SALT LAKE CITY -- The NFL season is over the halfway mark this week. There are teams that have proved themselves as contenders for the Super Bowl, surprise playoff teams and the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. While it may seem that there are things decided, such as Green Bay's repeat, the season is only half way done. Halfway through does give a chance to look back at some superlatives, failures, unofficial awards and the passing of a giant in the NFL.
The Passing of Al Davis. The legend of Al Davis had been slowing dipping into the realm of an old cook living in the past. With his death on Oct. 8 a refreshed feel was brought to what this man had done for the sport. He was the great renegade. He forced the AFL/NFL merger by not backing down and showing his power as the then commissioner of the AFL. He coached the Raiders to start his career and ended as owner and general manager of the team he loved. He was the Raiders. His swagger and overall attitude that favored crazy mirrored the "black hole" and the fans that were zealots wearing black armor in 100 degree heat. He was the villain of the league and always a little off his rocker, including this lockout where he abstained from voting to end or not to end the lockout. His draft picks were scrutinized. For all the bad his legacy will be felt by NFL fans for years to come and fans, regardless of team allegiance, owe him thanks. Crazy offensive trends. They have slowed down since the first of the season, but the numbers are still up there. Three quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, are all on pace to break the single season passing record by at least 300, all of them. Offenses are far and away better this year than in years past.
Underdogs time to shine. Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals had 20 wins combined last season after 64 games. This year they have 22 after 29 games. They are all in position to make the playoffs and if the season ended today they would. This is the reality that is the parity in the NFL.
Tebow. As long as he is in the league he will be a story. Tim Tebow is probably the most polarizing figure in sports today. It doesn't matter if he plays great or awful people will talk about Tebow and since he has started for the Broncos he controls the press and the football world.
Peyton Manning's absence. The Colts are suffering from his absence, but so is football in general. The Colts have been on primetime three times this season and will have two more games at night. One of these games was a 62- 7 demolishing against the Saints. Giving up 62 isn't on the quarterback, but the lack of entertainment is all on not having 18 behind center for the Colts.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers. This isn't a shocking pick. All he has done is lead his team to a perfect record and done it in spectacular fashion. He leads the league in every passing stat other than yards. He is on pace to break the single season passing record held by Dan Marino. It would have to be a major blow up for him to lose it.
MVPNP: Peyton Manning. This is the most valuable player not playing award. He won't/can't win the MVP much to the dismay of fans. They should create a new award for an injured player. The Colts are awful, they are 0-8 and in fine position to draft Andrew Luck or trade his rights for a bounty of picks. He probably already has the 2012 comeback player of the year award sitting at his house.
Rookie of the Year/ Surprise player of the year/ Fantasy draft pick of the year: Cam Newton. He may have been the most scrutinized draft pick ever. The Panthers needed help everywhere after a two-win season. Newton was thought be a one-year wonder in the mold of JaMarcus Russell; instead he became the benchmark for what a rookie quarterback can do. If his team won a couple more games he would be in the MVP discussion. The Panthers only have two wins, but they are rarely his fault and both wins are mostly his doing. He is also a fantasy football stalwart. Lots of people aren't starting him still and that is a mistake. He is a special player and will be around for a long time.
Bust of the year: Chris Johnson. This is both for fantasy football and for the price the Titans paid him. The former 2,000 yard back doesn't have 100 yards in a single game. He may be a victim of a holdout or the lockout, but one thing is for sure, something is wrong with CJ2K.
Coach of the year: Jim Harbaugh. For a team with very little turnover, the same quarterback and fewer weapons at receiver from a team that won six games last year, Harbaugh has led them to matching last year's win total in seven games. They went from an afterthought to a true contender in the NFC. Chan Gailey for the Bills is a contender for this, but Harbaugh has changed a team that was about to blow up.
Surprising team of the year: Buffalo Bills. The Bills are the little engine that could this year. Led by Ryan Fitzpatrick and a cast of cast-offs the Bills are 5-2 and in first place in the AFC Eest. This is a team that most would be hard-pressed to name more than four players on the team.
Disappointing team of the year: Arizona Cardinals. This would have gone to Philadelphia two weeks ago, but they seem to be coming out of their funk. The Cardinals are two years removed from a Super Bowl trip. They were thought to be a quarterback away and they traded for Kevin Kolb. They are now 1-6 and have looked lost in many of their games. They may not be the worst team in the league, but they have plenty of holes that are being masked by Ken Whisenhunt who has coached them up. This team is a dark- horse Andrew Luck contender.
Local player of the year: Steve Smith. This award comes down to two Utes, Smith or Eric Weddle. Both lead the league in a category, but Smith has returned to his highlight reel-self this year. Smith has been a product of the success of Newton. He has 46 catches for 918 yards this season. Last season he had 46 catches and 554 yards the whole year. Weddle leads the league with five interceptions and has justified his huge offseason contract, this may change by the end of the year, but for now Smith takes the award. Alex Smith has the opportunity to sneak into the discussion if the 49ers keep winning. Andrew Luck Award:Indianapolis Colts. This is the award for the worst team in football. It might also be the most coveted award around. The Colts have been close in a few games, but the more they play the more they fail. Manning has talked about coming back which could throw a wrench into this. The Dolphins are keeping it close, this could go down to the wire. The Cardinals and Broncos could be bad enough to take the award if the Colts or Dolphins can't close the deal.
Best Tebowing: Tim Tebow. This award might as well be called the Tim Tebow award for the best Tebowing, because he owns this category. After the Broncos comeback win over the Dolphins he gave the definitive Tebow by dropping to a knee, bringing his hand to his eye and creating a sensation. Cliff Avril comes in a distant second.