Who Are the Favorites for Every Major NFL Award After Week 8?
Do we have any clearer picture after Week 8 of who are the favorites for every major NFL award, or is it as muddy as ever?
From Hurricane Sandy to the Miami Dolphins' big win over the New York Jets, a game in London and the huge numbers put up by tight ends Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski, Week 8 was filled with good games, upsets and overtime.
This week's version will be shorter than usual, as we attempt to publish the presentation before power is lost in Connecticut. To those that are also in Hurricane Sandy's path, you are in our thoughts and prayers. Please note that, due to the weather issues, we will not include any results of the Monday Night Football game between Arizona and San Francisco in this week's presentation.
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
The favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is still Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, despite losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Griffin had a number of good throws that were dropped by Redskins receivers in the first half that should have been caught.
Griffin maintained his poise in the face of adversity and continues to demonstrate that he is a special quarterback. The numbers weren't great against the Steelers, as Griffin hit on just 16 of 34 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown. Despite that performance, Griffin is still completing 66.8 percent of his passes on the year. His QB Passer Rating is 97.3, which is No. 6 in the NFL.
Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris rushed 13 times for 59 yards against Pittsburgh. Morris fell from No. 2 to No. 3 in rushing overall in the NFL as Marshawn Lynch passed him over. Morris is the leading rusher out of all NFL rookies. He is averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per rush.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin had a big game against the Minnesota Vikings, rushing 29 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. Martin has now gained 543 rushing yards on the year, and is just 11 yards shy of cracking the top-10 in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson gained 122 yards on 24 rushes and a touchdown in their win over San Diego in Week 8. With 470 rushing yards on the year, Richardson is ranked at No. 18 in the league, just six yards behind QB Robert Griffin III.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson turned in a solid game against Detroit, completing 25 of 35 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson led the Seahawks to 24 points. Usually with their defense, that would be enough to win, but not on Week 8.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck had another solid game Sunday, hitting on 26 of 38 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown in the overtime win over Tennessee. Luck has guided the Colts to a surprising 4-3 record and continues to play very well. He might be making up some ground on RG3 for the Rookie of the Year award.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill injured his quad in the victory over the New York Jets. No word yet if he will be starting next week or if the team will turn to Matt Moore instead.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
Who is making the most impact on the defensive side of the ball from the 2012 NFL draft class? Well, after Week 8's games, here is how the rookies stack up in various defensive categories:
Sacks: New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones (6 sacks) and Seattle Seahawks LB Bruce Irvin (4.5 sacks).
Pass Deflections: Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore (10), St.Louis Rams CB Janoris Jenkins (9) and Minnesota Vikings S Harrison Smith (8).
Tackles: Indianapolis Colts LB Jerrell Freeman (69). Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wilson (62) and Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly (61).
Interceptions: Green Bay Packers CB Casey Hawyard (4) and New England Patriots S Tavon Wilson (3).
Forced Fumbles: New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones (3).
Fumble Recoveries: New England Patriots S Tavon Wilson (2).
As you can see there is a wide range of different rookies making contributions on defense all around the league. The names that pop up more than once are Patriots rookies Chandler Jones and Tavon Wilson, so they would appear to be considered the favorites now for DROY.
Note: Jerrell Freeman played in the CFL, but since this is his first year in the NFL, he would be eligible for NFL rookie awards.
NFL Comeback Player of the Year
The Comeback Player of the Year award is now down to a two-headed race between Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning. They will now have the second half of the season left to decide who wins the competition.
Manning was masterful on Sunday Night Football, as he easily guided Denver to a 34-14 win over New Orleans. Manning completed 22 of 30 passes for 305 yards and three touchdown passes. After Week 8 action, Manning is now ranked as No. 1 in the latest QB Passer Ratings, with a score of a 109.0.
With a ratio of 17 touchdowns to only four interceptions, Manning is not only going to be the sentimental choice, but he will deserve it from a performance perspective.
Peterson has nothing to be ashamed of, as he ran the ball 15 times for 123 yards and one touchdown against Tampa Bay. Peterson leads all NFL rushers with 775 yards on 151 carries, good for a 5.1 average gain per rush.
The fact that Peterson and Manning are currently atop their positional rankings will make this a difficult choice for the voters, but they are clearly the top two candidates for the CPOY award.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles had been in the running, but somehow they forgot he was active yesterday, when Charles only got five carries for four yards. That is the type of game that will knock him down the board for CPOY consideration.
NFL Coach of the Year
Mike Smith, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, is still motoring along with a perfect season, as the Falcons picked up a convincing win on the road Sunday, beating Philadelphia 30-17. As long as the Falcons continue to stay perfect, Smith would have to be considered the favorite for Coach of the Year.
With only one loss so far, Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears have each certainly done a very solid job this year. While both teams were expected to be good in 2012, many people would be surprised that they only had one loss after eight weeks of the season.
There are four other coaches we wanted to salute this week. Each of these four head coaches have been responsible for turning around teams that were not thought to be very good in 2012, yet all of them are either above .500 or just one game below .500.
The four coaches in question are Oakland Raiders Dennis Allen, Miami Dolphins Joe Philbin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greg Schiano and the Indianapolis Colts coaching combination of Chuck Pagano and interim coach Bruce Arians.
It is too early to tell how any of the four surprise teams will wind up in 2012, but as of Week 8, all of them appear to be headed in the right direction.
We have applauded coaches like Leslie Frazier, Pete Carroll, Jeff Fisher and Ken Whisenhunt earlier, but they are in the midst of losing streaks and need to stop the bleeding.
NFL Offensive Player of the Year
In our Week 7 edition, we had nominated a total of 12 players that were in the running for Offensive Player of the Year award. The 12 players in no particular order were:
Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, New York Giants WR Victor Cruz, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Houston Texans RB Arian Foster, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore.
So how did these 12 fare in Week 8?
Excellent games were turned in by Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson. The stock for all five players rose after Week 8 action.
A.J. Green and Arian Foster were on bye weeks in Week 8 and Frank Gore plays tonight on MNF.
As for the rest, they didn't exactly have stellar games. Victor Cruz caught just two of eight targets for 23 yards. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to only 238 yards of total offense against Jacksonville. As we mentioned earlier, RG3 had a rough game in Pittsburgh when receivers kept dropping very catchable passes.
Those are the kind of games that knocks players down a peg or two in the OPOY running.
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
While our leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt had the week off due to his bye week, we watched his other competitors excel in their games.
The two leading teams in turnovers in the NFL after Week 8 are the New York Giants (24) and the Chicago Bears (23).
Chicago Bears CB Tim Jennings made a clutch interception and returned it for a touchdown in the Bears close win over Carolina. Jennings leads the NFL with six interceptions already in just seven games. Not only that, but Jennings also leads the league with 13 pass deflections. Those kind of stats push Jennings into serious consideration for DPOY.
The only thing that hurts Jennings is that some of his teammates may wind up stealing votes away from him. Examples of other Bears that are having strong seasons are Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Major Wright. They have such a good overall team defense, that it is hard to find any weaknesses. Teams keep throwing at Jennings, and he keeps making plays on the ball.
Other leading candidates are Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews, who trails Watt by just one-half a sack (9.5 to 9). Against Carolina, Matthews came up with a tackle for loss and was credited with a QB hit on Cam Newton, but failed to pick up a sack.
New York Giants S Stevie Brown actually has created more turnovers than Jennings, as he is second in the NFL with five interceptions, but also has two fumble recoveries to his credit. Brown's play is one of the reasons that the Giants are riding along at 6-2.
LB NaVorro Bowman of the San Francisco 49ers plays tonight in MNF, so we will see what kind of a statement he can make tonight.
Kudos to Minnesota Vikings LB Chad Greenway (81) and New England Patriots LB Jerod Mayo (79) for leading the league in tackles.
NFL Most Valuable Player
As for NFL MVP favorite candidates, I am going to focus on six quarterbacks. Why is that you ask? Well, the award has been heavily slanted towards quarterbacks, as quarterbacks have won the last five years. The other reason is that there are two rooms where I can hear the windows rattling from Hurricane Sandy, so my ability to focus is not that great right now.
The six leading MVP candidates right now are not coincidentally the top-six quarterbacks in QB Passer Rating. They are: Peyton Manning (109.0), Aaron Rodgers (107.9), Matt Ryan (103.0), Ben Roethlisberger (101.4), Tom Brady (100.6) and Robert Griffin III (97.3).
If you prefer your quarterbacks to be rated by the Total QBR rankings, then you will find that the six are also in the top-10 there as well. Manning is No. 1 (82.5), Brady is No. 2 (79.2), Ryan is No. 3 (77.6), Roethlisberger is No. 4 (75.6), Rodgers is No. 6 (72.3) and RG3 is No. 8 (70.9).
As tight as the race is for MVP, each of the six quarterbacks will need to avoid a prolonged losing streak, and continue to do whatever they can to make the other players around them better. This promises to be an exciting race, all the way to the final week of the season.
That is it for now. We hope to be back for the Week 9 presentation in this series. Take care everybody.