J.J. Watt faced Adrian Peterson in Week 16. Will one of them be NFL MVP?
With only one week left to play, we have a very good idea of who the favorites are for the majority of NFL awards at the end of the 2012 season. There are still two awards that have a number of viable candidates, so hopefully one of them steps up in Week 17 to end the discussion.
In an episode of NBC's Pro Football Talk this week, Mike Florio revealed that the voters for every major NFL award will be casting their votes after the conclusion of the regular season on December 31. The sad part, according to Florio, is that football fans will be forced to wait for 33 days until the NFL announces the winners on February 2, the eve of Super Bowl XLVII.
It seems exceptionally cruel of the NFL to keep everybody in suspense that long. By the time the winners are finally announced, everybody will be focused on all the storylines of the Super Bowl teams and the award winners will be an afterthought.
This is just one more example of how the NFL has handled the 2012 season brutally from a public relations standpoint. After the bounty-scandal suspensions and replacement refs, holding out on announcing the award winners for over a month seems par for the course.
For those that have inquired during the previous weeks of this season-long feature, we will come out and make our final predictions on who will win each major award on the Tuesday after Week 17 games are completed.
Russell Wilson was easily able to avoid 49ers defenders all night long.
The majority of the conversations for 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year have focused on Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck. But for the past month, Seattle QB Russell Wilson has made a believer out of more and more people.
After watching every play from Wilson the last two weeks, it is uncanny how he can escape very serious pressure from defensive linemen and linebackers with ease. He breaks the defenders down until they are standing still, and once they become flat-footed, he dances around them like they were frozen.
Defenses are getting worn out trying to chase him down, and the points just continue to pile up. Averaging 50 points per game for the last three weeks, Wilson is now making a very serious run at overtaking Griffin and Luck to steal the OROY award in the final month of the season.
Griffin's candidacy was hurt somewhat by his knee injury, which limited his overall production numbers. Luck has thrown way too many interceptions, and his completion percentage is not good enough compared to his main two competitors to win the award.
We aren't stating that Luck won't be a great quarterback, because he is already outstanding. But the focus here is on who should win the OROY award and why.
The Week 17 contest between Washington and Dallas will put the spotlight back on Griffin, just like the spotlight was on Wilson in Week 16. If Griffin excels like Wilson did, that might be enough to win the award. If he comes up short, Wilson might wind up stealing it.
If Griffin can lead the Redskins to a win in Week 17, it means that all three rookie QBs will have earned a spot in the postseason after their respective teams had losing records last season. It is those big-picture accomplishments that will make the choice so difficult for the voters.
Washington RB Alfred Morris and Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin have enjoyed great seasons, but they just aren't at the same level as Griffin, Wilson and Luck.
Casey Hayward leads all rookies in interceptions and passes defensed.
We have been waiting for one of the defensive rookies from the class of 2012 to step up and make a strong run to claim the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
After weighing as many as 10 different options in Week 15, we are ready to narrow the field down to our final four defensive stars to watch out for in Week 17. Hopefully one of these four players will make a big contribution in Week 17 so that the decision will be easier for voters.
Our four finalists are Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, Green Bay Packers CB Casey Hayward, Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner and St. Louis Rams CB Janoris Jenkins.
Kuechly now leads the NFL in tackles with 151 tackles. He has also chipped in with one sack, six passes defensed, two interceptions, 11 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries. Kuechly has really come on lately and is a strong candidate to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for December.
Wagner leads the Seahawks' No. 4 overall defense with 130 tackles (nobody else even has 100). He has also contributed six tackles for loss, two sacks, four passes defensed and three interceptions.
Jenkins has scored four touchdowns on interception or fumble returns this year for the Rams. That is the most of any rookie by far. Jenkins has four interceptions on the year, 14 passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
Hayward leads all NFL rookies with six interceptions, is No. 3 in the NFL with 20 passes defensed and has forced one fumble.
Peyton Manning has Denver on a 10-game winning streak.
The NFL Comeback Player of the Year continues to be a two-man race. The award will either go to Denver QB Peyton Manning or Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson. There is the possibility that the voters could be split right down the middle, creating co-winners. This is one time that it would be more than fitting to have a co-winner scenario.
The only concern is that if one person wins, the other player hopefully walks away with some major hardware of his own. It would be a crying shame to see either Manning or Peterson be shut out from the major awards after what they have done for their franchises this year.
Week 17 will be one more time to sit back, watch and appreciate how great both veterans have performed this year.
Can Bruce Arians capture NFL Coach of the Year award?
There was a time when it looked like the Coach of the Year could be either Mike Smith of Atlanta or Gary Kubiak from Houston. But considering where those teams finished up in 2011, they really didn't pull off any major surprises.
Who has been surprising in 2012 are Pete Carroll (Seattle), Bruce Arians (Indianapolis) and Leslie Frazier (Minnesota). If Mike Shanahan is able to lead Washington to a division title in the NFC East, that might also be a significant enough achievement for him to warrant a strong number of votes.
Out of the three surprise teams, the award could literally go to any of the former three coaches mentioned. The Indianapolis situation is the most unique due to Chuck Pagano's battle with leukemia, as Arians stepped in and did a wonderful job. Pagano has returned to the team this week, but it was Arians that did the heavy lifting for the majority of the season.
To think that he wanted to remain with Pittsburgh, but they fired him and then replaced him with Todd Haley...
The Minnesota Vikings are looking at clinching a playoff slot in the NFC with a win in Week 17. If Frazier can lead the Vikings to that win, it will go a long way towards solidifying his Coach of the Year potential.
For Seattle, Carroll took a big chance by opening up the quarterback competition to three players and had the guts to go with the rookie Russell Wilson. That decision continues to pay Carroll back every week.
It would be a surprise if the award didn't go to either Carroll, Frazier or Arians. The wild card is Shanahan, so if they beat Dallas, you could see a campaign start up for him to win the award.
Will NFL Offensive Player of the Year be another quarterback?
With regards to the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award, we are prepared to reduce the field to just four favorites: Denver QB Peyton Manning, Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson, New England QB Tom Brady and Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers.
Peterson is obviously looking to break the 2,000-yard mark this season, and he only needs 102 yards against Green Bay in Week 17 to reach the milestone. Peterson has been carrying the Vikings offense all year, and that he has done so on a knee that needed extensive repair is nothing short of remarkable.
Manning is obviously in the running due to leading his team to a 10-game winning streak, throwing for 34 touchdown passes and completing 68.1 percent of his passes. He also happens to lead the NFL in Total QBR with a score of 82.7.
Brady has once again put up a very strong production year. He has thrown 32 touchdown passes and is averaging over 300 passing yards per game. He has done this with a receiving corps that at times has been without Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Rodgers is leading the entire NFL in QB Passer Rating with a ridiculous score of 106.2. Rodgers has thrown 35 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions and will break the 4,000-yard mark this Sunday.
J.J. Watt continues to mount a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year.
While we had whittled down the finalists in some of the earlier races to a final four, we are now down to the final three for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt, Denver Broncos LB Von Miller and San Francisco 49ers LB Aldon Smith.
These three players are leaders on their defense, and they are all headed to the playoffs, which is another big feather in their cap for the DPOY award.
Watt leads the NFL in sacks with 20.5. He has also contributed 19 tackles for loss, 15 pass deflections, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. One of the most amazing stats is that with 77 tackles on the year, Watt is only two tackles away from leading his team in tackles for the entire season (for a defensive end!). After such a special season, Watt appears to be in the driver's seat for DPOY.
Miller has also been a huge force on defense for Denver this year. He has contributed 65 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, one interception (which he returned for a touchdown), two passes defended and six forced fumbles.
Smith is trailing Watt by just one sack (19.5), but he is more than just a sack specialist. Smith has had 64 tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass deflection, one interception and three forced fumbles.
We will be keeping a close eye on this trio in Week 17.
If Adrian Peterson gets the Vikings into playoffs, shouldn't he be the MVP?
The Houston Texans were able to slow down Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson's quest to beat Eric Dickerson's all-time NFL rushing record, but they didn't prevent him from leaving the field on the winning team. The upset over Houston has the Minnesota Vikings one win away from the playoffs, and that could be an even bigger accomplishment for Peterson than rushing for 2,000 yards.
Every defense that Peterson has gone up against is stuffing the box to shut him down. Where are the downfield threats in the Minnesota offense to prevent opposing defenses from stuffing the box? But no matter how many defenders they bring up, Peterson is able to find a way to break open some long runs and keep the Vikings in one game after another.
Besides Peterson, we have to applaud the seasons of New England QB Tom Brady, Denver QB Peyton Manning, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt. These are the five most dominating players of the 2012 season after Week 16.
With two of the five players being non-quarterbacks, there is a chance that the voters could break the most recent string of handing the MVP award to a quarterback. Either Watt or Peterson deserve strong consideration based on the strength of their season and what they have done to propel their unit.
As for the three quarterbacks, they each have put a strong enough season that nobody could really be angry or upset if any one of them walked away with the award. We detailed their accomplishments in the Offensive Player of the Year award slide, so no need to duplicate them here.
We can all sit back and see what transpires in Week 17 and find out if anyone continues to make an overwhelming case for winning the award.