Patriots

NFL Notebook: First half Patriots awards, predicting the AFC playoff race

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While we wait all day for the Patriots to start their regular season in Baltimore against the Ravens, let's take stock of where they are by going over our Patriots first-half award picks in extremes — we'll give you the most valuable Patriot, and the least valuable. And so on and so forth.

The envelope please...

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

This is going to be tough and would depend on your definition for the award. Me, I go with most valuable, not best. And it's not necessarily most indispensable player — that would always be Tom Brady. On the offensive side, Brady, Joe Thuney and Julian Edelman all deserve consideration. But the Patriots to this point have been all about the defense. So the award has to go on that side of the ball. Good luck picking between Stephon Gilmore, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy and Dont'a Hightower.

The pick: