This appears to be Cam Newton's year, as he can have one of the biggest weekends an athlete can have.
Of course, he will try to lead the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl victory on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. He will have an excellent chance because he leads a team that appears to be far more explosive than its opponent.
But before Newton and the Panthers step on the field at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, he will be in the spotlight Saturday night when the league hands out its awards at NFL Honors, televised nationally on CBS.
Newton, of course, is in the running for the Most Valuable Player award. While there is some wonderful competition out there, including Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Newton appears to be the most deserving this year.
Newton has shown dramatic improvement this year. He threw 35 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions. He had never thrown more than 24 TD passes in any season, but he stepped up in a big way this year.
He also continued to show off his athleticism and make big plays on the ground. Newton ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. No quarterback in the game combines his big-time passing with eye-catching athletic ability.
In addition to those numbers, Newton led his team to a 15-1 regular-season record. He made big plays in clutch situations nearly every time he took the field.
Brady had a wonderful start, but both he and the Patriots stumbled a bit in the final six games of the season. Palmer was also a game-changing passer, but he lacks the athleticism and was not quite as consistent as Newton.
As a result, Newton wins the MVP award.
What: NFL Honors
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: CBS All-Access
It's hard to look past Newton's coach, Ron Rivera, for the superb job he did this season. Most observers expected the Panthers to come down to earth at some point once they got past midseason, but they never slowed down.
The Panthers were not given much respect, either. If those who vote for the Coach of the Year award actually felt that way, how could they not give the award to Rivera? It stands to reason that if the Panthers were not very good, then their outstanding couch was the primary reason they won 15 of 16 games in the regular season.
As much as Rivera did this year, Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs probably had his best season on the sidelines. The Chiefs couldn't get out of their own way during the first six games of the season and were humbled in October with a 1-5 record.
In addition to the losing, they lost running back Jamaal Charles, who went down with a season-ending ACL injury. The secondary also gave up big plays, and the Chiefs found new ways to lose every week.
It would have been easy for the Chiefs to take a woe-is-me attitude and finish the season with a 5-11 or 6-10 record. However, Reid would not let his team quit. Once the Chiefs started to win a couple of games, they made some major improvements.
Kansas City found a pair of competent running backs in Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware to rescue the ground attack, and the secondary improved dramatically.
The Chiefs would win their final 10 regular-season games and a wild-card playoff game at Houston. They finally got stopped in the divisional playoffs by New England, but that defeat did not obscure a brilliant coaching job by Reid.
Give full marks to Bruce Arians in Arizona, Mike Zimmer in Minnesota and Bill Belichick in New England, but Rivera and Reid were the two best coaches this year.
We go with Reid by the slightest of margins for bringing his team back from the precipice.
|MVP||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||Huge stats and superior clutch play|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Jameis Winston||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Slight edge over Todd Gurley|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Marcus Peters||Kansas City Chiefs||Future superstar in the secondary|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Julio Jones||Atlanta Falcons||Did his best to carry the Falcons|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Khalil Mack||Oakland Raiders||Game-changing effort each week|
|Comeback Player of the Year||Eric Berry||Kansas City Chiefs||Inspirational leader for Chiefs after overcoming cancer|
|Coach of the Year||Andy Reid||Kansas City Chiefs||Spectacular rise after miserable start|
The Chiefs made a significant step up on the defensive side of the ball as the season progressed. There were many reasons for that, including the hard hitting of middle linebacker Derrick Johnson, who led the team with 116 tackles, and the return of free safety Eric Berry from a bout with cancer. Berry had 61 tackles and two interceptions and provided steadiness to the Kansas City secondary. He should win Comeback Player of the Year honors.
However, the play of rookie cornerback Marcus Peters was a huge difference-maker. He had eight interceptions, 34 passes defensed and 60 tackles. Peters should be the runaway winner of the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Offensive Rookie of the Year race should be a tight battle between Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and St. Louis (now Los Angeles) running back Todd Gurley. Perhaps Gurley would have had an even better chance to win the award if he had not missed three games this season.
Still, he ran for 1,106 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Winston struggled badly at the start of the season but showed consistent improvement, passing for 4,042 yards with 22 TDs and a respectable 15 interceptions.
Look for Winston to cap his first season in the NFL by winning Rookie of the Year honors.