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

At the midpoint of the 2016 NFL season, our analysts refresh their predictions on the major individual awards, the entire playoff field and Championship Sunday/Super Bowl LI outcomes.


Judy Battista: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. Yes, you can miss the first four games and still be the MVP. The Patriots did well when Brady was gone. They're unstoppable now that he's back. At 39, Brady's more accurate and dynamic than ever.

Jeffri Chadiha: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons. He's on pace for 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions -- and his current 115.8 passer rating is second to only Tom Brady. Ryan has never played this well in his life.

Gil Brandt: Brady. After missing the first four games of the season with a suspension, Brady has put together a four-game start to his campaign as good as any he's had throughout his career. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes against zero interceptions with a passer rating of 133.9 -- and three of the four games were on the road.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Brady. He is putting on a clinic in 2016, which is no different than any other year.

Brian Billick: Brady. This isn't the most explosive personnel grouping that the Patriots have surrounded Brady with, but it might be the most dynamic. Despite missing the first four games, Brady is enjoying a career year.

Gregg Rosenthal: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. For the most part, I don't believe in changing preseason picks, and Wilson hasn't done anything to knock himself out of contention.

Willie McGinest: Brady. Right now, he's the most efficient quarterback in the league. I think he'll keep this up the remainder of the way.

Adam Schein: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders. He's special and the reason why the Raiders are 6-2 and will make the playoffs.

David Carr: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons. He's had a great start and has the potential to hit 2,000 receiving yards this season.

Charley Casserly: Brady. Forget about the fact that he missed four games. With a QB rating of 133.9 and 12 TDs against zero INTs, Brady's a man on a mission!

Ike Taylor: Carr. He's leading a Raiders team that is 5-0 on the road. In Year 3, Carr is coming into his own as an NFL quarterback.

Colleen Wolfe: Brady. Proof that everybody should get four weeks of vacation. Time away from work increases productivity, reduces stress and often leads to a 73.1 completion percentage at the midway point of busy season. Talk to your bosses today!

Marcas Grant: Carr. A lot of the credit for the Raiders' first-half start hangs on the right arm of the freewheeling Carr, who has the Silver & Black challenging for the division title.

Adam Rank: Brady. Save the nonsense about the Patriots being 3-1 without him. The team is at another level with Brady. "Saving Private Ryan" also would have been a good movie with another actor, but Tom Hanks made it.

Alex Gelhar: Ryan. This award too often favors quarterbacks, and Ryan is playing some of the best football of his career and leading one of the NFL's top offenses.


Judy Battista: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions. Stafford is a legitimate MVP candidate, particularly because he is having a career year without Calvin Johnson.

Jeffri Chadiha: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons. See: My MVP pick.

Gil Brandt: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders. Carr has taken a huge step forward in his third year -- he just keeps getting better every week. He keeps bringing his team back from behind. Oakland's total of five road wins thus far really stands out.

Maurice Jones-Drew: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals. He is having an unbelievable season with 1,100-plus yards from scrimmage through eight games.

Brian Billick: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons. What can't he do? He's a deep threat, he's a run-after-catch terror and he might be the best perimeter blocking WR in the game (no offense, Larry Fitzgerald).

Gregg Rosenthal: The dumbest award in sports should just go to the MVP.

Willie McGinest: Stafford. Stafford is playing his best football under Jim Bob Cooter.

Adam Schein: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. Most flawless stretch of his career and that says something. The revenge tour is awesome!

David Carr: Johnson. The Cardinals' offense used to revolve around Larry Fitzgerald, but we've seen that change this year. Johnson is so valuable to this team.

Charley Casserly: Ryan. Lot of possibilities here (Julio Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Matt Stafford, etc.), but I am going with Ryan. He has been consistent the whole year with 19 TDs against four INTs. Ryan has proven he can win without Julio Jones, too, beating Green Bay last week when the Pack shut down Atlanta's star receiver.

Ike Taylor: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys. Most people will look at him as the Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he's having a good enough season to win this one.

Colleen Wolfe: Ryan. If Matt Ryan loses MVP to Tommy Boy, he belongs right here. Ryan's playing like he got that lemon pepper chicken with the sauce and extra blue cheese from J.R. Crickets. With career bests in passing yards per game, yards per attempt, TD-to-INT ratio and passer rating, WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM HIM? (A championship? Talk to the defense.)

Marcas Grant: Johnson. There was an extreme amount of offseason hype for Johnson ... and he might be exceeding it while almost singlehandedly keeping the Cardinals' offense afloat.

Adam Rank: Ryan. The Falcons QB has taken his play to another level. And it's probably going to end up with Kyle Shanahan having a new home in Los Angeles or Jacksonville.

Alex Gelhar: Johnson. It's hard to envision the Cardinals winning a game at this point if they didn't have Johnson, who's looking like the best back in football.


Judy Battista: Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos. No sign of a Super Bowl hangover. Miller is as disruptive this season as he was in the postseason during Denver's championship run -- and the Broncos lean on the defense just as much.

Jeffri Chadiha: Miller. He was a holy terror through the first four games of the season and has 8.5 sacks at the midway point. Don't be surprised if he's even more dominant as the playoff race heats up.

Gil Brandt: Miller. This is a tough one, with no one really jumping out at me, but I'll go with Miller, who started the season right where he left off in Super Bowl 50, sacking quarterbacks and forcing turnovers.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Miller. He's got 8.5 sacks midway through the season and is only going to be a bigger force for that defense going forward.

Brian Billick: Miller. The best closer in the game. He's currently a half sack behind the league leader, but my money is on him for the second half of the season.

Gregg Rosenthal: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams. He's the best defensive player in the league, even if it doesn't always show up in the box score.

Willie McGinest: Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs. He had eight INTs last year, and he's ahead of that mark in Year 2. I gotta go with this guy.

Adam Schein: Miller. Most impactful defensive player on a great defense carrying the Super Bowl champs.

David Carr: Miller. He's had an impressive run since January and is one of the most valuable players in football.

Charley Casserly: Miller. Brings it hard every game, and the Broncos move him around to maximize his talents. Miller can completely take over games with his pass-rushing ability.

Ike Taylor: Peters. I love this guy. He's leading the league again in INTs (5) and probably won't give that honor up.

Colleen Wolfe: Miller.Kwon Alexander is having a wildly successful year, but Miller gets the honor. He is a monster pass rusher and a consistent nightmare for opposing offenses. Plus, he's got that whole high-altitude thing going for him. (The Bieber parody was all shine, no shade.)

Marcas Grant: Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo Bills. Wherever the ball is, that's where you'll find Brown, who's been the ringleader of a very impressive linebacker corps in Buffalo.

Adam Rank: Brown. He just doesn't get enough credit for what he does on the field. This Bills team is pretty legit, the loss to the Pats notwithstanding.

Alex Gelhar: Miller. He's the best player on the league's best defense. This is as easy as it gets.


Judy Battista: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys. This was always Elliott's award to lose, and his dominant effort in the first half -- particularly as the Cowboys have broken in a rookie quarterback -- has done nothing to change that.

Jeffri Chadiha: Elliott. He's been the most consistent running back in the NFL through the first half of the season and he's taken some pressure off rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. No-brainer.

Gil Brandt: Elliott. On track to challenge Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, Elliott is a complete back who catches and blocks at a championship level, and he leads the NFL in total rushing yards and runs of 20-plus yards.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Elliott. He's leading the league in rushing yards and could finish the year atop the board.

Brian Billick: Elliott. He could also win the Offensive Player of the Year, so he surely has to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Gregg Rosenthal: Elliott. I don't expect Dak Prescott to keep his starting job all season, giving his teammate a chance to fly into the mix.

Willie McGinest: Elliott. It's hard to argue against what Zeke is doing.

Adam Schein: Elliott. He's an MVP candidate, too. Best running back in NFL, impacting every phase of the Cowboys.

David Carr: Elliott. I think he'll get this award pretty easily and could even get Offensive Player of the Year.

Charley Casserly: Elliott. You could make the argument he is a strong candidate for Offensive Player of the Year.

Ike Taylor: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys. I don't know if anybody saw Prescott leading the Cowboys to 6-1, but he's been consistent and deserves this nod.

Colleen Wolfe: Elliot. Ezekiel Elliot is like a super athletic Demogorgon. He's scary, almost impossible to defend and can easily propel himself though people and walls. (Poor Darren McFadden is probably in the Upside Down with Barb.)

Marcas Grant: Elliott.Dak Prescott has been a nice story, but Elliott is being mentioned in the same sentence with Eric Dickerson. This could be an all-time rookie running back season.

Adam Rank: Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears. Everybody is going to opt for one of the Cowboys (Zeke or Dak), so give me a chance to stump for Howard, who is the next stud in the long line of great Bears running backs.

Alex Gelhar: Elliott.Dak Prescott is playing extremely well, but the way Elliott destroys otherwise-strong defenses is more impressive and deserving of this honor.


Judy Battista: Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego Chargers. The more we see of Bosa's impact on the Chargers' defense and his hunger to level quarterbacks, the more we wonder what San Diego was thinking allowing his holdout to impact the start of the season.

Jeffri Chadiha: Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons. San Diego's Joey Bosa is an attractive choice, but he's only played in four games. Jones, on the other hand, has been a tackling machine for two months and has two interceptions, as well.

Gil Brandt: Bosa. He's been a surprise to me -- when a guy misses as much time in the preseason and early portion of the regular season as Bosa did, you don't expect him to play well. But Bosa quickly made up for it, racking up two multi-sack games and serving as the catalyst of San Diego's defense. He's showing a level of competitiveness that wasn't as obvious during his time at Ohio State.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars. He's quietly having a solid rookie season.

Brian Billick: Bosa. He missed the first four games of the season, but you'd be hard-pressed to prove to me that any other rookie has been as impactful as Bosa on a game-by-game basis.

Gregg Rosenthal: Jones. Linebackers who rack up tackles as rookies often win this award. Jones has been solid as a starter, but will have to pick up his pace for this prediction to come true.

Willie McGinest: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars. These rookie awards are all about statistics -- and right now, he's having a dang good season.

Adam Schein: Bosa. He has barely played, thanks to a selfish holdout. Yet Bosa is incredible.

David Carr: Ngakoue. Not many people are following Ngakoue but just look at his stats (13 tackles, four sacks, one pass defensed, one INT and three forced fumbles).

Charley Casserly: Bosa. Has made an immediate impact as a pass rusher.

Ike Taylor: Bosa. Even though he missed the first four games of the season, Bosa is wreaking havoc on opponents.

Colleen Wolfe: Bosa. Worth the wait. Bosa had a lot of people (me) wondering if he'd be as good as advertised. Turns out he's better. Bosa has logged multiple quarterback hits in every game he's played, helping improve a Chargers team that lost a lot of pieces early in the season. His mom will be so happy.

Marcas Grant: Jatavis Brown, LB, San Diego Chargers. So much fuss in San Diego focused on Joey Bosa, but Jatavis Brown has been a success after being unexpectedly thrust into a prominent role.

Adam Rank: Brown. Unlike his teammate, who held out for the whole preseason, Brown has been a great defender since Day 1.

Alex Gelhar: Bosa. His impact on the Chargers' defense has been remarkable. It makes one wonder what their record would be if they'd had him in Week 1.


Judy Battista: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings. For winning games with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, we could call Bill Belichick the Coach of the Year, or just a wizard. But Mike Zimmer has survived more plentiful losses to position the Vikings as the NFC's best team.

Jeffri Chadiha: Zimmer. This team has dealt with injury after injury -- including the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson -- and still sits in first place at 5-2. Zimmer has been in peak form.

Gil Brandt: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots. The Patriots just keep winning, no matter what, but this year, Belichick took that consistency to another level, succeeding with three different quarterbacks. He's dealt with injuries and still pushed New England to a three-game lead in the AFC East. He knows how to design football plays and get the team to execute.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Zimmer. The The Vikings were the last undefeated group in the league, despite losing big-time talent.

Brian Billick: Belichick. We thought he would be spotting the league four games but instead he survived Brady's suspension with a 3-1 record and had Twitter experts questioning if Tom Brady was a system quarterback.

Gregg Rosenthal: Belichick. Voters could pick Belichick any year, but they especially appreciate when he does things with a higher degree of difficulty. (Like winning without Tom Brady.)

Willie McGinest: Zimmer. What he's been able to do so far despite losing a lot of starters makes him the favorite here.

Adam Schein: Zimmer. Minnesota's overachievement is a direct reflection of its great coach.

David Carr: Zimmer. He's lost a lot, but he's still winning. He's kept his team moving forward and should lead the Vikings to the playoffs.

Charley Casserly: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys. He lost his QB in the preseason, lost multiple key defenders to suspension ... and the Cowboys have lost one game.

Ike Taylor: Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders. This year, the Raiders are winning the close games they weren't winning in 2015. Del Rio has done a good job at getting the most out of Derek Carr and the rest of the team.

Colleen Wolfe: Belichick. Jack Del Rio is bae for everything he's accomplished in Oakland, but the hoodie won't be denied here. Bill Belichick could win every year, but this is the year he should win. Leading his team to a 7-1 record without Tom Brady for half that time is not luck. Nobody exploits matchups better than Belichick ... except maybe Tinder.

Marcas Grant: Del Rio. BlackJack Del Rio has played the odds and come up a winner several times this year. Now he has a young team contending for a playoff spot and division title.

Adam Rank: Belichick. Seriously, he trades away just about anybody and is still coaching laps around everybody.

Alex Gelhar: Garrett. No Tony Romo, no Dez Bryant (for a few weeks), no problem. Garrett has bested numerous disaster scenarios with rookies at QB and RB.


Judy Battista: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts. Ravaged by injuries, including a lacerated kidney, that forced him to miss nine games last year, Luck is now more accurate and less interception-prone than he has been in his previous seasons.

Jeffri Chadiha: Luck. The Colts are still struggling, but Luck looks better after his nightmarish 2015 season. So far, he has a passer rating of 96.2. Not bad when considering his career-high in that category is 96.5.

Gil Brandt: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers. I can think of half a dozen names here, but I'll go with Nelson, who has six touchdowns in seven games after missing 2015 with a torn ACL. Despite the Packers' inconsistent running game, which allows opponents to key on Green Bay's receivers, Nelson has continued to get better each week. I think he's the key to the Packers making the playoffs.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers. In the four games he's played in this season, Bell's been the center of the Steelers' offense. He's only going to get more touches going forward.

Brian Billick: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys. With the anticipation of the Cowboys going back to Romo when he is healthy and him taking this offense up another notch and leading Dallas to a division championship and playoff run.

Gregg Rosenthal: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans. He's one of the best running backs in the league playing behind one of the best offensive lines. It's 2014 all over again!

Willie McGinest: Bell. The Steelers are only going to feed him more as the season progresses.

Adam Schein: Murray. He's back to being a star. Nice work last year, Chip Kelly.

David Carr: Nelson. Nelson hasn't lost a step after losing last year to an ACL injury. Right now, he's tied for the league lead in receiving TDs (6).

Charley Casserly: Murray. He was one of the top players in the NFL in 2014 -- and now he's back to that level.

Ike Taylor: Bell. I gotta go with my guy. He's made a huge impact in a short time.

Colleen Wolfe: Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers. Gordon was living in the shadow of Todd Gurley last year. Through 14 games Gordon ran for 641 yards on 184 attempts, never once crossing the goal line. His six fumbles were just terrible icing on a very sad Gordon cake. NOT THIS YEAR! Gordon has baked up eight TDs through eight games. Mmm mmm good.

Marcas Grant: Luck. He has shaken off a very forgettable 2015 campaign and is on pace for arguably the best season of his career.

Adam Rank: Gordon. Wisconsin running backs, amirite? This narrative might need to be put to bed.

Alex Gelhar: Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks. Patellar tendon injuries are not easy to return from, so Graham's swift recovery and dominant form give him the nod here.

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