AFC West midseason awards

November, 5, 2008
11/05/08
12:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN .com's Bill Williamson

What a first half of the season in the AFC West, huh?

The division has a combined 10 wins, the worst in the NFL. It's the only division in the NFL without a team with a winning record. The last time a team in the division won a game was Oct. 19 when Oakland had to go to overtime to secure a victory.

 
 Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI
 Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler gets our nod for midseason MVP honors in the AFC West.

We've seen a head coach fired. We've seen a defensive coordinator fired. We've seen a news conference for the ages.

We've seen Shawne Merriman, perhaps the best defensive player in the division, play just one game before he had to tap out because of a season-ending knee injury. We've seen Tony Gonzalez nearly get traded. We've seen Larry Johnson punished for off-field issues. We've seen a Super Bowl hopeful (San Diego) stumble to a 3-5 record.

Yes, we've seen a lot, and now the tough part commences. Picking midseason awards for this division.

Do I really have to? Here goes:

MVP: Denver quarterback Jay Cutler

Cutler is coming off his worst game of the season in which he threw three interceptions against Miami. Plus, the Broncos have lost four of their last five games. But Cutler has been mostly very good this season and he gets the edge over Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Based on record. Barely.

Offensive player of the first half: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers

Rivers and Cutler have been neck-and-neck all season and Rivers has been very good. There have been many games where he's played near flawlessly.

Defensive player of the first half: Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha

He has quietly become one of the better defensive players in the league. Opposing quarterbacks rarely challenged Asomugha. He is a true shutdown cornerback and has been one of the few bright spots for Oakland.

Offensive rookie of the first half: Denver wide receiver Eddie Royal

Royal barely edged out Denver teammate, left tackle Ryan Clady. Clady has been near flawless for the Broncos. He has not given up a sack and is a legitimate rookie of the year candidate. But so is Royal, who was taken with the No. 42 pick, 30 selections after Denver took Clady. Royal has been one of the better receivers in the NFL. He is also a return threat.

Defensive rookie of the first half: Tie between San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason and Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers.

Both Cason and Flowers have been outstanding and have made major contributions to their respective defenses. Flowers is starting and Cason is playing in the nickel defense. Cason has shown maturity beyond his years and he has become a big-play threat. Flowers is getting better each week and he, too, is capable of making big plays.

Coach of the first half: Denver coach Mike Shanahan.

Yes, the Broncos have lost four of their last five games, and they are stumbling into the second half. But the Broncos are the only team at .500 in this division. So where else could this vote be?

Luckiest Guy award: Lane Kiffin

He was fired on the last day of September, and he doesn't have to be part of this division anymore. Maybe Kiffin is the coach of the year. After all, he is the only coach to start the season in the division and lose only three games.

Most memorable moment: Al Davis' news conference

All other news conferences to announce the firing of a head coach, in any sport, will be judged on Davis' infamous press briefing to announce the departure of Kiffin. Unbelievable theater.

Where is he award: Oakland receiver Javon Walker

Walker has been a major disappointment after signing a $55 million contract in the offseason. The receiver has just 13 catches this season has been a non-factor.

Most delicate body part of the division: The toe.

San Diego star running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Oakland rookie running back Darren McFadden have been hampered nearly all season with turf toe injuries. McFadden now has turf toe problems on both feet. Nothing is more annoying than having a toe keep a star player out of a game. That has been the case in an unforgettable and unimpressive first half in the AFC West.

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