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Midseason 2015 Bengals Awards: Comeback Player of the Year

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The Cincinnati Bengals are officially through half of their games on the 2015 schedule and we're rolling out a midseason report. There are a number of options for Comeback Player of the Year, so let's have a look.

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When gauging the midseason mark before the 2015 season began for the Cincinnati Bengals, few would have truly predicted an 8-0 start. Yet, here we are in early November and that's where the orange and black currently sit--atop the AFC playoff picture.

While we posted a few quarter season marks for the team and have our annual series of Bengals' postseason awards, it's also fitting we take a look at how things stand at the midway point of 2015. For now, we're looking at a more individual level, as we analyze some of the team's best Comeback Player performances thus far.

The Runner-Ups:

Andy Dalton, QB: While "Comeback Player of the Year" usually denotes someone who missed significant time the previous year because of injury, there are outliers in which a significant uptick in play can get someone the award. Jon Kitna did it for the Bengals in 2003, and Dalton might very well win the award this year, given the league's infatuation with Tom Brady and his play this year.

2014 was one of the worst statistical seasons in Dalton's career; he garnered just 19 passing touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Some of it was due to poor decision-making, while a lot of it had to do with a plethora of major injuries to his receiving weapons. In just eight games this season, Dalton has one less touchdown pass (18) than he did all of last year, and is on pace for a career-high in passing yards (almost 4,500), against just a projected eight interceptions (four currently). His rating sits at a staggering 111.0 and his completion percentage is in the high 60s.

Marvin Jones, WR: Here is where the injury front plays a role. While A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu did their best to remedy the losses of Jones and Tyler Eifert last year, the offense lost sizzle. Jones is known as a deep threat, but still makes plays in the red zone and between the 20s. That was evident in a breakout supporting role in 2013 with 10 receiving touchdowns. Unfortunately, he missed all of 2014 with foot and ankle issues.

This year, Jones is again taking a back seat to a couple of other receiving options in the offense, but his presence has been huge. Whether it's coming down with a couple of huge acrobatic plays and being the leading receiver against the Bills or acting as a decoy to open up Green and Eifert, Jones has had a major impact on the Bengals in 2015. He ranks third on the team in the three major categories, yards (437), touchdowns (three) and receptions (49), and has helped ignite a big boost of confidence we've seen in Dalton.

Geno Atkins, DT: He wasn't injured in 2014, but he wasn't fully healthy, either. To Atkins' credit, he rushed back as soon as he could after a big knee injury midway through the 2013 season and played all 16 games last year. There were times last year when Atkins looked like the Pro Bowler we knew and loved, but he wasn't the consistent impact player he had been in previous seasons.

After an offseason where, for a lack of better words, Atkins seemed pissed off at a lot of people, he's been a force on a rejuvenated defensive line in 2015. Through eight games, Atkins has doubled his quarterback sack total from last year (six) and has the Bengals' defense in the top-half of the league against the run (14th). After finishing dead last in the NFL in sacks last season, Atkins and his crew rank fifth in sacks at the halfway point. As if closing in on his total tackle number from last season isn't enough, he's also opening opportunities for other players to get to the quarterback, as evidenced with Carlos Dunlap's 8.5 sacks.

The Winner:

Tyler Eifert, TE: At first blush, the selection of Eifert for this award seems obvious, but it might be a little closer than you think because of the aforementioned players' performances. But, the presence of Eifert as the No. 1 tight end for the first time and fully healthy has made the offense almost unstoppable. He leads the league in receiving touchdowns with nine and has been a red zone monster.

Check this stat out: 36 of 37 of Eifert's receptions have either gone for a touchdown (nine) or a first down (27) at the midway point in 2015. While the consensus best tight end in the league remains to be Rob Gronkowski, Eifert is cementing his status as one of the best in the league himself. He's beaten linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks on his way to the end zone, and is basically a wide receiver trapped in a 6'6", 250-pound body.