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

We've reached a midpoint in the 2013 NFL campaign. How will the rest of the season play out? Our analysts provide their predictions, covering the major individual awards, playoff teams for each conference and picks for Championship Sunday/Super Bowl XLVIII.


Judy Battista: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos. Has anything happened in the first eight games to change the preseason prediction? Just 29 touchdown passes (the second-most through eight games in NFL history) and 2,919 yards (the most at this point in NFL history). Manning will lock up this award if he performs well against the Kansas City Chiefs' powerhouse defense.

Gil Brandt: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints. The Saints have a less-than-stellar offensive line, tight end Jimmy Graham is not 100 percent healthy and the running game is not the greatest. Yet, Brees has New Orleans scoring 28 points per game and leading the NFC South with a 6-1 record.

Albert Breer: Manning. I still think this one could revert to being my preseason pick, Tom Brady, before season's end, and I believe Drew Brees isn't all that far off from Manning. But the Denver triggerman's had a few singular moments that push him over the top.

Bucky Brooks: Manning. The Broncos' spectacular offense begins and ends with the Manning's stellar play from the pocket. With the unit averaging well over 40 points per contest, Manning clearly is performing like the best player in the game.

Jeff Darlington: Manning. As much as this award is certainly befitting of this fascinating season, it will mean very little if Manning can't turn his current success into postseason magic. Good job, Peyton. Now, keep it going into January.

Elliot Harrison: Manning. The Broncos have been scoring points at a record pace. To this point, Denver has 343. Half the league might not score 343 points this season. Manning is the point man. Simple.

Daniel Jeremiah: Manning. Manning might not be able to keep up his current pace, but his numbers still will be plenty good enough to secure his fifth MVP.

Kimberly Jones: Manning.My preseason choice, Andrew Luck, won the head-to-head battle and will be a future MVP ... but Peyton's numbers at the midway point (29 touchdown passes, 71.2 completion percentage) are ridiculous.

Ian Rapoport: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. You can have the stats, some of which land Brady toward the bottom of the league. I'll take the leadership and the way he gets his team, somehow, to keep winning.

Adam Schein: Manning. Denver has holes. You just don't notice them with Manning under center.

Michael Silver: Manning.I picked Drew Brees before the season, and he has delivered -- but Manning has taken his game to a space-age level, and there's no stopping this rocket ship.


Judy Battista: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints. If we insist on separating the MVP award from this award, then this should go to Brees, whose offensive numbers are back just as surely as Sean Payton is.

Gil Brandt: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos. He just seems to break records every time out. With 29 scoring passes already this season, he's just 43 short of Brett Favre's all-time touchdown pass record of 508.

Albert Breer: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions. No need to stray from my preseason pick on this one. He's a little off his 2012 pace. Which is pretty nuts, considering his numbers project out to 94 catches, 1,642 yards and 14 touchdowns for the year.

Bucky Brooks: Manning. The guy is on pace to rewrite the record book with his sensational production this season. He has topped the 300-yard mark seven times in eight games and tossed 29 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Factor in the remarkable production of the Broncos' offense, and he deserves recognition as the NFL's top offensive threat.

Jeff Darlington: Johnson. As the only true competition for Peyton Manning's MVP award, Johnson has vaulted himself into the highest of categories to start this season. Yes, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest receivers ever.

Elliot Harrison: Johnson.Megatron put his stamp on this race with a 329-yard performance versus the Dallas Cowboys. Johnson has 821 yards and seven touchdowns with half the schedule to play. Did I mention he's been hurt and actually missed a game?

Daniel Jeremiah: Johnson. He is the most feared offensive weapon in the NFL. Johnson's game against the Dallas Cowboys will be talked about for years to come.

Kimberly Jones: Manning. See MVP rationale.

Brooks: Maximizing Megatron

Try as they might, defenses can't stop Calvin Johnson. Bucky Brooks explains how the Lions keep 'em guessing. **READ**

Ian Rapoport: Manning. How good is Manning running his Denver offense? It's almost weird when they don't score at least 40 points.

Adam Schein: Johnson. He's totally unstoppable. What more can you say?

Michael Silver: Manning. Duh.


Judy Battista: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions. The dominant player on a dominant line. Can people overcome his bad reputation to vote for him?

Gil Brandt: Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City Chiefs. This guy never stops; he's always around the play. Johnson has 61 tackles, making him the leader in that category -- by a wide margin -- on the best defense in the NFL. He also has 3.5 sacks. Johnson is a real competitor.

Albert Breer: Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks. Not moving off this preseason pick, either. Sherman is the best player on the league's most imposing defense. He has a signature play (the pick-six against Houston) and all the team success (Seattle is 7-1), to boot.

Bucky Brooks: Sherman. The bodacious antics prevent some observers from appreciating Sherman's game, but the numbers certainly don't lie. He is tied for the NFL lead with four INTs and seemingly is involved in every game-changing play produced by the Seahawks' defense.

Jeff Darlington: Sherman. Lost in Matt Schaub's collapse against the Seahawks? The clutchness displayed by the pick-six maker, Richard Sherman, who has proven he's not only talented but timely, as well.

Elliot Harrison: Sherman.Kansas City Chiefs OLB Justin Houston has been arguably the best player on the league's top scoring defense, but Sherman continues to put on a clinic at cornerback. He's hands down the best CB in the NFL.

Daniel Jeremiah: Terrell Suggs, OLB, Baltimore Ravens. Suggs is putting together another outstanding season as both a pass rusher and run defender.

Kimberly Jones: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. Watt was my preseason pick. Until someone figures out a way to keep him out of the offensive backfield, he's still the pick.

Ian Rapoport: Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills. The Bills are starting a quarterback who began the season on their practice squad, and their star running back has been injured. Williams' heroics -- and his 11 sacks -- have kept this team viable.

Adam Schein: Suggs. Staying with my preseason pick. Sizzle took home the hardware in his last healthy season (2011).

Michael Silver: Sherman. I'm sticking with my preseason prediction, as the Seahawks' shutdown corner extraordinaire has four picks and inevitably will make more big plays down the stretch. Plus, he has vowed to "make you look smart." I believe him.


Judy Battista: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers. He has given the Packers something they haven't had in a long time: a viable running game to relieve the pressure on the passing attack.

Gil Brandt: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans. Hopkins is making an impact as a rookie, despite playing with three different quarterbacks this season. He's shown that he's much better than people anticipated. I also could see Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell making noise in this category by the end of the season.

Albert Breer: Lacy. He's added a different dimension to the Green Bay offense in a mediocre year for skill-position rookies. But keep an eye on Cincinnati's young guys -- Tyler Eifert (my preseason pick) and Giovani Bernard -- in the second half.

Bucky Brooks: Lacy. The second-round pick quietly is putting his stamp on the Packers' offense with his hard-nosed running style. He has averaged 98.8 rushing yards per game over the past four contests while logging 20-plus carries in each game. Those numbers could translate into big production by season's end.

Jeff Darlington: Lacy. Overall, offensive rookies aren't making nearly the impact their predecessors made one year ago. Lacy, though, has bolstered Green Bay's running game, giving the Packers a more dynamic offense than they've had in years.

Elliot Harrison: Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams. Stacy got off to a slow start, but he's become the lead back on a Rams offense that wants to run the football. The Vandy product will churn out at least 600 rushing yards over the back half of the schedule.

Daniel Jeremiah: Lacy. Lacy's power running has brought a new dimension to this Green Bay offense. And as the weather gets colder, his numbers will only improve.

Battista: Midseason musings


At the halfway point, what do we know about the 2013 season? What questions still remain? Judy Battista provides her thoughts. **READ**

Kimberly Jones: Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets. He's made his share of rookie mistakes, but -- unlike last season -- it's a lean year for top rookies. With poise and professionalism, Smith has debunked pre-draft criticism. And he led the Jets over the Patriots.

Ian Rapoport: Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers. A forgotten star after an injury prematurely ended his final year at Cal -- and didn't help his draft stock -- Allen has quickly emerged as the Chargers' leading receiver. He grew up fast.

Adam Schein: Lacy. The big, physical back is the perfect complement to Aaron Rodgers and will help the Pack win the division.

Michael Silver: Lacy. Suddenly, the Packers have a running game, meaning Aaron Rodgers can produce points seemingly at will, even with so many key targets (Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, James Jones) missing. And Rodgers LOVES him some Lacy.


Judy Battista: Sheldon Richardson, DT, New York Jets. Already a disruptive force on the Jets' impressive defensive line.

Gil Brandt: Kiko Alonso, LB, Buffalo Bills. The second-round pick is a true competitor who makes plays in space and racks up tackles. New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who is tough to block, is a close second.

Albert Breer: Alonso. Buffalo couldn't have given new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine a better welcoming gift than this heat-seeking, playmaking stud. Alonso took over against the Ravens, and it looks like he'll be a mainstay in the middle for a long time to come.

Bucky Brooks: Alonso. He has quickly emerged as the Bills' top defensive playmaker, despite his youth/inexperience. Alonso is tied for the league lead with four interceptions and sets the tone for his teammates with his fanatical effort.

Jeff Darlington: Alonso. When you have four interceptions in your first eight NFL games, it's difficult to top. Alonso is making a major impact already -- and he's only going to get better with more experience.

Elliot Harrison: Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers. Perhaps Jets DT Sheldon Richardson has had a slightly better season thus far, at least statistically. But we must not forget that Lotulelei is playing a huge role on the league's No. 2 scoring defense and has started from Day 1. The space eater allows star linebacker Luke Kuechly to make plays.

Daniel Jeremiah: Alonso. He has been a tackling machine and he's already notched four interceptions. Once again, this award will go to a linebacker.

Brandt: Reassessing the rookies

Gil Brandt identifies the teams whose rookies have made their mark -- and those whose newbies have disappeared. **READ**

Kimberly Jones: Alonso. Love that he lets his play -- 81 tackles, four picks -- do the talking. Hasn't missed a snap all season. Not a snap.

Ian Rapoport: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Arizona Cardinals. Playing a variety of roles, the "Honey Badger" simply makes plays -- like always. He already has two picks, one forced fumble and five passes defensed.

Adam Schein: Alonso. A tackling, play-making machine from Day 1 in Buffalo.

Michael Silver: Alonso. When I hung out pre-draft with the future Bills middle linebacker, I sensed he might be an impact player. It turns out the second-round pick is more than that: He's special.


Judy Battista: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs. Just forget all other options. This is Reid's award for turning a two-win team into an undefeated one.

Billick: The perils of perfection


Brian Billick says Andy Reid and the Chiefsmust do what they can to avoid the distractions that come with being undefeated. **READ**

Gil Brandt: Reid. Reid is convincing everyone else of something football people already knew: what a good coach he is. My second choice would be Sean Payton, who has shown that he is the man in New Orleans.

Albert Breer: Reid. Sure, Kansas City's success is, in part, a sign of how messed up the culture had become previously. But there's no need to get cute with this call. Taking a two-win team from the prior season to 8-0 is plenty to make this decision an easy one, no matter how much talent is on hand.

Bucky Brooks: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks. Carroll has successfully built a bully in the Pacific Northwest behind a downright scary defense and a typically efficient offense. The Seahawks are a nightmare to play at home, but they're also developing into a formidable foe on the road.

Jeff Darlington: Reid. As much of a no-brainer at this point as Peyton Manning's MVP award. Reid has orchestrated a Chiefs turnaround that proves his worth. This defense had talent in past seasons -- but Reid finally found a way to utilize it.

Elliot Harrison: Reid. It's difficult voting for anyone else at this point. The Chiefs went 2-14 last season. Andy Reid arrives, the team makes a trade for Alex Smith, and Kanas City's suddenly 8-0. There is no argument.

Daniel Jeremiah: Reid. The Chiefs will go from making the first pick in the draft to making the playoffs, and that will be enough for Reid to secure this award.

Kimberly Jones: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. Sticking with Payton here, even though Andy Reid seems obvious. Yes, Payton makes that much of a difference to Drew Brees and the Saints.

Ian Rapoport: Reid. At the midway point, he's already quadrupled the Chiefs' win total from last season. Not bad.

Adam Schein: Reid. Nobody better. The Chiefs' turnaround under Reid is one of the stories of the season.

Michael Silver: Reid.I picked Big Red before the season. He has since coached the Chiefs -- who went 2-14 last year -- to an 8-0 record. Uh, yeah. Just go ahead and give him the trophy now.

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