Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sports Central 2014 Pro Bowl Selections
Pro Bowl voting has been open for over a month, but now every team has played the same number of games. Here's a look at my ballot, continuing last year's "unconferenced" format. If you'd like to vote along as you read, you can do so here.
Aaron Rodgers (GB), Peyton Manning (DEN), Andrew Luck (IND), Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), Tom Brady (NE), Drew Brees (NO)
The first five spots seem clear to me; those guys have been excellent, and I don't know how you could complete a ballot without them. But for that sixth vote, there are a number of different directions you could go.
If you want a big name — a guy with a track record — or you're mostly interested in volume, you take Brees. He's third in the NFL in passing yardage (3,491) and has a 98.1 passer rating. If you're more interested in efficiency, or you want a QB who's really shown guts this season, it has to be Tony Romo (DAL). He's led a couple of very clutch comebacks, he's played with fractures in his back, and he has a passer rating of 111.4. If you're willing to forgive one bad game, vote for Philip Rivers (SD). He was the front-runner for NFL MVP after five weeks. Throw out his horrific game against the Dolphins — the loss only counts once — and he's certainly been one of the top six QBs this season. If you just want the most talented guy out there, vote for Russell Wilson (SEA). He sometimes seems to lose focus, and his numbers aren't huge (because he doesn't have any top receivers and because Marshawn Lynch gets a lot of the red zone work), but Wilson is a great player. He's got a 93.0 passer rating and he's 15th in rushing yardage. That's a nightmare combination for defenses.
All of those approaches are valid; any of those players is a reasonable choice. Brees is smart and accurate, and he nearly dragged the Saints to victory on Monday night — even when the team around him isn't performing well, Brees gives them a chance to win. That's my vote, but it's really close.
DeMarco Murray (DAL), Le'Veon Bell (PIT), Matt Forte (CHI), Marshawn Lynch (SEA), Jamaal Charles (KC), Justin Forsett (BAL)
Again, the first four choices here seem pretty obvious. But that left three players in contention for the last two votes: Charles, Forsett, and Arian Foster (HOU). Fine players like Eddie Lacy (GB) and Alfred Morris (WAS) didn't even draw serious consideration, just because the competition was so fierce.
The tie-breaker here is injury. Charles missed a couple games earlier in the season, but he's been back in top form; there's not a more dangerous runner in the league. Foster has missed two games, as well, and he might miss more before he returns. Arian Foster is a great running back, but he has trouble staying healthy at this point. Forsett is third in the NFL in rushing and leads all running backs in average per attempt (5.8), with a minimum of 50 carries. I wouldn't blame anyone voting for Foster, but I find his "maybe" less compelling than what we know to expect from Charles and Forsett.
Antonio Brown (PIT), Demaryius Thomas (DEN), Jordy Nelson (GB), Emmanuel Sanders (DEN), T.Y. Hilton (IND), Julio Jones (ATL), Jeremy Maclin (PHI), Randall Cobb (GB)
Every ballot should include Brown, Thomas, and Nelson. But after that, it's a mess, with lots of qualified candidates, players who deserve Pro Bowl recognition. In order of receiving yardage, the players I hated to leave off were: Golden Tate (DET), Dez Bryant (DAL), DeSean Jackson (WAS), Mike Evans (TB), Anquan Boldin (SF), Steve Smith (BAL), Alshon Jeffery (CHI), and Kelvin Benjamin (CAR).
The hardest cuts were probably Bryant and Jackson. Dez has really reached his potential this year. He's a big-play threat and a weapon in the red zone. He deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. DeSean Jackson looks better than ever; this might be the best season of his career. He is dynamic, explosive, an 80-yard touchdown waiting to happen. Jackson has caught 40-yard passes from three different QBs this season, and with more consistent quarterback play, he'd have 1,000 yards already. With a QB like Aaron Rodgers, he'd have 1,200 yards and 15 TDs, because at least once a game, Jackson gets open downfield where an accurate throw would be a touchdown. Jackson deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. But so do the eight players I chose, and Maclin and Cobb edged Bryant and Jackson for the last two places on my ballot. Reasonable people can disagree about the last four or five spots at this position.
Kyle Juszczyk (BAL), Darrel Young (WAS)
This position is so hard to vote for, because most of these guys get very limited playing time. Juszczyk and Young get the most; they're among the very few fullbacks who start a majority of their team's games. Juszczyk has over 100 rushing yards, and he clears the path for RB Justin Forsett, a career journeyman who is wildly exceeding expectations. Young has blocked effectively for Alfred Morris, and also has 3 TDs, for what that's worth. Marcel Reece (OAK) had a big performance on Thursday Night Football, and I'm happy he's gotten some recognition the last couple of years, because I've been a Reece fan for a long time, but Reece did his damage playing halfback. That's not really what this position is on the ballot for. But go ahead and vote for him if you want, because the fullback position is irrelevant in today's NFL. Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson are 10 times more important to their teams than Juszczyk and Young.
Rob Gronkowski (NE), Jimmy Graham (NO), Greg Olsen (CAR), Julius Thomas (DEN)
Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL, and it isn't close. This might actually be the easiest offensive position to vote for: Gronk, Graham, and Thomas are established stars having good seasons, and it's a break-out year for Olsen. He's always been a good receiver, but this season he's become an impact player, a weapon, and he's improved as a blocker.
The questionable pick is Thomas, who leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns (12) but is about 15th in yards, and hasn't been healthy or productive for the last month. But who would you vote for instead? Delanie Walker (TEN)? Martellus Bennett (CHI)? Antonio Gates (SD) and Heath Miller (PIT)? Nice enough players, but none have the same impact as Julius Thomas. He's a playmaker, a difference-maker, a factor in the defensive gameplan.
Jason Peters (PHI), Tyron Smith (DAL), Joe Thomas (CLE), Duane Brown (HOU), Joe Staley (SF), Andrew Whitworth (CIN)
Disclaimer at all the offensive line positions: I've seen about 70 games this season. That's roughly 4.5 per team, except it's not evenly distributed. There are some teams I've only seen once or twice, and that's really not enough to fairly judge players at a position which doesn't produce any stats. I'll have more faith in my year-end All-Pro selections, and I welcome feedback from knowledgeable readers if there are standouts I'm missing or mediocre players I'm overrating because I saw them on a good day.
I voted for a bunch of left tackles. Most teams still put their best offensive lineman there, and those are the guys who impress me this year. I know some analysts believe omitting right tackles (and guards) is a crime against humanity, a denial of all that is fine and good in the world. If you want to try your luck with a true RT, I'll swing one of my guys over to the right side and we'll see who does better.
Peters looks healthy again. He was very good last season; he's great this year. Smith, Thomas, and Brown were also fairly easy calls. I have come to accept that no one else thinks Joe Staley is as good as I do, but he plays well whenever I see him. Whitworth gets the sixth spot because there's no one else I'm enthusiastic about. If you want a right tackle, the ones who interest me are Doug Free (DAL), Marcus Gilbert (PIT), and Sebastian Vollmer (NE). Free missed three games, and the Cowboys lost two of them. They're 7-1 when he plays.
Other tackles I might consider at the end of the season include: Ryan Clady (DEN), Donald Penn (OAK), Nate Solder (NE), and Trent Williams (WAS). I've only seen one Rams game since Greg Robinson (STL) became a starter, but he looked good, and the team has played its best football with Robinson in the lineup.
Josh Sitton (GB), Zack Martin (DAL), Marshal Yanda (BAL), Justin Blalock (ATL), David DeCastro (PIT), Dan Connolly (NE)
Early in the season, I was sure DeCastro would be my top guard, but he's slipped. Sitton has excelled even while playing through injury, while the rookie Martin has emerged as the missing piece in the Cowboys' offensive line. Closest calls: Orlando Franklin (DEN) and Kelechi Osemele (BAL). Larry Warford (DET) is still dealing with a knee injury; he's missed a couple weeks and could miss a couple more.
I'd have more to say about this, except that I'm really disappointed with the level of interior line play in the NFL this season. None of these guys is Will Shields or Larry Allen, except maybe a healthy Sitton, or Martin a couple years down the road.
Rodney Hudson (KC), Travis Frederick (DAL), Manuel Ramirez (DEN), Nick Mangold (NYJ)
It's sort of tough to evaluate the Dallas offensive line; when everyone is playing at a high level, sometimes the sum of their efforts makes individual linemen look better than they really are. Frederick, holding down the middle, is obviously in position to benefit from the fine play of his teammates. But best I can tell, he's having another strong season. I take this as a personal affront, by the way, vengeance for my writing when he was drafted that Frederick had "limited upside."
I've always thought Maurkice Pouncey (PIT) was a little overrated, but he's having a good season. Jason Kelce (PHI) would likely make my ballot, except that he missed four games with an injury. Kory Lichtensteiger (WAS) and Corey Linsley (GB) are also playing well; more guys named Cory should try playing center. It makes sense that Manny Ramirez is actually named Manuel, but the Pro Bowl ballot is the first time I've ever known him to be called that way.
J.J. Watt (HOU), Mario Williams (BUF), Cameron Wake (MIA), Calais Campbell (ARI), Everson Griffen (MIN), Justin Smith (SF)
As usual, there is an embarrassment of riches at this position, and a number of good players who didn't make my top six. The Pro Bowl ballot lists 56 players at this position, including some 3-4 DEs you might think of more as defensive tackles.
I expect there's broad agreement about the three Ws, so let's address Campbell, Griffen, and Smith. Campbell missed two games after that controversial low block by Julius Thomas, and since returning, he has five sacks in five games; no defensive lineman, including Watt, has been more productive over the last month. The 9-2 Cardinals do not have a great offense — they're succeeding with defense, and that defense is built around Campbell. Griffen has nine sacks and he was NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, but this is his fifth year in the league and his first in the spotlight. Griffen's not just a pass rusher; he's good playing the run, as well. You know about Justin Smith, of course, but it's tough to get votes at a position filled with edge rushers. Smith moves around on the line, stunts a lot, and his role is a little different. But he's very tough to block, and he's the heart of one of the best defenses in the NFL.
No disrespect intended to other defensive ends playing well this season, like Ezekiel Ansah (DET), Jerry Hughes (BUF), Rob Ninkovich (NE), Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG), Robert Quinn (STL), and DeMarcus Ware (DEN).
Marcell Dareus (BUF), Gerald McCoy (TB), Ndamukong Suh (DET), Dontari Poe (KC), Aaron Donald (STL), Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ)
Dareus has 10 sacks, which is ridiculous, but he's not just recklessly rushing upfield. Dareus hustles, he's surprisingly quick, and he plays the run as well as any DT I've seen this year. McCoy and Suh could make a dozen Pro Bowls each if they stay healthy. They are special players, incredibly disruptive. Poe is the key to Kansas City's defense. He makes plays and rarely gets beat, but he also eats double-teams and almost never subs out.
Aaron Donald didn't start until Week 5, but he's a freak athlete, tied with J.J. Watt and Ryan Kerrigan as the league leader in tackles for loss (15), and Robert Quinn's season has taken off with Donald getting regular playing time. Wilkerson and his teammate Sheldon Richardson (NYJ) are both having fine seasons, but I like Wilkerson a little better. I also considered Jurrell Casey (TEN), Sen'Derrick Marks (JAC), Haloti Ngata (BAL), and Kyle Williams (BUF). Casey and safety Michael Griffin are the only real players on Tennessee's awful defense. Marks has five sacks, 10 TFL, and 3 pass deflections. Ngata, back in top form the last season and a half, leads all DTs with 7 pass deflections. Williams has 4 sacks and an interception, but even more than that, he eats blocks and creates opportunities for teammates like Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, and Marcell Dareus. Those guys wouldn't be having the same season without him.
Inside LinebackerC.J. Mosley (BAL), Luke Kuechly (CAR), Chris Borland (SF), Keenan Robinson (WAS)
How weak are the choices for ILB in 2014? This is the worst season of Kuechly's pro career, and it's the first time I've picked him for the Pro Bowl. I've been calling Kuechly overrated all season, and would love to back that up by not voting for him, but there simply aren't a lot of standout inside linebackers this year. NaVorro Bowman missed the first half of the season. Karlos Dansby (CLE) will miss the second half of the season. Derrick Johnson, Daryl Washington, and Sean Lee are missing the whole season. Paul Posluszny and DeMeco Ryans and Patrick Willis are out. Who's really left?
Kuechly is not the second coming of Brian Urlacher. He doesn't have good instincts for where the ball is going, and he gets out of position too often. But he's quick and aggressive and he makes plays. With so many of the established stars out of action, I've got Kuechly joined by two rookies, Borland and Mosley, plus Robinson, who never started a game before this season. Mosley was a star at Alabama, a first-round draft pick. He's particularly distinguished himself in coverage, with 7 passes defensed, including 2 INTs. Borland is an aggressive run-stopper who makes plays in the backfield. He didn't start until Week 7, when he took over for Patrick Willis with a minimum of fanfare, but he's played so well that many people now see Willis as expendable.
Robinson is my sleeper, and I will die of shock if he makes the Pro Bowl this year. But Robinson is very fast and exceptionally instinctive; like all great LBs, he seems to have a sense for where the ball is going, and he gets there before the offense is ready for him. He has a good sense of space, takes smart routes to the ball. Robinson has played well already, and he's improving as the season continues. I also like some of the old standbys, like D'Qwell Jackson (IND), Daryl Smith (BAL), and Lawrence Timmons (PIT), but in a year with no great ILBs, it feels right to recognize the next generation of stud ILBs.
DeAndre Levy (DET), Justin Houston (KC), Lavonte David (TB), Julius Peppers (GB), Von Miller (DEN), Connor Barwin (PHI)
This part of the ballot presents the opposite problem we had at ILB: there are lots of good candidates. I left off a number of players I would have been happy to vote for, but the two hardest cuts were Elvis Dumervil (BAL) and Clay Matthews (GB). We'll get back to them in a moment.
Outside linebackers are tough to compare, because there really are two distinct positions: 3-4 pass rushers and 4-3 space players. In the latter category, Levy and David are musts. They're tied for the NFL lead, with 81 tackles, including double-digits behind the line of scrimmage. If you want another one of the space guys, you'd probably go for Brandon Marshall (DEN) or Alec Ogletree (STL).
Houston leads the NFL in sacks (13), trailed closely by Barwin and Dumervil (12.5 each). Dumervil, a converted DE, is less effective playing the run than Houston and Barwin, and they've combined for 7 pass deflections, compared to Dumervil's zero. It wouldn't be crazy at all to vote for him, but I think Houston and Barwin are better overall. Miller has slowed down, with only 1 sack in the last four games, but he began the season on fire, and he's a phenomenal talent. Julius Peppers, in his first season playing LB, has 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, over 100 return yards, and 2 TDs. Peppers remains an athletic marvel, and he's got a ton of impact plays.
Unfortunately, that means he edged out his teammate Matthews, who has played some ILB — just because the Packers are weak at that position, and it's where they need him — and played well there. Matthews is one of those players the opponent has to account for. He's an impact player at any position. This year, he has 4.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 6 PD, 2 forced fumbles, and an INT. If you haven't been paying attention, you might think it's an off year because of the low sack total, but Matthews remains a disruptive defensive presence.
Brent Grimes (MIA), Vontae Davis (IND), Darrelle Revis (NE), Richard Sherman (SEA), Aqib Talib (DEN), Joe Haden (CLE), Patrick Peterson (ARI), Antonio Cromartie (ARI)
Grimes, Davis, and Revis should be on every ballot. If Odell Beckham had the catch of the year, Grimes had the interception of year, two weeks ago against Calvin Johnson. He's got 12 PDs, 5 picks, and a touchdown. Davis is a true shutdown corner, and he's second in the league in passes defensed, 16. Revis is having his best season in four or five years. I'm too young to have watched Night Train Lane, but the stories sound a bit like Revis. Lane was more aggressive going after interceptions, while Revis usually keeps the ball in front of him, but they're both intimidating in coverage, and hard tacklers.
Richard Sherman isn't playing as well as he did last season, when I named him Defensive Player of the Year, but he's still one of the league's best cornerbacks. Talib has noticeably elevated Denver's pass defense, while his teammate Chris Harris (DEN) has 13 PDs and leads all CBs with 5 tackles for loss. Haden and Peterson have overcome slow starts; I like Peterson a little better than Cromartie. Both have struggled at times, and both have played brilliantly at times.
Perrish Cox (SF) is a playmaker in the secondary, having a break-out season. Casey Hayward (GB) is not on ballot, but he has 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries, returned for a combined 162 yards and 2 TDs. Keenan Lewis (NO) is playing through injury and has slipped off my ballot. Greg Toler (IND) has held up pretty well on the other side from Davis.
Antoine Bethea (SF), Mike Adams (IND)
Bethea is the hammer in San Francisco's secondary; he's replaced Donte Whitner (CLE) and they haven't missed a beat. Adams leads the NFL in takeaways (4 INT, 2 FR). He's having an impressive all-around season. James Ihedigbo (DET) has made a number of big plays for Detroit's top-ranked defense: 2 sacks, 2 INT, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 75 return yards ... he's one of the better players on one of the league's better defensive units. I think Bethea and Adams are easy choices, but Ihedigbo or Whitner would probably rank third.
Harrison Smith (MIN), Rashad Johnson (ARI)
I'm all about boring last names at this position.
Tashaun Gipson (CLE), who leads the NFL in interceptions, tore his MCL in Week 12 and will miss the remainder of the season. That makes a tough three-way battle an easy choice. Smith is all over the field, doing everything you ask a safety to do. He's got 50 tackles, including 4 for a loss. He has 8 passes defensed, 4 INTs, a TD. The best safeties, the Ed Reeds and Troy Polamalus, hit like linebackers and play the ball like corners. That's the kind of season Smith is having, maybe not quite an Ed Reed season, but something close to it. Johnson has the same kind of stats in the Cardinals' crowded defensive backfield.
Michael Griffin (TEN) is a playmaker for the lowly Titans. He's second among DBs in tackles (Morgan Burnett), tied for first in sacks (Brandon Meriweather), tied for third in TFL, and he's got two picks. Eric Weddle (SD) is a perennial Pro Bowl contender, and he's having a good season, but without quite as many impact plays as Smith and Johnson. Charles Woodson (OAK), old as the hills, has 59 tackles, 2 interceptions, a sack, and a fumble recovery. Devin McCourty (NE) could be a Pro Bowler down the line.
Dan Bailey (DAL), Adam Vinatieri (IND)
I haven't voted for Vinatieri since 2004. But he's second in the NFL in field goals, and he hasn't missed all season, although he's had some long kicks (53, 50, 48 three times). Bailey has made the most deep kicks. He's tied for most 50+ yard field goals (5/6) and most 40+ yard field goals (12/14).
Of course, those guys both play in stadiums with roofs. If you want someone who kicks in tougher conditions, the obvious choice is Stephen Gostkowski (NE), who leads the NFL in field goals and is tied with Bailey from 40 yards and beyond (12/12). I like Bailey better because he's hit five 50-yarders, compared to one for Gostkowski. Justin Tucker (BAL) is having a nice season, but he hasn't made a lot of long kicks (8/11 from 40+) and I don't think he deserves your vote right now. My fourth choice is another dome kicker, Matt Bryant (ATL). He's third in long (40+) field goals, and he hasn't missed from inside 50 all year.
Darren Sproles (PHI), Adam Jones (CIN)
I'm glad the league renamed this position, so no one gets their pants in a bunch over semantic arguments about whether the only position for returners should include both punts and kickoffs. I like the format I used for this position last season — there are 13 players with a kick return TD this season. Let's take those 13, plus Jones, the only player among the top 10 in both KR and PR yardage, and narrow it down.
10-14. Stedman Bailey (STL), Josh Huff (PHI), Micah Hyde (GB), Chris Polk (PHI), and C.J. Spiller (BUF) are not on the ballot, for various reasons.
9. Ted Ginn (ARI) has an awful KR average, and more fair catches than punt returns. Don't be scared, homie.
8. Corey Brown (CAR) fumbles too much and averages under 10 yards per PR. Other than his one TD, Brown's PR average is 4.9. He goes by Philly Brown so they won't make him play center.
7. Chris Williams (CHI) has only played seven games.
6. I would never vote for Jacoby Jones (BAL). His PR average is crappy and he has a bunch of fumbles, plus his decision-making — bringing kickoffs out of the end zone — drives me nuts. Counting the negative yardage inside the end zone, Jones has lost 113 yards of field position, more than 10 yards per game. Some of that is forgivable, but he has six KRs this season from at least eight yards deep in the end zone. One of them went for a touchdown, so maybe you think it's worth the mistakes. But returning deep kickoffs risks injury for you and your teammates, risks penalties, risk turnovers, and usually costs field position. Statistically, you're almost three times as likely to fumble a kickoff as you are to return it for a touchdown (58 TD and 159 fumbles over the last five seasons). More than five yards deep should be a touchback every time.
5. Devin Hester (ATL) hasn't done a good job on kickoffs. His punt returning is good, but nowhere near the level of his best seasons.
4. Knile Davis (KC) doesn't return punts. I don't know how you would rate him ahead of Adam Jones; their KR stats are pretty much the same, and Jones is a good punt returner.
3. Julian Edelman (NE) doesn't return kickoffs. He's a very good punt returner.
2. Adam Jones is the best all-around (kickoffs and punts) returner in the NFL this season. He leads the NFL in KR average (31.8) and has the third-best PR average (13.1, behind Sproles and Edelman) despite zero fair catches.
1. Sproles leads the NFL in PR yardage (by almost 200) and PR average (by over a yard), and he's the only player with multiple return TDs. He should be on everyone's ballot.
Sam Koch (BAL), Kevin Huber (CIN)
I considered five punters: Koch, Huber, Pat McAfee (IND), Marquette King (OAK), and Johnny Hekker (STL). The argument for Hekker is a little gimmicky: he's pulled off two fake punts this year for first downs. He also has a pretty good net average (41.4, or 42.2 without a block), he hasn't kicked a lot of touchbacks (20 I-20, 3 TB), and he's done a nice job with hang time and directional kicking to avoid returns (53 punts, 18 returns for 124 yards). Those are good stats, especially the limited returning, but he's not in the conversation with Koch and Huber and McAfee unless you give extra credit for the fakes.
King is really tough to evaluate, because the Raiders' special teams unit is not very good. Shane Lechler used to handle this by just booming the crap out of the ball and crossing his fingers. King's (rather wiser) approach has been to maximize hang time and kick away from the returner: he's gotten 26 fair catches, by far the most in the NFL, and 15 punts downed without a return, also most in the NFL. King also has the best ratio of I-20 (22) to TB (1) in the league. But ultimately, his net average is just okay, and is actually pretty poor when you consider the field position he's been kicking from. He leads in fair catches and downed punts partly because he has punted more than anyone else.
That leaves McAfee as my favorite indoor/good-weather punter. It's not a terribly bold choice, since McAfee leads the NFL in net average, but that average is even more impressive because many of his kicks have been from around midfield, where you have to deliberately shorten them up to avoid touchbacks. More than half of McAfee's punts have been downed inside the 20 (20) or touchbacks (2), so a lot of them he could have kicked deeper if there was room.
Ultimately, though, I went with two cold-weather punters. Huber's net average (44.4) is right behind McAfee's (44.7), he's a little better about preventing returns, and their other stats are roughly equal. Koch has a ton of kicks from a short field — 23 of his 37 punts have been I-20 (21) or TB (2) — but he has a good net average (43.1) and only 13 returns against him. Close call, but for now I've got Koch and Huber, both of whom play in tougher conditions than McAfee.
Matthew Slater (NE), Eric Weems (ATL)
For the first time I can remember, most of the top special teamers are on the ballot. The Texans don't list anyone, but the Dolphins have two players. The ballot includes two very good special teamers for whom you shouldn't vote because of injuries: Michael Thomas (MIA) will miss the second half of the season due to a chest injury, and Marcus Easley (BUF) just played for the first time since Week 4 (and immediately made two stops on special teams).
I'm enthusiastic about Slater and Weems, but I also like Seyi Ajirotutu (SD), Colt Anderson (IND), Justin Bethel (ARI), and Chris Maragos (PHI).
The teams I voted for most this season were the Broncos (7) and Patriots (6). On the 2013 Pro Bowl ballot, my leading teams were the 49ers and Seahawks (7 each).
There are five teams from whom I selected no one: the 1-10 Jaguars, 1-10 Raiders, 2-9 Titans, 3-8 Giants, and ... the 7-4 Chargers? You could easily vote for Philip Rivers or Antonio Gates or Eric Weddle or Seyi Ajirotutu, and they were all close to making my ballot, but I didn't want to compromise my choices just to avoid snubbing a good team.
2014 Midseason Awards
Offensive Player of the Year — DeMarco Murray (DAL)
Defensive Player of the Year — J.J. Watt (HOU)
MVP — Aaron Rodgers (GB)
Coach of the Year — Bruce Arians (ARI)
Assistant — Jim Schwartz (BUF)
Rookie of the Year — Aaron Donald (STL)