We’re at the midway point of the season, with every team in the league having played either seven or eight of its 16 games. This feels like a perfect time to check in with each and every one of the NFL’s 32 teams, and hand out some mid-season Most Valuable Player awards. Let’s get started:
Other articles in the series:
Pittsburgh Steelers – Le’Veon Bell
These are not your Father’s Pittsburgh Steelers. For a start, they are a measly 3-4. Even worse, the usually dominating defensive team has just 10 sacks (31st) and 5 takeaways this season. Suffice to say, the team’s midpoint MVP does not come from the defensive side of the ball…
The MVP comes instead in the form of the man who has made the most difference in Steel City. Before rookie running back Le’Veon Bell came back into the side against the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley in week 4, the Steelers were 0-3 and deserved to lose all three games.
Bell changed that. In the loss to the Vikings in which Bell was the lone bright spark, the powerful back ran for two touchdowns despite it being the rookie’s very first NFL regular season game. Pittsburgh then won their next two with Bell as the “Bell-Cow” back – riding him for 93 yards on 19 carries to beat the rival Ravens in a must-win home game in week 7.
Bell hasn’t been consistent, putting up a stinker against both the Jets in week 6 and the Raiders in week 8. But that could be attributed to the fact that he is working with one of the worst offensive lines in football.
His presence in the backfield, and his ability to make tough yards up the middle when they matter the most, have changed the fortunes of this football team; and for that, he earns the Steelers mid-season MVP.
Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 31: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals attempts to pass the ball against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on October 31, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NFL.com’s ‘Around the League’ crew created a saying this season about Andy Dalton: “AD – After Dalton”. If a quarterback is labeled “AD” it means that he is worse than Andy Dalton, and therefore more of a hindrance than a help to his team. The suggestion here is that Andy Dalton is your prototypical NFL average quarterback. He isn’t a problem for the most part, but he is also not the reason you win games.
It looks like that saying has become redundant as quickly as it started; for the most part, Andy Dalton is looking like a top 10 quarterback right now.
Granted, a couple of games have been less than stellar for the young quarterback. But considering his body of work over the entire season, he’s still playing at a very high level.
He made Marvin Jones look like a superstar against the Jets last week. He gets Gio Bernard involved with smart check downs, and he still knows how to find his star man AJ Green when he needs to. This Bengals team is rounding into a dangerous, balanced offence; and it is all because of Dalton’s much improved play.
So while Geno Atkins and AJ Green are still playing like machines pretending to be men, Andrew Whitworth is blocking everything and Vontaze Burfict is abusing running backs like tackling dummies, it is Andy Dalton who has been the biggest difference maker on this team.
He has earned that MVP title at the halfway mark.
Cleveland Browns – Jordan Cameron
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 29: Tight end Jordan Cameron #84 of the Cleveland Browns makes a touchdown catch over safety Taylor Mays #26 of the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
This was between safety TJ Ward and tight end Jordan Cameron.
Ward is playing at an all-pro level. He has been flying all over the field for Cleveland this year, breaking up five passes and intercepting two more. Ward also has 57 tackles, a half sack and a touchdown on the season. His play is a big part of why Cleveland has the sixth ranked passing defence in the league, despite facing both Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers in recent weeks.
Ultimately though, I felt I needed to give the love to Jordan Cameron.
The tight end has been a fantasy football monster this season, and the best weapon on this Cleveland Browns offence with a team leading 596 yards (74.5 yards per game) and 6 touchdowns on 49 receptions, third most in the entire league.
How Cameron has managed to stay so consistent despite playing with three different starting quarterbacks already is beyond any of us. It is a testament to his skills that he has become the security blanket for Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell.
Without his stability, this Browns offence would have come off the tracks a long time ago. And for that, he is their MVP.
Baltimore Ravens – Terrell Suggs
BALTIMORE, MD – SEPTEMBER 22: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
There are very few difference makers on this Baltimore team in 2013, which is a real surprise for the reigning superbowl champion.
On offence, the usual stars, Superbowl MVP Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, have become almost become invisible in the league. Rice is averaging less than 3 yards per carry and has fumbled twice already, while Flacco has as many interceptions as touchdowns (8).
Torrey Smith could be one candidate for the Ravens. He has an eye catching 20 yards per catch average, by far and away the best in the league for any receiver with over 20 receptions. However, equally eye-catching is Smith’s 62 targets for only 31 receptions, as well as his 1 touchdown reception. The speedster has been somewhat out of sync with his quarterback this year, lacking the consistency and home-run quality that made him such a dangerous weapon for the Ravens last season.
Consistency hasn’t been a problem for Terrell Suggs. The former defensive player of the year has 8 sacks on the season, sixth most in the league. As always, he has been a terror off the edge.
However, Suggs hasn’t just been a pass specialist. He has racked up 53 tackles so far, which is far more than any of the other pass rushers ranked in the top ten for sacks. Suggs is holding his own in run support, and it’s making him the most valuable player on the defence, and so far at least, the team MVP.