All seven of the NFL's major awards will be announced at the second annual NFL awards show Saturday night from New Orleans on CBS at 9:00 p.m. ET.
The awards, as voted on by 50 members of the Associated Press, include Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and the Most Valuable Player.
In the following slides, we predict the winner of each major AP award for the 2012 season.
Both Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson took aim at the NFL's record book this season, but the quarterback who led the game's best statistical offense gets the nod here.
Tom Brady threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns, rushed for four more scores, finished with just eight interceptions (best ratio in the NFL) and led the Patriots to the No. 1 offense in both points (557, 34.8 per game) and yards (6,846, 427.9 per game). New England was also first in first downs and second in total giveaways.
The Patriots were frighteningly consistent on offense in 2012. New England's lowest yardage total over 16 games was 321, and only once did the Patriots fail to crack 20 points (Week 2 vs. Arizona).
Brady wasn't dominant in one single area in 2012, but his offense was. While Peterson and Johnson (and Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers) deserve mention here, Brady orchestrated the best offense in football in 2012 with another fantastic individual season.
Actual winner: Adrian Peterson
J.J. Watt is the runaway winner here, even if defenders such as Von Miller, Aldon Smith and Geno Atkins had seasons that in other years would be worthy of such an award. Watt was just that good as a 3-4 defensive end in 2012.
The fine statisticians at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) can help outline why Watt is head-and-shoulders better than any other defensive player this season.
In five years of grading, no player had ever reached the plus-100.0 plateau at PFF. Watt did it this season.
Over 958 regular-season snaps, Watt produced a jaw-dropping 76 quarterback disruptions (21 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 30 quarterback hurries) and 72 "stops," or solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure. He also batted 15 passes and missed just two tackles.
Miller, Smith and Atkins were dominant players in 2012, but Watt was historically good at a position that doesn't necessarily lend itself to big numbers. He should be as close to a lock as there is Saturday night.
Actual winner: J.J. Watt
Without a doubt, picking the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year comprises this season's toughest award task. The candidates are both vast and deserving.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck led a 2-14 team in 2011 to 11 wins and the playoffs, all while throwing for more yards than any other rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Picked 74 slots after Luck, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson beat out the pricey Matt Flynn in training camp and then delivered 11 wins, 30 total touchdowns and a passer rating of 100.0 in 16 games.
Rookie running backs Doug Martin and Alfred Morris each cracked 10 rushing touchdowns and finished in the top five for rushing yards. Morris was second to only Adrian Peterson in yards.
But despite the worthiness of the other candidates, it is hard to deny the kind of overall impact Robert Griffin III had during his rookie season with the Washington Redskins.
RGIII threw for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions; numbers that equate to a 102.4 passer rating. Only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning were higher-rated passers, and RGIII's interception percentage of 1.3 tied Tom Brady for the NFL's best.
Griffin also ran for 815 yards (eighth in the NFC) and seven scores (10th) for a team that leapfrogged the world champion New York Giants, the always-hyped Dallas Cowboys and the talented Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East.
Overall, Griffin totaled 4,015 yards and 27 touchdowns in roughly 14.5 games.
You could safely place his season as one of the best ever by a dual-threat quarterback in NFL history.
Actual winner: Robert Griffin III
Cases can be made for both Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward. However, Kuechly was more volume than impact and Hayward struggled to play more than 50 percent of his team's snaps late in the season.
If you agree with each knock, the decision of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner actually becomes relatively easy.
According to PFF, Wagner was the top inside linebacker in run-stop percentage, which helps track the impact of each tackle against the run. He was the sixth-best overall tackler among inside linebackers, missing a takedown just once every 20.1 attempts against the pass and run combined.
He was also statistically better in coverage than Kuechly, while also anchoring the linebacker unit of the NFL's top-ranked scoring defense.
Hayward has a strong case statistically, including an opposing passer rating that led NFL cornerbacks in 2012. After moving inside, Kuechly was a tackling machine.
But Wagner produced top numbers for a top defense while playing nearly all the defensive snaps. He wins over Hayward, with Kuechly coming in third.
Actual winner: Luke Kuechly
How can you separate the two for this award?
Peterson ran for the second-most yards in NFL history after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery just nine months before the start of the 2012 season. Most players take at least two years to return to their former level after ACL surgery; Peterson was actually better in his first year back.
Manning underwent four neck surgeries—including a fusion of his vertebrae—that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. But instead of retiring, he came back in 2012 to put together one of his best individual seasons. Despite a new team, new offense, new everything, Manning produced the same results. And this was after not playing in the NFL for 18 months.
Where is the difference in comeback story?
Both players deserve the award. Both overcame ridiculous odds to put together ridiculous seasons.
Split the award. Save the controversy.
Actual winner: Peyton Manning
On simply the football side, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and Leslie Frazier each deserve consideration for NFL Coach of the Year.
Carroll made a difficult decision to go with a rookie over the expensive free agent, and the result was 11 wins and a playoff berth. Harbaugh turned to Colin Kaepernick midseason and never looked back. Frazier took a bad team in 2011 and helped deliver a postseason appearance.
But can this award really go to any coach outside Indianapolis in 2012?
Facing a set of circumstances that would have crumbled most, the Colts rose from the ashes to produce one of the most inspiring seasons in recent NFL history.
Rebounding from a 2-14 season and replacing a Hall of Fame quarterback would have been difficult enough for these Colts. But throw in a completely unexpected cancer diagnosis for a first-year head coach, and you get an overwhelming situation for any coaching staff.
Instead of collapsing under the weight of the circumstances—and no one would have blamed the Colts if they would have—Indianapolis rose to 11 wins and a playoff berth, with nine of the wins coming under Arians.
In helping to form Andrew Luck in his first year and—of course, more importantly—guiding the Colts while Chuck Pagano was in treatment for Leukemia, Arians deserves the title of Coach of the Year.
He more than earned it.
Actual: Bruce Arians
By its very nature, the MVP is an award that lends itself to the quarterback position. Arguably no player on any team is as important or valuable as its quarterback, which makes it very difficult for any other position to make a reasonable case for the award.
Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady—in varying degrees—each have a legitimate case to be the NFL MVP in 2012.
But if there's ever been a running back worthy of the MVP, it's Adrian Peterson in 2012.
The Vikings offense was one-dimensional in 2012, but Peterson kept on racking up yards and wins for Minnesota. He finished just nine yards short of the NFL record for rushing yards in a single season, despite seeing eight- and nine-man boxes for most of the year.
There's also that little fact that Peterson started the 2012 season just nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. His year is almost unthinkable when put into those terms.
After a somewhat slow start, Peterson couldn't be stopped.
Over one eight-game stretch, Peterson put up an NFL-record 1,313 yards. His 27 runs over 20 yards were 15 more than the next running back. In December, when the Vikings absolutely needed wins, Peterson ran for 861 yards and five scores.
Running backs need to do extraordinary things to be considered for this award, and Peterson did that and more this season. If Peterson can't win the MVP in 2012, the award is no longer a universal one.
Actual winner: Adrian Peterson