NFC North near-midseason awards


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
The NFC North bye came almost exactly at the halfway mark of the season; it's Week 8 and all four teams will have played seven games by the end of this weekend. So now is as good of a time as any to hand out a few midseason awards after our inaugural half-spin through the Black and Blue division.

Rookie of the year: Chicago tailback Matt Forte
He hasn't had a 100-yard game since the opener, but Forte's steady work has put him on pace for an 1,100-yard season. His best contribution might be as a receiver, where he is more comfortable than anyone could have imagined.

Coach of the year: Chicago's Lovie Smith
Green Bay's Mike McCarthy got consideration for navigating the Packers through the Brett Favre mess. But Smith's decision to start quarterback Kyle Orton, and his willingness to trust him with a wide-open offense, has put the Bears in the thick of the division race.

Yin and yang executive award: Green Bay's Ted Thompson
Clearly, Aaron Rodgers was ready to assume the team's quarterback position. And clearly, Thompson should have ended the Brett Favre saga sooner. You can only wonder how much of the Packers' penalties and other sloppiness can be traced to a distraction-filled training camp.

Quietest 684-yard performance: Minnesota's Adrian Peterson
Yes, he has five touchdowns -- including a 54-yard jaunt last Sunday at Soldier Field. But his production hasn't translated into victories; only one of his four 100-yard games have come in a win.

Offensive player of the year: Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings
Jennings is the NFL's most explosive receiver, leading the league with 685 receiving yards and 12 receptions of at least 20 yards. Defenses should know by now that he's Rodgers' favorite receiver.

Defensive player of the year: Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson
It's been nothing short of miraculous: Woodson is tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions despite playing the past six games on a fractured toe. He's hardly practiced but his coverage hasn't suffered. (Ask Dallas' Terrell Owens.)

Most Valuable Player: Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton
Can't say I envisioned writing these words, but Orton is the key to the Bears' success these days. His accuracy and quick adaptation to the no-huddle offense has caught opposing defenses off guard. Face it: with an injury-depleted defense and a mediocre running game, the Bears are a passing team. Gasp.

Biggest swing and miss: Detroit's plan to run the ball
The Lions' conversion to a zone-blocking run scheme, a knee-jerk reaction to the pass-happy ways of former coordinator Mike Martz, has been a total disaster. Linemen aren't blocking it well, runners aren't finding the holes and coaches aren't mixing up the calls. Their average of 77.7 rushing yards per game is the third-worst mark in the NFL.

Best offseason acquisition: Minnesota receiver Bernard Berrian
Berrian has given the Vikings exactly what they were missing last season: a receiver who could take advantage of the attention paid to tailback Adrian Peterson. Berrian's 517 receiving yards rank 10th in the NFL and put him on pace for a career season.

Worst offseason acquisition: Minnesota fullback Thomas Tapeh
The Vikings envisioned Tapeh as a long-term companion for Peterson and paid him top money for a fullback. As it turns out, the Vikings didn't know Tapeh had knee surgery a month before signing. He played in two games and already has been released. The Vikings could be on the hook for as much as $1.855 million.

APB Award: Green Bay defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
"KGB" has a half-sack to his credit despite playing in all seven games. The Packers are limiting his playing time to maintain his health, but it's time to start wondering if he has simply seen his better days.

Most patience: Readers of this blog
Thanks for sticking with us through FavreGate I and II, MillenGate, the Solider Field fracas and the OCCASIONAL typo or misjudgment. Most of all, let's keep having fun. That's what football is about, right?