|Tom Brady and the Patriots appear poised for another deep playoff run. (US Presswire)|
The New England Patriots struggled at times early in the season, and though they haven't dominated in a fashion that appeases their harsher critics, it appears that the ship is back on course and headed for another playoff run. Here are our midseason awards along with a projection of where we think the Pats will wind up at the end of the season:
Offensive MVP: QB Tom Brady: For all the talk about Brady's inability to close out games this year, he's still on pace to pass for 4,816 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Defensive MVP: DE Rob Ninkovich: In his first season at defensive end after serving as a linebacker the last three years, Ninkovich forced fumbles late against Denver and the Jets that sealed a pair of victories.
Rookie MVP: DE Chandler Jones: The first-round pick was supposed to be a project who needed a season to incubate. Instead, he's already accumulated six sacks and there's a strong argument to be made about him being New England's best player on defense.
Top assistant coach: Dante Scarnecchia: New England's leaky offensive line was a huge cause for concern during the preseason, but the group has done a good job of keeping Brady clean throughout the first half. Remember when everyone was panicked about Brian Waters ' absence? When was the last time you heard his name? That's a huge credit to Scarnecchia's ability to pull this group together.
Biggest disappointment: WR Brandon Lloyd: Calling him a disappointment may be a bit of a stretch. However, his chemistry with Brady has been slow to develop and he's dropped six passes out of 43 catchable balls, according to ProFootballFocus.com. His drop rate of 13.95 percent is the third-highest mark in the NFL.
Biggest strength: It's always going to be the offense in New England. And the scary part is it should only get better once TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle) gets fully healthy.
Biggest weakness: The secondary remains a huge cause for concern as the Patriots continue to surrender deep passes at an alarming rate.
Projected final record: 12-4
Playoffs? Yep. They should be in the mix for the AFC title.
One fact you may not know but should know: Brady has lost 280 yards on dropped passes, second most in the league behind Detroit's Matthew Stafford (315), according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Want to know who CBSSports.com says the MVP is? Check out our Midseason Awards.