Alright, midway point of the season more or less. The NFL made it weird by adding an extra game so there's not a precise halftime in the schedule, but midseason awards are becoming a popular trend so I figured I'd take my crack at some cheeky, highly specific, distinctly weird ones. It took not inconsiderable effort to come up with these which you'll either appreciate or deem pathetic. Either way, good click or hate click, I'll take it.
Enjoy your team's trinkets, trophies and extreme niche artifacts and bear in mind we're all just trying to have a little fun here. Lotta football left hence the "midseason" awards. Even the bad teams will at least be the winners of something. Repeat the mantra. Feel the self-affirmation wash over you.
Sorry in advance that this thing is so long. Skip around at your own liberty. Felt compelled to explain all my choices in varying and mostly significant detail. Hope you enjoy.
32. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 27)
Winner: The Burning Fern Award For Most Obvious Plant Saboteur
My conspiracy theory (100% factual) is as follows: Panthers owner David Tepper realized Matt Rhule wasn't the guy going into this year and needed the results on the field to prove that. Tepper dispatched minions who subliminally convinced Rhule to hire Ben McAdoo. The washed-up offensive coordinator conspired with Tepper to act as a sort of double agent and ensure Carolina was as bad as possible. After all, all 31 other teams in their right mind wouldn't have hired McAdoo to run their offense. Tepper knew the Panthers' defense would suck once Phil Snow left along with Rhule. So here the Panthers are. The master plan worked. Now we wait to see how severely Carolina cleans house this offseason.
31. Houston Texans (Last Week: 32)
Winner: The David Culley Memorial Quacking Duck For Most Hopeless Head Coach
I'm not saying Lovie Smith is going to be one-and-done like his predecessor Culley in Houston. It's just that he's in an awful spot with a laughable roster and no chance to compete even in the NFL's worst division, the AFC South. That's when you know it's bad. Sorry Texans — not putting much stock in your pseudo-last stand performance last Thursday against the Eagles. Was cute for three quarters. No one believed you'd win and ya didn't. Ending on a positive: At least you have fantasy football darling Dameon Pierce!
30. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 28)
Winner: The Annual Preseason Executive Of The Year Blue Check Mark Medallion With An X Through It Because It Is Never Verified In-Season
I feel like I take a shot at Chris Ballard every week and here we are again. Except now in Indianapolis, owner Jim Irsay has gone rogue and hired former star center Jeff Saturday as the interim coach upon firing Frank Reich. As long as Sam Ehlinger is the starting quarterback, the Colts are fucked. One of the guys I've gotten to know pretty well at Barstool is John Rich. He's a great guy and has been SLAYING the coverage of the Saturday fiasco. Please read below.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 31)
Winner: The 24 Carat Gold Hungry? Grab A Snickers Bar For The Team Who Most Looks Like They’re Sleepwalking Through NFL Sundays Despite Having A Boss With The Most Intense Gaze Known To Mankind
You have to have something as solid as gold to accentuate just how fucking laser-focused those Mike Tomlin eyeballs are and give a stark contrast to the limp-dick effort his team gives every week. This man legitimately looks like the most insane person on Planet Earth half the time cameras are on him. I don’t know how he’s not constantly crying from stretching and straining those irises to such a degree. Maybe he is perpetually angry and that's what ignites his competitive fire? In any case, the fact that a reputed master motivator and soul-piercing glancer like Tomlin can’t inject any life into this 2-6 Steelers group is a bad sign.
However, they may wind up in position to pair T.J. Watt with Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. on the edge next year if they keep losing enough. May be worth cutting your losses and tanking, Pittsburgh. I know you’re proud but come on. Watt and Anderson. FFS…WORTH IT.
28. Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 25)
Winner: The Flying Freaking Falcon For Most Impressive Blown Leads
Pretty straightforward here. Apologies to Big T. and Falcons fans everywhere, this is indeed a 28-3 reference. Josh McDaniels' Raiders have held AND LOST leads of at least 17 points against the Cardinals, Chiefs and Jaguars. Even conceding Kansas City's unparalleled rallying ability and taking the "L" there, Las Vegas should easily be a .500 football team. Instead: 2-6. McDaniels could very well be a one-and-done coach.
27. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 23)
Winner: The Karmic Unlucky Crab Leg For Employing A Bad-Faith QB Room
Yup, taking a shot at Jameis Winston. It sucks that he's had multiple back fractures, but going into a season with a phony like him as your QB1, coming off a torn ACL, when you're barely under the salary cap due to a veteran-laden roster that doesn't even start a QB on a rookie contract? That's such a trash plan. Look how wide-open the NFC South is. Losing Sean Payton is bad. I just feel like New Orleans' front office owed it to some of its long-tenured players to try harder to fix the most important position on the field beyond Winston and Andy Dalton.
26. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 30)
Winner: The Dialectical Burning Engine Football Guy For The Team With Most Football Guys And Football Guy Coach Who Rarely Wins
The visual for this is a dude in a football helmet with the midsection of a car engine as a salute to the Motor City. There's a good chance Dan Campbell mixes actual gasoline into his tall triple espressos every morning. I don't think his sustenance is the average everyman's sustenance. And the Lions generally play like that. They have that "relentless motor" quality and toughness that matches the grittiness of Detroit. Problem: Hasn't translated to but one victory since Sept. 25. Not exactly a well-oiled machine. I believe and hope Campbell gets one more year at least. He's a great fit for the Lions. He's also working with a shitty, stalling engine that needs some serious mods.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 29)
Winner: A Florida Man-Remixed Vitruvian Man Painting To Underscore Unpredictability, Hard Luck And Bizarre Circumstances
Trevor Lawrence was the paragon of animals when it came to quarterback prospects. Rocky, crazy up-and-down start to his NFL career that parallels those "Florida Man" headlines you see pop up all the time. It was kinda like that under Urban Meyer last year. Like you couldn't believe the shit that was coming out about him and still is to this day. Hence the warped Leonardo da Vinci artwork with Lawrence as the subject. He's decked out in neon colors and weird Florida Man-looking gear instead of being in the nude because frankly that's just creepy for me to put out into the universe.
This artistic visual of Lawrence is an homage to the dysfunction he's had to overcome, how there's still perfection/elite QB play lingering underneath all the nonsense of the Jaguars organization that's preceded him, and he's not quite at Dorian Gray portrait levels of decadence/ugliness thanks to the presence of Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson. But what a mess the Jags have still been in 2022. They should be better than 3-6. All their losses were by one possession. What a journey that was, right?
24. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 26)
Winner: The Enron Executive Club Distinction For Inauthentic Leadership
I know the Waltons aka the heirs to Walmart who own the Broncos didn't have a hand in hiring head coach Nathaniel Hackett, nor do I imagine they dove deep into film study to fully endorse the trade and subsequent $245 million contract for Russell Wilson. So in that context, based on how things have started for Denver, it really looks like Hackett and Wilson swindled their way into massive personal gains. Hackett has to have lost the locker room already, while Wilson's robot-like, perpetual boilerplate cornballism is being called out by his ex-coach, ex-teammates and is rearing its ugly head very early in his Broncos tenure.
23. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 21)
Winner: The Flaming Pitchfork For Testing Fate And The Football Gods With A Devilish Deal
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the rest of the organization's leadership essentially decided to sell their souls and in all likelihood the 2022 campaign for the rights to Deshaun Watson. The blue-chip field general described by commissioner Roger Goodell and an independent arbitrator as "predatory" is tracking to return in Week 13 for the 3-5 Brownies. What a nightmare year either way for Cleveland. Missing the playoffs is a familiar/still disappointing outcome. Watson rallying them to the postseason might be an even weirder and somehow worse feeling.
22. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 17)
Winner: The Swackhammer Cigar For Most Harebrained Championship Scheme That Is Totally Backfiring
I don’t think Danny DeVito’s Mr. Swackhammer in Space Jam really thought through his business plan. He risked his entire business on luring a bunch of Looney Tunes stars to serve as the main attraction for his theme park. The Rams have mortgaged their future for multiple years to bring stars to LA, in a crowded entertainment town, trying to stand out among the myriad of sports franchises and forms of entertainment in a brand-new, expensive-as-hell new stadium whose cost needs to be justified by ticket sales, high turnout and so forth. Welp, a Super Bowl won at SoFi Stadium was nice. Now? Seems like everything is falling apart on the Rams. They basically sold their souls, aggressively pursued elite talent no matter the cost, and it’s all going sideways. The Rams are a team of Monstars, many of whom were not original draft picks.
21. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 15)
Winner: The Gwyeneth Paltrow-Scented Organ Candle For Most Promising Team On The Outside Who Actually Stinks And Is Out Of Tune
Oh you thought…oh I see. No no no. Come on guys. Get your heads out of the gutter. OBVIOUSLY the organ I’m talking about is the instrument. You know the big-ass keyboards in churches and I guess in Arcade Fire recording studios? Nothing worse than when it has that old, musty smell and it sounds like shit because nobody’s played it or it’s not in an ideal climate to maintain its sonorous integrity. I imagine given Gwyeneth Paltrow’s penchant for eclectic, exotic candle scents, she’d take a keen interest in this fragrance of the arts. Seriously, organs are supposed to sound dope. It sucks when they smell and they’re out of tune. Google it. It happens. “Pipe organs, no matter how perfectly made, do go out of tune when the ambient temperature in the organ's environment changes.” See? Doesn’t take much.
This is what the Packers are. Aaron Rodgers is a back-to-back MVP. Two capable backs to support him. Green Bay has so many good, younger pieces on defense. From the outside looking in, seems like it should be a beautiful symphony playing out on the gridiron. Instead, we’re getting a cacophonous and completely out-of-sync orchestra, with Maestro Rodgers going full JK Simmons Fletcher Whiplash on his young receivers who he’s supposed to help teach and mentor. Not quite his tempo. Result: 3-6 record and a consolatory wick that will hopefully spark a second-half playoff push.
20. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 18)
Winner: The Phallic Joystick Of Destiny For The Franchise Who’s Most Grabbed By The Balls By Their Most Immature Franchise Player
Can't not dish out a midseason award for Arizona that doesn't have to do with video games slash getting totally fucked by Kyler Murray and his antics/contract/general being. The Cardinals made the mistake of extending their GM and head coach, both seemingly inept, through 2027. Get your popcorn ready for Hard Knocks In Season, folks. We're in for a treat.
19. Washington Commanders (Last Week: 20)
Winner: The Customized Heinicke Beer Bottle For Most Good-Vibes QB2 Who Transforms The Locker Room
This individualized award could've gone to Sam Ehlinger if he lit it up for Indianapolis. Instead, we give it to its namesake, Commanders spark plug Taylor Heinicke. Pretty much the inverse of Carson Wentz in terms of how teammates rally around him, Heinicke and Washington receive a set of altered Heineken bottles to booze out of as they all rejoice about the news that Dan Snyder appears to be putting the team up for sale at long last. Good things seem to follow when Heinicke is in the lineup; he's now 9-9 as a starter, and a half-game better than that probably gets Washington into the playoffs in the watered-down NFC.
18. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 24)
Winner: The Flying Freaking Falcon Redux For Most Consistent Adherence To Established Culture
I already dished out a version of this award to the Raiders, but even when Atlanta wins, they try to lose. They blew yet another highly winnable game against the Chargers in Week 9. No matter who the players are, the Falcons can't seem to shake off that blown 28-3 Super Bowl lead versus the Patriots. Doesn't help when you're banking on Marcus Mariota as your quarterback either I suppose.
17. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 22)
Winner: The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Empty Room Replica Model For Team With The Best QB Who Has No Help
Yeah, the Bears are too big of cheapskates to even let Will Smith grace their locker room for a guest speaking appearance. He's more affiliated with Philly and in case you hadn't heard had some bad PR of late as is. Very on-the-nose reference here. Can be summarized in the GIF below when it comes to the bare-cupboard roster the rebuilding Bears have assembled around star QB in the making Justin Fields.
The replica model of this iconic TV set is what Chicago GM Ryan Poles is using in key leadership meetings as a visual aid to explain how much room there is for growth in 2023, when the Bears will have over $120 million in salary cap room.
16. New England Patriots (Last Week: 13)
Winner: The Stalking Simpleton Spectacles For Playoff Picture Lurker With Rigid Old-School Principles And A Sketchy History Of Espionage
I don't know what's going on in New England. They're apparently tipping play calls to opponents before the ball is snapped. Bill Belichick has stubbornly stuck with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to be the architects of his offense. Those two things might be related. Just maybe. I'm not putting any stock in their win over the Colts because holy shit what a mess Indy is. Mac Jones seems to be regressing in Year 2. Weird vibes out of Foxborough at the minute. Belichick may find his steadfast dedication to his system may not mesh well with football in the year 2022 when shit really hits the fan.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 16)
Winner: The LA Arts-Commissioned Crop Dusting Sculpture As Homage To Brandon Staley’s Hurried Sideline Pacing After Galaxy-Brained In-Game Decisions
I think the award pretty well summarizes my feelings on the Bolts. That and Staley thought it was a good idea to keep offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi employed even as he threatens to nuke the development of superstar face of the franchise Justin Herbert. We're used to the Chargers being snakebitten. This year with cluster injuries and coaching ineptitude is no different.
14. New York Giants (Last Week: 11)
Winner: The Antoinette Perry Award For Biggest Pretender
You know I had to throw in a theatre reference. Or maybe you don't. I did anyway. That award is actually just the longer, commemorative name for a Tony, which is the Broadway equivalent of winning an Oscar ICYDK. Never seen that acronym before but your powers of inference should help you decode it. Anyway yeah, the G-Men. Luckiest 6-2 team I’ve ever seen. No pass-catching playmakers beyond their running back Saquon Barkley to speak of. So many close, lucky wins. Their schedule isn’t tough so they could still make the playoffs. I just think there’s no chance they make it to the Divisional Round.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 14)
Winner: The Big, Mostly-Covered Juicy Booty For Most Mysterious And Low-Key Loaded Team
This is basically just an orange-colored, rusted-looking treasure chest that plays up the Bucs' pirate-themed namesake and the age of Tom Brady whilst also paying homage to Tropicana Field and the Tampa Bay Rays. They're still bottom-three in MLB attendance and could use a boost from Brady if he could ever swing it. Anyway, that's beside the point and purely to explain the "juice" bit of the award. Really though, there is some treasure poking its head out of the sands at Bucs headquarters. Most of the core players there were part of the Super Bowl team during TB12's first season there. They know what it takes. They just can't get out of their own way or run the ball. You can bet Brady is going to be fired the fuck up, and likely will Tampa to plant that pirate flag atop the shitty NFC South division once again.
12. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 9)
Winner: The Lugubrious Losers’ Shield To Protect From The Inevitable, Biblical Shit Storm Of Disappointment
It’s an intentionally dinky, flimsy protective cover that represents the unavoidable, collective trauma Vikings fans have endured over the years. Never having won a Super Bowl, accustomed to reductive, antiquated schemes and forever bracing for the next gut punch, Minnesotans can't be feeling super comfortable amid a 7-1 start. When is the other shoe going to drop? The Vikes are 22nd in yards per play allowed, 15th in yards gained per game, and they have one win over a team with a current winning record. They're way ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North and will hang on to win that. Don't be surprised when they get their souls crushed in the playoffs, though.
11. New York Jets (Last Week: 19)
Winner: The Inaugural Laminated WINSOAR Spreadsheet For Excellence In Advanced Analytics
You know how wins are often attributed as a quarterback stat and are used as plutonium-caliber debate fuel when arguing the merits of such players, or to compare them? Well this is where a new stat WINSOAR comes in that some geek can do the work of assembling: Wins IN Spite of Over Average Replacement. Zach Wilson is 5-1 as a starter in 2022 and ranks only above Kenny Pickett among qualifiers in passer rating. Good on the Jets for somehow gaming the system, playing lights-the-fuck-out defense, and winning way more often than not with Wilson under center despite his general ineptitude. Good news is, Wilson has little elsewhere to go but wayyyyy up based on his ceiling and the team around him. And apparently, the 100% accurate coin flipper says Gang Green is going 11-6 and to the AFC title game.
10. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 10)
Winner: The Crusty Crown For Most Punishing, Indefatigable Reign Over An Inferior Division
They lost in overtime at Kansas City on Sunday Night Football with Malik Willis starting at quarterback. A fitting Titans-style grime-fest. Had they not traded AJ Brown and just given in to any and all of his demands, the Titans likely would've won that game. Willis put the ball on the money on multiple downfield throws that were straight-up dropped. He had his share of rookie growing pains but at least debatably played well enough to win. Tennessee's defense sure did. Mike Vrabel is blunt-instrument-authoring another coaching masterpiece and should have the Titans hosting a playoff game yet again.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 12)
Winner: The Rodney Dangerfield Technicolor Dreamcoat For Most Fashionable, Least-Respected Team
Another [musical] theatre reference — in no small part because of Joseph (Joe) Burrow — mashed up with the immortalized, loudly-dressed comedian's most iconic line. The Bengals have been a roller-coaster ride, that's for sure, hence the medley of colors. Joe Brr and others — recently injured for the year CB1 Chidobe Awuzie, sadly — have the sickest fashion fits on Sundays. Additionally, Cincinnati plays with a swagger and electricity when firing on all cylinders that few, if any, teams can match. Seems like after every loss during this 5-4 seesawing season, everyone's wanted to write the Bengals off. Let's see how they finish and come off this Week 10 bye.
8. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 8)
Winner: The "Fuck, We Might Be Fucked Next Year" Tribute To The NFL’s Most Notorious Young QB-Cloudiest Future Situation
How Baltimore's chief decision-makers can watch Lamar Jackson every day in practice and on game days and not be immediately moved to shell out a massive second contract for him on the spot is beyond me. This doesn't need to be a controversy. Lamar is doing a great job of focusing on the task at hand. Still, it's a needless subplot that'll only be magnified as the playoffs approach. Unless the Ravens win the Super Bowl, the Jackson dilemma is gonna be hella complicated.
7. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 6)
Winner: The 'Pulp Fiction' Hypodermic Adrenaline Needle For Most Suddenly-Explosive Offense With A Revived Catalyst
The reason I flipped Seattle and Miami is due to the Dolphins' thinning defense and inferior offensive balance. Tua Tagovailoa is often put in tough spots because the Fins have the league's 28th-ranked rushing offense. Nevertheless, Tua, his electric receiving duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and the innovation of coach/schematic wizard Mike McDaniel have Miami second behind the Bills in yards per play. McDaniel has truly done for Tua the equivalent of what happened to Pulp Fiction star Uma Thurman in the movie.
6. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 7)
Winner: The Old Man And The SEA-Attitude-Themed Typewriter For An Aging Legend Willing His Young Team To WINS
Hemingway himself couldn't have written much more of a storybook start to Pete Carroll's divorce from Russell Wilson. On the strength of a potentially historic draft class and a mind-blowingly resurgent Geno Smith, the Seahawks have ascended to the top of the NFC West after EVERYONE expected them to be a bottom-five team in 2022. Seattle's flailing defense has found its footing in recent weeks, and Smith is operating the offense at an elite level. Feels like they're for real.
5. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 5)
Winner: The Julius Caesar Garland For The Team Whose Unimpeachable Ruler Is Most Likely To Be Overthrown By Superior Subordinates
When it comes to the caliber of coach and his fit with leading modern players, I feel like Cowboys OC Kellen Moore and DC Dan Quinn are better suited to be the lead voice in the locker room than Mike McCarthy. Look, good for Mike Mac going 6-2 so far, but aren’t you just waiting for him to do something so fucking dumb in the playoffs to cause the ‘Boys to flame out early? I know I am. Pretty sure Dan Quinn could talk himself into assassinating McCarthy since he’s on the other side of the ball. Baby-faced Kellen is the perfect “Et tu, Brute?” betrayer. If Dallas collapses or flops in the postseason, I could see Jerry Jones promoting Quinn or Moore in McCarthy’s place to keep it as “in the family” as he’s wont to do. Both of them could be head coaches elsewhere in 2023 otherwise.
4. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 2)
Winner: The Holy Haymaker Pugilist’s Gloves For Most Dominant Yet Vulnerable Contender
The 6-2 Bills either blow you out, or play down to the level of their competition. Not much in between. They're 2-8 in their last 10 one-possession games dating back to 2021. Josh Allen looks like ass at times and is now dealing with a UCL sprain, which is an elbow injury that can lead to Tommy John surgery. I'll comprehend that Allen isn't indestructible when I see actual proof of it. For the time being, still respecting Buffalo as a Prime Mike Tyson force of nature who can knock you to the canvas like no one else.
3. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 4)
Winner: The GQ All-American Photoshoot Album For Most Attractive Team Who Might Not Deliver In The Biggest Moment
The 49ers have the top-flight roster, collective experience and the makeup to get hot in the season's back half off of a 4-4 start. Were I to predict a team right now who'd represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, it'd be San Francisco. It's just…there's unfortunate history featuring the Niners' most important guys.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan, the coach/play-caller, has blown double-digit leads in the three biggest games of his life, including Atlanta's 28-3 debacle. Jimmy Garoppolo was under center for the two other soul-crushing defeats. I invoked "All-American" here because I think us U.S. folk have a cultural fascination with people who make it to the highest levels of something or the apex of fame and fortune and fail or falter. What an awesome story it'd be for Coach Shanny and Jimmy G to exorcize their demons and lead this iconic franchise to the pinnacle of the sport.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 1)
Winner: The Ed Allan Poe Award For Killing Fools With A Great Roster And An Athletic Rookie Contract QB Whose Formula Will Probably Be Exposed In A One-And-Done Playoff Collapse A La The 2019 Baltimore Ravens
Those Ravens went 14-2 during Lamar's MVP season only to get steamrolled by King Henry and the Titans in a quick postseason exit. I could see a similar fate befalling Philadelphia. Not because I want it to. I love how quirky Nick Sirianni is. I love how badass the Eagles are on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I love MVP candidate Jalen Hurts' continued improvement and obvious leadership intangibles. Hell, I'm a diehard Batman guy and multiple Philly players are competing for various Batmen nicknames so I'm over the moon about that whole thing. It's just…are the Eagles too good to be true? I'm concerned.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 3)
Winner: The Lombardi Trophy For The Team Who’s Probably Going To Win It All So Just Cancel The Rest Of The Season Already
These Chiefs are at +550 to win it all at Barstool Sportsbook, trailing only the Bills (+275) and Eagles (+500), with a gulf between them and the next-closest team, San Francisco (+1100). I'm kinda riding out some preseason wagers but like as a purely objective person — to be clear, not advocating that you should absolutely throw down on KC — if you look at all those teams' resumes, the clear-cut, most proven commodity is Kansas City. They've made it to four straight conference title tilts and easily could've won all four. For the most impetuous of football fans, were the season and playoffs put through a sophisticated simulations whilst factoring in the trajectory of teams and where they'd end up seeding-wise, I think the Chiefs would come out on top more often than anyone.