It’s been reported that this past season was the most-watched in the history of the NFL, and we certainly weren’t disappointed by what we witnessed.
We saw the resurgence of the New England Patriots, the resurgence (and then some) of Michael Vick, the worst division champion in league history, four in-season head coaching changes, and much, much more.
So, which players deserve which individual honors? Let’s take a look:
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
The Rams fell just short of the NFL playoffs with their loss at the hands of the Seahawks in the season finale, but Bradford is the sure pick to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The top overall pick in April’s draft completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards to go along with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
He struggled a bit toward the end of the season, but the seven wins the Rams recorded were more than they had in the previous three seasons combined.
Think Bradford had something to do with this? Um, yes.
He also made the best of an oft-injured receiving corps that lost playmakers like Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton very early in the year, while playing behind a shaky offensive line.
2. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blount, who went undrafted out of Oregon, wound up leading all rookies in rushing this season with 1,007 yards.
The Bucs scooped Blount up off the scrap heap just prior to the beginning of the season, and the rookie took over as Tampa’s primary back after week seven.
He averaged a whopping five yards per carry, and scored six touchdowns for the surprising 10-6 Buccaneers.
Blount certainly has seen his fair share of ups and downs, but he’s likely a first or second-round draft pick in retrospect.
3. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Offensive linemen aren’t guys that typically take awards like this, but Pouncey is certainly worthy of consideration.
He was a major cog in the middle of a shaky Steelers offensive line and helped Pittsburgh become one of the best running teams in the league.
Rookies rarely step in and provide stability, but Pouncey did just that for the Steelers.
4. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have loads of young talent, and Williams is another huge part of it.
Williams, a fourth-round pick out of Syracuse, emerged as Josh Freeman’s primary target this season, catching 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Tampa was undoubtedly the league’s most pleasant surprise this season, and the trio of Freeman, Blount and Williams can mean big things in the future for the franchise.
5. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Bryant’s season ended prematurely when he fractured his ankle in week 13 against Indy, but his mark had already been made.
He showed potential to be one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers in the open field, and caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. He also returned two punts for scores.
Bryant’s immediate impact is even more remarkable considering he missed just about all of training camp with an injury.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Suh, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, may already be the most dominant interior defensive force in the league.
Defensive tackles aren’t usually sack machines, but Suh picked up 10 while helping patch up a previously shaky Lions defense.
The Lions gave up 494 points last season, and just 369 this season.
Suh is a nightmare for opposing linemen to deal with, and he’ll be an All-Pro for years.
2. Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots
The Patriots’ young defense got better and better as the season wore on, and McCourty’s performance did the same.
McCourty, the 27th overall pick out of Rutgers, is already looking like a shutdown corner, and is making teams lament having passed on him in the draft.
He made 82 tackles and intercepted seven passes, while also named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster.
3. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs won the AFC West, and Berry was a vital part of a revamped defense.
Berry recorded 92 tackles to go along with four interceptions as a rookie, and also broke up nine passes.
His performance got stronger as the year wore on, and the Chiefs appear to have a solid cornerstone for a young defense.
4. Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns
Haden is another guy that got stronger as the season went along.
He intercepted six passes as a rookie, including a string earlier in the season of one in four straight games.
QBs are already afraid to throw in the guy’s direction, and the Browns did well to take him seventh overall.
5. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
Despite the 7-9 record, the Seahawks made the playoffs and Thomas played a major role.
The first-round pick out of Texas intercepted five passes and made 75 tackles.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
New England lost Randy Moss and Laurence Maroney this season, and Tom Brady only got better.
Brady threw an amazing 36 touchdown passes to go along with just four interceptions, and completed nearly 66 percent of his passes for 3,900 yards.
The Patriots are 14-2 heading into the playoffs, and have won eight straight games.
He’s helped make stars out of guys like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
2. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Like Blount, Foster has made an incredible impact for a guy that wasn’t even drafted.
Foster won the starting job for Houston in the preseason, and they didn’t regret it.
The former Tennessee Volunteer led the NFL with 1,616 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 66 passes for 604 yards and two scores through the air.
He was the most dynamic weapon for the Texans; an impressive feat considering they also feature a fella named Andre Johnson. You may have heard of him.
Houston ranked 30th in the league in rushing last season. This season, they ranked seventh.
3. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Vick emerged as the most versatile offensive player in the league this season, leading the Eagles to a 10-6 record and division title despite starting the season as the backup to Kevin Kolb.
Vick set career-highs in completion percentage (62.6), passing yards (3,018), average per completion (8.1) and touchdown passes (21).
He also ran for 676 yards on just 100 carries with a career-high nine rushing touchdowns.
Vick’s presence makes the Eagles the most potent offensive team in the league, and even though they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs, he’s likely to be retained as Philly’s starting QB heading into next season.
4. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
San Diego missed the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever, but the numbers Rivers was able to put up despite rampant injuries to his receiving group are nothing short of incredible.
Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates and Legedu Naanee all missed extended periods of time this season.
Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,710 yards with 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the Chargers, who finished 9-7.
His QB rating of 101.8 ranked him second in the league behind Brady.
Had Rivers been able to lead San Diego to the playoffs despite the injuries and slow start, he’d be a more prominent name in the MVP discussion.
5. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Despite splitting time with veteran Thomas Jones in the KC backfield, Charles ranked second in the league in rushing yards with 1,467.
His 6.4 yards per carry average for the season is the third-best single-season effort in NFL history, and he was a major factor in the Chiefs’ 10-6 record and AFC West crown.
He also caught 45 passes for 468 yards, and scored eight total touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Matthews has been the frontrunner for this award since week one, and hasn’t let up.
He’s been the heart and soul of a Packers defense that has continued to wreak havoc despite injuries to several key players, and has them into the divisional round of the playoffs.
Matthews recorded 60 tackles this season, with 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. His 13.5 sacks ranked fourth in the NFL.
2. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
Polamalu recorded 63 tackles with seven interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble this season.
The sack and forced fumble occurred on the same play, as he stripped Joe Flacco from behind to set up the Steelers’ game-winning touchdown drive late in the week 13 win over Baltimore that helped vault the Steelers to the AFC North title.
His mere presence completely transforms Pittsburgh’s defense, and, despite injuries, he produces week after week.
3. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Ngata enjoyed the best year of his career this season for the Ravens, picking up 63 tackles to go with a career-high 5.5 sacks.
His massive frame is a nightmare for opposing offenses, as he collapses the middle and helps stifle the run.
At 26, there’s still room for him to improve, which is scary.
4. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore Ravens
Despite missing the first six games of the season with an injury, Reed still led the league with eight interceptions.
He’s the most dynamic playmaker on the Ravens’ defense, and will play an essential role in their road to the Super Bowl.
5. Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
The former first-round pick made the leap to stardom this season as a part of the revamped KC defense, as he ranked No. 2 in the league with 14.5 sacks.
His exclusion from the Pro Bowl roster is baffling, as he has emerged as a major force on the outside.
Coach of the Year
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Having Tom Brady obviously helps, but what he’s done with this team may be his greatest accomplishment to date.
The defense showed some serious youth early on, but has improved with each passing week and has actually become a strength for the Patriots.
It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to perform in the playoffs, but I’m not putting anything past Belichick at this point.
2. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Prior to the beginning of the season, many were projecting the Bucs to finish amongst the worst teams in the league.
However, they wound up 10-6 and just missed out on an unlikely playoff berth.
Morris deserves much of the credit, as he wasn’t afraid to take chances with such a young team.
Tampa is headed in the right direction.
3. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Some projected Atlanta as a potential sleeper this season, but few thought they’d finish 13-3 and atop the NFC.
Smith has gotten a lot out of a revamped defensive unit, and they have to be the favorites to advance to the Super Bowl out of the NFC at this point.
Having the offensive triumvirate of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White doesn’t hurt, either.
4. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
The NFC North looked to be one of the tougher divisions in the league heading into the season, but the Bears finished in first place and earned themselves a first-round bye in the playoffs.
5. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers have owned the AFC West for years, but Haley was able to surround himself with proven coaches and helped the Chiefs to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
With offensive coordinator Charlie Weis leaving for Florida, it’ll be interesting to see how the Chiefs’ offense will be affected next season.
Most Valuable Player
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
We’ve already discussed Brady.
36 touchdowns. Four interceptions. 14-2 record.
What more needs to be said?
2. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Hard to believe that Ryan is in just his third year as a pro.
He led the aforementioned Falcons to a 13-3 record this season, while completing nearly 63 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Ryan’s most impressive stat is his 20-2 career home record, including 7-1 this season.
3. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Are the Eagles 10-6 and NFC East champions with Kevin Kolb as a first-time starter all season long?
4. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts suffered a down year, but were still 10-6 and winners of the AFC South.
With never-ending injuries to his receivers and running backs, Manning still threw for 4,700 yards with 33 TDs and 17 interceptions.
5. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
With a full complement of receivers next season, Rivers has the ability to break all sorts of passing records.
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