The midway point of the 2018 season is here, and things are still very tight in the NFC North race. First place and last place are separated by just a game. This is a big month within the division as Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit have a heavy slate of division games.
This week’s NFC North column will take a look back over the first half of the season and assess the good and the bad for the four teams in the division as I hand out a few midseason awards:
Last game: Beat the Jets, 24-10
Midseason Offensive MVP: QB Mitchell Trubisky
The second-year signal caller is completing 65 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. That’s good for a 97.8 passer rating. He also has 296 rushing yards.
Midseason Defensive MVP: OLB Khalil Mack
He’s been terrific since Chicago traded for him. He has 20 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception he took to the house for a touchdown.
Midseason Rookie of the Year: LB Roquan Smith
Smith is second on the team with 41 tackles and has also chipped in two sacks.
Surprise player: WR Anthony Miller
The third-round pick out of Memphis is averaging 11.5 yards per reception and has three touchdowns on the year. Both totals are higher than Allen Robinson’s totals in those same categories.
Disappointing player: RB Jordan Howard
Howard, who rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Chicago, is averaging just 3.5 yards per rush and has three touchdowns in seven games.
Next up: at Buffalo (2-6)
Last game: Lost to Saints, 30-20
Midseason Offensive MVP: WR Adam Thielen
Thielen has started the year with a record-tying eight consecutive 100-yard receiving performances to lead the NFL in receiving yards with 925 at the midseason point.
Midseason Defensive MVP: S Harrison Smith
Not only is Smith second on the team in tackles (40), but through eight games he has three interceptions and three sacks, becoming the first in the NFL since Landon Collins and Ryan Shazier in 2016 to record at least three of each in a single season.
Midseason Rookie of the Year: CB Mike Hughes
The rookie cornerback will miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL, but his first half was pretty good. He was a playmaker in the slot, and a reliable kickoff return man too.
Surprise player: RB Latavius Murray
The veteran back has stepped up in place of Dalvin Cook, who’s dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. Murray is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns.
Disappointing player: RB Dalvin Cook
After missing most of his rookie season because of a torn ACL, Cook has missed another five games so far this year with a hamstring injury. The best ability is availability.
Next up: vs. Detroit (3-4)
Last game: Lost to Rams, 29-27
Midseason Offensive MVP: WR Davante Adams
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers could slot here as well, but Adams has 52 receptions for 690 yards and six touchdowns playing alongside essentially three rookie receivers most of the season.
Midseason Defensive MVP: LB Blake Martinez
All this third-year linebacker does is make plays. He has 63 tackles in seven games, and has also chipped in four sacks.
Midseason Rookie of the Year: CB Jaire Alexander
He’s been Green Bay’s best cover man this season, and is graded among the top eight cornerbacks in the league through the first half of the season by Pro Football Focus.
Surprise player: NT Kenny Clark
After recording 4.5 sacks in his first opportunity to be a full-time starter last season, Clark already has four sacks in seven games this season. He’s been one of the best interior defenders in the NFL this season.
Disappointing player: TE Jimmy Graham
Green Bay’s big free-agent acquisition this offseason has just one touchdown through seven games. He was expected to have much more of an impact than that, especially in the red zone.
Next up: at New England (6-2)
Last game: Lost to Seattle, 28-14
Midseason Offensive MVP: QB Matthew Stafford
With the exception of the first game of the season and the fourth quarter last week against Seattle, Stafford has probably been Detroit’s most consistent player on offense. There was a stretch of five straight games where he had a passer rating north of 100.0.
Midseason Defensive MVP: DL Da’Shawn Hand
When it comes to consistency, which we haven’t seen a whole lot of from Detroit’s defense the first half of the season, Hand’s been probably the most consistent of the bunch. He has 22 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Midseason Rookie of the Year: RB Kerryon Johnson
The rookie out of Auburn is averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. His 466 yards ranks 12th in the NFL. He’s also caught 21 passes for another 158 yards.
Surprise player: DE Romeo Okwara
Claimed off waivers from the Giants, Okwara has filled in nicely at defensive end with Ziggy Ansah missing six of the team’s first seven games. Okwara is tied for the team lead with 5.0 sacks, and also has a forced fumble. He had just one sack in his previous two seasons combined.
Disappointing player: DE Ziggy Ansah
The team’s franchise tag player hasn’t played since the second quarter of their Week 1 loss to the Jets due to a shoulder injury. Again, one of the best abilities is availability.
Next up: at Minnesota (4-3-1)
NFC NORTH AWARDS
Midseason Offensive MVP: Thielen, Minnesota
Midseason Defensive MVP: Mack, Chicago
Midseason Rookie of the Year: Alexander, Green Bay