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NFL midseason predictions: MVP, Rookie of the Year and more

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At the halfway point of the 2014 NFL season, our analysts refresh their predictions on the winners of individual awards, playoff participants and Championship Sunday/Super Bowl XLIX outcomes.

Click here to glance back at our analysts' preseason predictions.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Judy Battista: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos. There are probably more creative, original picks than Peyton Manning, but really? Twenty-two touchdown passes, three interceptions, 69 percent completion rate (which would be the highest of his career). You can make an argument for Tom Brady or J.J. Watt, but Manning is the single most critical piece on any team, and that is the definition of this award.

Brian Billick: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. In his past four games, Brady's thrown 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions -- and the Patriots have scored 158 points. Manning has more touchdowns and yards, but Brady is hitting his stride, and he's doing it with less.

Gil Brandt: Manning. Who knows what the NFL record for career touchdown passes will be after Manning is done? It certainly won't sit at 513 -- through Week 8, the 38-year-old is tied with Andrew Luck for the league lead in scoring tosses (22).

Bucky Brooks: Manning. There aren't many accolades that haven't been hurled at the five-time MVP over the years -- and now the veteran might be playing the best football of his career.

Charley Casserly: Manning. Another stellar season. You can argue for other guys, but I don't see anybody playing better week in and week out.

Dave Dameshek: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. I'll repeat what I first said in October 2010: Rodgers is the best QB in the league and has a chance to go down as the best ever.

Elliot Harrison: Manning. Peyton narrowly defeats DeMarco Murray. Question is, can Philip Rivers get back in the MVP race?

Adam Schein: Rodgers. He was my preseason pick, and it still stands. Remember: R-E-L-A-X.

Michael Silver: Rodgers. Given that he's both relaxed and ridiculously good, there's no way I'm coming off my preseason prediction.

 

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys. You break a record held by Jim Brown? You get a big award.

Brian Billick: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos. The veteran has 22 touchdowns against just three interceptions -- and yet, somehow he's still behind his record-breaking pace of 2013.

Gil Brandt: Murray. He's the only player in NFL history to start a season with eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games. He's on track to become the eighth member of the 2,000-yard club. And he's come up huge for that Dallas defense -- by moving the chains and limiting the unit's minutes.

Bucky Brooks: Murray. The Cowboys back is worthy of consideration as the MVP, thanks to a spectacular string of 100-yard games that has helped propel Dallas to the top of the NFC East.

Charley Casserly: Murray. The fourth-year pro has put the Cowboys on his shoulders, guiding this surprising bunch right into first place in the NFC East.

Dave Dameshek: Murray/Dallas' offensive line. This group has demonstrated historic levels of dominance, even in the rugged home environment of the defending champion Seattle Seahawks.

Elliot Harrison: Murray. He might not stay healthy, but even if he plays just 13 games, he'll likely have more than 1,500 yards rushing ... not to mention a nice overall yards-from-scrimmage total.

Adam Schein: Murray. He's been remarkable running the ball for Dallas, aiding Tony Romo and the offense and keeping the Cowboys' defense off the field.

Michael Silver: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. From the Department of Redundancy Department.

 

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. Why even pretend this is a contest? Watt buries this award as easily as he does opposing quarterbacks.

Brian Billick: Watt. He's the most disruptive player in the NFL, period. He does everything right -- except for dancing.

Gil Brandt: Watt. Watt -- who has three touchdowns and seven sacks -- requires double- and triple-teaming by the Texans' opponents. He's a big reason why Houston has four wins.

Bucky Brooks: Watt. Based on his sensational performance and production over the first half, Watt is also a viable MVP candidate.

Charley Casserly: Watt. Is there any question here?

Dave Dameshek: Watt. I don't need to explain this, right?

Elliot Harrison: Watt. He has so much going for him right now that I would be shocked if he doesn't win this award. He already leads the NFL in pressures, and now he's got Jadeveon Clowney back.

Adam Schein: Watt. It's J.J. Watt's world.

Michael Silver: Watt. When he's not terrorizing opponents, he's clowning them. (Yes, Zach Mettenberger, I'm talking to YOU.)

 

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys. Thank goodness the Johnny Manziel card was snatched out of Jerry Jones' hand, because Martin has been the final piece to a line that is powering the Cowboys' offense.

Brian Billick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills. Watkins is coming off back-to-back games of 100-plus receiving yards -- and he would be coming off back-to-back games with multiple touchdowns, had he not celebrated just a little early on an 84-yard reception against the Jets. He now has exactly as many catches (38) and touchdowns (five) as fellow rookie Kelvin Benjamin, though Watkins has surpassed the Panthers receiver in yards (590 to 571).

Gil Brandt: Martin. Dallas is averaging 400.6 yards per game on offense, and Martin is one of the driving forces behind that success.

Bucky Brooks: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers. Benjamin has certainly lived up to the Plaxico Burress comparisons with his outstanding play on the perimeter for the Panthers. He is a matchup nightmare with a combination of size and length that is too much for most NFL corners.

Charley Casserly: Watkins. Tough call here. Watkins has posted good numbers with two different quarterbacks (EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton). And he's a better all-around receiver than Kelvin Benjamin or Brandin Cooks.

Dave Dameshek: Watkins. Early leader Kelvin Benjamin still has a great shot, but he won't catch Watkins unless the latter takes his foot off this gas. No reason to think that'd happen, though, right?

Elliot Harrison: Martin. Dallas' offensive line has been getting lauded for weeks, partially because of Martin's immediate impact. He has provided Murray with some big holes.

Adam Schein: Watkins. I had Brandin Cooks winning this one before the season, but now it's clearly Sammy Watkins. He's a freak.

Michael Silver: Watkins. The QB switch from EJ Manuel to Kyle Orton has been good to him. He'll get out in front of this race and won't be caught from behind.

 

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears. He replaced Charles Tillman when the veteran went on injured reserve -- and all Fuller has done is force three fumbles and pick off three passes.

Brian Billick: Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota Vikings. C.J. Mosley is going to be a popular answer here, but Barr deserves some recognition. He isn't playing behind the kind of defensive line Mosley is, and yet he has 54 tackles and three sacks -- not to mention a game-winning forced fumble and recovery returned for a touchdown on Sunday.

Gil Brandt: C.J. Mosley, LB, Baltimore Ravens. Mosley plays all downs and leads the Ravens with 76 tackles -- easily the most by a rookie in the NFL this season.

Bucky Brooks: Mosley. As the Ravens' designated defensive playmaker, Mosley has quietly emerged as one of the top defenders in the NFL.

Charley Casserly: Mosley. A complete linebacker who can play the run and the pass. Through the first eight games of his career, Mosley ranks among the league leaders in tackles.

Dave Dameshek: Mosley. Just as the Colts were able to replace their Face of the Franchise with another dominant force at the same position, the Ravens have a hammer at MLB to fill the shoes of their greatest legend.

Elliot Harrison: Mosley ... and Jason Verrett, CB, San Diego Chargers. One of our NFL NOW producers suggested the Ravens linebacker, and it's hard to disagree with him. That said, I'm calling for co-winners, with the outstanding Verrett sharing the award.

Adam Schein: Mosley. Before the season, I chose Jadeveon Clowney over Mosley, but now I'm back to liking the Alabama product for this one.

Michael Silver: Barr. Did you see Barr win a game all by himself Sunday? He'll soon be sharing more than a Subway sandwich with RGIII.

 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Rolando McClain, LB, Dallas Cowboys. McClain has pulled off one of the most remarkable resurrections in memory. He was out of football last season after retiring (twice) and being arrested (three times) since he was drafted eighth overall by the Raiders in 2010. Now he's viewed as a leader of one of the game's most surprising defenses.

Brian Billick: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans. Foster missed eight games last season thanks to a back injury that required surgery. Now he ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards and is tied for first in rushing touchdowns.

Bucky Brooks: Foster. Foster returned from an injury-marred 2013 to re-establish himself as one of the premier runners in the NFL.

Gil Brandt: Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens. The 35-year-old has rebounded from his final season with the Carolina Panthers -- in which he recorded a relatively pedestrian 64 catches for 745 yards and four scores -- to help Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco rediscover his 2012 form. Smith has already matched his touchdown total from 2013 and has four catches of 40-plus yards -- the most he's had since 2011.

Charley Casserly: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons. One of the most talented receivers in the game today, Jones' bounceback effort is unfortunately getting lost in the Falcons' troubled season.

Dave Dameshek: McClain. Even in The Year of Crazy Storylines, the unlikely rise of the former (two-time) retiree is just plum loco.

Elliot Harrison: Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers. I know Antonio Gates has been phenomenal thus far, but Floyd played just two games last year. The receiver is on pace for 940 yards on the season, too.

Adam Schein: McClain. Back from the dead! What an incredible rebirth.

Michael Silver: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots. IF, that is, he can stay healthy for the Patriots' final eight games.

 

COACH OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals. Even while dealing with a slew of key personnel losses and a quarterback who has already missed time, Arians has the Cardinals in first place in football's toughest division -- and with a victory over the 49ers in hand.

Brian Billick: Arians. The Cardinals are 6-1 and leading the NFC West -- and their backup quarterback had to start three games.

Gil Brandt: Arians. He's very good at getting the most out of his players, even when it comes to the lesser talents. Consider that he collected 10 wins in his first season in the desert.

Bucky Brooks: Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions. Caldwell has quickly taught the Lions how to play winning football despite dealing with a host of injuries on offense.

Charley Casserly: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys. Entering the season, most people saw Dallas as a bottom-dweller. Halfway in, this is the biggest surprise team in the NFL. Credit Garrett with changing the offensive philosophy and taking full advantage of an imposing O-line.

Dave Dameshek: Arians. Here's another one that falls in the "obvious" category. The Cardinals are in first place. Ahead of the Seahawks. And the Niners. Is a hometown Super Bowl appearance a real possibility?!

Elliot Harrison: Arians. Bruce Arians has done more with less this year, having overcome player suspensions, guys going on IR and injuries we had never heard of before. Give the man and his hat choices some due.

Adam Schein: Garrett. My preseason pick was Marc Trestman -- oy vey! Bruce Arians is amazing and could go on to win the award, but at this point, the only answer is Jason Garrett.

Michael Silver: Caldwell. What was that about him riding the coattails of Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning again? Dude can coach.

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