With the addition of the 17th game of the regular season last year, the NFL no longer has a true halfway point in the schedule. But in terms of weeks, the Patriots bye lands smack dab in the middle of the campaign. With nine weeks down and nine still to go, New England sits at 5-4 and will spend the coming days trying to figure out how to inject itself into the postseason race in the AFC.
While the coaches embark on the self-scouting process that envelopes this time of year, it's a good time to take stock of things on a grander scale and offer some midseason awards to ponder.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami – Naysayers continue to point toward Mike McDaniel's schemes and the bevy of playmakers at his disposal, but there's one major problem with that: The Dolphins looked inept offensively during the games he missed due to a concussion. Veteran Teddy Bridgewater has enjoyed success in the league, but when he filled in he couldn't approach the production Tagovailoa has enjoyed. He leads the league in passer rating (115.9), touchdown percentage and average yard per attempt and has 15 touchdowns against three picks while completing 70 percent of his passes. Maybe it's the scheme and weapons, but things didn't look anywhere near as smooth with Bridgewater and rookie Skylar Thompson.
In the mix: Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia; Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo; Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City
Offensive Player of the Half-Year
Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami – Hill edges Cleveland running back Nick Chubb for the top spot thanks to an incredible start to his Dolphins career. He leads the league in receptions (76) and yards (1,104) while averaging 14.5 yards per catch, more than 3 yards better than his 2021 total. Chubb is a worthy candidate as well. Playing with a backup quarterback against teams stacking the box Chubb still averages 5.6 yards per carry and leads the league with 10 rushing touchdowns.
In the mix: Chubb; Saquan Barkley, RB, Giants; Stephon Diggs, WR, Buffalo
Defensive Player of the Half-Year
Matthew Judon, LB, Patriots – Judon has returned to his early-season form of a year ago and is running roughshod over opposing quarterback. He leads the league with 11.5 sacks, and the next closest player is San Francisco's Nick Bosa with 8.5. The trick for Judon will be maintaining his fast start, something he struggled to do a year ago, and the coaches have been easing his workload slightly perhaps with and eye toward the second half of the season.
In the mix: Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas; Darius Slay, CB, Philadelphia; Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland
Offensive Rookie of the Half-Year
Kenneth Walker, RB, Seattle – Walker took over for the injured Rashaad Penny and injected life into the Seahawks ground game. Walker averages over 5 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns, mostly since taking over as the lead back in Penny's absence.
In the mix: Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston; Breece Hall, RB, N.Y. Jets, Garrett Wilson, WR, N.Y. Jets
Defensive Rookie of the Half-Year
Sauce Gardner, CB, NYJ – Gardner stepped into the No. 1 corner role in New York immediately and has thrived while generally taking the assignment of covering the opponent's best option. Like most rookies, there have been some bumps along the way but it looks like the Jets have a good one.
In the mix: Tariq Woolen, CB, Seattle; Jaquan Brisker, S, Chicago; Jack Jones, CB, Patriots
Coach of the Half-Year
Brian Daboll, N.Y. Giants – Daboll inherited much of a roster that went 4-13 and has Big Blue at 6-2 and in the thick of the playoff race in the NFC. Daboll's impact hasn't been as much about schemes (although he's done a great job of playing to quarterback Daniel Jones' strengths) as it has been instilling some toughness to a team that never feels like it's out of a game. The Giants aren't overly talented and they've won a few fluky games, but Daboll epitomizes the impact a coach can make.
In the mix: Mike McDaniel, Miami; Mike McCarthy, Dallas; Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota, Pete Carroll, Seattle
Comeback Player of the Half-Year
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle – Raise your hand if you had Geno Smith grossly outplaying the departed Russell Wilson? If you saw this coming, send those Powerball numbers ASAP. Smith has never played better and ranks third in the league with a 107.2 passer rating and 15 touchdowns against just four picks,
In the mix: Barkley; Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee; Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville
- Philadelphia (8-0) – Eagles keep rolling and now have 10 days to rest before getting back at it.
- Buffalo (6-2) – Disappointing loss to the Jets is the least of the Bills concerns as all eyes are on Josh Allen's elbow.
- Kansas City (6-2) – Patrick Mahomes continues to carry his team to victory.
- Dallas (6-2) – Dak Prescott looked much more comfortable in his second game back from injury.
- Minnesota (7-1) – Still don't see it when looking at the Vikings but 7-1 is impossible to ignore.