We've seen eight games of Falcons football, which means it's time to hand out awards and make a couple of big-picture predictions, even if the year has decidedly not gone in the direction we hoped it would. We are not doing least valuable player, worst game, etc., because we already talk about those things seven days a week here at The Falcoholic.
All predictions and awards are what I anticipate they'll be at the end of the season, based on the half-season thus far. Keep that in mind.
Team MVP - QB Matt Ryan
It couldn't be anyone else. One horrendously awful throw aside, Ryan is still playing quality football behind a line that is incapable of protecting him for a full four quarters, throwing to a set of receivers who have dropped a ton of passes this season and watching the ground attack do decent but uninspiring work. If there have been any significant improvements to the offense this season, they've been wiped out by injuries and ineffectiveness. Very little of that falls on Ryan's shoulders.
Ryan will likely have a slightly better second half once the team sort of figures out an identity, Harry Douglas comes back healthy and (if) Jake Matthews returns healthy and playing at a higher level. No matter how you slice it, he's the clear choice to be this team's MVP.
Best Offensive Player - Matt Ryan
Julio Jones could go back on a tear and steal this away, or you could give it to Jon Asamoah out of sheer, thankful appreciation that he has been healthy and effective on a crumbling offensive line. But if we're being honest, Ryan deserves this one, too.
Best Defensive Player - Desmond Trufant
The obvious choice, even if a couple of communication issues and dropped interceptions mar his resume. Trufant has been the team's best cover cornerback, a rock in a struggling defense and one of the best young corners in football, period.
Jonathan Massaquoi would be in the running had he played more, and maybe we'll see his snaps increase to the point where he forces the issues. I don't anticipate that just yet, however.
Antone Smith Medal of Excellence - Antone Smith
I really just wanted to give this guy something for being a continual, humble bright spot in this offense. Applause, please.
Most Improved Player - Kemal Ishmael
Keep in mind that a year ago, Ishmael was a seventh round pick, and not one widely considered to have an overly bright future in the NFL. This year, he's been starting games and playing 100% of snaps. His coverage is shaky, at best, but as a run-stopping, hard-hitting safety, he looks good and may continue to get better. There's a real role for him on this defense
There's a dearth of candidates elsewhere. Joe Hawley would be the front-runner had he remained healthy, Robert Alford has mixed steps forward and steps backward and guys like Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu and Steven Jackson simply haven't taken major steps forward. Ishmael it is.
Rookie of the Year - Jake Matthews
I anticipate Matthews will be more healthy and effective in the second half. Given Ra'Shede Hageman's inability to get more than 25% of the snaps, Prince Shembo's weird, sudden benching, Devonta Freeman's relative lack of touches and Tyler Starr's permanent spot on the bench, Matthews would likely win this even if he didn't show gigantic improvement.
The dark horse here would be James Stone, if he can turn in an excellent performance at center in the second half. I hope he does, but I have some doubts.
Best Game - Blowout vs. Buccaneers, Week 3
I can't imagine another game coming close to this one in terms of sheer, visceral joy, because the second half schedule isn't exactly stocked with cupcakes and the Falcons have suffered a lot of major injuries since this one.
Final Record - 6-10
Yes, this means I think the Falcons will go .500 the rest of the way. Call it foolish optimism or youthful exuberance, but I do think this team is beginning to figure out how to limit the damage with a formerly porous defense, and that the offense will rebound from "pretty atrocious" to "decent." Throw in a little luck in close games and you can get here pretty easily, but the Falcons are also likely to get blown out in at least a couple of games the rest of the way. No miracle turnaround in the offing, I fear.
Share your predictions with all of your fellow readers at The Falcoholic.