NFL Predictions: Week 16 Awards Watch

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IDecember 18, 2013

NFL Predictions: Week 16 Awards Watch

0 of 7

    Running back Jamaal Charles and his team are the "Chief" focus of this awards story.
    Running back Jamaal Charles and his team are the "Chief" focus of this awards story.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    You gotta love it...unless you like defense.

    One week after watching the NFL set a record for touchdowns in a week, the league saw its 32 teams generate a record number of points.

    Speaking of making some points, here is the weekly breakdown in terms of who we feel are the front-runners for the NFL’s seven individual awards (courtesy of the Associated Press each year).

    This has become a Wednesday ritual, and it won’t be long before we find out how good our prognostication skills truly are.

    We will once again offer some thoughts on the perceived leaders for these honors at this time. There will also be four more thumbnails on other possible candidates, as well as a list of five men who are strong contenders as well.

    And please keep in mind the purpose here. In actuality, we are trying to get inside the minds of the 50 voters who will ultimately decide the winners here. And we also don’t mind if you chime in with a thought or two yourselves.

Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

1 of 7

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    We’re not exactly breaking news here and it’s been done before: Keep Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on the sidelines and his chances of throwing a touchdown pass decrease by 100 percent.

    That’s what the San Diego Chargers did last Thursday night. And while it didn’t prevent Manning from throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the game, they were the only touchdowns the Broncos managed in a 27-20 home loss.

    That setback was the result of a San Diego offense controlling the ball for 38 minutes, 49 seconds of the game. More importantly, it marked the 12th time in 14 contests that the Broncos allowed at least 20 points.

    Is there any doubt of Manning’s value this season, especially for a team that can’t consistently slow down the opposition?

    We shall see if the Houston Texans can employ the same game plan this Sunday at Reliant Stadium.

    Speaking of valuable...

    2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

    One week after slaying the dragon known as the Carolina Panthers, Brees committed all three of his team’s turnovers in St. Louis. And not surprisingly, the Saints came up short, 27-16, as their star quarterback was sacked four times despite throwing for 393 yards and a score. Brees needs to recapture his magic this week in a rematch with the Panthers.

    3. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

    The leader of the team with the best record in the NFL has overcome some early turnover issues and is playing his best football of the season. Wilson has thrown nine touchdown passes and coughed up the ball just twice in the team’s last five games. During the club’s 8-1 start, the second-year pro threw for 15 scores but committed 11 turnovers.

    4. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

    Chip Kelly’s team stubbed its toes in Minnesota, and McCoy was limited to a season-low eight carries and 38 rushing yards in the team’s 48-30 loss to the Vikings. The versatile performer still leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,343) and total yards from scrimmage (1,850) and takes aim at the Chicago Bears and the league’s worst run defense on Sunday night in Philadelphia.

    5. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

    While it still appears to be a long shot for the Chargers to reach the playoffs, Rivers and his team refuse to go down without a fight. While many have asked why he’s not the front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year, he would certainly qualify for bounce-back player of 2013. After committing a combined 47 turnovers the previous two seasons, Rivers has coughed up the ball only 10 times in 14 games this year. He’s also completing 70.3 percent of his passes and has thrown for 26 scores in 2013.

    In the Discussion

      6. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots

      7. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

      8. QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

      9. WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

    10. RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

2 of 7

    Is this an overreaction to one great game?

    Perhaps it is. But it’s also hard to argue against the kind of season Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles has had for his 11-3 team.

    Thanks to his 215 yards from scrimmage (20 yards rushing, 195 yards receiving) and his five touchdowns in Sunday’s 56-31 win over the Oakland Raiders, the former Pro Bowler has catapulted himself into the top spot for Offensive Player of the Year honors.

    But to assume his amazing day in the Bay Area is the lone reason he’s suddenly in the running for the award wouldn’t be accurate. Charles leads the NFL with 18 touchdowns and is second in the league with 1,836 yards from scrimmage. He’s not only the Chiefs’ top rusher with 1,181 yards, but he also leads his team in receptions (65), receiving yards (655) and touchdown catches (seven).

    Safe to say that makes him a pretty qualified candidate.

    Meanwhile, as for some other very worthy offensive performers...

    2. QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

    The seemingly ageless veteran leads the NFL with a career-high 4,811 passing yards, and his 47 touchdown strikes are three short of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s NFL record of 50, set in 2007. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he puts up against a very respectable Texans defense this Sunday at Houston.

    3. WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

    Admittedly, the imposing target dropped a few key passes in Monday night’s 18-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But Johnson has managed to hang onto 81 throws, good for 1,449 yards and a dozen touchdowns. The Lions have turned over the ball 18 times in their last five games, none of those by their perennial Pro Bowl wideout.

    4. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

    The league leader in total yards from scrimmage picked up 106 more yards in Sunday’s lopsided loss at Minnesota. And despite only 38 yards rushing on Sunday, McCoy still leads the NFL in that category with 1,343 yards. The versatile performer is attempting to become the first Eagles player to lead the league in rushing since Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren in 1947.

    5. TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

    It wasn’t a great offensive day for any of the Saints in St. Louis last Sunday afternoon (say that three times fast). But it has been a banner year for Graham, who not only leads the league with 14 touchdown receptions, but is also the league’s pace-setter when it comes to catches (76) and receiving yards (1,071) for tight ends.

    In the Discussion

      6. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

      7. WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns

      8. QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

      9. WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

    10. WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year: FS Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

3 of 7

    Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    In an NFL season in which defense has sometimes been non-existent, the Seattle Seahawks and free safety Earl Thomas are one example that’s there is still hope for the “other” side of the football.

    The fourth-year performer is second on his team with both 93 tackles (72 solo) and five interceptions. Thomas has also knocked down eight passes and forced a pair of fumbles.

    More importantly, the Seahawks own the league’s best record at 12-2 and the NFL’s stingiest defense in terms of total yards allowed and passing yards allowed.

    Pete Carroll’s club has also given up a league-low 208 points this season and come off a 23-0 shutout of the New York Giants. A year ago, the Seahawks surrendered an NFL-low 245 points en route to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance.

    The productive Thomas is one of the ringleaders of the “Legion of Boom.” And the Seahawks have handled their opponents this season with a bang and not a whimper.

    Still, there are some other standout performers this season on the defensive side of the football.

    2. MLB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

    After surrendering only 12 touchdowns in their first 12 games, the Panthers defensive unit has given up six touchdowns in the last two weeks. That’s hardly cause for concern...yet. But Kuechly continues to do his part via a team-high 122 tackles, to go along with 2.0 sacks and three interceptions.

    3. CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

    Is there truly a shutdown cornerback in this day and age of aerial circuses? Who really does know? But Sherman may be the best evidence that there is a chance for those in the secondary under constant fire. He’s tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions, two of those coming on Sunday versus New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and leads the Seahawks with 13 passes defensed.

    4. DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

    Although the Rams won’t be going to the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season, they have played some of their best games against some of the better teams this season. That includes Sunday’s 27-16 win over the New Orleans Saints in which Quinn totaled five tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The former first-round pick is second in the NFL with 15.0 sacks in 2013.

    5. OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

    It’s been an erratic month or so for the Colts, who still have a shot at securing a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. Mathis remains the NFL leader with a career-high 16.5 sacks and has also forced six fumbles. But the up-and-down Indianapolis defense faces a real test this Sunday when the Colts travel to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs.

    In the Discussion

      6. OLB Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals

      7. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets

      8. OLB Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

      9. DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

    10. ILB NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers

Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

4 of 7

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s been quite a four-game stretch for San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.

    After totaling back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in Weeks 12 and 13, the rookie wideout has totaled a combined five receptions for 88 yards the last two games.

    But here’s the catch...literally. Four of those grabs have been for touchdowns, giving Allen seven scores this season, tied for the most on the team.

    The rookie has now amassed 931 yards on 63 receptions ths season and is just 69 yards short of becoming only the 17th rookie in NFL history to total at least 1,000 yards receiving.

    But there’s even more at stake. The Chargers are still in the playoff chase. So perhaps Allen could get a chance at some rookie postseason marks as well.

    Speaking of marks, there are some other quality rookies trying to make theirs as well.

    2. RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

    The standout runner was a big factor in Sunday’s 37-36 come-from-behind win over the Dallas Cowboys, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. With 1,028 yards rushing this season, Lacy is the 56th rookie in NFL history to rush for 1,000 or more yards and the first Green Bay rookie to achieve the feat since John Brockington in 1971.

    3. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

    It’s interesting that the first running back taken in April’s draft turned out to be a second-round pick. Bernard ranks second on the team in rushing yards (653) and receptions (49), and only wide receiver Marvin Jones has scored more touchdowns this season.

    4. WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

    The first-round pick is becoming more of a factor in the Vikings offense on a weekly basis. Patterson has scored at least one touchdown in three straight games, and in the team’s last two contests, he has caught a combined 10 passes. The big-play performer ranks second on the team with six total touchdowns.

    5. RB Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams

    The fifth-round pick from Vanderbilt totaled a season-high 28 carries (good for 133 yards and a score) in Sunday’s 27-16 surprise of the New Orleans Saints. Stacy leads the Rams with 854 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns and is second to Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy (1,028) in terms of rushing yards by a rookie in 2013.

    In the Discussion

      6. QB Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

      7. RB LeVeon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

      8. WR/KR Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

      9. G Larry Warford, Detroit Lions

    10. WR Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets

5 of 7

    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    He’s back...and the pun is intended.

    It really wasn’t that long ago that New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson owned the top spot here. In our weekly rankings, he was first on the list a little over a month ago for back-to-back weeks (10 and 11).

    Now we’ve elevated him back up to No. 1, for now, as the front-runner for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

    But there’s a catch. Or should we say a run.

    In Sunday’s 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Richardson was his usual productive self in totaling four tackles. But the first-round pick also got a chance to play some offense and actually scored the team’s first touchdown of the afternoon on his second carry of the day.

    “At the beginning of the season, I told coach I wanted to do anything to help this team win, and I did that…,” said Richardson to Charles Chandler of The Newark Star-Ledger. “It was a touchdown, man. It didn’t mean nothing. We lost.”

    However, let’s not forget his main purpose with the Jets. Richardson ranks fourth on the club with 70 stops, including a team-high 12 tackles for loss, and has 3.5 sacks. He’s one reason Rex Ryan’s team has ranked near the top of the NFL in rushing defense all season.

    And now he’s getting a chance to run instead of merely stopping the run.

    Speaking of some excellent rookie stoppers...

    2. OLB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams

    St. Louis’ talented defense did a number on the New Orleans Saints last Sunday in a 27-16 win. Ogletree totaled seven tackles and knocked down a pass and is now tied for the team lead with 101 tackles. The rangy defender ranks third on the club with nine passes defensed and second on the team with four forced fumbles.

    3. MLB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

    Buffalo’s second of two second-round picks in April continues to lead his team with an impressive 137 tackles this season, including six in Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. But there’s been a lack of impact plays as of late, as one of his two sacks and all four of his interceptions came in the team’s first four games.

    4. FS Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers

    The ball hawk totaled three tackles, knocked down a pass and picked off fellow rookie Mike Glennon in Sunday’s 33-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For the season, the first-round selection is tied for third on the Niners with 64 tackles and has totaled six takeaways, including four interceptions. And Reid has also knocked down 10 passes.

    5. DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers

    It’s been a little unusual watching the Panthers defense give up touchdowns the last two weeks. After limiting teams to 12 end-zone visits in their first dozen outings, Ron Rivera’s team has actually given up six touchdowns in its last two games. But Lotulelei remains a force on arguably the league’s top front four these days.

    In The Discussion

      6. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints

      7. LB Paul Worrilow, Atlanta Falcons

      8. DE Ziggy Ansah, Detroit Lions

      9. SS Johnathan Cyprien, Jacksonville Jaguars

    10. FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

6 of 7

    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Let’s update some significant numbers from a week ago.

    Make it only eight times in league annals that a team has won nine more games than it managed the prior campaign.

    And only twice in NFL history has a club won 10 more games than it did the previous season. It last happened five years ago when the Miami Dolphins finished 11-5 in 2008 after going 1-15 in 2007.

    The first time it occurred was in 1999, when the Indianapolis Colts won the AFC East with a 13-3 mark just one season after going 3-13 with rookie quarterback Peyton Manning at the helm.

    So how ironic is it that the Kansas City Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid can tie that NFL record set by both the Dolphins and Colts, with the latter coming to Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday?

    And if Reid’s club continues to score as it has the last two weeks, totaling 101 combined points in wins over the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders, it won’t be a pleasant trip to Kansas City for quarterback Andrew Luck and Co.

    2. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

    Last week, the scrappy Cardinals completed a sweep of the AFC South with a 37-34 overtime win at Tennessee Titans. Arians and Co. also ensured the team’s first winning season since 2009 as Arizona ran its record to 9-5. The playoffs are still possible, but the Cards finish at Seattle vs. the Seahawks and at home against the San Francisco 49ers, a daunting task indeed.

    3. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

    Off a humbling loss to the New Orleans Saints and with Sean Payton’s team coming to town 14 days later, the Panthers showed their maturity this past Sunday by disposing of the New York Jets in efficient fashion. Carolina owns a 10-4 record, its most wins since it finished 12-4 and won the NFC South in 2008.

    4. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

    You hear your share of squawking from critics of the Seahawks due to their less-than-scintillating play away from home compared to at home. Well, Carroll’s club has won just as many games on the road this season (6-2) as it has in the Pacific Northwest (6-0). And in case you’ve forgotten, this is the team with the best record in the league.

    5. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

    The Birds saw their five-game winning streak end quite abruptly to the Minnesota Vikings, but thanks to their BFFs in Dallas, Kelly’s team remains one game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. And the bottom line here is that the 8-6 Eagles have already doubled their win total from a season ago.

    In The Discussion

      6. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins

      7. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

      8. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

      9. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

    10. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Comeback Player of the Year: QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

7 of 7

    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Although last season was a forgettable season for the Kansas City Chiefs, here are a few reminders when it came to last year’s squad that finished 2-14.

    The Chiefs scored a league-low 211 points, their offensive unit managed only 17 touchdowns and the club managed a miserable 37 turnovers, tied for the most in the NFL.

    This season, quarterback Alex Smith has led a team that has scored 399 points in 14 games. That includes 37 offensive touchdowns, 23 of those via Smith and the passing game.

    Andy Reid’s team has also committed just 14 turnovers, tied for the fewest in the NFL this season. Smith has thrown just six interceptions to go along with those career-high 23 touchdown passes.

    All this by a quarterback that suffered a concussion last November and then eventually lost his job in San Francisco.

    Yep, I call it a comeback.

    2. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

    It’s hard to figure what was harder to figure last Sunday. That the Philadelphia Eagles saw their five-game winning streak end at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings or that McCoy was limited to 38 yards rushing on eight carries at the Metrodome? But McCoy did catch five passes for 68 yards and remains the NFL’s top rusher and leader in yards from scrimmage.

    3. SS Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

    The active defender totaled five tackles, knocked down a pass and forced a fumble in Sunday night’s 30-20 win over the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. Polamalu ranks third on the team with 61 tackles and second on the club with 10 passes defensed and leads the Steelers with four forced fumbles.

    4. CB Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins

    The one-time Atlanta Falcons standout totaled five tackles before leaving Sunday’s game with the New England Patriots. He’s been a major find for the Dolphins’ improving defense this season, leading the team with four interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Miami defenders have allowed just 17 touchdown passes in 14 games in 2013.

    5. WR Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers

    No touchdown grabs for the former Denver Broncos wide receiver last week against his former team. But Royal did catch three passes for 46 yards, tied for the team lead that night in San Diego’s 27-20 win in the Mile High City. He’s totaled 40 receptions this season and is tied for the club lead with seven touchdown grabs.

    In The Discussion

      6. CB Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

      7. CB Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens

      8. RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos

      9. CB Terrell Thomas, New York Giants

    10. OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens