form of the last two seasons. Joe Burrow looks healthy and with back-to-back wins over San Francisco and Buffalo the Bengals look like true contenders once again.
The Browns (5-3) and Steelers (5-3) join the Bengals in wild card slots. Both are led by their defenses, but Deshaun Watson's recent return could make Cleveland a dangerous team down the stretch. Given Pittsburgh's offensive woes it's hard to imagine the Steelers continuing to win games while being outgained every week, but through nine weeks the entire division is within the postseason structure.
- Philadelphia (8-1) – The Eagles don't make life easy on themselves but find ways to win.
- Baltimore (7-2) – Jackson is looking quite comfortable in the Ravens new offense.
- Kansas City (7-2) – The Chiefs defense is becoming a factor in recent weeks.
- Detroit (6-2) – Coming off a bye it's time to see if the Lions are mature enough to handle success.
- Miami (6-3) – The Dolphins haven't beaten anyone of note but the offense is still worthy of respect.