NFL Predictions: Week 6 Awards Watch

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IOctober 9, 2013

NFL Predictions: Week 6 Awards Watch

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    Here is Rex Ryan holding a Tony. But is he in the running for NFL Coach of the Year honors?
    Here is Rex Ryan holding a Tony. But is he in the running for NFL Coach of the Year honors?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It is time to get serious…at least a little more serious.

    Now that every team in the NFL has played at least four games, it’s time to bear down a little more when delving into the league’s seven major awards and their current front-runners.

    Last week, we added two “In the Discussion” candidates for each category. This week and throughout the rest of the season, each award will list a leader and four other players in contention.

    While the usual suspects remain at the top of their respective lists, there are a few changes this week that may prove to be a surprise.

    Remember, we haven’t even gotten to the halfway point of 2013. So a change or two can be expected…at least when it comes to six of these categories.

Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    So Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is human after all…maybe.

    On Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, the prolific passer finally threw an interception.

    But he also brought his team back from an early 14-0 deficit to outlast the Cowboys, 51-48, in one of the highest-scoring games in league history.

    In terms of 2013, Manning remains superhuman. For the season, he has now completed 75.8 percent of his throws for a league-high 1,884 yards and 20 touchdowns, with that one interception.

    On Sunday against the Cowboys, he would throw for 414 yards and four scores. And let's not forget Manning's one-yard touchdown run less than a minute before halftime that gave Denver a short-lived 28-17 lead.

    But it was a non-touchdown run in the closing minute of the game that proved to be the most important play of the afternoon. Manning told teammate Knowshon Moreno to come up short off the end zone so the Broncos could kill some clock. And Moreno heeded those words, setting up Matt Prater's 28-yard field goal as time expired.

    "I was just confused of how to do it," Moreno said, via Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today. "And he was like, 'Just do it!'"

    Manning is in complete control right now. And that means he'll continue putting a lot of points on the board until the Denver defense is back to full strength, whenever or if ever that may be.

    This week the Broncos face the Jacksonville Jaguars, and after that game, two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller will return from his six-game suspension. Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey hopes to be healthy soon as well.

    Imagine the Broncos at full strength on both sides of the ball.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

    3. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

    4. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots

    5. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

Offensive Player of the Year: TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    For the first time in five weeks, there’s a new name atop this category.

    It’s not that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning did anything wrong to warrant less attention here. Rather, it is a case of another player doing something extraordinary.

    New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is tied for second in the league with 37 catches and currently leads the NFL with 593 receiving yards in just five games. The former Pro Bowler has totaled 100 or more yards receiving in four straight games.

    Not surprisingly, Graham credits quarterback Drew Brees with his phenomenal start this season. "There are certain situations he knows I'm one-on-one, and he throws it up to me," said Graham, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. "He has a lot of trust, a lot of faith in me."

    Is Graham having a better season than Manning? Not necessarily. But while the Broncos quarterback continues to open eyes with his play, so does the Saints tight end. And, like Manning, Graham isn't showing any sign of slowing down.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

    3. RB Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions

    4. QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

    5. WR Wes Welker, Denver Broncos

Defensive Player of the Year: OLB Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    I believe Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston is trying to tell us something in the enclosed photo.

    Thanks to their 26-17 win on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs are a perfect 5-0. And because Houston could possibly be fined for adding a hyphen to his jersey, we’ll gladly assist him here.

    You could make a case that the Chiefs defense is playing as well as any unit in the league. The front seven has been dominant. Andy Reid’s club has held each of its five opponents to 17 points or fewer. The Chiefs have forced 15 turnovers, two more than all of last season, and their 21 sacks are just six short of their 2012 total (27).

    Houston has totaled 23 tackles (22 solo) and is second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks. Add three passes defensed and a pair of fumble recoveries and it has been an impressive turnaround for not only Houston (10.0 sacks in 2012), but the 5-0 Chiefs as well.

    In The Discussion

    2. OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

    3. ILB Daryl Smith, Baltimore Ravens

    4. ILB Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

    5. CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB Geno Smith, New York Jets

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    No, this is not a prisoner of the moment selection.

    Granted, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has been a turnover machine in his first five NFL starts. Rex Ryan’s team has coughed up the ball 12 times this season, and the rookie signal-caller is on the hook for 11 of them.

    But on Monday night, Smith came up big and brought the team back for a 30-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The second-round pick completed 16 of 20 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover. Smith drove the team 55 yards in eight plays in the final 1:54 to set up Nick Folk’s game-winning 43-yard field goal.

    Smith has completed better than 60 percent of his passes in three games this season. And seven of his 11 turnovers came in the losses to the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.

    With Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel sidelined indefinitely and none of the other candidates really taking the bull by the horns, Smith slips into the favorite spot for now.

    In The Discussion

    2. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

    3. QB EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills

    4. G Kyle Long, Chicago Bears

    5. WR Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots

Defensive Rookie of the Year: MLB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

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    Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

    Even in last Thursday night’s 37-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns, it was hard to ignore Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso.

    The second-round pick totaled a dozen tackles in the prime-time setback and continued to impress even in defeat.

    Alonso leads the Bills with 44 stops. He is also tied for the league lead with four interceptions. The former Oregon standout has looked like a seasoned veteran on a defensive unit that is slowly but surely making some strides.

    But could the gap be closing between Alonso and some of the other candidates? Strong safety Kenny Vaccaro of the New Orleans Saints ranks second on his club with 27 tackles. And Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah has totaled 3.0 sacks in his past three games.

    For now, Alonso fits the bill (pun intended).

    In The Discussion

    2. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints

    3. DE Ziggy Ansah, Detroit Lions

    4. FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

    5. OLB Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland Browns

Coach of the Year: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Sorry, there is no NFL award for Comeback Coach of the Year.

    Still, it’s safe to say that Sean Payton is back with a vengeance.

    A year after he was suspended for the season and his New Orleans Saints opened 0-4 en route to a 7-9 finish, his club is off to a 5-0 start and comes off of an impressive 26-18 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

    The Saints offense has remained efficient thanks to quarterback Drew Brees. And the defense has done a 180-degree turn under coordinator Rob Ryan.

    But it is Payton who is pulling all of the strings. This week, the Saints head to Foxborough to square off against quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Granted, these aren’t the explosive Pats of recent seasons.

    Then again, these aren’t your 2012 Saints.

    In The Discussion

    2. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

    3. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

    4. Rex Ryan, New York Jets

    5. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Comeback Player of the Year: OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    When you come off of a season in which your team wins a Super Bowl, it’s hard to remain unnoticed.

    When you are Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, it’s even harder to be anonymous.

    But, very quietly, the star defender has begun to regain the form that makes him one of the best in the business at his position.

    Thanks to five tackles and three sacks in Sunday’s 26-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Suggs finds himself fourth in the NFL with 7.0 sacks in 2013. He also ranks second on his team with 36 tackles.

    It has been a pretty nice bounce back for a performer who missed eight games in 2012 and totaled only 4.0 sacks in a dozen contests (playoffs included).

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

    3. ILB Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

    4. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

    5. MLB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys


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