2011 NFL Offseason Awards: Predicting the Winners
But why wait one month? I'm going to tell you now which players (and coach) will win the awards. In fact, I'm also going to tell you who the runner up will be as well.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts on who will win each respective award:
One can certainly argue that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the reigning league MVP, had an MVP-like season. Not only did Brady lead the Patriots to 13 wins and the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but he threw for the second-most yards (5,235) in any season in NFL history. That said, the quarterback that threw for the most in NFL history did so this season as well: Saints quarterback Drew Brees (5,476).
As great of a season as Brady had, the MVP voting will likely come down to Brees and Rodgers. Brees threw for more yards than Rodgers (5,476 to 4,643), one more touchdown (46 to 45) and completed a higher percentage of his passes (71.2 to 68.3 percent). In fact, Brees set the single-season mark for completion percentage in addition to 300-yard games (13) as well.
If Rodgers did not sit out Week 17, he would have come close to (or reached) the 5,000-yard mark as Brees, Brady and Detroit's Matthew Stafford did. After all, backup Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns, both of which are franchise records, on Sunday. Perhaps Flynn's great performance is an argument against Rodgers, but Rodgers has been nearly flawless this season and the Packers have won a league-best 15 games.
Rodgers set the NFL record for highest quarterback rating (122.5) and started the season with 12 straight games with a passer rating of 100-plus. In addition, he set the franchise record with 45 passing touchdowns and threw only six interceptions in 502 pass attempts. For the fourth straight season, Rodgers has rushed for at least three touchdowns and 200 yards.
- Runner-up: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
While I think Rodgers will win the MVP (as noted above), I can see Brees taking home the award for Offensive Player of the Year. Rodgers was more efficient (he threw 155 less pass attempts than Brees), but he led the NFL in passer rating and yards per attempt (9.2).
Brees was more prolific setting records in passing yards, completions (458) and 300-yard games and leading the league in passing touchdowns. He closed out the season with seven straight 300-yards games and threw a total of 14 touchdown passes in his final three games.
Out of these two players, there is no wrong choice as both have had remarkable seasons and it wouldn't surprise me if we see co-MVPs.
- Runner-up: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants
After much internal debate, I am giving the award to Allen. Not only did he just miss out on the single-season sack record with 22 sacks, only four players had more forced fumbles than Allen (four). Allen also had 66 tackles, a safety and an interception for the three-win Vikings.
In the year (2001) that Michael Strahan set the single-season sack record (22.5) with the help of Brett Favre, he won the award.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the team's first-round pick in 2010, came on strong in his second NFL season and finished fourth in the NFL in sacks (16.5). In the final four games of the season when the Giants needed to win, JPP had a sack in every game and a total of six sacks during that span. Of the players with double-digit sacks, no player had more tackles than Pierre-Paul (86).
If I picked a second runner-up, it would be Baltimore's Terrell Suggs. He finished first in forced fumbles (seven), tied for fifth in sacks (14.0) with San Francisco's Aldon Smith and had two interceptions as well. But Suggs had three great games (first game vs. Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Indianapolis). In those three games, Suggs had nine sacks and six forced fumbles. That means that Suggs finished with only five sacks and one forced fumble in his other 13 games this season.
- Runner-up: A.J. Green, Bengals
Not only did Newton set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns (14) by a quarterback, the rookie signal caller finished third in rushing yards (706) out of all rookies. Only Houston's Ben Tate (942) and Dallas' DeMarco Murray (897) had more.
Aside from his insane rushing statistics as a quarterback, Newton, the first overall pick, threw for 4,051 yards, which set the rookie record and he completed 60.0 percent of his passes. Despite being a rookie quarterback with no OTAs, Newton was one of only five quarterbacks to throw or run for a total of 35 touchdowns in 2011. The other four quarterbacks were Brees, Brady, Rodgers and Stafford. More impressively, Newton is the sole name on the list of players that have thrown for 4,000-plus yards and rushed for 700-plus yards in NFL history.
Related: Sean Beazley, one of our site's main contributors, named Newton as his quarterback MVP in fantasy football (see the rest of his picks) based on draft value. Sean projects Newton as being the fourth quarterback off the board in 2012.
Three other rookies that would be worthy of the award in any other season are Bengals rookies A.J. Green and Andy Dalton as well as Falcons rookie receiver Julio Jones. Green finished with 1,057 yards, which makes him the fourth rookie receiver to finish with 1,000-plus yards since 2000. If Jones had not missed three games, he would have done so as well. Jones finished with 959 yards and his 73.8 yards per game was a few yards better than Green's (70.5) and he had one more touchdown than Green (eight to seven).
- Runner-up: Von Miller, Broncos
49ers rookie Aldon Smith, the seventh overall pick in this year's draft, was only one-half sack away from tying the all-time single-season rookie sack record set by Jevon Kearse in 1999. Smith did not get his first sack of the season until Week 4, which means he finished with 14 sacks in his final 13 games. As noted above, Smith was tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks with Suggs.
Denver's Von Miller also finished in the top ten in sacks with 11.5 this season. Miller had 64 tackles while Smith had only 37 and both had two forced fumbles. The race for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year will be much closer than will the race for the offensive counterpart.
- Runner-up: Marvin Lewis, Bengals
With no offseason, it appeared that the 2011 season would be an uphill battle for any team that had a new head coach or even a new coordinator or two. After all, there was virtually no time to implement new schemes and systems and/or evaluate talent. It seemed as though the teams that had the least amount of turnover would be best-positioned for success in 2011. And that happened with teams like Green Bay, New England and New Orleans all having tremendous success this year.
While there might not have been a huge turnover of player personnel in San Francisco, the 49ers were huge disappointments in 2010, which led to Mike Singletary's dismissal. Harbaugh turned the Niners around and got them to believe in themselves and win 13 games to earn a first-round bye. After all, "nobody" has it better than them. The 49ers ranked first in scoring defense and rushing defense and quarterback Alex Smith posted a 17:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
While Marvin Lewis has been head coach in Cincinnati since , it was a rookie offensive coordinator, quarterback and receiver that helped lead the team to a playoff berth despite playing Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice each per year. Granted they lost all four games to the Ravens and Steelers, but they beat the teams they should have despite plenty of change on the offensive side of the ball. In addition, they lost cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph to free agency and Leon Hall to a season-ending injury in the middle of the season.
- Runner-up: Ben Tate, Texans
Smith (along with New England's Tedy Bruschi) won the AP Comeback Player of the Year award in 2005. Smith played in only one game in 2004 and set career highs in 2005 with 103 receptions, 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Excluding his rookie season and 2004, Smith never had fewer receptions (46), yards (554) or touchdowns (two) than he had last year. With Newton under center, Smith found a fountain of youth and finished with 79 receptions, 1,394 yards (third-highest total of his career) and seven touchdowns.
After being drafted in the second round in 2010, Ben Tate missed the entire season due to an ankle injury. This year, Tate was only 58 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards. Tate finished the season with 175 carries for 642 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He also had 13 receptions for 98 yards.
Over the next couple of days, we will release predictions of all games during the wild-card round of the playoffs and full playoff predictions including Super Bowl winners.
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