Well, we are finally past the divisions.
And we're not done yet. When the season is nearing an end, the awards talk always seems to heat up quite quickly and becomes a hot topic as fans anxiously await the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Because of that, I want to give you guys a little preview as to who should contend for these awards and my picks. First up, the rookie of the year.
A bunch of candidates should be in contention because of an abundance of injuries and other reasons that have created spots for rookies. One of these spots exists in Philadelphia with the loss of Kevin Curtis, and the beneficiary should be Cal rookie DeSean Jackson.
He is famous for being a blazer and his subsequent torching of defense after defense in college, leading him to be drafted in the second round this year.
Donovan McNabb needs a go to guy in this offense other than Brian Westbrook out of the backfield, and Curtis filled the spot fairly well last year, but he now has a hernia injury, which is one I wouldn't wish on anybody (Just sounds bad). So who steps up?
I think it can be Jackson, at least to some extent. He should also be returning kicks and punts, which should only help him gain publicity if he does well in the role because Devin Hester has brought new importance and notoriety to the position, earning himself thirty million dollars solely on what he has shown on special teams so far in his career.
Another group of guys who can contend is the quarterback trio of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Chad Henne, and especially Ryan as it seems he is the only starting QB for his team coming into the season, though the other two aren't being blocked by studs and could emerge if the respective incumbents (Troy Smith, Chad Pennington) don't work out.
Look at what Vince Young did at QB two years ago. He didn't play absolulety spectacular, but he came in and reenergized the team and almost lead them to the playoffs and himself to the Madden cover.
QB is the one rookie position where you don't have to blow people away with your stats and you can still contend. Heck, if any of these guys just plays sixteen games they should be in the running.
The guy who really stands out, and is the odds on favorite, resides in Oakland. I don't think Darren McFadden duplicates Adrian Peterson's numbers from last year, but I also don't think you'll hear any NFL expert to say he doesn't have the same skill set as AD, and is in an offense that is rush heavy.
One thousand yards or so and about eight touchdowns seems reasonable, and should put him right at the top of the list. He's my pick.
This race is a little bit harder to handicap. Top picks Chris Long, Glenn Dorsey, and Vernon Gholston are considered early favorites by many because of where they were drafted, but I have doubts about all three.
I'm not sure if Long will have huge success right away, and while I believe Dorsey will play well right away, this award has been won by linebackers the last five years, seven of the last eight. I think the trend continues this year.
The last two winners, Ryans and Willis, won because they are tackling machines, while Shawne Merriman, the winner from three years ago, is more of the 3-4 pass rushing extraordinaire. Gholston's skills are closer to what Merriman brings, but I don't know if it is because he is out of position (he was an end in college), is having trouble learning the 3-4 scheme, or something else, but he has struggled mightily so far in training camp and the preseason, so I have to count him out for now.
That leaves two guys for me, Keith Rivers and Jerod Mayo.
Rivers held out for a little bit in Bengals camp but I still think he will get more playing time, especially right away, than Mayo, who might take awhile to entrench himself in Belichick's defense, so for now he is my pick. He was a great player at USC and should jump right into the Bengals porous defense and contribute right away. Onto the Players of the Year.
I could write separate articles about the candidacy of the guys I'm about to mention, but I'm going to try and keep this from droning on. Usual suspects include Quarterbacks Tom Brady, last years winner, and rival Peyton Manning.
While they should have great years and either would be solid picks, It's just too hard to figure out who will be better this year. Both are injured right now, and while the respective maladies shouldn't be problems, it's enough to convince me to look somewhere else.
A receiver could also take this award. Randy Moss could've had the award last year and you would have heard nary a peep about it. But that was last year. I think Brady does take a step back from his exceptional production last year, and this obviously will hurt Moss.
Braylon Edwards burst onto the scene last year, but the curse of Donte Stallworth struck again, and considering the injury is to his foot, and that receivers use their feet quite a lot, I'm shying away from him as well.
Larry Fitzgerald is another fantastic pass catcher, but I believe that if Anquan Boldin leaves town, it would hurt Larry more than than it would help him, and as the marriage between Boldin and Arizona seems to be heading for divorce, this potential pick scares me too.
I believe this award will come from a running back, and not Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook, or even Adrian Peterson. Yes, this award will once again go Old Faithful, LaDainian Tomlinson.
Antonio Gates toe situation is still in flux, and as it seems he won't be 100% for quite a while, I think in the meantime LT gets the bulk of Big Tony's available catches, which combined with his rushing ability, should push him north of 2000 total yards and more than 20 touchdowns. Can't argue with that.
I also believe LT wins the MVP award, so I will save you from reading another paragraph there.
This award can go a lot of ways. Strong candidates exist at nearly every position. Mario Williams has to be the prime candidate on the end. He's a physical freak and last year realized his ability, posting 13 sacks. He believes he can one day break Michael Strahan's record, and count me in too, someday.
At tackle I believe that Tommie Harris of Chicago will have the best year, possibly eclipsing 10 sacks, a rare feat in the middle. He's a special talent, but playing at an underrated position might not get him the support he would need to put him over the top.
At corner, look for Terence Newman of Dallas to have a great year as well, but not enough to garner him enough to get him the trophy.
Linebacker and safety are the two spots that I look to lead with strong players. I really like Shawne Merriman. His sack totals have been impressive every year in the league, and my gut tells me that a fire has been lit under him with the emergence of counterpart DeMarcus Ware in Dallas, making Merriman want to snag back the mantle of best pass rushing linebacker.
He has a real chance to lead the league in sacks this year. At safety I once again look to Bob Sanders to lead the charge. The hits that the defending champ can dish out are amazing at his size of 5'9", 180 lbs. He should have a great year once again, but I look for Merriman to win this award.
Tomorrow I will be unveiling my playoff and Super Bowl picks and also my Coach of the Year Award winner because I'm sure it will correlate strongly with my SB pick, and I don't want to give it away just yet. I'm sure this article will inspire some serious discussion, and I look forward to it.