MVP: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
Through the first nine weeks of the season, we have seen Wilson take another step forward in what has already been a tremendous career. In Wilson’s first few professional seasons, he showed promise, effectively game managing a powerful run game while capitalizing on turnovers thanks to arguably the best defense of the 2000s. Wilson and the aforementioned defense, spearheaded by its “Legion of Boom” secondary, won the Seahawks their first Super Bowl in franchise history over the Denver Broncos in 2014 and brought them back to the Super Bowl in 2015. As the “Legion of Boom” gradually lost its pieces and relied more on Wilson to deliver, he has answered the call. Fast-forward to this year, and he has truly cemented himself as a top quarterback in the NFL. Through the first nine weeks, Wilson is third in the NFL in passing yards and leads the league in touchdown passes with 22. Wilson’s 22 touchdowns to one interception is a ratio far and away from the rest of the NFL, while additionally sitting atop the league with a quarterback rating of 118.2. With the performance of receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, and now recently claimed free agent Josh Gordon, along with Seattle’s ability to run the ball, their offense has been borderline unstoppable. Wilson’s numbers don’t lie, but his performance down the backstretch will have to be equally as flawless to carry his team into the postseason.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Rodgers, DeShaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey
Offensive Player of the Year: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey
When you talk about a well-rounded player, McCaffrey should be the first name that comes to mind. It seems like every single week you see highlights of McCaffrey ripping off a huge run or making several defensive players miss on a single carry or all at once. Through week nine, the Panthers running back is second in the league in rushing yards, trailing only Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who, unlike McCaffrey, has not yet had his bye week. McCaffrey also leads all running backs in receiving yards and leads all of the NFL in all-purpose yards with 1,244 yards, putting him on pace for 2,488 yards on the season. That figure would be the eighth-most by a player in a season in NFL history. Since Carolina lost quarterback Cam Newton for the year, rookie quarterback Kyle Allen has been kept afloat thanks heavily to McCaffrey’s excellence with the football in his hands. In a tough NFC conference, McCaffrey will need to continue to run like a mad man for the Panthers to have any hope for a Wild Card spot.
Honorable Mentions: Lamar Jackson, Dalvin Cook, Russell Wilson
Defensive Player of the Year: New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore
At the season’s midway point, the New England Patriots have the second-ranked defense in the league, led by the lockdown Gilmore. Gilmore has had three interceptions in addition to 10 pass breakups. Gilmore, reminiscent to the early 2010s Darrelle Revis, has taken away the top receiving option of every opponent the Patriots have faced thus far, while additionally being defensive player of the month for October.
Honorable Mentions: Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa, Jamie Collins
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray
At this point in the season, this award seems like a toss-up between Murray and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. But when you consider the state the Cardinals were in at this point last year compared to where they are now, it is hard to not give the edge to Murray. Murray sits at No. 12 in the league in passing yards, while the Cardinals offense leads the league in the least amount of turnovers. While fellow rookie quarterbacks, the Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew and the Giants’ Daniel Jones have fumbled the ball 11 and 10 times respectively, Murray has not yet coughed up the ball and only throwing four interceptions. This level of efficiency is not typical for a rookie by any means, and only speaks to Murray’s transition to the professional level.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Jacobs, D.K. Metcalf
Defensive Rookie of the Year: San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa
At the mid-point in the season, Bosa is not only a lock for this award but also is a strong candidate for defensive player of the year. The 49ers front seven has been the best in football, led by their rookie sensation, who has recorded seven sacks, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and an interception through eight contests. The second overall pick from this past draft has been everything the 49ers hoped he would be, leading the league’s top-ranked defensive unit while additionally being a nightmare for opposing coaches and left tackles to game plan against.
Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker Devin Bush
Comeback Player of the Year: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
This award also seems like it could be a toss-up between Garoppolo and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who has been tremendous for the Rams after coming back from a torn ACL. As of now, the edge goes to the signal-caller for the undefeated San Francisco 49ers, who have already greatly exceeded expectations going into the season and have a chance to win the division for the first time since 2012. Garoppolo carried San Francisco when he arrived last fall via trade, going undefeated before tearing his ACL. This season, the 49ers have asked Garropolo mostly to game manage, but in his recent performance against the Cardinals Gucci Garoppolo came back seemingly flawless when the 49ers needed him to, throwing for over 300 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Garoppolo is one of only nine quarterbacks with a passer rating above 100 on the season, which also gives praise to an offensive line that has only allowed Garoppolo to be sacked 12 times. Garoppolo’s health is crucial to San Francisco’s future, as the West Coast red and gold looks to shine for years to come. Since Garoppolo became starter for the 49ers midway through 2017, the team is 14-2 in any game that Garoppolo has started and 3-10 in games started by other quarterbacks. Look for this team to be playing aggressively in the trenches come January, with Garoppolo leading the charge on offense.
Honorable Mentions: Kupp, Cook
Coach of the Year: New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton
If you were told that the Saints would lose quarterback Drew Brees for six weeks in week two, what would you assume their record would be by the time Brees came back? Anytime a signal-caller is lost, especially the league’s all-time passing leader, teams crumble.
Not Payton’s squad though, whose only loss this season was the game in which Brees was injured. Though the talk around the league was concerning the Saints’ ability to at least go 4-4 and give Brees a chance to carry them to the playoffs upon his return, Payton shut out the outside noise and led a disciplined squad, both offensively and defensively, to 5-0 under backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With Bridgewater playing efficiently within Payton’s system, in addition to injuries throughout the NFC South benefiting the Saints, New Orleans rolled over teams en route to their bye week. Now, coming off that bye, Brees should be at full health and the Saints, an already powerful team, are getting even more dangerous on their hunt for the top of the NFC against Garoppolo’s 49ers, all thanks to Payton’s coaching and his roster buying in on his ideology. Tip your cap to Payton for taking what could have been a lost season and keeping it a title-contending one.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Shanahan, Frank Reich, Bill Belichick