The Designed Rush, Week 10: Time for Meaningless Midseason Awards!

Save the Texans and the Giants, every team in the NFL has reached the midpoint of their schedule, so now seems an acceptable to time to look back on the first half of the 2009 NFL season and dole out a few meaningless awards. Let's go!
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↵MVP - (tie) Peyton Manning/Drew Brees ↵

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↵Flip a coin. Maybe one team falls off some in the second half of the year, and then you can give it to the other guy. At this point, it would take a lot of splitting of hairs to make a definitive choice. ↵

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↵Defensive Player of the Year - Troy Polamalu ↵

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↵Jared Allen and Darelle Revis make very strong cases as well, but the stark difference between a Steelers defense with and without Polamalu will sway voters, much like it did with a banged up and healthy Peyton Manning last year for the MVP. Troy does more for the D than his shampoo does for his scalp and hair. Should he maintain the production he's had in brief work this season - three interceptions in the three and a half games played - and Troy should take this award. ↵

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↵Offensive Rookie of the Year - Percy Harvin ↵

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↵A few weeks ago, Mark Sanchez looked to have this all but secured, but a few turnover laden games have swung favor back to the multi-dimensional receiver and returner from Florida. The Bears' Johnny Knox, the Steelers' Mike Wallace and the Broncos' Knowshon Moreno are also deserving of attention, but just haven't proved to be the game-changing player that Harvin has so far. ↵

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↵Defensive Rookie of the Year - Jairus Byrd ↵

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↵Really no contest here. Seven interceptions through eight games. One of the few bright spots for an otherwise drab Buffalo team. ↵

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↵Most Improved Player - Cedric Benson ↵

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↵Miles Austin definitely gives Benson a run here, and Vernon Davis has made some noise with his play for the first time in his career, but Benson has gone through an otherworldly transformation. Some Bengals fans worry that his hard-charging style might wear him down as the season progresses, but as it stands now, there's little choice but to give him the nod. ↵

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↵Biggest Falloff - Matt Forte ↵

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↵This guy was the Bears offense in 2008. Now he can't get anything going unless he's playing a garbage defense. And when he is turning in some decent runs, as when he averaged more than six yards this past week against the Cardinals underrated run defense, the team is too far behind to stick with the rush. Kerry Collins and Steve Slaton narrowly escape shame in this category. ↵

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↵Most Criminally Underused Player - Ray Rice ↵

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↵The guy is a monster and the Ravens have only had one game where he's gotten more than 20 carries. Baltimore got a little too infatuated with its newfound ability to air it out and thus found a way to go away from their strength in the first half of the season. A big reason why they're sitting at 4-4 right now. ↵

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↵Most Costly Injury - Jamal Williams ↵

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↵The Bears miss Brian Urlacher, but the Chargers run defense is ghastly without Williams. The passing game makes San Diego a threat in any given game if they're clicking, but they're not built for playoff success when they can be worn down so easily. ↵

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↵Owner Most Likely to Be Dragged Through the Streets by His Fanbase - Dan Snyder ↵

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↵But only if the Browns don't beat 'Skins fans to the punch. ↵

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↵Five Games to Watch Even if You Have No Rooting Interest or Fantasy Players Involved ↵

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↵New England at Indianapolis (8:20 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵SWEEPS WEEK! Complain if you will about how absurdly hyped the Pats-Colts contest is any given year, it typically manages to deliver the goods. The 2006 AFC Championship was an all-time classic. The 2007 game trafficked in high drama, much as this one does, with an undefeated team going against their strong-playing rival. Even with Tom Brady out last year, the game morphed into a defensive standoff, as the Colts grinded out an 18-15 win. Whereas the Patriots had controlled the rivalry through most of the decade - winning seven straight from the onset of the Brady era in 2001 through a victory in the divisional round of the 2004 playoffs, the Colts have taken four of the last five, the only exception being the loss to the unbeaten Patriots in 2007 in Indy. ↵

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↵Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (1 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵The Bengals polished off the Ravens at home on Sunday and look to complete sweeps of the both AFC North standard bearers. Not only is control of the division on the line, but the no. 2 seed in the AFC. The Steelers largely outplayed the Bengals in the first meeting in Week 3 in Cincinnati, but did themselves in with a few costly mistakes: Limas Sweed dropped a wide open touchdown grab and a missed hot route read by Santonio Holmes resulted in a pick-six that kept Cincy in the game. An amazing fourth-down conversion by Brian Leonard later helped key the upset. Since then, the Steelers have gotten Troy Polamalu back and have Rashard Mendenhall to thank for a rejuvenated run game. While the loss of Chris Henry is damaging, Andre Caldwell has emerged as a reliable third option for Carson Palmer. Though if the Bengals can replicate the type of play they had in the first half of the game against the Ravens, they may not need as many breaks to come out on top. ↵

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↵Philadelphia at San Diego (4:15 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵With a memorable last second-comeback in the Meadowlands and the Broncos getting trounced on Monday night, San Diego finds itself only a game back in a division where they were being largely written off weeks earlier. For sustained success, however, they're going to have to get some sort of viable running game going. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has to continue to win despite Andy Reid's general bumbling as a head coach. ↵

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↵Dallas at Green Bay (4:15 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵How many times will DeMarcus Ware get free shots at Aaron Rodgers in this game? The Pack would be better off trying to pass out of punting formation for how quickly their line allows rushers to get into their backfield. ↵

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↵Jacksonville at New York Jets (1 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵We're skimming the bottom of the barrel a little this week. It was either this one or the Bears and 49ers meeting in the first Thursday night game since Week 1. I chose this one because I think there's a better chance of the Jags or the Jets being a factor in the AFC than either San Francisco or Chicago can be in theirs. Also, Jack Del Rio vs. Rex Ryan presents a fine contrast in how arrogance can either skew repugnant or likable. ↵

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↵NFL Player/Figure Tweet of the Week ↵

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↵"..you guys need to stop gettin ur football info from newspaper..leading you astray" - Greg Olsen, Nov. 3 ↵

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↵Preach it, blog-friendly tight end! Actually, I think Olsen was being roundly dismissive of the idea of media types in general having any sort of useful knowledge about the sport, but I'll gladly spin his message to meet my needs. ↵

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↵Truth About Advertising ↵

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↵In case you didn't notice, there were jewelry ads being forcefully beamed into your sets during football games on Sunday. Then, as if to dispel all doubt that it was a mere warning shot, there they were again during Monday night's game. You may have chosen to ignore them, or tried to convince yourself that the great tide of treacle is not already upon us. But no, there's no looking back now. We're hurtling headlong into the agonizingly mawkish wasteland, folks, and they'll be no solace until after the New Year. Every kiss will begin with Kay. Every hapless wall-eyed dingbat will be chided for not going to Jared (not just any jeweler, but the galleria of jewelers). According to these ads, women are bloodthirsty materialistic shrews overly fixated on their diamond ring, while men are the bumbling providers of such finery, or else they're losers. Doesn't it make you want to fall in love all over again? ↵

↵Dispatch from Madden Nation ↵

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↵Because Madden sales are apparently an important economic indicator, analysts painstakingly track the title's numbers on a month-to-month basis as though it were the national unemployment figures or the Dow. When it was reported that sales for Madden NFL 10 were 19 percent lower in August than those of Madden NFL 09 the previous year, that was a great wringing of gamer hands, which are typically quite strong from overuse. Now comes the news that sales of the game were five percent higher this year compared to last year's figures. That's 3.9 million units moved as of Sept. 30. Good news, everyone. Recession over! Go back to taking out subprime mortgages! ↵

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↵A Delicious Bundle of Gripes ↵

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↵-- I appreciate crowd shots, ESPN, I really do. At the same time, if your cameras spot someone in the stands who looks like they're suffering from a cross between lupus and leprosy with a side of zombieism, you don't need to share that with your viewers. HD should only be used for good. ↵ ↵

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↵-- The Saints have been living a little too high on the hog of late - so let's bring them down a peg with the impromptu Kardashian jersey. ↵

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↵-- Speaking of guys with comical name changes, Stylez G. White contributed 1.5 sacks in the Bucs opprobrium thwarting victory over Green Bay, giving him three in as many games. Hard up as they are to generate excitement, the Bucs could probably move some merch if they bucked protocol and put his first name on the back of his jersey. Or maybe just sell creamsicle versions of this shirt. ↵

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↵-- Jets kicker Jay Feely is ranting about Jesus and the supposedly rampant anti-Christian bias in mainstream culture on Twitter following his announcement that he'd boycott Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic for removing "Christmas" from its holiday advertising push. Looks like someone wants to wrest away the title of Most Frighteningly Religious Kicker from Jason Elam. Probably needs to write a couple books about Muslim jihad first, though. ↵

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↵-- Lawrence Taylor was arrested while LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 22 yards on 12 carries. Not a great week to be an LT. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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