Before the second half of the 2013 NFL season gets underway this weekend, we have some fake awards to hand out…
Most ridiculous, never-thought-we'd-see-that performance – Peyton Manning's seven touchdown passes in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ra…I mean, the 14-catch, 329-yard effort from Calvin Johnson in Week 8 in the dramatic, bound-to-happen victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Hey, at least it didn't end with a Tony Romo interception. Wait, what about his 506-yard, five-touchdown showing against Peyton's Broncos in Week 5? Let's be honest. They're all winners. But because I'm choosing one, Megatron's outrageous afternoon takes the midseason cake.
Sophomore of the year, offense – Josh Gordon. Even after missing the first two games of the year due to a suspension, the second-round choice in the 2012 supplemental draft has 32 receptions for 582 yards and three touchdowns in six outings this season. There's no way the Cleveland Browns were actually going to trade him, right?
Sophomore of the year, defense – Dontari Poe. This mammoth of a man was inching toward the "bust" label after his rookie year. Not. Any. More. Poe is arguably he best nose tackle in the NFL right now. He's made quite the leap.
Most disappointing former stud, offense – Chris Johnson. It's been a precipitous fall for the artist formerly known as CJ2K. If it weren't for a few long runs last year, his 2012 would have felt like a disappointment and looked like one on the stat sheet. This season, Johnson is averaging a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry and has yet to have a 100-yard game. Don't forget, Tennessee signed guard Andy Levitre in free agency and drafted Alabama steam-rolling guard Chance Warmack in Round 1 of the 2013 draft.
Most disappointing former stud, defense – Jason Pierre-Paul. Heck, this New York Giants giant would have won this award last season, too. He's only 24 years old, but in 2011, the super-athletic, ridiculously rangy defensive end accumulated 16.5 sacks and had seven pass deflections. He was transcending the position. This year, he has 19 tackles and one sack in eight games. Come on, JPP, we were down with you. Pick it up.
Smartest GM – John Schneider. The guy signed like every pass-rusher roaming the Earth this offseason, and it's paying off. The Seahawks are fourth in the NFL with 26 sacks and 12 different players have at least a half sack on the season. Actually, we may not see how good offseason was for Seattle until Percy Harvin steps on the field in the next week or so. Seattle's offensive line can't block anybody, but they're 7-1 thanks to a defense that never stops coming at you.
Not-So-Smart GM – Jeff Ireland. The Mike Wallace contract is already looking like a mistake, a real I-told-you-so decision. The speedster has 30 catches for 398 yards and one touchdown in seven games. Eh, not bad. But he's on pace for his worst statistical campaign since his rookie year.
Most illogical logic – HISTORY STATS. Use them for fun. Use them as an interesting tidbit about a team, player or an opponent. But although it might be a fact that the Houston Texans haven't beaten the Indianapolis Colts on the third Sunday of a month since 1984, it doesn't have any barring on the upcoming game. (Totally made up fact). In less exaggerated terms, the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs have basically nothing to do with the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. Different players in key positions. Different coach. Change those two things, and everything can be different. Therefore the past should probably be disregarded in most cases. I've just seen "history stat logic" used far too often this season in a serious manner. Strength of schedule debates prior to the season came in a close second.
Most entertaining game – Broncos 51. Cowboys 48. The phrase "video-game-like" gets thrown around often when describing incredible performances in sports. Cliches aren't entertaining, but this game was absolutely video-game-like in every way possible. It featured 1,039 total yards of offense, 58 first downs, nine touchdown passes, four 100-yard receivers and lots and lots of YAC. The Madden-on-Rookie enthusiasts were proud on that fateful Sunday in early October.
Dullest game – Every Thursday night game. Bills vs. Browns in Week 5 wasn't bad, but the Brandon Weeden vs. Jeff Tuel duel wasn't too compelling after Brian Hoyer and EJ Manuel were knocked out of the game. Thursday night football, we love you because we get the NFL before Sunday, but Lord, you're becoming harder and harder to watch. In fact—nevermind—we'd much rather just wait until Sunday.
Best display of football-playing skill – Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch in triple coverage against the Cincinnati Bengals. No more writing from me. Watch the video.
Worst display of football-playing skill – Not trying to pile on, Mr. Weeden, but this interception agains the Detroit Lions was, just, wow. I don't even know.
Team that's better than its record – Buffalo Bills. They're 3-5, and these are their losses: 23-21 to the Patriots, 27-20 to the Jets in New Jersey, 37-24 to the Browns in Cleveland, 27-24 in overtime against the Bengals and 35-17 to the Saints in New Orleans. Three of those losses came without their starting quarterback. Mike Pettine's defense is for real, it's just a matter of Buffalo playing a complete game. With only two games against teams currently sporting a winning record left on the schedule, Buffalo could surprise some people down the stretch.
Team that's worse than its record – New England Patriots. Always bound to take some heat for a selection in this category. New England's defense and occasional clutch play from its quarterback have done enough to get the team to 6-2 at the midway point. But Tom Brady just hasn't been Tom Brady. That's scary for the Patriots. By the way, the Kansas City Chiefs just narrowly came in second here, mainly because I don't trust Alex Smith.
MVP Candidate who won't win because of Peyton Manning – Calvin Johnson has certainly proven his worth to the Detroit Lions in 2013—the team was a hot mess when he sat out against the Green Bay Packers with an injury—but how about some love for his quarterback, Matthew Stafford? He hasn't had a bad game yet. Even in the loss to the Packers, the former No. 1 overall pick completed 25-of-40 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His passer rating has been above 83 in every contest. He's averaging 327 yards per game. Drew Brees deserves an honorable mention nod here, but he's actually been able to rely on his defense this season….Stafford…not so much.
Time-To-Get-Fired Head Coach – Greg Schiano. Running Josh Freeman out of town? Darrelle Revis in zone? MRSA outbreaks? OK, maybe the MRSA outbreaks weren't totally his fault, but Schiano's Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-7. It's been ugly.