Who Are the Favorites for Every Major NFL Award After Week 6?
The field for predicting the favorite players for every major NFL award got considerably harder based on the wild and wacky Week 6 action around the league.
Some of the players and coaches that we identified in Week 5 as early clubhouse leaders for their respective categories had less-than-stellar games in Week 6. Prime examples were Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, San Francisco QB Alex Smith and Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.
One of the things about the NFL that is so amazing is how unpredictable certain teams will fare against specific opponents. Just when you think you have things figured out, events occur that defy logic.
You recall the old math formula from school; If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A must be greater than C. That formula doesn't hold up in the NFL. Here is an example to illustrate the point. Arizona defeats New England, New England thrashes Buffalo, but Buffalo defeats Arizona. You will see this kind of pattern emerging more often as the 2012 season continues.
Our weekly presentation continues with a recap of Week 6 action and how the various performances impact each of the major NFL awards.
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III had an outstanding game in Week 6, as he was able to recover from the Week 5 concussion he suffered to lead Washington to a big win over Minnesota.
With the Vikings trying to rally, Griffin raced around the end for a 76-yard touchdown, the second longest touchdown run by a quarterback since 1996. The top marks belongs to Kordell Stewart, who ran for a 80-yard touchdown for the Pittsburgh Steelers against Carolina.
Griffin ran the ball 13 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 10.6 yards per rush, and he threw for another touchdown. Griffin continues to pad his lead on the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Right now he is running away with this award.
Besides Griffin, there were some other noteworthy offensive rookie performances around the league.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns to upset Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Wilson has guided the Seahawks to a 4-2 start and a share of first place in the NFC West division.
Cleveland Browns QB Brandon Weeden turned 29 years old on Sunday and led the Browns to their first win of the year in Week 6. Weeden threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals defense.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck fell a bit more in the race to RG3, completing only 50 percent of his passes against the New York Jets. Luck failed to throw for a touchdown and had two interceptions.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill led the Dolphins to a win over the improving St. Louis Rams. Tannehill completed 21-of-29 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His Dolphins are now tied with the rest of the AFC East for first place in the division.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin rushed 13 times in Week 6 for 76 yards and no touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 yards per rush.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
Just like RG3 has a stranglehold right now on the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones is running away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Against the Seattle Seahawks yesterday, Jones seemed to be the only player on the Patriots defense that was prepared to make any plays. Jones collected the Patriots' only two sacks of the game. In addition, he came up with one tackle for a loss, led the team with three QB hits and also led the team with nine tackles.
After six weeks, Jones has 27 tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles and one pass deflection.
Seattle Seahawks rookie Bruce Irvin does have 4.5 sacks, but he is proving to be more like a one-trick pony, as he only has a total of six tackles for the entire season.
Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith has 27 tackles, seven pass deflections and one fumble recovery. The rest of his stat line is empty, but he has been a force for the 4-2 Vikings.
Dallas Cowboys rookie CB Morris Claiborne hurt his knee in Week 6 but returned in the fourth quarter to play. Another highly touted rookie, Cincinnati Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick, has yet to play this season, so his DROY chances are gone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Lavonte David leads all NFL rookies with 41 tackles.
Green Bay Packers CB Casey Hayward now leads all NFL rookies with three interceptions, and he is only one interception behind tying for the lead in the NFL.
NFL Comeback Player of the Year
During the first five weeks, we have discussed some potential NFL Comeback Players of the Year award candidates, which were met with mixed feedback. The debate centered around which players were truly qualified to be considered for Comeback Player of the Year.
To clarify, here is a working description for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, as provided by NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus:
The CPOY award is given to a player who "shows perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance."
If you read that explanation word for word, you see that it opens up the award to a wide range of candidates.
Showing perseverance in overcoming adversity could be Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis, who is trying to to become the first player in NFL history to come back from three ACL surgeries on the same knee.
As for not being in the NFL in the previous year there is no bigger name or better candidate than Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning. San Francisco 49ers WR Randy Moss would be another example, but Manning has clearly outplayed Moss in 2012. Manning led the Broncos on a furious second-half comeback on Monday Night Football when they were down 24-0.
Regarding the clause of coming back from a severe injury, we have options like Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson or Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall.
Then we get to the part about simply poor performance. That really opens up a can of worms. Let's take players that were ranked in the bottom five of their positional rankings in 2011.
You have players like Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder, St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford and Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert that all finished the 2011 season in the bottom five rankings of their position. They all have plenty of room for improvement from 2011. You could take the bottom five from every position on the field and really create a huge list. We don't need to do that right now, but you get the point.
Then you have a player like Kansas City RB Jamaal Charles, who qualifies at multiple levels on this list as another strong candidate to consider.
Through this exercise we have determined that the NFL definition for the rule truly opens up this award to a much wider range of candidates. You will see that reflected in future updates as the season rolls along.
NFL Coach of the Year
Looking at the updated standings, we note that Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons is the only head coach that can now boast a perfect record, as Smith has guided his team to the first ever 6-0 start in franchise history. The Falcons found a way to win despite usually reliable quarterback Matt Ryan having an off day with three interceptions.
Smith is now tied with Dan Reeves for the most coaching wins in Atlanta Falcons team history, with 47 wins apiece. Smith now can give his team some time off this week, as the Falcons come into their Week 7 bye undefeated. They will be rested and ready to roll in Week 8 against Philadelphia.
Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans fell from the ranks of the undefeated, as the Texans were beaten by the Green Bay Packers. That makes the Texans 0-1 without star linebacker Brian Cushing. The Texans will host the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7 to determine which team will have the best record in the AFC.
Speaking of the Ravens, head coach John Harbaugh has guided his team to a 5-1 record and a comfortable lead in the AFC North. The Ravens defense will definitely have a different feel, as the Baltimore will be without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb for the rest of the season. It will take a heck of a coaching job from Harbaugh to defeat a quality team like Houston with so many key defensive stars missing.
We had been singing the praises of Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt lately, but he still can't find a way to protect his quarterback. Bobbie Massie and D'Anthony Batiste are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in allowing sacks. Whisenhunt watched Kevin Kolb get knocked out of the game, so he needs to find a way to fix this issue now.
We also had been sending some love to Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher for getting inspired play from their underdog teams. But both coaches, along with their teams, came up with a loss in Week 6, knocking them down a peg or two.
This week, we will cite two other coaches that were heading up teams considered to be long shots or underdogs this year, and that would be Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Carroll's Seahawks upset the New England Patriots and they are now in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC West. Philbin has the Dolphins in a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East.
NFL Offensive Player of the Year
One player that has been building up an impressive case for NFL Offensive Player of the Year is Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin is more than a wide receiver, as he excels at returning kickoffs and the Vikings will hand him the ball on occasion as well.
In Week 6 action against the Washington Redskins, Harvin had a monster game. He caught 11 out of 14 targets for 133 yards, but he didn't find the end zone. On the year, Harvin leads the NFL with 49 receptions, but appears to be more effective everywhere except the red zone, as he's caught only one touchdown pass this year. Unless he bumps up the touchdowns, he won't win the award.
In the NFL combined yards rankings, Harvin is currently ranked No. 8, because only rushing and receiving yardage are counted in that category. Harvin gained 100 yards on three kickoffs in Week 6 and has been excelling in that area as well.
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan took a bit of a hit on Sunday by throwing three interceptions against the Oakland Raiders. Ryan was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, and still is a viable candidate for the award. Ryan is third in passing yards with 1,756.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, AFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, leads all NFL receivers in yards, but has been passed in receptions in the AFC by Wes Welker of the New England Patriots.
New England QB Tom Brady set a career-high for pass attempts against Seattle, and now leads the NFL in passing yards with 1,845. With 10 games to go, Brady is on pace for roughly 4,500 passing yards.
The rushing yards leaders in the NFL are Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (591 yards), Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (561 yards) and Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (549 yards).
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Last week we were promoting a total of seven players, but after Week 6 action, we are trimming two names from the favorites list.
Our five leading candidates right now for Defensive Player of the Year are Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt, Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews, Chicago Bears CB Tim Jennings, San Francisco 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman and Atlanta Falcons S Thomas DeCoud.
Watt came up with two more sacks against Aaron Rodgers, so he has padded his league lead in the category with 9.5 sacks. The fact that Watt is also in the top 10 in the NFL in passes deflected, which is typically reserved for cornerbacks and safeties, is just amazing. Watt has to be considered the leader at the Week 6 mark.
Jennings is tied with Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman for 10 pass deflections, which leads the NFL. Jennings is also tied with DeCoud for the most interceptions in the league with four. Sherman got into some smack talk with Tom Brady during their game Sunday.
The Patriots only scored one touchdown out of six drives in the red zone, as the Seahawks defense continues to evolve into a strong unit.
Other players that deserve some consideration are a pair of linebackers, Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots and Chad Greenway of the Minnesota Vikings. They are tied for the lead in the NFL with 61 tackles each.
A number of key defensive stars around the league continue to get injured, and the list is sure to have an impact on the final voting. Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis, and fellow Ravens CB Lardarius Webb are both gone for the year, as is New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis.
NFL Most Valuable Player
As we have illustrated in prior installments, the NFL Most Valuable Player award has been heavily slanted toward the best quarterback in the league. The MVP voting has awarded a quarterback with the past five trophies, and with so much emphasis placed on the passing game, you would imagine it would be six straight after this year.
So, that begs the question, how do you measure who is the best quarterback in the league?
If it's by winning percentage, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan is the only undefeated starting quarterback in the league.
If it's by touchdown passes, then you want Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who has 16 touchdown passes to just four interceptions, thanks to his six-touchdown game against Houston. Rodgers also leads the NFL after six weeks in QB passer rating with a 105.4 mark.
If you want passing yards, then your man is New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for 1,845 yards in six games.
Some people like the quarterback that can average the most passing yards per game. Well that would be New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, who averages 344 yards per game, but has played one less game than Brady due to a bye week.
How about completion percentage? Then it would be Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, who leads the NFL with a staggering percentage of 70.2.
Perhaps you prefer the overall matrix measurements like ESPN's QBR ranking system. In that case, the NFL leader is Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning with a QBR rating of 79.4.
Maybe you like guys who throw the ball downfield, so you like high yards-per-attempt passers. In that case, it is Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton who leads the NFL with an average of 8.49 yards per attempt.
To further muddy things up, we will also throw out the names of four quarterbacks that don't lead the league in any of the categories, but are having a very solid year. They are New York Giants QB Eli Manning, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith and Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco.
As you can see, the field is wide open and no single quarterback is dominating his peers this season. If things continue like this, then it is entirely possible for a wide receiver or running back to come out of the pack and claim the MVP award this year.
Thanks for checking out the presentation. We will see you next week for the Week 7 installment.