NFL Predictions: Week 8 Awards Watch

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IOctober 23, 2013

NFL Predictions: Week 8 Awards Watch

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    After seven weeks of action, the NFL has only one unbeaten team in the 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs.

    And while we focusing on seven, here are the choices in terms of front-runners for the NFL’s seven major individual awards.

    We continue to make sure to mention more than a few names in the running as well, although that seems like a waste of time to date in terms of two categories.

    Still, it is a long season that somehow manages to unfold very quickly. And given what we saw last week alone in terms of prominent players going down with injuries, predictions can be futile even this late into the season.

    However, here’s to giving it our best shot.

Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    It had to end sometime, didn’t it?

    After 17 consecutive regular-season victories, the Denver Broncos came up on the short end of a 39-33 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

    And while quarterback Peyton Manning wasn’t nearly at his best, neither was the rest of his team last Sunday night.

    That means no more undefeated season when it comes to the Broncos. Of course, that’s hardly the goal for Manning and company. More importantly, the team now finds itself one game behind the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.

    Seven games into 2013, the Denver signal-caller has thrown 25 touchdown passes, exactly halfway to Tom Brady’s record total of 50 scoring tosses set in 2007. Manning has thrown 10 more touchdown passes than any other quarterback in the league this season.

    This week versus the Washington Redskins, we will get to see something we haven’t seen from these Broncos so far this season…

    How they respond to a loss.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots

    3. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

    4. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

    5. QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    The final numbers of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning last Sunday night versus the Indianapolis Colts looked pretty good.

    But when you actually watched Manning in the game, he was far from sensational. He hit on just 29 of his 49 throws, was intercepted once and was sacked four times, one of those sacks resulting in a fumble that turned into a crucial safety.

    Still, no other offensive player in the league is putting up the kind of numbers Manning is so far this season. He’s thrown for 25 touchdowns compared to only three interceptions. He’s completing 71.6 percent of his throws and is the top-rated passer (123.3) in the NFL.

    What’s impressive is that quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers) and Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) are having pretty impressive seasons of their own. But Manning continues to leave the competition in the dust for now.

    And given the way the Denver defense is playing these days, the veteran quarterback may not be in a position to take his foot off the pedal.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

    3. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

    4. QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

    5. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive Player of the Year: OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

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    Seven games into the 2013 season and Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis has already had a career year.

    That means that four-time Pro Bowler, who currently leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks, has already tied his career total in that category for a season. Mathis also totaled 11.5 sacks in both 2005 and 2008.

    More importantly, he is as big of a reason that the Colts sport a 5-2 record and own a two-game lead over the Tennessee Titans in the slumping AFC South.

    Mathis has more than half of his team’s 21 sacks and has also forced three fumbles. A season ago, his first at outside linebacker after nine years at defensive end, he totaled 8.0 sacks in a dozen games.

    It’s interesting that in today’s offensive-oriented NFL that Mathis is amongst a very strong group of candidates for these honors. With the ball being in the air so much more these days, it is giving defenders more opportunities to make impact plays.

    In The Discussion

    2. OLB Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs

    3. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets

    4. OLB Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs

    5. ILB Daryl Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

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    Once again, there’s a new name in the running for this award. And running is the focal point indeed.

    After a somewhat slow start, Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy has been a consistent part of the team’s offense the last three weeks. Not coincidentally, Mike McCarthy’s team has now won three straight games after a 1-2 start.

    The second-round pick from Alabama leads all NFL rookies with 352 yards rushing, 301 of that coming the last three games. In those contests, Lacy has totaled 23, 23 and 22 carries, respectively.

    That’s not bad following a September in which he ran for only 41 yards on 14 carries in a Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The next Sunday, his afternoon was cut short by a concussion suffered in a win over the Washington Redskins. Lacy ran just one time for 10 yards, and one week later he sat out the game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

    So over the last three weeks, the power runner has totaled that aforementioned 301 yards on the ground on 68 carries, a solid 4.4 yards per attempt.

    So Lacy takes the lead for now. Catch him if you can.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Geno Smith, New York Jets

    3. WR Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

    4. WR Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots

    5. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

Defensive Rookie of the Year: MLB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

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    One week after a field goal in overtime was the difference in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills got a late kick of their own and beat the Miami Dolphins, 23-21.

    And one week after amassing an impressive 22 tackles in that loss to Cincinnati, Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso totaled only four stops in the win at Miami.

    It’s pretty safe to assume that no one was happier after that game than Alonso himself.

    Still, the second-round pick from the University of Oregon leads his team with 70 tackles and remains tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions.

    And just like the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year honors, this category has plenty of worthy candidates and more certainly to emerge over the next few weeks.

    As for Alonso and company, they have a Sunday afternoon date with quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

    Let’s see what the Buffalo defense can do against one of the league’s best offenses.

    In The Discussion

    2. OLB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams

    3. DT Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets

    4. FS Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers

    5. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints

Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

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    We will continue to hammer the following point into the ground because it is significant.

    The 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs, the league’s lone remaining undefeated team this season, has already improved its win total from a year ago a total of five games. Last season, the Chiefs finished 2-14 and entered 2013 with a four-game losing streak.

    The NFL record for win improvement from one season to the next is 10. The Indianapolis Colts went from 3-13 in 1998 to 13-3 in 1999. The 2008 Miami Dolphins finished 11-5 a year after posting a 1-15 record in 2007.

    Now head coach Andy Reid and his team is halfway to tying that record and perhaps surpassing it. They also now own a one-game lead in the AFC West standings over the Denver Broncos (6-1) and a three-game advantage over the surging San Diego Chargers (4-3).

    The Chiefs continue to do it with defense and still haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in a game this season. Add in 19 takeaways and 35 sacks and the Kansas City defense has been smothering, allowing only eight touchdowns in seven outings.

    And does anyone remember the last time Reid led a team to a 7-0 start? That would be the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles, who wound up in Super Bowl XXXIX.

    In The Discussion

    2. Rex Ryan, New York Jets

    3. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

    4. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

    5. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

Comeback Player of the Year: RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Not sure what was harder to figure last week.

    Was it the fact that the defensively-challenged Philadelphia Eagles managed to hold the Dallas Cowboys to 17 points? Or was it that Chip Kelly’s offense failed to score a touchdown in a 17-3 loss?

    In any case, it was also not a sensational game for running back LeSean McCoy. But the talented performer remains atop this category for the second straight week.

    McCoy continues to lead the league in rushing yards (685) and total yards from scrimmage (952). He’s touched the ball 162 times this season, second only to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (171).

    Last season, McCoy missed four games and rushed for 840 yards. This season, he has been a big reason the Eagles have managed to keep their heads above water, albeit in a strange NFC East where a 3-4 record has you just one game out of first place.

    And talk about a comeback. Let’s see if the Eagles can get a win to return to Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, where the club has lost nine straight games. Ouch!

    In The Discussion

    2. OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

    3. MLB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys

    4. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

    5. WR Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers