With just one week left in the 2013 regular season, debates are heating up when it comes to who rightfully deserves Rookie of the Year honors, although some arguments are easier to make than others. Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso has been dominant all season long, and has looked much like last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year, Luke Kuechly.
In regards to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, the most chatter doesn't surround a quarterback or a wide receiver, but a pair of running backs. Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard have been neck-and-neck for the greater part of the season, and there's a strong case to be made for both rookie runners.
When looking at who had the biggest impact in Week 16, it's Lacy who dominates the conversation. In a game with some serious playoff implications for the Green Bay Packers, the rookie running back rushed 15 times for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a losing effort to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the loss, Lacy shined, and further empowered his case as the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year. Although Bernard has given him a run for his money all season long, it'll be tough for the Bengals runner to pull ahead with just one game left.
Bernard's most recent performance was pretty forgettable, as he rushed for just 20 yards on 13 carries, coming out to an abysmal 1.5 yards per carry. He did have two catches for 47 yards, but 41 of those came on one play. If you exclude that catch, he had 26 yards on 14 touches—not exactly OROY numbers (more like Tim Tebow numbers).
To say the least, it damaged his chances, but the most damaging part of his numbers is that they came versus the mediocre Minnesota Vikings defense.
Next down the line is Alonso, who led the way for the Bills defense against the Miami Dolphins. He had eight tackles in a shutout victory and has truly blossomed into a leader for Buffalo on defense. Alonso also leads all rookie defenders with 145 tackles on the season, good enough for fourth-highest in the NFL.
I mentioned earlier that he's resembled Kuechly at times, and they've actually had nearly identical stats this season. They both have two sacks and four interceptions on the season, but Kuechly barely bests the rookie with his 146 tackles to Alonso's 145. He's far and away been the biggest play-for-play impact defender out of all defensive rookies and is a virtual shoo-in for the award.
Granted, this could all change in the final week of the season, but who knows. Lacy will be given a great chance to silence all the critics next week against the Chicago Bears' 32nd-ranked rush defense, while Bernard will be facing the stingy defense of the Baltimore Ravens.
As it looks right now, Lacy will be the one honored at the end of the day, but that doesn't take away from the great season Bernard has had and the bright future ahead of him.
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.