Happy November everybody! The first two months of the NFL season flown by, and yet it's amazing to think of how much has gone down for the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick blew up against the Green Bay Packers, the team bottomed out against the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, Aldon went into rehab, players got hurt, players got healthy. It's been a season's worth of craziness and we're only eight games into the season.
The conveniently placed halfway point bye week makes it easy to consider the various awards and whatnot at the halfway points. Over at SBNation.com, we have compiled blogger votes for the various hypothetical midseason awards:
Offensive MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Defensive MVP: Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Rookie of the Year: Kiko Alonso, MLB, Buffalo Bills
Super Bowl winner: Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks (tie)
We all predicted our Super Bowl teams and winners, and yes, the Broncos and Seahawks finished in a tie. My vote was San Francisco 49ers vs. Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl. There was obviously a certain amount of homer-ism in one of those teams. The Colts is going out on a limb following the loss of wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The key to the Colts, or anybody that isn't the Broncos is the Broncos losing the division to the Chiefs. The Broncos are beat-able, but if they have home field through the AFC side of things, it's going to be tough to beat them.
One query I have on Coach of the Year: If the Chiefs finish 13-3, and the Oakland Raiders finish 8-8 or 9-7, doesn't Dennis Allen deserve some consideration in the coach of the year balloting? I'm pretty sure Andy Reid will win the award in a landslide, but given that the Raiders are playing with a huge chunk of dead money on their cap, and given the talent suck that has been Oakland, Dennis Allen is doing a heck of a job.
In looking at the midseason categories, I wanted to take a look at the 49ers version of each award. Most are obvious, but it's still an interesting discussion.
Offensive MVP: Frank Gore, RB
You could make an argument for the offensive line, but I want to give this to a single person, given the P in MVP. Gore has been the engine of this offense during the five-game winning streak, and will be a key cog in their postseason aspirations. The passing game can make plays, and will improve with the return of Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, but this team remains built around the run.
Second place on offense would belong to Vernon Davis. He and Colin Kaepernick have quickly made the preseason chemistry discussion look particularly silly. Davis is having a career year out of the gates, and there is no reason to see it stopping. I'm convinced Gore was the most important part of the offense through eight games, but there is an argument for Davis.
Defensive MVP: NaVorro Bowman, LB
The 49ers inside linebacker had already removed himself from Patrick Willis' shadow, but his performance as Willis recovered from his hand and groin injuries has been top notch. Bowman is off to the best start of his career not because of pure statistical reasons, but because we're seeing his game become more well-rounded. The 49ers have worked him in a bit more as a pass rushing linebacker in part to make up for the loss of Aldon Smith, and he has had great success. He'll continue to put up great statistics, but his game continues to improve outside of that.
Rookie of the Year: Eric Reid, FS
This is not at all surprising, but it is still worth noting. Reid has stepped in and replaced Dashon Goldson quite capably. We all had reasonably high expectations for Reid, and I have to think he's exceeded all of our expectations. While he does miss tackles on occasion, and is still learning many of the nuances of being an NFL free safety, you could make the argument he has been better than Dashon Goldson. More importantly, he is not making the stupid penalties that Goldson made with regularity in SF, and is continuing to make in Tampa Bay. This draft pick has been A++.
Coach of the Year: Brad Seely, Special Teams
Noting the work of many assistant coaches can be difficult to do, given the importance of the players brought in by the front office. The 49ers made a concerted effort to improve the group they had on special teams, bringing in guys like Dan Skuta, Craig Dahl and Raymond Ventrone, among others. The unit of many new faces has come together quite nicely, and the coverage units are having a great year. Phil Dawson is not exactly knocking our socks off in the kicking game, but the coverage units have been huge thus far.
Super Bowl Predictions
There is still a ton of football left to be played, so Super Bowl predictions are kind of foolish at this point. That being said, this 49ers team does have the potential to make it to the mountain top. There is a lot of work to be done to work the new and returning guys into the lineup. It's not as simple as plug and play, although Michael Crabtree probably counts as an exception to that. But even then, if Crabtree is able to make an impact that final month, the offense will need to make adjustments given the reliance on the run game.
The second half of the 49ers schedule provides an opportunity to climb past Seattle into first place in the division. It won't be easy, particularly with that road game in New Orleans, but given how the season started, the 49ers are in a pretty solid position.
The talk at this point is whether they can in fact move past Seattle to claim home field in the playoffs. The 49ers have proven they can win on the road, and I don't think it's impossible to win in Seattle. It's not an easy task by any stretch as the Seahawks appear to have the best home field advantage in football. But they are beat-able. I'd prefer not having to find out if the 49ers can do that, but if they are forced into that situation, I do think it's possible.
However it plays out, it should make for a fun second half of the NFL season.
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