FOOTBALL -- Just like last year, the year before and every year since the beginning of the league, the NFL season if flying by way too quickly.
As it stands, we’re currently at the half way point of the season and 2016 has lived up to what we have come to expect, meaning injuries, upsets and storylines fit for the Hollywood big screen.
With most teams having completed eight games to this point, we have a pretty clear picture as to who everyone is and can make educated guesses on where everyone is going and that includes the league itself.
During the first nine weeks I’ve noticed three glaring issues which I believe need correcting in order for the league to grow and the NFL to remain the bench march at which all sports leagues are judged. Below I have listed those three takeaways along with my first half award leaders
First thing I think all fans whether they be die hard or casual have noticed is just how lacklustre the prime time matchups have been.
The NFL in recent years has made an effort to highlight all teams equally, which makes sense from a fan base and a revenue stand point but in terms of showcasing and growing the league and sport it has flopped and the TV ratings reflect it.
Prime time was always reserved for top teams, electric offenses and stars of the sport.
In years past before the schedule was released you could pencil in teams like the Cowboys, Packers and Steelers for several of the matchups. However at this year’s half way point, audiences have twice had to sit through watching the inept offenses of the Bears and the Vikings and don’t even get me started on that Thursday night matchup of the Jaguars VS the Titans.
Something has to be done about bringing back highflying football to prime time and regaining some of the more casual viewers we have lost the last few years with these mundane Thursday games.
My second take is that penalties and stoppages are dragging out games. It’s the year 2016 and the average person’s attention span is the length of a Snapchat video.
True fans of the sport tune in from kick off to final whistle and sit on the edge of their seat throughout, but sadly they are the exception and not the rule. The average fan spends 90 per cent of the game with their face in a screen tracking fantasy stats or tweeting about Odell Beckham’s latest sideline run in with the kicking net.
Movie goers will fade from a film that requires them to keep still and have their phones off for two hours at a time; the majority of games now take nearly double that.
When game play time is just 60 minutes, three hours of stoppage time, commercials and booth reviews is just inexcusable and frustrating.
My Final take is that the NFL has to do away with ties.
The NBA and MLB have continuous overtime, the NHL has the shootout, and even the PGA will do playoff holes.
Ties are playoff killers when you only have 16 games to state your case for the second season. When the margin for error is as small as it is in the NFL, having a one in that third column is often the separator between the contenders and the pretenders. Over the years there have been several suggestions made on how the NFL should handle such situations.
I, like many others, have my own opinion on the matter.
However, at this point I don’t care what method they choose, be it flipping a coin or having the coaches run the 40… just as long as a winner is declared before the final whistle.
NFL Award Winners to This Point:
MVP: Ezekiel Elliot
Many will write about Quarterbacks; Brady, Ryan and Carr but all three of those players are returning to systems they know and are use too, as well they have had healthy and deep supporting casts.
Zeke is a rookie who has had to learn a new playbook, acclimate to a new faster, more physical league, and has had to do it without the cushion of having Pro Bowlers Dez Bryant and Tony Romo on the field to keep defences honest.
Game in and game out the opposing team stacks the box knowing that the Cowboys game plan is to run the ball and control the clock, even still the rookie from Ohio State leads the league in rushing at the half way point and has the Cowboys out to a 6-1 start.
Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson
The Cardinals running back is in his second year and unlike fellow sophomore Todd Gurley, Johnson has taken the next step and is emerging as a threat every time he touches the ball.
Johnson leads the league in yards from scrimmage and is quickly entering the category of elite when it comes to running backs.
The league has never been less focused on the ground attack than it has in recent years; this has forced ball carriers to perfect the art of pass catching to remain on the field in all situations.
Johnson is as good, if not better when catching the ball out of the back field as it allows him to get the ball in space and get a head of steam before meeting defenders.
The big bodied sophomore is as physical as he is elusive, which is a big reason why he has eight rushing scores on the year, second only to LeGarrette Blount’s nine.
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller
Does this one really need an explanation? With JJ Watt sidelined for the year and Aaron Donald playing on the dumpster fire that is the Los Angeles Rams, the defending Super Bowl MVP can afford to take a step back in play and still cruise to this award.
Last year Miller was widely regarded as the best at his position and is quietly having a better year in 2016.
The 27 year old Linebacker is second in the league in sacks with 8.5, just 2.5 less than all of last year. Miller has 33 total tackles which is just two off what he had during his 2015 campaign, add to that fact he has already doubled his number of pass defences, and the leader of the NFL’s best defence is well on his way to posting a career year.
Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio
The leader of the Black and Silver may be the only coach left in the league willing to go big or go home. In today’s game coaches are far too conservative, punting on fourth downs, kicking for their point after and playing to force overtime VS trying to end the game on their terms.
Del Rio has flipped the script this year and has on several occasions put his faith in his offense to do what they are paid to do and that’s pick up yards and score points.
Some will argue it’s because he doesn’t trust his defence which is one of the worst in the league but regardless it makes for exciting football and is catching teams off guard.
The Raiders currently sit a top the leagues most competitive division with a record of 6-2 while doing the majority of their damage on the road posting a league best 5-0 record away from Oakland.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa
Granted the Chargers Defensive End has only played in four contests to this point and threw a rather childish temper tantrum regarding his contract, but he wasn’t drafted third overall and the first defender off the board for nothing.
The 6’5” edge rusher from Ohio State has registered four sacks in his first four NFL games.
His ability to get after the quarterback has helped to turn around the laughing stock that was San Diego’s defence and was instrumental in the Chargers upsetting two of the leagues top teams in Atlanta and Denver.
His playing time has increased in each contest so far and if he can convert some of his hurries and QB hits into sacks, he could easily find his way pushing for the league lead in said category.