The Ravens start the second half of their 2012 season Sunday when they take on the Raiders at The Bank. The Ravens are heavy favorites (I say 31-17 Baltimore) to improve to 7-2. After Sunday it’s crunch time, two of the next three games are against the Steelers with a road trip to San Diego sandwiched in between. The 2nd half also features Peyton and Eli Manning coming to Baltimore and road trips to play the Redskins and Bengals.

A win Sunday gets the Ravens to 7-2. If they finish 4-3 they get to 11-5, even a clumsy 3-4 finish would get the Ravens to 10 wins and likely a 5th straight trip to the playoffs.

Here are my picks for the best of the NFL in the first half.

Rookie of the Year— Andrew Luck is as advertised, the Colts have another franchise quarterback and he could win this award and lead his Colts to the playoffs. However, I can’t pass on my favorite Martin. My vote goes to Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin. He’s 3rd in the NFL in rushing and is on pace to run for nearly 1,600 yards. The Boise State rookie is averaging a healthy 5.2 yards a carry.

Coach of the Year— It’s a battle of the Smith’s. Mike is the only undefeated coach in the NFL. The former Baltimore defensive line coach has the Falcons 8-0. The Bears Lovie Smith has a loss but gets my vote. Chicago’s defense is a scoring machine if Jay Cutler can hold up his end the Bears might show up in New Orleans. The Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians combo also get high marks for the Colts turnaround. Chuckstrong!

Offensive Player of the Year— Aaron Rodgers had a slow start but last years MVP is back on track with the Pack.

His 25 TD passes lead the league, he’s only thrown 5 interceptions and he’s second in QB rating at 107.4. His top receiver Greg Jennings has been out most of the first half and big play Jordy Nelson has missed games. Last year’s MVP rolls on.

Defensive Player of the Year— This is a 2 horse race. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has 2 TD’s and 7 forced fumbles. JJ Watt of the Texans leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks and has batted down 10 passes. Tillman’s forced fumbles and Watt’s batted ball’s numbers are off the charts. I’m splitting hairs with a slight edge to JJ Watt.

Comeback Player of the Year— I refuse to split these hairs. I’ve got co-winners in Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. Manning has rehabbed a neck injury that threatened his career, Peterson is light years ahead of schedule after ACL surgery December 30th. These two are having amazing seasons. Manning leads the league in QB rating, Peterson is the NFL’s leading rusher. If they keep this up in the second half they’ll be viable MVP candidates.

MVP— It might change in the next two months but he’s the most important player on the NFL’s only undefeated team. Hello Matt Ryan. The Falcons QB has completed 69% of his passes and is on pace to throw for 4,700 yards and 34 TD’s. Matty Ice has been nice.


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