My NFL Award Predictions

Posted: 12/31/2013 by levcohen in Football

I won’t do a traditional review, because this was the last week of the season and there are obviously no more playoff scenarios to break down, so instead I’ll make my picks for each NFL award.

MVP: Peyton Manning

People are going to make legitimate cases for Tom Brady, Jamaal Charles, and maybe even Russell Wilson and LeSean McCoy. But really, there is no contest. Manning broke a billion records this year, including the big ones: Most touchdowns (54) and most passing yards (5477). Yes, he is in a good situation, unlike Brady and Charles, but that doesn’t discount anything that he has done. And it’s not like he is being Romoish in putting up big numbers and going 8-8. Peyton went 13-3 and clinched homefield advantage throughout the AFC. So he’s the complete package: he puts up huge stats, he wins, and he is basically the offensive coordinator. Sure, there are doubts about Manning in cold weather and in the playoffs, but that doesn’t really change the pick. This is a regular season award.

Brady’s case: He led the Patriots to 12-4 with a terrible receiving corps mostly without their top four weapons from last season (Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and Brandon Lloyd did not play a down while Rob Gronkowski missed most of the season). The case can be made that they have lost five of their best 12 players from April for good (Gronk, Hernandez, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Sebastian Vollmer), and almost everyone else has missed significant time. Really, only Brady and Rob Ninkovich have been healthy throughout the season, and even Ninkovich is banged up now. So Brady, basically on his own, as led the Patriots to 12-4.

Charles’s case: Jamaal Charles is the Chiefs’ entire offense. He leads the team in rushing yards with 1287 and rushing touchdowns with 12. Even more impressively, he leads the team in receiving yards with 693, in catches with 70, and in receiving touchdowns with seven. That’s 19 total touchdowns. He had a game with four long receiving touchdowns, which was incredible and carried the team. And that’s just it: when Charles is going, the Chiefs are hard to stop. With him even slightly below his normal, elite, level, the offense suffers. Because really they have no other offense, and even though defenses focus on Charles every week, he still finds ways to be productive, whether on the ground or in the air.

Wilson’s case: Russell Wilson is the quarterback on the best team in the NFL. And while the defense might get more credit, Wilson is still very productive. Among players who have started the entire year, only Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Drew Brees have better passer ratings. Only Cam Newton and Terrelle Pryor among QB’s have run for more yards than Wilson’s 539. But yeah, Wilson’s case is mainly predicated on his team’s success. And while that might get him some votes, it probably won’t put him in the top 3.

McCoy’s case: Enter the NFL’s leader in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. His 1607 rushing yards blew away the field, winning the rushing title even before he stepped on the field on Sunday night and eventually winning it by nearly 300 yards. He also added an incredible 10.4 yards per catch, nearly unheard of from a running back (even Charles averaged under 10 yards a catch), and ended up with 52 catches for 539 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns. But unlike Charles, McCoy doesn’t get extra points for leading an otherwise listless offense. While Charles ended up amassing roughly a third of the Chiefs’ yards from scrimmage despite being held out the final game, the Eagles picked up 900 more yards than Kansas City, and McCoy accounted for just over 30%. It’s not a big difference, but voters might point to it.

COY: Bill Belichick.

In my opinion, this race comes down to Belichick versus Ron Rivera of the Panthers. I know that Andy Reid will probably win it, and I hate that. Reid took a talented team to 11-5. So what? We all knew this team had potential, and I think that the average coach could probably have taken this team to nine or 10 wins. So Reid is one win above replacement. Or was this year. That’s all I can give him.

What coach would you rather have than Bill Belichick? Just look above at my Tom Brady case. He has lost so many great players. Heck, he is starting players from the street. Not just rookies or undrafted free agents, but players who had been on the couch. That’s tough. It would have been understandable if Belichick and Brady got frustrated and ended up winning 8 or so games. But it didn’t happen. It’s incredible.

Then there is Ron Rivera. At 1-3 and on the hot seat after week 5, things did not look good for Rivera and the Panthers. But then they started winning. And kept winning, racking up huge wins against teams like New England, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Their only loss since week 5 was in New Orleans, and that’s understandable. It didn’t seem possible, but think about this: Had the Panthers won week 1 at home against the Seahawks as they should have, they would be the #1 seed right now. Instead, they lost a sloppy game 12-7 at home, and nobody knew how important that loss would become. But that’s beside the point. Since week 5, Rivera has changed his coaching style, dialing up more aggressive plays and going for it more on 4th down. It’s almost like he knew he was playing with house money and was trying to have fun. As a result, Rivera’s seat has never been cooler than it is right now.

OPOY: Peyton Manning

In the last 20 years, only six Offensive Player of the Year awards have been won by quarterbacks. Four of those also won the MVP. So the OPOY is traditionally given to the best non quarterback (Charles) or the runner up for MVP. Instead I’m going with the literal meaning of the award. Peyton Manning has been the best offensive player in the NFL, so he should win the award.

Jamaal Charles: I think Charles will end up winning this award as his consolation for not winning MVP. He does have a good case, which I detailed above, but I don’t agree with the argument that Charles was a better offensive player than Manning.

DPOY: Richard Sherman

This is kind of a crapshoot. Sherman, Robert Mathis, Robert Quinn, and Luke Kuechly all have pretty much equal cases, and a bunch of other guys also have cases. So I’ll go with the best player on the best defense in the NFL. Sherman is not only a shutdown corner, but also creates turnovers; his eight interceptions were two more than any other player. His 16 passes defensed were in the top 15 in the NFL. He is the total package. The only issue is this: could Earl Thomas and the other great Seattle defenders take votes away from Sherman? My bet is yes, so I don’t think Sherman will win this award, but he’s my pick.

Robert Mathis: On an otherwise mediocre defense, Mathis led the league in sacks with 19.5. That’s a good case by itself, and Mathis also led the league in forced fumbles with eight.

Robert Quinn: Quinn has shockingly similar stats to Mathis. He is second in the NFL with 19 sacks, and second in forced fumbles with seven. He did recover two fumbles including one for a touchdown, something Mathis did not do, and I think Quinn gets the edge partly because of that and partly because of the eye test. Quinn just looked more dominant than Mathis.

Luke Kuechly: Kuechly has this going for him: he is very clearly the best defender on the second best defense in the NFL. While other players on Seattle will steal votes from Sherman, that won’t happen to Kuechly. He is great against the run and in coverage, shutting down guys like Jimmy Graham. When you can shut down Jimmy Graham, you can shut down any tight end in the NFL. He was also fourth in the NFL in tackles and had four interceptions. Kuechly is a pretty complete player.

OROY: Eddie Lacy

I’m picking Lacy because, throughout the season, he has been a big weapon for Green Bay. He led all rookies in rushing yards with 1,178 (which was 8th in the NFL), and it wasn’t close. Zac Stacy was next with 973 yards. He also led rookies in rushing touchdowns with 11, which was third in the NFL, and that also wasn’t close. Le’Veon Bell was next with eight. Really, Lacy should run away with this award because he practically put the team on his back when Aaron Rodgers went down and missed half the season, but there are some other candidates.

Zac Stacy: Zac Stacy had one carry in the first two weeks, and wasn’t the full time starter until week six, when he had his coming out party against Seattle. Had he started the whole season, he probably would have won this award. Stacy was the only weapon on a Rams offense without its starting quarterback, Sam Bradford. Tavon Austin didn’t produce much throughout the season, and there were really no other weapons. So it’s amazing that, even with as many as eight or nine guys in the box, Stacy rushed for 973 yards and had eight total touchdowns.

Keenan Allen: Keenan Allen should get more credit. He was terrific this year, and had the best rookie year for a receiver in a while. He caught 71 passes (68% of his targets) for 1046 yards and scored eight touchdowns for the Chargers. He had a good year, and I think he will finish in the top three, but Lacy will top him.

DROY: Sheldon Richardson

Kiko Alonso will probably win this award because of his gaudy tackle number, but I think that Richardson has had more impact. Richardson’s 76 tackles is amazing from a defensive tackle, and has been very consistent. Richardson is a main reason that the Jets’ run defense has been by far the best in the NFL. He clogs up the middle, is athletic, and gets tackles. He is the complete package.

Kiko Alonso: Alonso has been terrific for the Bills, who are otherwise low on good linebackers. Not only is he near the top of the NFL in tackles with 145, but he is also solid in pass defense, with four interceptions and five passes defensed. He is consistent, with seven games of double-digit tackles, and he is the favorite to win this award.

CPOY: Phillip Rivers

Phillip Rivers did his best “back from the dead” comparison this year. Last season, he had his worst year since he became the starting quarterback in 2006. He had 3606 yards passing and had 15 interceptions and 13 fumbles. His QBR was 41.5 and his passer rating was 88.6. This year, he threw for 4478 yards and had 32 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. His QBR was 71.7 and his passer rating was 105.5. Rivers was legitimately the third best quarterback in the NFL this season, behind just Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. The Chargers’ making the playoffs probably clinches this spot for him. When you go from below average to top five, you have a pretty good shot at Comeback Player of the Year.

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