Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year.
The NFL season has reached the halfway point, and we’re rolling out the red carpet. I’d give you the rundown of what the stars are wearing, but come on, this is fantasy football. And it’s not a real awards show.
This is the point in the season at which about a third of all fantasy owners wish they’d never even joined a league. Half of you are still holding out hope for a deep playoff run. Whatever weird fraction remains is the group consisting of absentee owners and the guys who don’t set their lineup but still beat you by 15 points in Week 8 thanks to Tom Brady and Green Bay’s defense.
Whichever type of owner you are, you’ll still enjoy this awards column. It’s like the ESPYS without LeBron and the Oscars without Matthew McConaughey.
Pop some popcorn and read on.
Most Valuable Player: Arian Foster
Several quarterbacks are playing well, but there isn’t a running back in the league producing like this guy. Foster is leading the league in rushing touchdowns (nine), attempts (168) and fantasy opponents crushed (a lot). If Foster stays healthy, he’s going to win more than a few fantasy leagues for his loyal owners.
PPR Player of the Half: Wes Welker
Some Welker owners wanted to jump ship after his slow start—and by slow start I mean one game. Through his next five games, Welker caught 45 passes for 608 yards and two touchdowns.
The touchdowns haven’t been bountiful for Welker, but he’s still Tom Brady’s favorite target. If you own Welker in a PPR league, you’re probably doing pretty well.
Rookie of the Half: Robert Griffin III
No surprise here. Several entered the ring, but only one remains. Griffin is the runaway favorite to win the offensive rookie of the year award.
Griffin is on pace to throw for 3,556 yards and rush for another 952 yards and 12 touchdowns. RG3 looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the league already, and is a surefire candidate for first-round fantasy consideration in 2013.
This one was too close to call. The race was neck-and-knee, so I chose both.
Everyone expected Manning to be past his prime this season, and no one expected Peterson to even be a shadow of his old self.
Peterson is running like a shadow. He leads the league in rushing with 775 yards, and he’s doing it with 5.1 yards per carry. Manning has thrown 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
If Manning and Peterson continue to play as they did in the first half, each could lead the league in several categories.
Best Defense: Chicago
Every week I find myself asking, “Is this offense this bad, or is Chicago’s defense this good?” I’m done questioning the Bears. Chicago is good enough to run the table in the NFC North en route to the Super Bowl. Jay Cutler loses games, but defense wins championships. Thank your lucky stars, Cutler.
Biggest Disappointment: Darren McFadden
Run DMC hasn’t been doing much great running this season.
McFadden is one of the most explosive backs in the league, but he’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry so far this season. He’s averaged less than three yards per carry in five of the Raiders’ seven games.
DMC was a first-round pick in many fantasy leagues this year, but owners will likely temper their expectations moving forward.
Breakout Player of the Half: Alfred Morris
We all knew RG3 was going to be good, but who knew his running mate would be so impressive? He’s been so good even Mike Shanahan won’t bench him.
Morris was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, and he began the year buried on a Washington Redskins depth chart where running back production goes to die. Morris stole the starting job in the preseason, though, and it doesn’t appear he’ll relinquish the role any time soon.
Best Kicker: Greg Zuerlein
Greg the Leg, Young G.Z., Legatron… Call him whatever you want. But let me ask you this: When was the last time we were giving awesome nicknames to a kicker?
Zuerlein has made 12 field goals of 40 yards or longer, including five from 50-plus. In fantasy football, it’s the long kicks that matter, and Zuerlein is hitting a lot of them.
Most likely to carry your team in the second half: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers is on pace to throw for 4,330 yards, 42 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. It’s not inconceivable his final stats could look even better than that. In his first three games, Rodgers threw just three touchdowns against three very tough defenses. Over the last five weeks, he’s thrown 18.
Most likely to break out in the second half: Calvin Johnson
Even the Madden Curse can’t completely finish off Johnson. His quarterback has been slumping, but Megatron keeps catching footballs. He’s caught 41 passes for 638 yards and a touchdown, which is actually a bad half for Johnson. Megatron is the most talented receiver in the league, and he could still finish the season with double-digit touchdowns.
I couldn’t miss an opportunity to pick on Sanchez. Defensive backs do it all the time.
If you own Sanchez in your fantasy league, it’s either an 18-team league or you’re a Jets fan. Either way, my condolences. I’ll stop piling on.
Most likely to lead all players in scoring: Robert Griffin III
The man can play football. I’m pretty sure he can fly and stop moving trains, too.
Cam Newton stole the nickname prematurely, but Griffin has been the real Superman this season. He’s out to break every rookie record he can get his hands on.
Most likely to fall off the map: Frank Gore
I fully expected Gore to be a fantasy football bust this year, yet he’s on pace for one of his best seasons to date.
Still, Gore’s second-half collapse last season worries me. He ran for just 429 yards and three touchdowns in San Francisco’s final eight games last year, and has been known to wear down later in the season.
If you’re already looking ahead to the playoffs, selling high on Gore may be a wise option. He’ll face two very tough rushing defenses in Miami (Week 14) and Seattle (Week 16).
Most likely to be replaced with the first overall pick in 2013: Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn/Ricky Stanzi
Trick question. If you’re a Chiefs fan, your choice was “Who cares?” As part of the “Whiff for Geno Smith” campaign, Kansas City started Brady Quinn last week against the Raiders, and he lasted about five minutes. Whoever ends this season as the Chiefs’ starter will probably end up buried on the depth chart in 2013.
Most likely to run for 200 yards against the Buffalo Bills: Arian Foster, Reggie Bush (twice)
I may be joking. I may not be. The Bills are awful.
Buffalo has allowed 1,238 rushing yards this season and—get this—six yards per carry. On average, opponents are rushing for 176.9 yards per game. Bush will get two shots at the Bills in the second half, and could lead all rushers in yardage over that span.
Most likely to lead the league in receiving: A.J. Green
Red and Green have been lighting it up. Someone should tell them it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.
Andy Dalton has thrown 13 touchdowns through seven games this season, and nearly half of them have gone to Green. Green is on pace for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s unpacking his bags on Megatron’s doorstep.