The 2016 NFL season is a lot like high school, in that a few years from now, we’ll all look back on it with rose-colored glasses, remembering it more fondly than it deserves. So far we’ve seen performances that have been degrading, boring, and a few that left us asking, “when will I ever need this in real life?” The only thing missing to finish this high school motif is handing out meaningless superlatives that will quickly be forgotten on a dusty shelf, right next to your childhood dreams. Here are our 2016 midseason awards.
2016 NFL Midseason Superlatives
The Chargers end their run of fourth-quarter heartbreak.
For all the nail-biter finishes we’ve had to start this season, a failed desperation Trevor Siemian heave from 45 yards out should hardly be the best of the bunch. Yet it represented so much more for the “Choking Chargers.” San Diego had blown second-half leads (in excruciating fashion) in every loss, so the entire viewing public (including head coach Mike McCoy) was expecting the 1-4 team to blow another against the Broncos. When they didn’t, it was one of the more shocking results of the season. (And that includes the 49ers actually winning a game.)
The Giants hanging onto Josh Brown.
There’s been so much awfulness on the field, it’s unfair to single out just one instance. Instead, let’s remind everyone how terrible John Mara and the Giants organization were when it came to handling kicker Josh Brown after he was arrested on domestic violence charges. New York insisted they “received all the information” and made an informed decision, only to find out the kicker had a history of abuse.
The NFL has been brutal in handling domestic violence cases in the past, but when it came to Brown, this should’ve been a slam dunk. If we’ve learned one thing from kickers this season, it’s that they’re unreliable. The Giants should’ve dumped him from the get-go.
Best Impression of a Quarterback:
Case Keenum, Week 6.
There’s a glut of unqualified men receiving snaps from NFL centers this season. But once in awhile, these “players” overcome their lack of talent and actually do a serviceable impression of an NFL signal-caller. The most hilarious impersonation came in Week 6, when something called a “Case Keenum” completed 19 straight passes against the Detroit Lions, setting a Rams franchise record.
Keenum finished the day 27 of 32 for 321 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. His impression was so convincing, people briefly thought he may actually be an NFL QB. But Keenum revealed it all to be a hilarious joke the following week, when he threw four glorious interceptions vs. the Giants.
Best Fat-Guy Touchdown:
Dontari Poe, Week 6.
I’ve been giving love to all the big guys who’ve found paydirt this year on Mondays, but if I had to pick a favorite so far, it’s Dontari Poe’s rumble against the Raiders. Beautiful play call, beautiful catch, beautiful blocking by other fat guys.
Most Devastating Fantasy Performance:
Jay Ajayi, Week 7.
Every year, the NFL has random statistical outbursts from players who had previously done very little and go on to do very little. If you played a Jay Ajayi owner during his breakout 200-yard performance against the Steelers, you were probably justifiably outraged. But if you went up against him during his repeat performance against the Bills in Week 7, you may have suffered an aneurysm.
A ton of owners didn’t even start Ajayi during the Steelers game, but after that game, everyone was adding the Dolphins back. Still, there was no way he would have a repeat performance against a stout Buffalo D. But sure enough, the second-year back reeled off 214 yards and a touchdown on the ground, becoming the first back since 2002 to rush for 200 yards in consecutive games (a streak he’ll look to continue this weekend; at this point, if you’re playing against him, just prepare for the worst).
Most Obscure Milestone:
Weston Richburg: 1st player ejected for two unsportsmanlike calls.
The new rule was put in place this season after the heated Josh Norman-Odell Beckham battle last season. If anyone bet on when the ejection rule would first be implemented, the Week 3 meeting between those two would’ve been the heavy favorite. In the end, it would’ve paid out too, although I don’t think anyone saw Giants center Weston Richburg being the first to have the rulebook tossed at him. Since lineman famously don’t get recognized, it’s nice for Richburg to have his name in the history books for something.
The Rob Johnson Memorial “Worst QB Contract of the Offseason:”
The playmaking ability of speedy rookie Will Fuller helped hide this fact out of the gate, but lately it has become apparent: Brock Osweiler is (excuse the language) poopy. He’s real stinky. Like, has-a-worse-QB-rating-than-Keenum bad. Luckily, not all of his enormous four-year, $72 million deal is guaranteed. Unluckily, the Texans are still winning, so they might not have any incentive to dump him in the offseason.
Least Rewarding Weather Delay:
Buccaneers vs Rams, Week 3.
Game 7 of the World Series proved that rain delays could make for dramatic tension in big moments, and even help teams regroup. But in Week 3, the Buccaneers and Rams proved that fans willing to wait through a 75-minute delay are suckers. At the two-minute warning, Tampa had the ball, trailing by just five points. That’s when the lightning came on, delaying the game for an hour. Instead of a climactic final throw to the end zone, all that waiting was a prelude to Jameis Winston forgetting how football works.
Most Shocking Storyline:
NFC East competence.
After a truly terrible 2015, the “NFC Least” was just trying to stave off the AFC South for the title of worst division in football. Now, they trail only the AFC West for the best combined win percentage. It’s remarkable considering that two of these teams have been starting rookies at QB since Day 1 (including Philly’s Carson Wentz who was seemingly thrust into the role in the last hour), and the other two teams are the Giants and Washington, organizations incapable of sustained success.
Whereas last year’s NFC East prime-time battles were dreaded, this year, they could just be the games that pull the NFL out of its ratings funk. None of these teams are infallible, but in a wide-open NFC, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of them go on a real run in the second half/postseason either.
Least Shocking Storyline:
The Rams are on pace for another 7-9 finish.
What Hard Knocks saw in this team, I’ll never know. Despite a dramatic offseason speech in which Jeff Fisher claimed this bulls**t wouldn’t happen, it’s totally happening. The Rams are up to their usual tricks, playing their own division tough, and losing to mediocre teams from everywhere else.
As bad as the aforementioned Keenum is (and how bad his backup Jared Goff must be to not steal the job), let’s not ignore the ineptitude of the offensive line. Todd Gurley can’t find any holes to run through and hasn’t broken 90 yards’ rushing in a game. Meanwhile, after cutting tank-top enthusiast and Hard Knocks favorite Eric Kush, the center was picked up by the Bears and helped their ground game demolish the league’s best D.