With the final weekend of the 2011-12 football season bearing down on us, we turn our attention to the NFL Honors awards show that will be airing the evening before Super Bowl XLVI.
The show will allow the fans to look back and reflect on the past season with fond memories before watching the season culminate in the rematch between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.
Here are four bold predictions for the outcome of the awards ceremony.
The popular pick for this year's Comeback Player of the Year is the 49ers' Alex Smith and such a pick would not be inaccurate.
Smith didn't have an outstanding statistical season, but he did prove to be an effective game manager for one of the biggest surprise teams in the league after being a huge disappointment his first few years in the league. He also had a 3.4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, which is better than both Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
However, I think Smith could be upset by Matthew Stafford, the young but prolific Lions quarterback that had a breakout season after spending a total of 19 games rehabbing from injuries in his first two seasons.
In just his third season, Stafford accumulated 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions on a 63.5 percent completion rate and led his team to the playoffs just two years removed from a 2-14 season. Despite his youth, all his numbers indicate that he was in the same league as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
As much as Smith is deserving of this recognition, Stafford may be even more so.
On the heels of a season in which he rolled up 4,757 total yards and scored 35 touchdowns, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton would seem a lock to be awarded with the Rookie of the Year.
There's no doubt he'll get that recognition from somewhere, but I think a player who will give him a run for his money and more is 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith.
Smith started the season a little slow (as was expected from most rookies this year as a result of the lockout), but he really picked it up in Week 4 and dominated towards the end of the year. He finished the regular season with 37 tackles, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles and, more importantly, was a key player for an outstanding defense that carried its team deep into the playoffs.
Smith capped the season with a sack in each of the team's playoff games. Though Newton had a more prolific season statistically, Smith's 14 sacks won't go unnoticed and the fact that he helped his team make it to the NFC Championship game gives him an extra boost.
Of the two Rookie of the Year awards to be handed out, don't be too surprised if Smith is a recipient of one of them.
Despite not being listed there, Tebow has been doing charitable work all year long, a fact that often goes unnoticed when people are caught up in how remarkable a season he has had on the field. This article by ESPN's Rick Reilly is a great indication of what Tebow's all about.
Though I'd be surprised if Tebow didn't give a significant amount of his paycheck to good causes, it's not his money that really sets him apart. It's how much of his time he dedicates to spending with numerous hurting people in need of an injection of hope.
Beyond that, Tebow constantly lives under a microscope yet has so far proven to be a genuine man of character and faith. The way he lives on and off the field is a great example for the rest of the world.
I think that will earn him the award.
This may not seem like a very bold pick either, as Brady is one of the top candidates for the MVP. However, a poll on NFL.com would suggest that he's a distant third to both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in the race for the league's most prestigious award.
Despite the historic seasons that both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers had, however, I think Brady ultimately wins.
Brees' 5,476 passing yards shattered Dan Marino's single-season record and Rodgers eclipsed Peyton Manning for the season quarterback rating record with a jaw-dropping 122.5 average.
However, neither player made it to the Super Bowl, while Tom Brady is preparing to try and win his fourth ring. While it's pretty easy to say that none of these teams would have made it to the Super Bowl without their respective franchise signal-callers, it wouldn't have been far-fetched for both the Packers and the Saints to at least make the playoffs with marginal quarterbacks.
The Patriots, on the other hand? I tend to think not.
There were times this year when the Patriots looked like they were on the verge of collapse, but Brady held them together. Not only that, but how many other quarterbacks could put up such enormous numbers with two tight ends and a 5'9" slot receiver as his top-three targets?
The bottom line is, Brady was more important to his team than any other player in the NFL this year and that should win him the MVP award.