The New England Patriots had an ideal bye week right smack dab in the middle of their season and before a long road trip where they’ll play in Denver and stay in Colorado Springs for the week before they leave to play in Mexico City.
Here are Doug Kyed and Zack Cox’s Patriots midseason award winners with eight games and a bye behind the team:
Kyed: Tom Brady
Though his completion percentage is among the highest of his career, Brady hasn’t been quite as accurate as we’re used to seeing thus far this season. Nearly every pass to Chris Hogan seems to be behind the wide receiver, and while Brady only has two interceptions through eight games, other throws have clanged off defenders’ hands.
We’re nitpicking, though. Brady has been the Patriots’ best player this season, and they wouldn’t be 6-2 without him.
Cox: Tom Brady
The Patriots wouldn?t have traded Jimmy Garoppolo if Brady had shown any signs of regressing. He hasn?t, ranking first in the NFL in passing yards, second in passer rating, fourth in yards per attempt, fifth in completion percentage and tied for fifth in touchdown passes. You could make a case for Brady as the MVP of the entire league, so he certainly deserves that honor within his own team.
Offensive Player of the Half
Kyed: Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski is another player who might be slightly underperforming his expectations, but can you really argue with his production so far? He has 34 receptions for 509 yards with five touchdowns, and he missed a game. If he plays 15 games, he’s on pace for 73 catches for 1,091 yards with 11 touchdowns.
Cox: Brandin Cooks
The Patriots? offense has been so balanced this season that it?s tough to pick just one standout player if we exclude Brady from consideration. Hogan and James White both are having career years. Gronkowski looks like himself again. Danny Amendola was excellent early in the season before slowing down a bit in recent weeks. Dion Lewis, vice versa. But I?ll give the nod to Cooks, who, despite dropping more passes than the Patriots would like, has been one of the NFL?s most dangerous deep threats this season, ranking in the top 10 in receiving yards and yards per catch.
Defensive Player of the Half
Kyed: Trey Flowers
This is really difficult, because there have been plenty of solid performers on the Patriots’ defense, but no one truly stands out.
Flowers has taken on a giant workload, and while he only has 3.5 sacks on the season, he leads the team in total pressures, frequently sees increased attention from blockers, has been consistent as a run defender and is being asked to drop back into coverage on over 10 percent of passing snaps.
Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Kyle Van Noy and Malcom Brown are in the running.
Cox: Devin McCourty
The Patriots? leading tackler is playing at a Pro Bowl level again this season. He?s been the best player in New England?s otherwise inconsistent — albeit improved — secondary.
Rookie of the Half
Kyed: Deatrich Wise
Wise is second on the team with 25 total pressures and has three sacks. Adam Butler is the only other real option.
Cox: Deatrich Wise
Injuries have thinned the Patriots? rookie class, and Wise is the only first-year player who has made a significant impact on either side of the ball. The fourth-round draft pick ranks third on the team with three sacks and is tied with Flowers for the lead in quarterback hits with 13.
Kyed: David Andrews
Andrews was an average to below-average starter last season who currently ranks third in Pro Football Focus’ center rankings. Andrews and Shaq Mason, both third-year players, have been the Patriots’ most consistent offensive linemen.
Cox: Kyle Van Noy
Last season, Van Noy was a serviceable player in the Patriots? linebacker rotation. Now, he hardly leaves the field and has blossomed into one of New England?s most important defensive players, especially with Dont’a Hightower now done for the season.
Kyed: Johnson Bademosi
Yeah, it’s definitely Bademosi. No one expected Bademosi to contribute defensively when he was acquired in a preseason trade with the Detroit Lions, and he’s started three straight games at cornerback. That streak likely will end in Week 10, when Stephon Gilmore returns, but Bademosi has proven he deserves to be in the defensive rotation.
The other option is the Patriots’ decision to trade Garoppolo.
Cox: Johnson Bademosi
Bademosi played nothing but special teams for the first five weeks of the season, then had two of the best games yet by any Patriots cornerback in Weeks 6 and 7. Who saw that coming? Bademosi did come back to earth a bit in his third start, but he proved he deserves playing time even when Gilmore and Eric Rowe are ready to return.
Kyed: Dwayne Allen
Gilmore and Alan Branch definitely are in the mix, but Allen still doesn’t have a reception on the season. The Patriots gave up a fourth-round pick for Allen and a sixth-rounder. He’s taking up nearly $5 million in cap space for the Patriots.
Cox: Stephon Gilmore
The Patriots? $65 million cornerback struggled mightily for a full month, had one solid game, then got hurt and missed the next three weeks. Gilmore has plenty of time to turn things around, but he?s easily been the biggest underachiever thus far. Second place here would be Allen, who still is looking for his first catch in a Patriots uniform.
Play of the Half
Kyed: Safety vs. Chargers
I’m taking a page out of Belichick’s book by giving some love to special teams. Ryan Allen’s punt was perfect, Matthew Slater’s work as a gunner forced Travis Benjamin to reverse field, and Jonathan Jones and Brandon King absolutely flew down the field to tackle the Chargers’ returner in the end zone for two points.
Cox: Brandin Cooks? last-minute touchdown catch vs. Texans
Perfect pass. Perfect catch. Perfect timing.
Had Brady not found Cooks in the end zone with 25 seconds remaining against Houston, the Patriots very well could have begun the season 1-3. Imagine the chaos that would have followed that start.
My runners-up here are Malcolm Butler?s goal-line forced fumble against Austin-Seferian Jenkins and Gronkowski?s 53-yard score against New Orleans.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images