We have made to the middle point of the season (Week 8) all too quickly. We have had some nail biting games such as Raiders vs Saints Week 1, Chargers vs Raiders Week 5 and Titans vs Colts Week 2 just to name a few. Narratives have exploded out of nowhere like Minnesota’s crushing defence, Atlanta’s explosive offence and who on earth is Ben McAdoo’s hairdresser, I cringed his haircut every time they panned to him at Wembley. This is my All-Pro team, for the first half of the season.
QB – Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Through all 8 games he leads the league in yards with 2,636, Quarterback Rating 115.8, and what I find astonishing he has 13 plays of 40 yards or more. He has been a revelation in his second year of Kyle Shanahan’s offence mainly down to improvement of the scheme and the main benefit being the emergence of more surrounding talent such as Mohammed Sanu, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman all become dynamic receiving threats alongside all-pro Julio Jones. This gives Ryan a lot more options and not just throws up to Julio, which is making their offence and his play the best in the league.
RB – Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas Cowboys)
This rookie picked 4th overall by the Cowboys has been a revelation so far this season. Everything seems so easy for him. So far he leads the league in rushing with 799 yards and is averaging 117.2 yards per game. He is patient behind the best offensive line in the league to find the hole, but then he has the burst to explode out the other side a great example of this would be his 85 yards run against Cincinnati in week 6, he hits the secondary and just flies past them all. He has all the traits and the talent around him to keep this going for the rest of the season.
WR – AJ Green (Cincinnati Bengals)
Despite the Bengals record being 3-4-1, it hasn’t been anything to do with Green’s play. He has been torching cornerbacks from the off, with a mesmerising performance to start the season against the Jets where he had 180 yards and 1 touchdown. He has been attracting double teams since his rookie year but this season with the loss of all of Cincinnati’s other weapons e.g. Sanu, Jones, the injury to Eifert and the regression of their running game. He has been practically their only weapon on offence, which is leading to more targets, receptions and yards, giving him a place on this team.
TE – Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
This season without Brady, Gronk was still the go to man in New England, and since Brady’s return in Week 5. Gronk has gone back to doing Gronk like things. He has averaged 118 yards per game and yards per catch with a giant 22 yards. He now owns the most receiving touchdowns by any Patriot in history with 69 and with the way he is playing, New England lookslike the team to be stopped in the AFC.
LT – Tyrone Smith (Dallas Cowboys)
He is the marquee player at this position. Is there anything else I need to say? He is the best at what he does. He play this season has allowed for rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot to transition so well into the NFL, because of his wide open gapes for Elliot’s running and the clean pocket and lack of pressure on Prescott. He has been part of the best line in football that allows the Cowboys to sit atop of the NFC East, and in prime position to make a deep playoff run.
LG – Kelchi Osemilie (Oakland Raiders)
He like Mack has been a great free agent signing for the Raiders from the Ravens. He backs up his talk “They call me KO for a reason” with his play. This is a man who plays violent and angry on every play, this isn’t that every other Left Guard in the league doesn’t play angry. You just see it with his performances this half, for example, watch his game against the Saints Week 1 where the Raiders nearly doubled the Saints rushing because of the lanes KO was creating. This is a good sign for a promising Oakland team that need his play to stay well.
C – Alex Mack (Atlanta Falcons)
This might have been one of the crudest free agent signings of the off-season. He has provided stability and leadership for an offensive line that has been lacking that for far too long. One of the reasons behind Matt Ryan’s inclusion on this list as well would be that he’s getting a cleaner pocket for longer meaning it’s easier for him to read the coverage and make a completion. That’s all down to Mack & Co, in Georgia buying into Shanahan’s scheme. Due to this Mack is playing the best football of his career.
RG – Richie Incognito (Buffalo Bills)
He has been a mailing for his time in Miami and the scandal surrounding it and rightly so. But since he has joined the Bills, Incognito has blossomed into one of the best guards in the league. He is a frightening presence on the Buffalo line for opposing players. He is sneakily mobile for a man of his size and stature. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator Greg Roman 2 weeks into the season and since then Anthony Lynn has established The Buffalo ground game as one of the best in the league, his coaching has lead to the resurgence of Incognito & co on the offensive line and Buffalo’s main form of attack this season. If Incognito can keep this form up he could be headed back to the Pro-Bowl.
RT – Jack Conklin (Tennesse Titans)
Here is another rookie to make the list, Conklin was picked 8th overall out of Michigan State by the Titans. So far this se\son he has lived up to thst high pick, he has beenone of the main reasons behind the rejuvinantion of Tennesse’s running game this season with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. If he keeps playing the way he has then Tennesse will be rising up in O-Line credentials within the league with Conklin and Lewan at the Tackle Spots.
Here is the defensive side of the team.
DE – Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks)
Cliff Avril is a name, not necessarily mentioned as much outside of Seattle as he would like. I find this hard to imagine as he has been in the top 10 of defensive ends in the league for the past few seasons, so far he has 2 tackles and a crazy 7.5 sacks. He is a star lost amongst many others on Seattle’s famous ‘legion of boom’ defence but that doesn’t stop him from making his presence known.
MLB – Zach Brown (Buffalo Bills)
This has been a breakout season for Brown who at the midpoint of the season leads the lead in tackles with 82. He also has 3 forced fumbles, with injuries ravaging Buffalo before the season started with their 1st and 2nd round draft picks going down. Brown has stepped up and gone far and beyond anyone’s expectations for this season. Brown produced one of the performances of the season with a whopping 17 tackle display against the Patriots in Week 4, which saw him named AFC Defensive Player Of The Week for that. It’s performances like this that will make Brown a mainstay in the team for a long time yet.
OLB – Von Miller (Denver Broncos)
He has been an animal coming off the edge this season. He’s kept up his Super Bowl 50 performance; he owns the fastest first step in the league bar none. If you need proof of his amazing play this season just watch his dismantling of the double teams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed on him in week 6 as the base of his work. Miller possesses the talent and ability to win games, so often he comes up with sacks or fumbles in the 4th quarter. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first drive or the last drive Miller has been the best at his position so far.
DT – Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)
Donald is a player that comes around very often. He has won defensive rookie of the year and would be up for MVP if he got more of a spotlight on him. He simply just wrecks plays, opponents and the opposing team’s offensive gameplan. At the midpoint of the season, he has 23 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. That’s down on his numbers from the year before, only because teams have realised what a threat he is and are doing everything they can to slow him down.
CB – Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals)
Peterson this season hasn’t missed a beat. He’s been playing majestically with the lowest QBR rating throwing his way so far this season. I think his best performance was vs the Buccaneers when he held Mike Evans to 3 catches for 17 yards on 12 targets. Despite Arizona’s slow start to the season, he has been a great player and leader for the rest of the defence to try and copy then Arizona will be back where they want to be, deep in the playoffs.
FS – Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings)
Smith has been the best free safety in the league so far. No question. He is a dynamic safety who plays close to the line of scrimmage where he can affect the ball with 49 total tackles so far he is showing his worth. Albeit that Smith has failed to intercept the ball so far doesn’t mean he’s not swarming the ball, it’s just other teammates are reaping the rewards from his imposing aura in the back end on receivers.
SS – Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles)
For the 7 games, Jenkins has played he has been at a tremendously high level. He has 31 tackles and 1 INT for a touchdown. That great play came against the Redskins in a loss but it wasn’t for Jenkins lack of trying who had his best came with 6 tackles, a pass defended and that INT for a touchdown. If he and Fletcher Cox up front can lead this Eagles to more success expect wins to be flowing from Philadelphia.