2012 NFL Midseason Awards: Matt Ryan, J.J. Watt earn MVP honors

CBSSports.com staff
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It's been an interesting first half of the season. We've seen the returns of Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning (now with 2 million pizzas!). We've seen the Patriots ruin Pete Prisco's 16-0 projection in, uh, Week 2. We've seen the Saints struggle coming off their tumultuous offseason. We've seen a second-straight crop of rookie quarterbacks take the league by storm. And there was something about the refs.

With so much ground to cover we asked our NFL team of 41 insiders, experts and correspondents to answer a few questions about the first half of the season. Some of their answers are below, including voting percentages from our entire NFL team, and we have team-by-team first-half awards available as well. Just click on the team names in the box on the right-hand side of the story.

Disagree with our commentary? Share your thoughts on the message board below. And thanks for being a part of our first-half coverage. Oh, and don't forget that CBS and CBSSports.com are your home for Super Bowl XLVII. -- Eric Kay, assistant managing editor.

FIRST-HALF AWARDS

1. First-half offensive MVP

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
•  Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: 44%
•  Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos: 28%
•  Eli Manning, QB, Giants: 8%
• Others receiving votes (20%): Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers

Pete Prisco: Falcons QB Matt Ryan -- His team is perfect and he's putting up big numbers.
Clark Judge: Peyton Manning, with Matt Ryan a close second. Manning isn't surrounded by the cast that Ryan has in Atlanta, yet he's the top-rated quarterback in the business and has the Broncos on target to defend their AFC West title.
Mike Freeman: Matt Ryan. Playing out of his mind and quarterback for NFL's only unbeaten team.
Jason La Canfora: Have to stick with Matt Ryan. Best player on the only undefeated team, playing as well on the road as at home, master of fourth-quarter heroics.
Pat Kirwan: Matt Ryan, Atlanta. He is the quarterback of the only undefeated team and he has played extremely well with 17 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions.
Will Brinson: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons -- Peyton Manning's nipping at his heels and has been en fuego except for one quarter ... against the Falcons. Which is a game he lost and a game Ryan won. Ryan's taking the step into elite and he's the quiet NFL king of fourth-quarter comebacks.
Josh Katzowitz: Peyton Manning. Maybe he should have won it last year when he wasn't playing. But his turnaround from multiple neck surgeries has been fantastic.
Ryan Wilson: Eli Manning. Matt Ryan might have a better record and Tom Brady might have more passing yards, but Manning -- not the defense -- is the reason the Giants are 6-2 and 2.5 games up in their division.
Kevin Corke: Aaron Rodgers. Ryan's an easy pick, but Rodgers has numbers (1st in TD passes), excellent efficiency and his completion percentage is high (plus he's battle tested).

Team-By-Team NFL Midseason Awards
Team-By-Team NFL Midseason Awards
Team-By-Team NFL Midseason Awards
Buffalo Bills  Bills 
Dallas Cowboys  Cowboys 
Miami Dolphins  Dolphins 
New York Giants  Giants 
New England Patriots  Patriots 
Philadelphia Eagles  Eagles 
New York Jets  Jets 
Washington Redskins  Redskins 
Team-By-Team NFL Midseason Awards
Baltimore Ravens  Ravens 
Chicago Bears  Bears 
Cincinnati Bengals  Bengals 
Detroit Lions  Lions 
Cleveland Browns  Browns 
Green Bay Packers  Packers 
Pittsburgh Steelers  Steelers 
Minnesota Vikings  Vikings 
Team-By-Team NFL Midseason Awards
Houston Texans  Texans 
Atlanta Falcons  Falcons 
Indianapolis Colts  Colts 
Carolina Panthers  Panthers 
Jacksonville Jaguars  Jaguars 
New Orleans Saints  Saints 
Tennessee Titans  Titans 
Team-By-Team NFL Midseason Awards
Denver Broncos  Broncos 
Arizona Cardinals  Cardinals 
Kansas City Chiefs  Chiefs 
St. Louis Rams  Rams 
Oakland Raiders  Raiders 
San Francisco 49ers  49ers 
San Diego Chargers  Chargers 
Seattle Seahawks  Seahawks 

2. First-half defensive MVP

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
• J.J. Watt, DE, Texans: 81%
•  Charles Tillman, CB, Bears: 11%
• Others receiving votes (8%): Daryl Washington, Clay Matthews, Lance Briggs.

Pete Prisco: Texans DE J.J. Watt. He is a one-man wrecking crew at times.
Clark Judge: Chicago defensive back Charles Tillman. It's a close call with Houston's J.J. Watt, but Tillman's four forced fumbles vs. Tennessee convinced me. He already has seven forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions -- both for touchdowns.
Mike Freeman: J.J. Watt. I think he just batted down another pass.
Jason La Canfora: J.J. Watt. Not slowing down even without Brian Cushing, disruptive force around and behind the line of scrimmage. Much more than just a high motor guy.
Pat Kirwan: Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears. Briggs has always been in the shadow of Brian Urlacher but he is having one of his finest seasons and is leading the Bears run and pass defense.
Will Brinson: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans -- His name's cooled the last two weeks because a blowout of the Ravens and the Texans bye week, but Watt's still having a huge season.
Josh Katzowitz: J.J. Watt. Nobody has figured out how to stop him. He might be the single-most important player on the Texans squad.
Ryan Wilson: J.J. Watt. The man has 10.5 sacks, countless quarterback hurries, and his success rate for batting down balls at the line of scrimmage is better than Mark Sanchez's completion percentage.
Kevin Corke: J.J. Watt. Nine and a half sacks and he's probably the best all- around football player on his team by a long shot, and that's saying something.

3. Most disappointing player

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
•  Cam Newton, Panthers: 38%
•  Michael Vick, Eagles: 25%
•  Mario Williams, Bills: 17%
• Others receiving votes (20%): Nnamdi Asomugha, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh.

Pete Prisco: Bills DE Mario Williams. No bang for the buck.
Clark Judge: Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. So he has a lot of catches. He doesn't have a lot of touchdowns. In fact, he has one. The Madden Curse lives.
Mike Freeman: Mario Williams. Ralph Ellison wrote a book about him.
Jason La Canfora: Nnamdi Asomugha -- Total bust with the Eagles, torched twice more by Atlanta, non factor in tackling department, biting on double moves, still looks lost in Philly (Mike Wallace would get some votes here as well.)
Pat Kirwan: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles. Vick can't protect the ball and is taking too many sacks at critical times. He is on the verge of being benched for his play.
Will Brinson: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers -- His stats aren't even that far off from last year, but he's not taking the step everyone expected. His press conferences are full of surliness and bad sweaters. The Panthers have two wins.
Josh Katzowitz: Nnamdi Asomugha. Remember when he was considered almost as good as Darrelle Revis. He gets worse every year, and at this point, he's a liability.
Ryan Wilson: Nnamdi Asomugha has been pretty awful. The Eagles paid him $60 million before the 2011 season and he's gone from shutdown corner to liability.
Kevin Corke: Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the most disappointing (hello, they pay you to be a dominant player) but my vote still goes to Ndamukong Suh. If he played on the field like he gets into trouble off of it he'd triple his sack total.

4. Most surprising player

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
•  Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: 35%
•  Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos: 13%
•  Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins: 10%
•  Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: 10%
• Others receiving votes (32%): Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Chandler Jones, Doug Martin, Tim Jennings, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Adrian Peterson.

Pete Prisco: Bears CB Tim Jennings. He leads the NFL with six picks and has played at a high level.
Clark Judge: Manning. I never, ever, ever thought he'd be this good -- not after four neck surgeries and a year-and-a-half away from the game. And you know something? I bet Jim Irsay didn't think so, either.
Mike Freeman: RG3. Knew he'd be good. Just not this good, this bad.
Jason La Canfora: Cam Newton -- Thought that his career arc would keep ascending. Can't get vertical game going and hasn't been the same threat on the ground. Panthers problems run deep.
Pat Kirwan: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins. Morris was a sixth-round pick last spring and is running like a young Terrell Davis in the Shanahan offense. Morris is on his way to a 1,400 yard rushing season and 10 touchdowns.
Will Brinson: Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns -- He's shown consistent improvement from the preseason and looks substantially better than anyone could have imagined. The Browns aren't winning a ton of games, but they've been competitive.
Josh Katzowitz: Adrian Peterson. He shouldn't be this good so quickly after suffering such a major injury 10 months ago.
Ryan Wilson: Reggie Wayne. He wasn't expected back in Indy and all he's done is lead the league in receiving yards (757) on a surprising 4-3 Colts squad.
Kevin Corke: Peyton Manning. Hands down. Surgery, a year off -- call it a year fresher! 20 TDs and 2,400 passing yards? Puhleese!

5. Best rookie

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
•  Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: 62%
•  Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: 23%
• Others receiving votes (15%): Doug Martin, Alfred Morris.

Pete Prisco: Andrew Luck: This kid plays like a veteran and will be a star for a long, long time.
Clark Judge: Andrew Luck: There's a reason he was the first pick in the draft. He's the best QB prospect since ... well, since the Colts chose Peyton Manning in 1998
Mike Freeman: Andrew Luck: I wanted to go RG3. Can't. Thought about Ryan Tannehill. Won't. Luck is just too...awesome.
Jason La Canfora: RG3 -- Can't take your eyes off him. Already one of the most exciting players in the game. Even when opponents do get to him you're watching to see if he gets up.
Pat Kirwan: RG3, Washington. Robert Griffin was struggling during camp this summer but exploded when the regular season started. He doesn't throw interceptions, sees the whole field and probably will run for 1,000 yards.
Will Brinson: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts -- Too obvious? Not really -- everyone will tell you Griffin's been better. Advanced stats [/ducks] tell a different story, and Luck, somehow, isn't really getting his full due. He's been spectacular.
Josh Katzowitz: Alfred Morris. Maybe running backs can be discarded rather quickly, but Morris has almost been as important to his team as Robert Griffin III.
Ryan Wilson: Andrew Luck. The Colts are 5-3 and a lot of that has to do with Luck playing like a grizzled veteran. If this was the rebuilding year, what happens in 2013 and beyond? It could be scary.
Kevin Corke: RG3 may struggle here and there but if you think about what he could blossom into, it is actually frightening. He could be that guy. Also, keep an eye on Ryan Tannehill. Huge upside.

6. Best coach

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
•  Mike Smith, Falcons: 31%
• Joe Philbin, Dolphins: 19%
• Jim Harbaugh, 49ers: 17%
• Lovie Smith, Bears: 11%
• Bill Belichick, Patriots: 8%
• Others receiving votes (14%): Leslie Frazier, Gary Kubiak, Bruce Arians, Tom Coughlin, Sean Payton.

Pete Prisco: Joe Philbin. What he's done with the Dolphins is truly impressive.
Clark Judge: Indianapolis' Bruce Arians. The Colts are 4-1 since he took over, beating Green Bay in his debut after rallying from a 21-3 deficit. Now they're talking playoffs in Indianapolis. Somebody cue Jim Mora. Playoffs? Playoffs? We don't make 'em up, folks.
Mike Freeman: Mike Smith. Leads the only undefeated team in the sport.
Jason La Canfora: I'll go Tom Coughlin; no letdown in the Super Bowl champs. They have overcome some injuries and a fairly tough schedule to be right back in the thick of it again.
Pat Kirwan: At this point in the season Mike Smith is leading the way with John Fox and Lovie Smith in hot pursuit.
Will Brinson: Joe Philbin, Dolphins -- Miami, a team many predicted to make a run for the No. 1 overall pick, is 4-3 (and could be better!) despite trading away their top receiver and top cornerback, starting a rookie quarterback and embarrassing themselves on national TV in the preseason.
Josh Katzowitz: Joe Philbin. With him in charge, Miami is actually in playoff contention, Ryan Tannehill has played well in his rookie season and Philbin has pushed general manager Jeff Ireland off the hot seat for now. That's not bad for one half of a season.
Ryan Wilson: Sean Payton. Look at the state of the Saints in his absence.
Kevin Corke: Atlanta's Mike Smith. Gary Kubiak and Sean Payton get honorable mentions.

7. Best moment of the first half

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
•  Peyton Manning's return: 33%
• Colts upset Packers: 22%
• Packers-Seahawks Hail Mary dual catch: 22%
• Others receiving votes (22%): Chuck Pagano's postgame speech to Colts, Robert Griffin III's 76-yard touchdown run.

Pete Prisco: Seeing Peyton Manning take snaps without any problems in the first game.
Clark Judge: Chuck Pagano's postgame speech to the Indianapolis Colts after they beat Miami. Listen to that and tell me you're not pulling hard for Pagano and his team.
Mike Freeman: Any Peyton Manning pass. He's coming off multiple neck surgeries. Remarkable.
Jason La Canfora: The Colts pulling a crazy comeback to beat the Packers to close out the week head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer. Pick any moment from the fourth quarter or ensuing celebration.
Pat Kirwan: Peyton Manning's opening day win over the Steelers. Manning served notice that he was still an elite QB and it has only gotten better since that game.
Will Brinson: Robert Griffin III's 76-yard touchdown run -- There are plenty of other finalists, but RG3 turning on his afterburners after gliding through a sea of Vikings defenders was marvelous.
Josh Katzowitz: The Hail Mary/dual possession catch at the end of the Packers/Seahawks game. It brought the end of the replacement refs sham and provided weeks of hilarious fodder.
Ryan Wilson: The Colts win over the Packers days after coach Chuck Pagano had been hospitalized with leukemia.
Kevin Corke: Seahawks/Packers fiasco. Effectively ends the madness. Way to oversleep, Commissioner Goodell.

8. Worst or ugliest moment of the first half

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
• Packers-Seahawks ending: 64%
• Chuck Pagano diagnosed with leukemia: 8%
• Buccaneers jump the snap on Giants' kneeldown: 6%
• Others receiving votes (22%): Replacement refs, Kansas City Chiefs' downward spiral, Chargers blow 24-point lead vs. Broncos, Ray Lewis' season-ending injury, DeAngelo Hall's encounter with an official, Thursday night games.

Pete Prisco: Hearing the Colts coach Chuck Pagano was in a fight with leukemia.
Clark Judge: The disaster that was the final play of the Seattle-Green Bay game. Replacement officials blew two calls and gave the game to the wrong team. Of course, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and this one was no different: It took that play to hasten the end of a lockout.
Mike Freeman: Anything involving the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jason La Canfora: Replacement ref fiasco with the Monday night game in Seattle. In the end it was a good thing, ending that debacle lockout, but what a sideshow, from the blown calls on that final drive to the bizarre press releases that followed.
Pat Kirwan: DeAngelo Hall's encounter with an official in Week 8 and him not realizing he was wrong.
Will Brinson: Buccaneers jumping the snap on the Giants kneeldown -- Bush-league move by Greg Schiano, period. If he doesn't want the attention, stop doing low-rent college tricks at the NFL level.
Josh Katzowitz: The Hail Mary/dual possession catch at the end of the Packers/Seahawks game. When was the last time the NFL was as embarrassed as this?
Ryan Wilson: The Chiefs. All eight weeks of the Chiefs.
Kevin Corke: Most Thursday Night games. Really, we need to re-think this.

9. Toughest division

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
• NFC North: 100%
• Others receiving votes: None.

Pete Prisco: NFC North. Packers, Bears and Vikings are playing well, and the Lions have potential.
Clark Judge: NFC North. There are two slam-dunks for the playoffs there, plus two others that are tough outs for everyone.
Mike Freeman: NFC North. Only division in football where any team could win it.
Jason La Canfora: NFC North -- Has by far the best scoring differential of any division, even with the Vikings slipping some the Lions showing signs of coming on. Not out of the question three teams factor into the playoff race.
Pat Kirwan: The NFC West had a claim on that title for the first six weeks, but the Cardinals and Rams are starting to struggle. Right now it looks like the NFC North. They already have 19 wins and 13 of them are in the conference.
Will Brinson: NFC North -- The Vikings are coming back to earth but the Lions are waking up. Chicago and Green Bay are both Super Bowl contenders. No other division has three teams with a winning record and a positive point differential.
Josh Katzowitz: NFC North. Three of the teams are at least two games over .500, while the Lions, at 3-4, still remain dangerous.
Ryan Wilson: NFC North. The NFC West was the fashionable answer as recently as three weeks ago, but the Bears are legit, the Vikes are a surprise, and the Packers and Lions are better than their records.
Kevin Corke: NFC North. Bears, Packers are tough, Vikings & Lions could be trouble for most opponents on any day.

10. Best offense

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
• Patriots: 69%
• Falcons: 11%
• Others receiving votes (20%): Packers, Texans, 49ers, Giants, Broncos.

Pete Prisco: Patriots. They're leading the league for a reason.
Clark Judge: New England because it's the most complete one out there. The Patriots can beat you with Tom Brady, Wes Welker, tight ends or the run.
Mike Freeman: The Giants. Best combination of elite quarterback, good ground game and top receivers.
Jason La Canfora: The Patriots, especially when fully healthy, have a luxury of options at running back, receiver and tight end and one of the greatest QBs of all time.
Pat Kirwan: The Atlanta Falcons can present big problems from 21 personnel (2 running backs, 1 tight end, 2 wide receivers). Ryan can threaten the whole field in one personnel and I like their situation the best.
Will Brinson: Falcons -- The Patriots and Packers might have better upside, but it's beyond impossible to shut down both Julio Jones and Roddy White. Jacquizz Rodgers might wake up, and Michael Turner has gas left in the tank and they're saving him for later in the year.
Josh Katzowitz: Patriots. Bill Belichick has taken the speed of his offense up a notch, and Wes Welker isn't being phased out after all.
Ryan Wilson: I can't believe I'm saying this but the Broncos. Nobody expected Peyton Manning to play this well but just like Tebow (!), Manning's presence aids the running game. Unlike Tebow, Manning can actually hit a moving target 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Kevin Corke: Broncos. Peyton Manning makes them lethal. They'll pretty much score 30 on anyone. Throw in a decent run game and they remind me of a lot of the old Colts, but with a better D.

11. Best defense

CBSSports.com NFL experts poll results:
• 49ers: 33%
• Texans: 33%
• Bears: 22%
• Others receiving votes (12%): Giants.

Pete Prisco: The 49ers. They are so fast.
Clark Judge: San Francisco. It's tough, physical and relentless. Plus, it's anchored by two of the best inside linebackers anywhere.
Mike Freeman: This is close but the Giants because of the best pass rush in football.
Jason La Canfora: San Francisco's front seven is dominant again and the secondary is not too shabby either. They slipped some against the Giants but I'll take their physicality in a slight edge over Seattle and Houston.
Pat Kirwan: It's a toss-up for me between the 49ers and Bears. I'll take the Bears for the first half of the season.
Will Brinson: Bears -- Lowest points allowed (100) in the NFL, most points scored by the defense and the best pair of cornerbacks in the league in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings right now.
Josh Katzowitz: Texans. Even with Brian Cushing lost for the season, Houston is so good.
Ryan Wilson: I love the Texans. J.J. Watt wreaking havoc up front and Johnathan Joseph patrolling the back end makes Wade Phillips' job much easier.
Kevin Corke: Texans. J.J. Watt is a freak. Throw in Johnathan Joseph and need I say more?

FIRST-HALF BURNING QUESTIONS

12. Team that people are writing off that will make the playoffs?

Pete Prisco: Steelers. They're getting it going.
Clark Judge: Pittsburgh. I keep reading death notices for the Steelers, but they're beginning to wake up. In fact, I'd be surprised if they don't win the AFC North.
Mike Freeman: Miami. The Vikings and Dolphins are also true sleepers.
Jason La Canfora: Colts -- They are right there for the second wild card spot, they're pretty tough at home and if they can follow up a win over the Titans with one over Miami this week, tiebreakers start looking good for them.
Pat Kirwan: No one saw the Miami Dolphins coming but here they are right in the thick of the AFC playoff picture. They play very good defense and have two quarterbacks who can lead the team to a win.
Will Brinson: Chargers -- Lots of room to sneak up on the wild card, and everyone left them for dead, even with a win over the Chiefs in Week 9.
Josh Katzowitz: Steelers. Yeah, they're getting old, and they haven't played great. But in the end, the Steelers' December toughness will get them to the postseason.
Ryan Wilson: The Steelers. I'm a homer so I have to say that, but the AFC doesn't have a lot of depth. The Pats, Ravens, Broncos and Texans are all almost certain to win their divisions, but the wild-card race is wide open.
Kevin Corke: The Chargers. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. Norv must go. But not before getting the Bolts back to the playoffs for another first round loss.

13. Assistant coach whose stock is rising

Pete Prisco: Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Funny how good he can be when he gets talent.
Clark Judge: Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. If Mike Mularkey can get hired off that playoff performance last season, Koetter's a lock to go somewhere.
Mike Freeman: Jack Del Rio. Yeah, I said it.
Jason La Canfora: I'm going with a few here -- Denver OC Mike McCoy will get a HC job, Manning as good as ever. Miami OC Mike Sherman doing stellar with Tannehill, and he nearly got HC jobs last year. This has to be the year Giants DC Perry Fewell gets his own gig.
Pat Kirwan: Kyle Shanahan is doing a nice job with the Redskin offense. RG3 and Alfred Morris are playing like veterans and he's earned the coaching profession from his father Mike.
Will Brinson: Mike McCoy, OC, Broncos -- It always helps to have Peyton Manning, but the dude's constructed some pretty good offenses with totally different parts over the past two years. Broncos are starting to roll right now.
Josh Katzowitz: Greg Roman, 49ers offensive coordinator. He's only been in the job two years, but under Roman and Jim Harbaugh, quarterback Alex Smith is playing the best football of his career.
Ryan Wilson: Chargers' assistant head coach, special teams Rich Bisaccia. Speculation is that he'll be promoted once Norv gets canned. And that's not a question of if but when.
Kevin Corke: Mike Nolan, Falcons DC. He's going to get another shot. The numbers don't lie. The guy can flat-out coach.

14. First coach to be fired

Pete Prisco: Nobody during the season. Several after.
Clark Judge: Kansas City's Romeo Crennel. That's the penalty for never, ever, ever having led a game in regulation.
Mike Freeman: Romeo Crennel. Not his fault, either. No players on that team.
Jason La Canfora: With the Panthers already firing GM Marty Hurney, Ron Rivera is on notice. The Jags may want to get a look at Mel Tucker in an interim role again under new ownership. Other candidates to be let go early abound.
Pat Kirwan: I don't believe in firing coaches during the season and will not speculate about one being fired. We all know the men who are in trouble.
Will Brinson: Ron Rivera -- Jerry Richardson is clearly antsy, and the rumors are true he wasn't a fan of Rivera to begin with.
Josh Katzowitz: Romeo Crennel. I mean, the Chiefs haven't even had a lead yet in a game.
Ryan Wilson: See above. So long, Norvell. (To be fair, this isn't entirely his fault; GM A.J. Smith not restocking the roster after losing Vincent Jackson and Darren Sproles didn't help matters.)
Kevin Corke: See ya Andy Reid. No offense, but sometimes it is just a matter of a new voice. There'll be one in Philly. Mark it down.

15. Best play or moment so far

Pete Prisco: Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas' record for consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass.
Clark Judge: Matt Ryan's 59-yard pass in the last minute vs. Carolina to set up the game-winning field goal. The Falcons were down by one, out of timeouts and bottled up at their 1. Something dramatic had to happen ... and something dramatic did.
Mike Freeman: When the real game officials returned.
Jason La Canfora: Give me RG3 dancing down the sidelines on like a 73-yard TD romp.
Pat Kirwan: The Victor Cruz 77-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to beat the Washington Redskins with 19 seconds left in the game.
Will Brinson: RG3 run. See above.
Josh Katzowitz: A diving Vick Ballard hits the pylon with his head to give the Colts an overtime victory vs. Tennessee. His flight was a thing of beauty.
Ryan Wilson: Reggie Wayne's game-winning touchdown against the Packers.
Kevin Corke: Reggie Wayne's game-winning catch vs Green Bay. Something flew into my eye. I wasn't tearing up.

16. Name all the elite QBs in the NFL

Pete Prisco: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.
Clark Judge: Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Mike Freeman: Manning(s), Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Roethlisberger. No Matt Ryan just yet.
Jason La Canfora: Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger.
Pat Kirwan: Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger.
Will Brinson: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan.
Josh Katzowitz: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees.
Ryan Wilson: Brady, Brees, Manning(s), Rodgers, Roethlisberger.
Kevin Corke: Brady, Brees, Manning(s), Rodgers, Roethlisberger.

17. Name(s) who may join them...

Pete Prisco: Nobody.
Clark Judge: Matt Ryan is the logical choice, but you have to win a playoff game to qualify. Correction, you have to win a BIG playoff game to qualify. So the answer is ... nobody.
Mike Freeman: Matt Ryan.
Jason La Canfora: Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco.
Pat Kirwan: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco.
Will Brinson: No one -- Ryan's already taken Philip Rivers' spot in my mind and Peyton's back on the list.
Josh Katzowitz: Matt Ryan. He's having the best season of his career, and leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl will allow him to move into that elite class.
Ryan Wilson: RG3 if he can lead the Redskins to the playoffs. It'll be premature, yes, but the nation was consumed with a non-throwing quarterback less than a year ago. Just saying.
Kevin Corke: Andrew Luck if he gets his team to the playoffs. I'm beyond impressed with his maturity.

Fan Poll

Which of these quarterbacks is likely to join the elite club?

Matt Ryan
59%
Joe Flacco
4%
Jay Cutler
15%
Nobody
22%

Total Votes: 2,677

18. How do you fix Cam Newton?

Pete Prisco: Stop using the read-option and let him play quarterback.
Clark Judge: Tell him to grow up. Before you become an entertainer or an icon you become a quarterback. You're supposed to be a leader. So start acting like one.
Mike Freeman: Put better players around him.
Jason La Canfora: Simplify things, more screens, re-establish the run game and let him take shots off play action, develop some veteran leadership around him.
Pat Kirwan: First, understand that the opposing defenses need some credit. Second, get the running game back in the picture, Third, never stop talking to him about leadership. Fourth, hope he doesn't break while learning.
Will Brinson: Establishing the run would help, and not being as cute on offense as Rod Chudzinski has been.
Josh Katzowitz: A body language coach?
Ryan Wilson: Brainwash him, "Manchurian Candidate"-style. It'll do wonders for his focus. Short of that, tell offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to quit trying to be cute and call plays that give Newton -- and the Panthers -- the best chance to succeed. Specifically: GIVE THE BALL TO THE THREE WELL-PAID RUNNING BACKS.
Kevin Corke: Tell him to stop thinking so much. Just have fun and play. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. But we'll have fun along the way.

19. Is Mike Vick still a viable starting QB?

Pete Prisco: Yes. But for how long?
Clark Judge: Yes, but he won't be the starter in Philadelphia next year.
Mike Freeman: Yes, but barely. Have rarely seen a great player's skills deteriorate so rapidly.
Jason La Canfora: Define viable; he is by no means the worst QB in the game. Needs more balanced play calling and protection. Might have to bite bullet and let him run first more often.
Pat Kirwan: What does viable mean? Able to win eight games, then he's viable. Take a team to the Super Bowl? Then he's not viable.
Will Brinson: Yes -- Vick needs play-calling help, offensive line help and less expectations.
Josh Katzowitz: Yes. As long as he's not turning the ball over, he's still in the top-15 in the league.
Ryan Wilson: Sure is. He's not a franchise quarterback but he's the best option available to Andy Reid. Any other year and Reid might think about going with rookie Nick Foles, but everybody's playing for their jobs in Philly. Do you really want to leave that in the hands of a 23-year-old with zero job experience?
Kevin Corke: Definitely. See above advice for Cam. Stop trying to be a player you're not. Win with both your legs and arm and let the running game lead the way.

20. What can we expect from Tebow the rest of the season?

Pete Prisco: More gimmick stuff and him being the best punt protector ever.
Clark Judge: The same as it has been: A handoff here, a block there, a push up the middle ... which makes no sense. If you trade for him, why don't you use the guy?
Mike Freeman: Only a matter of time before he starts ... and is benched.
Jason La Canfora: Continue to look good holding a clipboard and look shaky as the personal protector.
Pat Kirwan: Not much when it comes to quarterbacking the team well. He's just a fine athlete with limited QB skills and way too much popularity for what he really does on the field.
Will Brinson: Eventually the Jets are going to cave and start him. If they go 0-2 on their NFC West road trip he's got to get the nod.
Josh Katzowitz: Lots of punt protection, not many chances to throw the ball.
Ryan Wilson: He won't blow another punt protection coverage, that's for sure. Other than that, expect a few running plays a game that bring down the overall rushing average.
Kevin Corke: He'll be pressed into action by injury. He'll play like he usually does which is to say so-so... but it'll be more exciting than what we've seen from the Jets this season.

21. Which team will be drafting first in April?

Pete Prisco: Chiefs. Have you watched that team?
Clark Judge: Kansas City, and hallelujah. The Chiefs need it. Look for Matt Barkley to be on the short list.
Mike Freeman: The Chiefs. Worst team in football.
Jason La Canfora: Chiefs and Jags will take it down to the wire and give me the Chiefs.
Pat Kirwan: The Jacksonville Jaguars -- with one win and their best player injured -- are heading right for the top spot.
Will Brinson: Chiefs -- They're a full-blown dumpster fire at this point.
Josh Katzowitz: Kansas City Chiefs. I don't see a way to fix them this year, and it's time to rid themselves of general manager Scott Pioli and start over.
Ryan Wilson: The Chiefs. They still haven't led at any point this season during regulation. It's hard not to be the NFL's worst team with that hanging over your head.
Kevin Corke: The Chiefs. To quote Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons, "worst episode ever."

22. College player not named Geno you're looking forward to seeing in the NFL

Pete Prisco: LSU DE Barkevious Mingo; man, can he rush the passer.
Clark Judge: Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o. I've seen what he does for the Irish defense; I want to see him have the same impact in the pros.
Mike Freeman: Jarvis Jones. Straight up baller.
Jason La Canfora: Given all of the offseason drama, I'm most intrigued to see if anyone takes a shot on the Honey Badger.
Pat Kirwan: Matt Barkley, USC quarterback decided to stay in school this year and is getting mixed reviews as it relates to a top 5 pick. Teams need quarterbacks and some club is going to put their faith and hope in his hands. He will also start from day one just like five quarterbacks did this year.
Will Brinson: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee -- Dude is a BALLER and can change the game in different facets (receiving, returning, rushing).
Josh Katzowitz: Jarvis Jones, Georgia. He is nasty on defense, and now that he appears to be healthy again, he should contend for the Bronko Nagursky award.
Ryan Wilson: LB Jarvis Jones. The NFL has evolved into a passing league and three-down linebackers are a necessity for defenses.
Kevin Corke: Matt Barkley. I love how fast people fall in and out of love. He's legit. You'll see.

23. What's your takeaway from Bountygate?

Pete Prisco: They did it. Why else would Gregg Williams go away? Did he make it up?
Clark Judge: The Saints screwed up, got caught and were punished. OK, so the punishment was harsh. They were warned, and they didn't stop. The videotape of Gregg Williams' pre-game speech at last year's playoff game in San Francisco speaks for itself.
Mike Freeman: Changing the NFL culture comes at a great price.
Jason La Canfora: The NFL needed to either have more evidence or show more evidence because this threatens to be one of the league's biggest debacles ever in terms of its handling of it and its investigation. That could tarnish the credibility of the NFL more than any of the allegations against the Saints players.
Pat Kirwan: The league had no choice but to carry out the process and punishment. The Saints were told to stop the program years ago and it continued. There was a time when all of this would have gone away if the coaches and players just stopped it.
Will Brinson: Lawyers are blood-sucking sharks. (Sorry dad.)
Josh Katzowitz: No matter what is said regarding concussions or the bounty program, I think many players just don't care about the short-term or long-term health of their fellow players.
Ryan Wilson: Commissioner Roger Goodell has too much power. This isn't to say that the Saints weren't up to something, but the rule of law should be a pillar of any justice system.
Kevin Corke: Memo to Commissioner Roger Goodell -- the National Football League is bigger than you. See the film Malice with Alec Baldwin and the scene God Complex. That's you. Just stop.

24. Roger Goodell is _____?

Pete Prisco: Unjustly ripped. The union bargained his power. They should have no complaints.
Clark Judge: ...a cat on a hot tin roof.
Mike Freeman: Still the most powerful man in sports.
Jason La Canfora: No longer in the honeymoon phase with the general public and needs to have a big 2013 in terms of the bounty case, the collusion case and the concussion case.
Pat Kirwan: Roger Goodell is in a tough position on many fronts but is doing a good job. He's not in a popularity contest and his shoulders are big enough for the weight of the league.
Will Brinson: The Commish. Everyone rips every commissioner for their decision-making. It's never popular. Whatever.
Josh Katzowitz: Like the poker player who has pocket aces. You can challenge him, and occasionally, you'll win by dumb luck. But he's mostly going to push his chips into the center while holding the best hand.
Ryan Wilson: See above. "Wielding too much power." This is partially the fault of the players, who caved during the last CBA negotiations.
Kevin Corke: Surprisingly unrefined. You're a statesman, a politician, a magician, NOT a god. Not too much power -- abusing the power you have. You sir are no David Stern.

25. Like or LOVE the Beyonce Super Bowl halftime show?

Pete Prisco: Like. How about some Earth, Wind and Fire for the old man?
Clark Judge: Neither. Rock is dead, they said. Long live rock.
Mike Freeman: If you don't like Beyonce, you're a socialist.
Jason La Canfora: LOVE it. Who doesn't love Beyonce? She is the Tina Turner of her generation.
Pat Kirwan: My kids say it will be a good show.
Will Brinson: LOVE Beyonce. Total truth to the rumors that Mrs. Brinson made me work upstairs the day of the announcement because I wouldn't stop yelling "lemme lemme upgrade."
Josh Katzowitz: I feel pretty good about it. I'm not a pop music guy, but her songs are catchy and she'll probably bring young eyeballs to the Super Bowl.
Ryan Wilson: Like. Love if Jay-Z shows up too.
Kevin Corke: Like. Finally someone under 100. If my boy Jay-Z drops in, it'll be that much better.

26. Who are your Super Bowl XLVII (on CBS) picks?

Pete Prisco: Patriots and Packers. I will stick with my initial pick.
Clark Judge: Green Bay and Houston. I started with them, and I'm sticking with them.
Mike Freeman: Packers-Ravens. Still can happen.
Jason La Canfora: Still sticking with Green Bay vs. Houston from this summer. No reason for that to change. Both plenty capable and schedules set up nicely for them.
Pat Kirwan: In August I picked the Packers and Patriots. Both teams have issues on defense but I still like their chances because of their quarterbacks. If I were to jump teams it might be the Broncos and Giants.
Will Brinson: Falcons and Texans -- If only they crowned NFL winners in early November ...
Josh Katzowitz: Texans vs. Falcons. Houston's defense combined with that high-flying offense will lead the Texans to the AFC title, while Atlanta's continued improvement will allow the Falcons to beat out the Packers and 49ers for the NFC crown.
Ryan Wilson: Packers vs. Texans. It's hard to bet against Aaron Rodgers, and Houston is such a well-balanced team.
Kevin Corke: Packers vs. Broncos. No Favre, no Elway, but a great game.

More midseason goodies you may like:

 Pete Prisco's All-Pro team

 Clark Judge on biggest surprises and disappointments

 Playoff projections: The Colts make it in

 Playoff projections II: Where the Bears win the wild card

 Playoff bubble teams: Unlikely for the Bengals

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