PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 07: Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts in action against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 7 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NFL Midseason Awards: Peyton Manning, Todd Haley Earn Make-Believe Hardware

We're at the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season. So, let's take a look back at the first half and hand out some virtual hardware, shall we?

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2010 NFL's Most Surprising Player: Texans RB Arian Foster

Arian Foster was not even supposed to be the Houston Texans' starting running back. Despite a strong finish to the 2009 season, in which Foster carried 39 times for 216 yards and three touchdowns in Houston's final two games (both victories), the Texans appeared to be committed to Steve Slaton and 2010 NFL Draft pick Ben Tate atop the team's running back depth chart.

Slaton continued to disappoint and Tate went down with a season-ending injury, and a little over two months later, Foster is the NFL's leading rusher half-way through the 2010 regular season.

Through eight games this season, Foster has been the engine of a very potent Texans offense, carrying the ball 157 times for 864 yards and nine touchdowns in those contests. The 6'1", 227-pound Foster - an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee just a year ago - has also proven himself a dual threat offensively, hauling in 32 passes (second on the Texans) for 315 yards (also second) and another score.

As Yahoo!'s Jason Cole points out, the NFL is positively brimming with surprising players thus far this season. Very few can claim to do half of what Foster has accomplished, and the second-year pro should be in for a lot more work as the 4-4 Texans push for their first-ever playoff appearance.


Bengals WR Terrell Owens Is Midseason NFL Comeback Player Of The Year

When Terrell Owens signed with the Buffalo Bills on March 7, 2009, most people believed that he'd officially reached the twilight of his NFL playing days. Voluntarily signing with the Bills, not-so-proud owners of the NFL's longest streak without a playoff appearance, appeared to be the swan song to his illustrious, Hall of Fame-worthy career. So when Owens signed with the Cincinnati Bengals a little over a year later, it was not met with the same level of buzz that T.O. was accustomed to.

In just eight games, a lot has changed. Owens has proven in his half-year with Cincinnati that he remains one of the NFL's most dynamic playmakers at age 37 (which he'll be on December 7).

Owens made plays in Buffalo; his 55 receptions, 829 yards and five touchdowns were well below his yearly average, and the level of obscurity surrounding his play was at an all-time high, but let's be honest: T.O. played pretty well in Buffalo. No one realized that T.O. had this in him, though.

T.O. has already caught 55 passes this season, exactly the total he had in Buffalo in half the playing time. He currently ranks third in the NFL with 770 receiving yards, tied for third with seven receiving touchdowns, and nearly single-handedly beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football in Week 9.

It's a shame that the Bengals are floundering at 2-6, a year after winning the AFC North. It's obscuring one undeniable fact: T.O. is back in a big way, and is still very much one of the NFL's best wide receivers.


Ravens vs. Bills Week 7 Tilt Is Best Game Of 2010 To Date

In a 2010 NFL season full of good, but not great, teams, we've nonetheless seen plenty of down-to-the-wire contests between playoff contenders with lots of talent. The best game of 2010 to date, however, featured the only NFL team that remains winless.

The Buffalo Bills - 0-5 heading into this contest, now 0-8 overall - traveled to Baltimore to take on a then 4-2 (now 6-2) Ravens team most consider to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Needless to say, the Ravens were overwhelming favorites playing on their home field.

Yet early in the second quarter, there the Bills were, sporting a 17-3 lead over the mighty Ravens on the heels of two Ryan Fitzpatrick - yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick - touchdown passes. When the Ravens responded to cut the lead to 17-10, Fitzpatrick lit them up again, hitting Lee Evans for a touchdown to increase Buffalo's lead to 24-10.

Clearly, winless football teams will be winless football teams no matter how well they're playing, so it sort of goes without saying that the Ravens stormed back. Fueled by three Bills turnovers (including two Ed Reed interceptions), the Ravens scored 24 straight points - a stretch that included a flea-flicker score from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin - to completely turn the tide of the game and open up a 34-24 lead.

But the plucky Bills weren't done. Fitzpatrick found Evans for his fourth touchdown of the day (Evans' third), and Rian Lindell booted a 50-yard field goal with four seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime. Buffalo outscored Baltimore 10-0 in the fourth quarter to get it done.

Alas, Ray Lewis ended Buffalo's dreams of pulling a monumental upset when he stripped tight end Shawn Nelson of the football in overtime, setting Flacco and the Ravens up deep in Bills territory. Billy Cundiff knocked in a 38-yard field goal to wrap up a thrilling 37-34 overtime victory in what was the single best game of the season thus far.


Kansas City Chiefs' Todd Haley Is Midseason NFL Coach Of The Year

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley took a squad that last year ranked 23rd in offense and 29th in defense and turned them into a team that now ranks 12th in offense and 8th in defense. The Chiefs had won just 10 games the last three years before jumping out to a 3-0 start in 2010. The Chiefs stand atop the AFC West at the halfway point with a 5-3 record. That's earned Todd Haley our midseason NFL coach of the year.

The turnaround job Haley has done is impressive. The defense was among the worst at stopping the run last year and now they're a top 10 unit. The defense hasn't changed much from last year which is a nod to the coaching staff's work.

Perhaps his best move of the year has been hiring Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as coordinators prior to the season. The two of them, particularly Crennel, have brought a different aura around the Chiefs this year as their confidence level risen and, most importantly, their production increased.

Other candidates includes the Bucs' Raheem Morris, who has taken taken the Bucs from 3-13 in 2009 to 5-3 in 2010, and as it seems every year, Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and Bill Belichick (Patriots), are doing a great job with their teams.

Haley's done the most with the talent he was given. I think the Chiefs probably overachieved a little bit in the first half of the season so we'll see if they keep it up but Haley has done an excellent job in the Chiefs turnaround.


Peyton Manning Is NFL MVP Halfway Through 2010 Season

It's boring and a predictable but who else could this award go to? Peyton Manning could win the MVP every year so it makes sense that he gets SB Nation's midseason MVP award. This one, in particular, is even more impressive because of what he's been missing.

One of his favorite targets, All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark, is out for the year. Pierre Garcon has been in and out with injuries, as ha running back Joseph Addai. Receiver Austin Collie has been beat up this year while Anthony Gonzalez hasn't been available much of the year. A guy named Blair White was catching passes for him last week.

The Colts have had a ridiculous run of injuries this year but, believe it or not, Manning's numbers are still among the elite. He's on pace for nearly 5,000 yards passing and completes, as usual, a very high percentage of his passes. Last year, as an All-Pro, Manning had 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This year he's on pace for 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. With less to work with, he's making less mistakes.

It's almost unfair that he wins awards like this because, frankly, no one really comes close in terms of value to their team. I think Tom Brady is a great player but he's not as valuable to the Pats as Manning is to the Colts (and Matt Cassel agrees). Philip Rivers is having a Manning-esque year but his team is under .500. Texans RB Arian Foster leads the league in rushing and Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd leads the league in receiving and they were considerations but their teams have combined for six wins.

The Colts are 5-3 and setting themselves up for another division title (although things are more competitive this year). They've won at least 12 games in each of the last seven seasons and won less than 10 games just once since '99. Nearly all of that is due to Manning and this may be one of his most impressive performances yet. This year he's had pieces missing seemingly on a weekly basis yet his numbers continue to blossom. He had a 11:1 touchdown to interception ratio through the first four games and continues to stack good performances on top of each other.

Manning gets our MVP for the first half of the season. If he continues at the pace he's at now, he could be getting the MVP award at the end of the year.

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