Have the red-hot Carolina Panthers made Ron Rivera the leader of the Coach of the Year race?
With the conclusion of Week 12 in the NFL, every team will be back on even footing.
Translation: We are finally finished with the off weeks, so every club will have played 11 games by Monday.
That also means many of the players and coaches will have participated in the same number of games this season.
Once again, we are taking a look at the top 10 players/coaches in an attempt to predict the league’s seven individual awards. We give our thoughts by breaking down the leader, providing a thumbnail on four more top candidates and mentioning five others who we feel are in the running.
Of course, the month of November is synonymous with voting, so feel free to chime in with your own choices.
There is a lot of credit due for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning this week.
Of course, there is also not a lot of time to celebrate the fact that the Broncos not only became the first team to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs this season, but also were the first to score more than 17 points against Andy Reid’s club in Sunday night’s 27-17 victory.
Add in the fact that in the win over the Chiefs, he was not sacked—a tribute to both him and his offensive line—and the savvy quarterback remains pretty tough to beat even with an injured ankle.
Over the next two weeks, Manning and Co. travel to both New England and Kansas City. And it will be interesting to see how his team fares in both venues.
Manning still leads the league in passing yards (3,572) and touchdown passes (34) and is completing an impressive 69.9 percent of his passes. It will be interesting to see what those numbers look like two weeks from now.
Here are a few other extremely worthy performers.
2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton’s club remains atop the NFC South with those Carolina Panthers breathing down its neck. But Brees and Co. continue to get it done one way or another. The prolific signal-caller has thrown more than three times as many touchdown passes (26) as interceptions and could be zeroing in on a third straight season of 40-plus scoring tosses.
3. QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: So no one is exactly sure what happened in the second half versus the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. But Stafford was hot in the first half and now has 21 touchdown passes this season, one more than in all of 2012. More importantly, the Lions already have two more wins than all of last season.
4. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: It was tempting to insert quarterback Nick Foles here, but McCoy has been the steady force all season, leading the NFL in rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage. He ran for two touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Washington Redskins, which helped the Eagles snap that dreadful 10-game home losing streak.
5. WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: The combination of both Stafford and Johnson is tough to top these days. The duo has combined for 11 scores just one season after teaming for just four touchdowns. And thanks to an impressive run as of late, Johnson is back leading the NFL with 1,083 receiving yards. Could he make a run at his own NFL record of 1,964 receiving yards with six games to play in 2013?
In The Discussion
6. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
7. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
8. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots
9. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
10. QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
For just the second time this season, someone other than Peyton Manning occupies the top spot of this category.
About the only thing that has stopped Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson the last four weeks is...well...we’re not sure.
Of course, that is in reference to Sunday’s 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in which Johnson caught six passes for a stunning 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. In the final 30 minutes, the rangy wideout did not have a reception.
Still, Johnson’s numbers over his last four games are mind-boggling. He’s totaled 35 catches for 746 yards, which would rank 19th in the league for the season, and seven touchdowns over that span. Johnson leads the NFL with 1,083 receiving yards, and his 11 touchdowns are tied for tops in the league.
And speaking of tops...
2. QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the prolific scorer as far as this award goes. Manning’s 34 touchdown passes still lead the NFL this season, as do his 3,572 passing yards through the air. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he puts up the next two weeks on the road against the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
3. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: The record-setting signal-caller has thrown for 5,000-plus yards and 40 or more touchdowns in two straight seasons. Is Brees primed for a personal three-peat? The leader of the NFC South front-runners has 3,369 yards and 26 scores this season. And it is also worth noting that Brees has been picked off just eight times in 2013; not bad considering he threw 19 interceptions last season, tied for the most in the NFL.
4. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: A year ago, the hard-to-figure-out Birds opened 3-1 and then proceeded to lose 11 of their final 12 games. Under new head coach Chip Kelly, these Eagles opened 1-3 and are now atop the NFC East with a 6-5 mark. There is no such confusion when it comes to McCoy, who leads the NFL with 1,009 yards rushing and 1,408 yards from scrimmage and ranks second on his team with 34 receptions.
5. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: It’s getting pretty hard to ignore what the workhorse runner has done this season, which includes taking somewhat of a backseat to quarterback Russell Wilson. Lynch is second in the league in rushing yards (925), fourth in total yards from scrimmage (1,147) and tied for the NFL lead with 11 touchdowns.
In The Discussion
6. TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
7. WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
8. QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
9. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
10. WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
He is the No. 1 tackler on the league’s No. 2 unit in terms of fewest yards per game allowed.
And while teammate Marshawn Lynch is synonymous with Skittles, dare we link Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas to an English muffin?
After all, the former first-round pick has lived up to the promises by filling just about every nook and cranny on the defensive side of the ball.
The three-year veteran leads Pete Carroll’s team with 78 tackles, has knocked down seven passes and forced a pair of fumbles and is tied for the club lead with four interceptions.
The Seahawks enter their off week riding a six-game winning streak and know that regardless of what the San Francisco 49ers and/or the Arizona Cardinals do next week, they will own at least a three-game lead with five weeks to go.
And that means that Thomas and his teammates could be adding a popping sound to the “Legion of Boom.”
As for some of the other standout defenders around the league, here’s...
2. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets: Rex Ryan’s team may be alternating wins and losses, but its star defensive end has been pretty steady all season. Even in Sunday’s 37-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Wilkinson managed to total nine tackles and knock down a pass. He is a big reason that the Jets’ improved defense is first in the league in rushing yards per game allowed.
3. OLB Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs: For the first time all season, the Chiefs not only lost, but also allowed more than 17 points in a game (although they held the Denver Broncos to a season-low 27 points). And while Houston had a problem getting to Peyton Manning, he still totaled 10 tackles and knocked down a pass in the Sunday night setback. The outside linebacker now ranks fourth on the team with 43 stops and still owns a career-high 11.0 sacks.
4. OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano’s team continues to dig some early holes and, for the most part, quarterback Andrew Luck and Co. have managed to escape with wins. Mathis still leads the league with 13.5 sacks, but that Indianapolis defense remains very much a work in progress.
5. MLB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers: Last season’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has had another solid season as the leader of the league’s third-ranked defense. And over the last two weeks, Kuechly has come up big against the big boys, totaling a combined 23 tackles in wins over the San Francisco 49ers (11) and New England Patriots (12).
In The Discussion
6. OLB Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs
7. CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
8. DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
9. DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
10. DT Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
It’s been a rough stretch for the Green Bay Packers, losers of three games in a row.
They already have as many losses as Mike McCarthy’s NFC North champions suffered last season.
But rookie running back Eddie Lacy remains a positive, as well as the eighth-leading rusher in the league.
The second-round pick from Alabama also leads all rookies with 696 yards rushing and has run for five touchdowns.
In Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the New York Giants, Lacy ran for only 27 yards and a score on 14 carries. It snapped a six-game streak in which the powerful runner totaled at least 22 attempts.
It’s safe to say McCarthy figures to get Lacy rolling again this week against a Minnesota Vikings team that ranks 30th in the league in total defense.
As for a few other promising performers...
2. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis’ struggling team got back on track somewhat last week in a 41-20 win over the Cleveland Browns. Bernard totaled 86 combined rushing and receiving yards in that game and leads all rookies with 809 yards from scrimmage this season.
3. WR Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers: The Bolts have suddenly dropped three games in a row but the third-round pick continues to impress. Allen ranks third on the team with 41 catches, most among NFL rookie wide receivers, and second on his team with 613 receiving yards.
4. TE Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins: Despite only one reception in last week’s 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Reed still leads all rookies in the NFL with 45 catches. He is also among three Redskins players with a team-high three touchdown grabs.
5. RB Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams: Here is one rookie who perhaps welcomed a week off. In his last three games, Stacy has totaled 323 yards rushing and at least 26 attempts in each outing. He leads the Rams with 537 yards rushing and is tied for second on the team with four total touchdowns.
In The Discussion
6. WR Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
7. RB Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
8. WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
9. RB Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. WR/KR Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
He’s back...but for how long?
As is the case with all of these awards, the races are heating up for not only the playoffs, but these individual honors as well.
And while we haven’t seen as many impact plays as we did earlier this season, Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso is back to being the cream of the crop. But as mentioned below, he still has plenty of competition for the top spot on this list.
The team’s second of two picks in the second round in April, the rangy defender has totaled an impressive 112 stops, 43 more than teammate Aaron Williams (69). In Sunday’s 37-14 win over the visiting New York Jets, Alonso totaled 13 tackles, the sixth time in 11 games this season he’s reached double digits in that department.
Alonso and the Bills are off in Week 11. And you can bet that the heady rookie will use that time to his advantage and add to his opponents' disadvantage when it comes to avoiding him.
But there are a lot of worthy candidates here, such as...
2. DT Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets: In last week’s showdown versus Alonso, Richardson had nine tackles in the 23-point setback. And what gets lost in the Jets’ lopsided setback is the fact that the Bills managed only 68 yards rushing on 38 attempts.
3. DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers: You don’t have to be a star (baby) to be in “The Show.” But it certainly doesn’t hurt when you are playing for one of the hottest teams in the league and your nom de guerre makes it very easy to get you a little notoriety. That and the fact that Lotulelei (pronounced lo-too-leh-lay) has totaled 30 tackles and 2.0 sacks for the NFL’s third-ranked defense.
4. FS Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers: The hard-hitting safety has filled in well for free-agent defector Dashon Goldson. Reid ranks third on the team with 46 tackles and fourth on the club with seven passes defensed and has a total of five takeaways, including three interceptions.
5. OLB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams: Head coach Jeff Fisher is hoping his team can build on its last outing, a 38-8 win over the Colts at Indianapolis. Wide receiver Tavon Austin was the bee's knees in that game, but the Rams' other first-round pick in April has enjoyed the more consistent season. Ogletree ranks second on the team with 64 tackles, has totaled three forced fumbles and six passes defensed and has returned an interception for a score.
In The Discussion
6. CB Marcus Cooper, Kansas City Chiefs
7. FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals
8. DT Chris Jones, New England Patriots
9. OLB Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders
10. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints
There are plenty of people who spent Monday in “I told you so” mode.
Not here. Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs are now “only” 9-1 following their first loss of the season. The 27-17 setback to the Denver Broncos should hardly be considered surprising.
But the Chiefs’ turnaround season remains impressive. Once again, this is not only a team that won just two games a year, but also was a combined 9-23 the previous two seasons before the arrival of head coach Andy Reid.
However, now the real test begins this week against the visiting San Diego Chargers. For any team, all is good when things are going well. It will be very interesting to see how these Chiefs respond to their first loss of the season.
Interesting indeed...and important.
As for the other top candidates, feel free to take your pick...
2. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers: Six games to go and the Panthers have already equaled last season’s win total. That’s hardly anything to get excited about considering this was a 7-9 team in 2013. But what's been exciting has been watching this team play the last two weeks in knocking off the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots. And 7-3 Carolina is certainly on the mind of the 8-2 New Orleans Saints.
3. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals: Last season’s NFL Coach of the Year could wind up winning that honor once again with a new team and obviously very different circumstances. The Cardinals have won three straight games and are currently tied for second in the NFC West with the Niners. But Arians’ team has to start winning in the division.
4. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles: It has been a battle of wills in the City of Brotherly Love this year. Will Kelly’s offense work in the NFL or will it not? Will he or won’t he start Michael Vick at quarterback if he’s healthy? Now the question is will the Eagles hold onto first place in the NFC East now that they have gotten there? At 3-5, things appeared to be coming apart for these Birds. But Kelly has righted what ails them and this is a team, winners of three straight games, playing with confidence
5. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions: We’re not scared to put Schwartz fifth on this list despite last week’s much-discussed fake field-goal attempt versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. “We got the look that we wanted,” said Schwartz to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “We thought it was there. We have a chance right there to really put a dagger in that game and go up 11. We didn’t get it done.” Still, the Lions are getting it done this season via a 6-4 record and a tie atop the NFC North.
In The Discussion
6. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
7. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
8. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
9. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
10. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
A mere 11 games into 2013, the Philadelphia Eagles own a 6-5 record and the top spot in the NFC East.
And what a coincidence! Guess which player is tops in the NFL in both rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage?
LeSean has been the real McCoy this season, especially coming off a 2012 campaign in which he missed four games. The versatile Eagles runner has totaled a league-high 1,009 yards on the ground. Add 399 yards on 34 receptions and McCoy’s 1,408 yards-from-scrimmage total is just as impressive.
While second-year quarterback Nick Foles has certainly had the hot hand as of late, McCoy has been his team’s most reliable offensive asset from day one this season. And who knows how far these Birds will fly in 2013?
As for a few others worth more than a causal mention...
2. OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens: The defending Super Bowl champions have now lost as many games as they did all of last season. Suggs still ranks second on his team with 65 tackles and leads the Ravens with 9.0 sacks. But he may have to do more if his team is to reach the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
3. WR Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy’s team has hit the skids following a promising 4-3 start. But Royal has been king in terms of quarterback Philip Rivers’ favorite scoring target this season. The speedy wideout ranks just fifth on the team with 30 receptions but has caught seven of Rivers’ 19 touchdown passes.
4. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: Smith and his team are coming off their first setback of the season and the buzzards/critics have certainly been circling. Let’s also keep in mind that the Chiefs are now 6-25 at Denver dating back to 1983. Kansas City’s offense was far from its best against the Broncos, but the veteran quarterback has enjoyed a solid bounce-back season.
5. MLB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys: Despite the fact that he is sidelined these days (after missing most of last season), Lee still leads the Cowboys in both tackles (93) and interceptions (four) in 2013. And while the Dallas defense is ranked dead last in the league in both total yards and passing yards allowed per game, the rangy defender has done his best to prevent that.
In The Discussion
6. CB Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. RB Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
8. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
9. CB Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens
10. DT Johnny Jolly, Green Bay Packers