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.
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.
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.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
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.
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.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Bucky Brooks: Watt. Based on his sensational performance and production over the first half, Watt is also a viable MVP candidate.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
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.
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.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
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.
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.
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.
Dave Dameshek: McClain. Even in The Year of Crazy Storylines, the unlikely rise of the former (two-time) retiree is just plum loco.
COACH OF THE YEAR
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.