Until Sunday, the NFL made sense.

The New England Patriots seemed to be on their way to another 16–0 regular season. The Miami Dolphins were historically bad and destined to go winless. And Washington couldn’t score a touchdown.

Then Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens lit up the Patriots in prime time, after the Dolphins found an even sadder opponent in the bumbling Jets.

So those theories go out the window. But Washington and the end zone are still estranged.

The first half of the season wasn’t half bad—unless you root for Cincinnati, Miami, Washington, Atlanta or either of New York’s teams. Otherwise, there were plenty of good stories, and here are one man’s choices for the best (and worst) so far:

MVP: Russell Wilson, Seahawks

This is a close call over Jackson, who has revitalized the Ravens’ offense and left Bill Belichick scratching his head Sunday night. But Wilson has 22 touchdown passes and just one interception, and he’s carried a team with a weaker defense to virtually the same record (7–2) as Baltimore (6–2. Next up: against the unbeaten 49ers next Monday night.

Runners-up: Jackson; Christian McCaffrey, Panthers; Deshaun Watson, Texans; Aaron Rodgers, Packers.

Offensive player: Lamar Jackson, RAVENS

And you thought run/pass option offense was a fad. Jackson’s stunning athleticism and improving decision-making are baffling defensive coordinators who thought they had things figured out. Jackson’s on pace to become the first player in NFL history with 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in the same season.

Runners-up: Wilson; McCaffrey; Dalvin Cook, Vikings; Michael Thomas, Saints.

Defensive player: Jamie Collins, Patriots

The linebacker has 48 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions for a defense that has allowed a league-low 98 points, even after being blitzed by Baltimore Sunday night.

Runners-up: Devin McCourty, Patriots; Nick Bosa, 49ers and Joey Bosa, Chargers; Shaquil Barrett, Bucs; Luke Kuechly, Panthers; Khalil Mack, Bears.

Coach of the year: Kyle Shahanan, 49ers

Two years ago, the Niners were 0–8 at the season’s midway point. This year, they’re 8–0. A healthy Jimmy Garoppolo helps, but Shanahan has rebuilt a proud franchise around a run game and solid defense. His dad should be proud.

Runners-up: Sean Payton, Saints; Frank Reich, Colts; Belichick; John Harbaugh, Ravens; Jon Gruden, Raiders; Sean McDermott, Bills.

Offensive rookie: Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Across the Bay from the 49ers, Gruden is also engineering a rebuild, and Jacobs is one of the big reasons. He’s run for 740 yards and six touchdowns for Oakland, which has already won as many games (four) as it did all season.

Runners-up: Gardner Minshew; Jaguars; Kyler Murray, Cardinals; Terry McLaurin, Washington.

Defensive rookie: Nick Bosa, 49ers

The second overall pick has had the biggest impact, with seven sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

Runners-up: Devin Bush, Steelers; Josh Allen, Jaguars; Darnell Savage, Packers.


Team: Browns (by far). Player: (tie) Baker Mayfield, Browns and Mitchell Trubisky, Bears; Rookie: Dwayne Haskins, Washington (not all his fault); Division: AFC North.

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Steve DeShazo: 374-5443


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