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

At the midpoint of the 2015 NFL season, our analysts refresh their predictions on the major individual awards, the entire playoff field and Championship Sunday/Super Bowl outcomes.


Jeffri Chadiha: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. This one is a no-brainer. The Patriots are undefeated and Brady is enjoying the best first half of his Hall of Fame career.

Judy Battista: Brady. I picked him for this award entering the season. But at 38, Brady is even better than expected. He wants to play 10 more years? OK.

Willie McGinest: Brady. I have to pick him, based on what I've seen.

Michael Silver: Brady. He says he's better than he was a few years ago -- scarily, his assessment (as with everything else) is accurate.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Brady. He's on pace to trump 2007's record-breaking season.

Colleen Wolfe: Brady. He's playing like a man married to Gisele.

Ike Taylor: Brady. Something is on his mind. I don't know if the offseason got to him, but it always seems that being a sixth-round draft pick is still the chip on his shoulder. He's in full form this year.

Steve Wyche: Brady. Changing my preseason pick of Ben Roethlisberger, not only because Big Ben was out, but because Brady is most valuable to his team and most painful to the 31 others.

Nate Burleson: Brady. When it's all said and done, he's going to have the most efficient year of his career.

Gil Brandt: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers. Newton might not have the shiniest stats, but he's stood out with his leadership skills and knack for making big plays at critical times.

Adam Schein: Brady. This is the best he has ever played in his epic career. The Tom Brady middle-finger tour is real -- and spectacular.

Charley Casserly: Brady. He makes it look easy with only one Pro Bowl pass catcher (Rob Gronkowski).

Bucky Brooks: Brady. He continues to defy Father Time with his stellar play at age 38. The two-time MVP is on pace to rewrite the record books while guiding the Patriots to another Super Bowl appearance.

Shaun O'Hara: Brady. The level at which he's playing right now is phenomenal. Other than Rob Gronkowski, there really isn't another guy on that roster who people would consider a perennial Pro Bowl player.

Heath Evans: Brady.

Dave Dameshek: Brady. If I had a vote (and let's be honest: I SHOULD have a vote), it'd go to Brady ... But don't sleep on what Cam's doing with starting WRs Philly Brown and Ted Ginn Jr.

Elliot Harrison: Brady. Brady has distanced himself from the pack, especially with Aaron Rodgers' declining performance over the last month. J.J. Watt is a non-factor in this category this year.


Jeffri Chadiha: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. No offensive player is performing at a higher level.

Judy Battista: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. I don't understand why this award is different from the MVP if that one comes from the offensive side, but we'll play along. And Rodgers needs an award to recognize his brilliance without Jordy Nelson.

Willie McGinest: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants. Everybody knows he's going to get the ball, and he still makes plays. He runs every route and is explosive.

Michael Silver: Brady. In what bizarro universe does an offensive player win MVP without also winning this award?

Maurice Jones-Drew: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots.He's been scoring a lot of points this season.

Colleen Wolfe: Gronkowski. He's playing like a man who knows a man who's married to Gisele.

Ike Taylor: Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams. If he can stay healthy, I think Gurley takes this one. He's missed a few games early in the season, and he's still putting up bigger numbers than other running backs who've played every week.

Steve Wyche: Rodgers. A great player who has elevated the play of younger receivers and his running backs.

Nate Burleson: Beckham Jr. It was around this time last year that he started making a name for himself, having missed the first four weeks of the season due to injury. He's already hit the ground running in 2015, so you can only imagine what he's going to do in the second half.

Gil Brandt: Brady. He's 38 years old and playing his 16th NFL season -- and it's shaping up to be his best pro campaign ever. He's on pace to finish with 5,508 yards (which would set a new single-season record) and 46 touchdown passes. Oh, and the Patriots are undefeated. Brady is the hands-down choice here.

Adam Schein: Brady. See: My sentiments above, in the MVP section.

Charley Casserly: Rodgers. He is doing this without his best receiver (Jordy Nelson).

Bucky Brooks: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons star has been an unstoppable force on the perimeter. He could challenge Calvin Johnson's single-season record for receiving yards with a strong second half.

Shaun O'Hara: Jones. He's on fire right now.

Steve Mariucci: Jones. He's off to a great start and Atlanta is a playoff team. He should continue to put up big numbers if he can stay healthy.

Heath Evans: Jones.

Dave Dameshek: Gronkowski. There's zero evidence any defense can stop Gronk at full strength. Appreciate it -- you're watching the best to ever play the position.

Elliot Harrison: Gronkowski. Gronk is on pace for nearly 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns, which would represent the most productive year ever by a TE.


Jeffri Chadiha: Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos. He's been the most dynamic contributor to the league's best defense.

Judy Battista: Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos. The engine -- and it runs fast -- of the Broncos' stellar defense.

Willie McGinest: Fletcher Cox, DE, Philadelphia Eagles. He has more sacks (five) through seven games than he did all of last season. And with three forced fumbles already, this guy's having a career year.

Michael Silver: Talib. The "No Fly Zone" is the most daunting force in football right now, and this physical, prolific player is the chief air-traffic controller.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Charles Woodson, S, Oakland Raiders.

Colleen Wolfe: Woodson. He's so good and so old. If you mash one word into the other, it makes "gold." That was just a thought in my head.

Ike Taylor: Woodson.I know everyone thinks it'll be someone from Denver, but I'm thinking of a guy who's not too far from there. The NFL's leader in interceptions is old like wine, but playing young.

Steve Wyche: Talib. Almost went with teammate Chris Harris Jr. Talib is a superstar now on a defense that has to carry the team.

Nate Burleson: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. He's just as powerful as ever, and he has more sacks now (8.5) than he did at this point last year.

Gil Brandt: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers. Even though he missed three games earlier this year, Kuechly is a big reason why the Panthers are where they are. He just brings so much to that defense.

Adam Schein: Talib. Just beats out Josh Norman. Talib is a fantastic corner on the best defense in the NFL.

Charley Casserly: Clay Matthews III, LB, Green Bay Packers. There is no more versatile defensive player in the NFL.

Bucky Brooks: Woodson. The veteran playmaker was expected to serve as a mentor on this Raiders squad, yet he has been the team's top playmaker. Woodson leads the NFL with five interceptions and his ball-hawking skills have helped spark the team's surprising resurgence in the AFC West.

Shaun O'Hara: Kuechly. Nobody expected Carolina to be undefeated at this point in the season, and he's a big part of that.

Steve Mariucci: Kuechly.

Heath Evans: Watt.

Dave Dameshek: Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers. He recently complained QBs aren't throwing in his direction enough lately. Poor guy's just gonna have to get used to it.

Elliot Harrison: Norman. No defensive player is performing more consistently right now, and unlike J.J. Watt or Justin Houston, Norman is making plays that are leading directly to wins.


Jeffri Chadiha: Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams. This isn't even a race anymore. Gurley needed all of four starts to prove he's the most electric talent in this rookie class.

Judy Battista: Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders.Brandon Marshall says the Raiders receiver is a mixture of Ochocinco and A.J. Green. And he called him "a stud muffin." Check out some of his highlights, where he's embarrassing defensive backs, and you'll know why that's good enough for us.

Willie McGinest: Cooper. If he stays healthy, he's neck-and-neck with some of the top receivers. He's great after the catch.

Michael Silver: Gurley. He's a monster whose presence warmed Jeff Fisher's heart from Day 1 -- and he's only getting started.

Colleen Wolfe: Gurley. He's the first Rams player with four straight games of 120-plus rushing yards since Eric Dickerson in 1984. He should wear the Eric Dickerson goggles for emphasis.

Ike Taylor: Cooper. I thought he'd be good next year, but he's been good from Day 1.

Steve Wyche: Gurley. He is the real deal and could guide his team to the playoffs. Reminder: My preseason sleeper was Vikings WR Stefon Diggs, who has emerged.

Nate Burleson: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings. He's come on strong the last four weeks and is really finding his rhythm. I could see him finish with 1,000 yards and eight or nine touchdowns.

Gil Brandt: Gurley. I went with Melvin Gordon in September, but I'm going back to my late-August pick in Gurley. He's only started four games so far -- but he's gained more than 125 yards rushing in each of those four starts. With 566 yards total in those starts, Gurley has surpassed Billy Sims, whose 539 rushing yards in 1980 had previously stood as the most by an NFL player in his first four starts. Gurley is also the youngest player in NFL history to have consecutive 100-yard games in his first four starts.

Adam Schein: Cooper.My preseason pick has been sensational and he (barely) holds off the great Todd Gurley.

Charley Casserly: Gurley. He edges out Amari Cooper. Gurley is better at his position than Cooper is at his. That said, it could easily be a Co-Rookie of the Year Award.

Bucky Brooks: Gurley. The big-bodied runner has topped the 100-yard mark in each of his four starts, displaying remarkable speed, quickness and burst. Gurley is a threat to take it the distance from anywhere on the field, which is why the Rams' offense has become more dynamic and explosive since his insertion into the starting lineup.

Steve Mariucci: Cooper. They're throwing the ball like crazy, and when they play from behind, he's going to get a lot of catches.

Heath Evans: Gurley.

Dave Dameshek: Gurley.Amari Cooper is the No. 1 reason the Raiders have become playoff-relevant, but Gurley is the No. 1 RB in all the NFL. Right now.

Elliot Harrison: Gurley. The Rams rookie manages to catch Amari Cooper in this race. Yes, he missed some time, but how can you ignore him if he runs for over 1,500 yards?


Jeffri Chadiha: Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs. Peters looks like a player who will make many trips to the Pro Bowl. He's impressed on an underachieving defense.

Judy Battista: Leonard Williams, DE, New York Jets. The Jets' first-round draft pick has slipped seamlessly into one of the league's best defenses.

Willie McGinest: Bud Dupree, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers. He's a really good fit for what the Steelers do defensively. He's able to drop into coverage, which we're seeing a lot of, and he can rush the quarterback.

Michael Silver: Ronald Darby, CB, Buffalo Bills. When I made this pick before the season, it was drowned out by cyber-laughter. Turns out the kid can ball.

Colleen Wolfe: Darby. I was unsure about the Bills filling that spot with a rookie. He's been a nice surprise.

Ike Taylor: Peters. Again, he's one of those guys who I thought would be good by the end of the season. But he's good right now and not playing like a rookie. He's already playing with a whole lot of confidence -- usually guys have to grow into that.

Steve Wyche: Darby. A sensational player who has emerged despite a stunning lack of pass pressure.

Nate Burleson: Peters. The Chiefs aren't in a lot of games, so, defensively, he's on the field and has more opportunities to make plays.

Gil Brandt: Peters. He has played 96 percent of the Chiefs' defensive snaps, collecting 38 tackles and three interceptions -- very impressive numbers for a rookie cornerback. I think if you look at it from every angle, Peters has probably played the best among a group of really good first-year pros.

Adam Schein: Darby. Field is weak. He's the best of the bunch.

Charley Casserly: Williams. The D-lineman has played well in stopping the run and putting some pressure on the QB.

Bucky Brooks: Peters. It is uncommon for a rookie to step in and fill the void as the team's designated "shutdown corner," but Peters has played like an All-Pro since Day 1. With three interceptions and a number of PBUs (passes broken up) on the stat sheet, he is quickly becoming a household name as one of the NFL's premier cornerbacks.

Steve Mariucci: Peters.

Heath Evans: Peters.

Dave Dameshek: Peters. The Husky CB has been physical, fearless and downright terrific since Week 1.

Elliot Harrison: Williams. While the freshman buzz revolves around Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley and even Stefon Diggs, Williams has been a stud in his first season.


Jeffri Chadiha: Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have stumbled lately, but they're still 6-2. They only had 10 wins total in the previous two seasons.

Judy Battista: Quinn.He pumped up the music and the energy in Atlanta and transformed a six-win team into an immediate playoff contender.

Willie McGinest: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots. I'm going Belichick first, and then Mike Zimmer. The obvious coach is Belichick because the Pats are undefeated halfway through the season, and they've lost so many players. He's still got his team playing at a high level despite all the new guys. Zimmer has helped construct and build the Vikings through the draft, and the pieces are starting to fit. Minnesota is flying under the radar.

Michael Silver: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers. How can a team with so few offensive weapons be 7-0? Two words: Riverboat Ron.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders.

Colleen Wolfe: Belichick. Is vaguely aware of the human life-form known as Gisele.

Ike Taylor: Del Rio. He left a good situation in Denver to revamp himself and the Raiders. So far, I've got to give it to him with what he's been able to do.

Steve Wyche: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings. Zimmer will edge out Ron Rivera and Bill Belichick after the Vikings gain traction midseason and keep things rolling.

Nate Burleson: Belichick. He's a proven winner and an evil genius. While everybody is trying their hardest to stop him, the Pats are surgically picking this league apart.

Gil Brandt: Rivera. A lot of people thought that the Panthers lost too much on offense and defense to compete, but right now, Carolina looks like a Super Bowl contender.

Adam Schein: Belichick. The Patriots are beautifully abnormal. They defy logic. They have the best coach of all time.

Charley Casserly: Quinn. No one has a better record with less talent than he does.

Bucky Brooks: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals. It is time to consider the Bengals legitimate title contenders in the AFC due to the stellar play of their offensive and defensive units. Lewis deserves credit for maximizing one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.

Shaun O'Hara: Quinn. They hired him because they wanted a defensive-minded guy, and the defense has gotten better. But that offense is doing well, too. He's doing a great job with almost the same roster from a year ago.

Steve Mariucci: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers.

Heath Evans: Lewis.

Dave Dameshek: Wade Phillips, Denver Broncos. Yes, I realize he's not a head coach. Rules are made to be broken. Bruce Arians is, at worst, the second-best head coach right now, but Bum's son deserves a tip of the ten-gallon hat for transforming the same pieces on the DEN D from very good to downright terrifying.

Elliot Harrison: Belichick. Given all of the distractions, and everyone circling the Patriots on the schedule, New England has proven itself as the most dominant team in the league. The Pats will go 15-1.


Jeffri Chadiha: Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs.Chris Johnson is making up a ton of ground in this race, but Berry beat cancer this past offseason. Enough said.

Judy Battista: Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals. He might have to beat out his own teammate, Chris Johnson, for this award, but Palmer's recovery from a knee injury and his stellar play have made the Cardinals serious Super Bowl contenders.

Willie McGinest: Palmer. He's 35, but with the way he's been playing and his accuracy, he looks a whole lot younger. He still has great arm strength and is making all the throws. He's really playing at a high level.

Michael Silver: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings. His first seven games have been really good; something tells me his next nine will be even better.

Colleen Wolfe: Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals. Is it 2009? Before this, last seen hitchhiking south on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Ike Taylor: Berry. After everything he's been through with cancer, to get himself back on the field says an incredible amount about his determination and strength of mind.

Steve Wyche: Berry. K.C. is awful, but Berry has played well. It's remarkable he's even on the field, having been diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago.

Nate Burleson: Berry. What he's battled back from doesn't happen often -- not just in sports, but in life.

Gil Brandt: Johnson. Johnson wasn't signed until the week before the season started, but he's currently second in the league in rushing yards (676, behind Devonta Freeman's 709). Johnson is one of the reasons the Cardinals are doing as well on offense as they are (third overall, second in scoring).

Adam Schein: Palmer. He's healthy and playing good, solid, consistent ball, while guiding one of the NFL's best teams.

Charley Casserly: Palmer. He is having a career year after missing most of last season.

Bucky Brooks: Palmer. Veteran quarterbacks are not supposed to play their best football at the latter stages, yet Palmer is performing at an elite level as a 13th-year pro coming off his second ACL injury.

Shaun O'Hara: NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers.

Steve Mariucci: Palmer.

Heath Evans: Palmer.

Dave Dameshek: Palmer. Or is it Larry Fitzgerald? Or maybe Chris Johnson? Appropriate these Cards play in Arizona, America's favorite destination for the elderly.

Elliot Harrison: Palmer. So many candidates here, yet Palmer gets the nod. He missed the lion's share of 2014, but he has managed to come back and lead the NFC's most high-powered offense.

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