NFL Predictions 2011: Predicting All the Major Award Winners
Every major sports publication will soon start to make predictions on NFL award winners. I won’t pretend to know more than them. By predicting these awards off of the limited things we have seen this preseason and the results of last season, we have a good idea of who will be good and who will be bad.
This is a look at who will be the best.
Halfway through the preseason is probably too early to predict who will win the NFL’s major awards, but we will try it anyway.
Comeback Player of the Year: Plaxico Burress, NY Jets
Rather than going with someone who is injured, the voters won't be able to help voting for Plaxico Burress. Despite the concerns on how this will look for the NFL—voting for a player who has come back from a recent incarceration for two years in a row—Burress is a natural fit to win this award, after being away from the game for two years.
If last weeks preseason game was any indication, Burress will fit in just fine in the Jets locker room, and give Mark Sanchez a much better deep threat option than he had last season.
Burress showed no real signs of losing his football instincts, and that should help him transition back into the league. Having Santonio Holmes lined up on the other side of the field from you makes your life a little easier, and facing Darrelle Revis in practice is pretty good preparation for what you are going to face every Sunday.
Runner Up: Jared Gaither, Kansas City Chiefs
Coach of the Year: Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
There are multiple candidates for this award that are at the top of the league annually. Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan, Mike Tomlin and Andy Reid all should have Coach of the Year caliber seasons, but that has come to be expected. Unfortunately, as with all awards, voters tend to want to vote for something new or special.
Unless an undefeated season comes our way, these teams will merely live up to their lofty expectations, and that generally doesn’t garner votes.
Jim Schwartz has already started to rebuild the Detroit Lions, but he needs to have a healthy Matthew Stafford to truly get the team over the top. While the Lions won’t win the NFC North, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for them to finish ahead of the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. That would certainly earn Schwartz some high praise.
Runner Up: Rex Ryan, New York Jets
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Mason Foster, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mason Foster might be the steal of the NFL Draft. Drafted in the third round because of his slightly undersized frame, Foster is a fast linebacker with a great sense for the ball.
For those with limited knowledge of Foster, he certainly made some noise for himself when he laid out Chad Ochocinco. Foster was concerned he would face fines, because he leveled such a ferocious blow to Ochocinco and caused some helmet on helmet contact.
Foster recently moved up on the Tampa Bay depth chart, a team that has had such a prolific defense over the past decade. Foster seems in line to be the next great defender coming out of Tampa Bay.
Runner Up: Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
This one is harder to predict than Defensive Rookie of the Year. There is no breakout quarterback like there has been over the past five years. The running backs that were taken are either now injured or went to situations where they will likely be situational runners. No offensive lineman has ever won the award. That leaves receivers.
Having a wide receiver as the breakout star of the rookie class is alarming. Receivers are so dependent on others to be productive that it is hard to predict the impact they will have. A.J. Green might be the most talented of the receivers drafted this year, but he is paired with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, and that has not looked like it is going well so far.
Julio Jones landed in a much better spot. With Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez already in the offense, Jones will be able to be a complementary piece, which should allow him to ease into his role.
The Falcons offense should be prolific and Jones should see a big part of that offense lining up opposite of Roddy White.
Runner Up: Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarcus Ware is an absolutely dominant pass rusher. He is outrageously consistent, as well. This might be part of the reason he has never won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Ware plays every weekend, which is why his stats are so consistent. Whereas some other defensive players who are considered the best in the league eventually have time off, Ware plays every week—and is dominant every week.
The reason Ware doesn’t win the awards seems to be pretty simple. The Defensive Player of the Year has gone to a player whose team has ranked in the top five in total defense eight of the past ten years. The Cowboys generally rank around ninth overall and were the 23rd “best” defense last year, if you want to use best to describe that.
Ware should see another big season this year. With the Cowboys focusing more on defense this offseason, Ware might have a shot at an award he deserves.
Runner Up: Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
It’s hard to differentiate between NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Often the two are one in the same. When it is split up, though, the Offensive Player of the Year is someone who puts up outstanding numbers, whereas the MVP is someone who puts up good numbers, but their team would not be successful without them.
Adrian Peterson should have a spike in production this year. In 2009, Brett Favre and Sidney Rice were lighting it up through the air and Peterson was just a part of the offense. Last season, with Brett Favre unable to get on track, the offense sputtered, but not due to Peterson. Peterson was as consistent as ever, rushing for nearly 1,300 yards with 12 touchdowns.
Peterson’s major improvement last season was his ability to hang onto the ball. This season he can get back to focusing on running. With Donovan McNabb bringing some stability to the Minnesota offense, the team will rely on Peterson to draw up the defense so McNabb can get some space. His heavy usage should lead to another career year.
Runner Up: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Tom Brady won the MVP for his second time last season, after having one of the most efficient performances in NFL history. He is unlikely to repeat that performance or his record setting 2007 season. Brady is a victim of his own success. He will constantly be measured by those two seasons, and unfortunately, may never win another MVP because he can’t live up to his own standard.
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have that problem. Yet. While Rodgers wasn’t nearly as efficient as he could have been, his struggles were in the early part of the season. He caught fire after Halloween, lasting all the way through the Super Bowl.
Rodgers, like almost every quarterback, is the most valuable player on his team. The quarterback's value is in the sense that they make everything on the offensive side of the ball happen. They set the tone for the team. If you have a bad quarterback in the NFL, your team is bad.
Rodgers might be sneaking up on Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning to grab the mantle as the best quarterback in the league. That immediately makes him a contender for MVP. The fact that the Green Bay Packers are loaded on the offensive side of the ball makes him the favorite coming out of the gate.
Runner Up: Tom Brady, New England Patriots