(Image via si.com)
Staff Writer: Tom Dunford
Life has three certainties: death, taxes, and the unpredictability of the NFL.
We are officially halfway through the 2023 NFL season, and what a wild ride it has been. Highlights and lowlights, teams playing above or below pre-season predictions, and fantasy teams crashing and burning week in and week out. When it comes to the NFL, it is best to expect the unexpected.
So, halfway through the 2023 season, who are the favorites for each award?
MVP (Most Valuable Player) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens Quarterback
The NFL MVP race is wide open for the first time in what feels like a century. About four or five players deserve this award, but the front-runner looks like Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson won the MVP once in 2019, but this season, he seems nearly unstoppable in both passing precision and running ability.
Jackson has a completion percentage of 71.5%, averaging 7.7 yards per reception, for 1,954 passing yards and nine touchdowns, to only three interceptions.
The dual-threat quarterback is not known for pocket passing, however, and his football IQ and field perception have been displayed this season, as Jackson has rushed for 440 yards on 84 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Jackson has led this Ravens squad to a 7-2 record, putting them first in the AFC North and tied for first in the AFC with the Kansas City Chiefs. If Lamar Jackson can stay healthy, he could be on his way to a career year.
OPOY (Offensive Player Of the Year) Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver
When he said he would go for 2,000 receiving yards this season, the NFL world laughed at Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Through nine games this season, the future hall-of-fame wide receiver has put on a show for the world to see.
Tyreek Hill became the first player ever to break 1,000 yards in eight games in a season, and he continues to prove why he is one of the most feared playmakers this game has to offer.
Hill has sixty-nine receptions for 1,076 yards and eight touchdowns through nine games with the Dolphins. He averages 15.6 yards per reception and looks to continue this momentum into the postseason.
Hill has the experience and speed to get open. With the help of star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and playcalling from a notable head coach, Hill has had a career year.
DPOY (Defensive Player Of the Year) Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys Linebacker
When the Cowboys selected the Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons twelfth overall in 2021, there was one question in mind: Could this kid live up to the outrageous expectations placed on him?
As of 2023, those expectations don’t just look small; they look downright disrespectful regarding Parsons’ talent.
The Cowboys linebacker has put fear into quarterback’s eyes, and he’s one of the main reasons this Cowboys team has been a top-contending team for a Lombardi trophy year in and year out.
In nine games with the Cowboys, Parsons has 7.5 sacks, 18 solo tackles, and one forced fumble.
Not only is Parsons elite, but he is also a downright game-changer who forces opposing offensive coordinators to plan around his every stalking moment. Parsons was nominated for DPOY last year and looked to get his second defensive award in his third season.
COTY (Coach Of The Year) Mike McDaniels, Miami Dolphins HC
He faced a complicated situation when the Miami Dolphins hired McDaniels for the 2022 season. McDaniels had a quarterback with more questions than answers in Tua Tagovailoa, a defense resembling a dumpster fire, and a conference with dominant teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and Los Angeles Chargers to compete with.
So what did McDaniels do?
Nothing major; he just changed the entire landscape of the Dolphin’s culture and brought back meaning to the game of football.
The Miami Dolphins, despite struggles with some teams, have found a new life with McDaniels calling the shots. McDaniels has turned the aforementioned Tua and Tyreek connection into one of the most feared in the league, along with a rushing attack of career journeymen and the other wide receiver in Jalen Waddle.
The Dolphins sit atop the AFC East at 6-3, and the legion of Zoom continues to embark on a rather impressive 2023 campaign, all at the hands of the nerdy Robert Downey Jr. esk head coach in McDaniels.
OROY (Offensive Rookie Of The Year) CJ Stroud, Houston Texans Quarterback
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Halfway through the season, despite all the moving variables, one thing is for sure: The offensive rookie of the year will be CJ Stroud.
The former second-overall pick out of Ohio State has looked utterly dominant, and it may sound niche, but Stroud looks nothing like a rookie should. His pocket prescience and ability to read opposing defenses are dominant, and he has become everything the Texans expected him to become.
Through eight games with the Texans, Stroud has thrown for 2,270 yards, averaging 8.1 yards thrown per reception and 14 touchdowns to a whopping one interception. Stroud has carried this squad to a 4-4 record, good enough for second in the AFC South.
He also has proven to stay calm under pressure, leading a comeback drive in 24 seconds against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 5th. Stroud has balled out all season and deserves the OROY when the time comes.
DROY (Defensive Rookie Of The Year) Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Lineman
Like Stroud, Jalen Carter has DROY almost locked up, and rightfully so.
After falling in the draft due to off-field issues, the ninth overall draft pick out of Georgia has made thirty-one NFL franchises question how the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles got their future defensive stud so easily.
And the Eagles are reaping the awards of betting on Carter’s talent.
Through eight games, Jalen Carter has put on a defensive masterclass. He has four sacks, nine solo tackles, and two forced fumbles and has helped the Eagles continue their reign of terror with a 7-1 record.
The Eagles are not only Superbowl contenders this season, but with the help of Carter, they will continue to be in top contention for years to come.
CPOY (Comeback Player Of The Year) Josh Dobbs, Minnesota Vikings Quarterback
Every team has a player who fans despise. They may be cocky, they may be talented, they may be insatiably lucky or arrogant, but every team has a player whose fans want to see a bad play or mistake.
Josh Dobbs, the new Minnesota Vikings quarterback, is not that player. It feels as if every fan is rooting for Dobbs to succeed.
Josh Dobbs was a career journeyman who can come in and win a game or two, but not a franchise-changing talent. In just one season, Dobbs has suited up for three different organizations and has found subpar success in each situation.
Dobbs was traded to the Cardinals a week before the season, and he was seen as nothing but a placeholder for franchise quarterback Kyler Murray, who had unfortunately torn his ACL and would be out until the middle of the NFL season.
Although he couldn’t win, Dobbs kept the Cardinals competitive in a season that is otherwise lost, and he was rewarded with a trade to a Minnesota Vikings core that had just lost star and fan favorite Kirk Cousins to an Achilles tear.
Dobbs has played phenomenally, and although the CPOY will almost certainly be gifted to Buffalo Bills’ safety Demar Hamlin, Dobbs deserves a lot of credit for overcoming any obstacle he faces.