Eight games down, 11 to go. We’ll call it the midway point in the season even though that doesn’t take the post-season into account. Seems like a good time to step back and consider where this team is right now. Call it the HeadCheese MidSeason Awards:
Packer MVP: OK, I know the suspense is killing you so we’ll get this one out of the way. Aaron Rodgers is on pace to win his first NFL MVP award and right now it would probably be unanimous (unless some wise guy voted for Peyton Manning). No one has ever played the position better over an eight game stretch. His otherworldliness has protected the team’s porous defense.
Best Game of the Year: It’s going to be tough to top the season opener. A game that featured the play of the year: the 108 yard kickoff return by Randall Cobb, superior QB play by both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and a goal line stand at the end of the game. Let’s order up a rematch in late January.
Biggest Injury: So far the Pack has escaped the laundry list of players lost that they dealt with last year. But no injury last year had a bigger impact than this year’s loss of Nick Collins. The quarterback of the defense is hoping to be back next season. In the meantime, we are hearing about communication issues in the secondary and the Pack is relying on very young, raw safeties who need to look like grizzled, experienced safeties ASAP.
Elmer’s Glue Award: This one goes to center Scott Wells, who has never played at a higher level. He’s got a new starter to his left (T.J. Lang) and the emerging, yet banged up Josh Sitton to his right. Not to mention making sure left tackle Marshall Newhouse understands his assignments. We saw some protection issues in the first half against San Diego, but then things settled down. When the Pack goes back on the road in a couple of weeks to battle the noise in Detroit and NY, Wells will be the glue that holds the line together.
The “What Ever Happened To” Award: In a landslide, this one goes to the Packers pass rush. They seem unable to get to the QB unless they’re blitzing. Teams are double-teaming Clay Matthews and daring someone else to hurt them and for the most part it’s been working. Think of the opposing QBs who have had too much time to throw this season: Brees, Newton, Orton, Bradford, Ponder, Rivers. They need to figure this one out before the post season.
The “Please Get Well Soon” Award: To Chad Clifton, whose absence was felt at the Metrodome and may be felt again on Monday night against Jared Allen. Newhouse has been okay, but the offensive scheme is different with Clifton protecting the franchise’s blind side. Here’s hoping he’s back in the lineup after the long rest following the Thanksgiving Day game, in what looks like the toughest game left on the schedule: at the Giants.
Best Rookie Award: An undefeated defending Super Bowl champ has no need to rely on rookies, but the award goes to Cobb who announced himself to the league in the opener and has shown flashes of big play ability at receiver. He figures to get Driver’s snaps next season. In the meantime, despite a fumble or two, he’s taken the return job and run with it and given the team the consistent returner they lacked last season–and for the last 15 seasons.
The “Who is this guy wearing #_” Award: To #2 Mason Crosby, who became a dad, got paid and became as automatic as a fish fry on a Friday night in Wisconsin. The new kickoff rules have him booming most kickoffs for touchbacks and he’s yet to miss a field goal, despite being asked to kick a couple of 55+ yarders. No longer will we hold our breath if a game comes down to a last second kick.
REVISITING THE HEAD CHEESE PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS:
August 29th: Division winners: Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, New England. Wild cards: Pittsburgh, N.Y. Jets
I wouldn’t change any of these picks today. My conference final of Pittsburgh at New England is still possible. Hard to pick an AFC favorite right now. They all have warts.
August 29th: Division Winners: Packers, Philadelphia, New Orleans, St. Louis (ouch). Wild Cards: Atlanta Tampa Bay
The Pack and Saints still look good to me, but I’d add San Francisco (I think they may have already officially wrapped up the West) and the N.Y. Giants. Wildcards: Lions and Bears (in tiebreaker over Falcons). I’ll stick with Pack vs. Saints in the title game.
Feel free to add some midseason awards of your own. And for those of you in the metro area, I’ll be at Buffalo Wild Wings in Apple Valley for the Friday Football Feast with Paul Allen and Paul Charchian on KFAN, Friday from 11:15 to noon. Would love to see more Green & Gold than I saw at the Monticello BWW a few weeks back. I’ll hand out a bunch of “The Head Cheese” t-shirts (which you can also buy on this site!!).