In an NFL season filled with undefeated controversy, major season-ending injuries and constant change in the playoff picture, individual recognition often goes unnoticed. Not to worry, as we’re providing you with our “down the stretch” award predictions.
Will the MVP and OPOY awards continue to go hand in hand? Will someone not named J.J. Watt be named Defensive Player of the Year? Has Todd Gurley overcome the QBs selected 1-2 and run his way to the Offensive Rookie of the Year? Are any defensive rookies even worthy of the Defensive Rookie of the Year award? It doesn’t look like Sam Bradford will be named Comeback Player of the Year, so who will be? Bill Belichick is the Coach of the Year yet again, right?
Loads of questions, and we’ve got answers. Here’s our final look at the hardware winners for the 2015 NFL season:
Most Valuable Player: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
I had Tom Brady penciled in here, until week 12. It’s truly incredible how Cam Newton has led the Panthers to a 14-0 record, let alone as the last undefeated team standing in the NFL. At the start of the season, I was one of the critics who counted out the Panthers, especially after Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season-ending injury. Clearly, Carolina’s offense hasn’t missed a beat, even without Benjamin. Newton has risen to the occasion and has stepped up to an extremely high level. His impact on that team goes unmatched.
While he doesn’t have the best numbers, his leadership has come such a long way and he is, without a doubt, the MVP of the NFL in 2015. What a tremendous season he has had, he’s proven a lot this year. Tom Brady is right there with him, but Newton will pull it home. Without him, the Panthers don’t even go .500.
Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Often times you see the MVP come away with this piece of hardware as well, it’s almost not even worth it to have this award still around in the NFL. However, I see it playing out differently this season. Even at 38 years old, Brady got off to arguably the best start of his voluptuous career. He led the Patriots to their 2nd 11-0 start under his leadership, this despite vital losses of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, among others.
Brady’s 4,405 passing yards and 35 passing touchdowns both lead the league, and he has only 6 interceptions to go along with that as well – the best TD:INT ratio of any starting QB in the league. The things he has done for that Patriots offense this year are truly remarkable, especially with the injuries he has dealt with to skill players and the continuous shuffle of the offensive line.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DL, Houston Texans
I really hate to go with the favorite here, but there’s no way you can go against J.J. Watt. Yet again he is up there for the league lead in sacks with 13.5 through 15 weeks. The presence he provides on Houston’s defense goes unmatched compared to any other defensive player in the league. He is a true force that cannot be stopped.
When discussing MVP, Watt’s name has to come up in the conversation, although he won’t surpass QBs like Newton and Brady. Regardless, his impact on the defensive side of the ball has resurrected Houston’s season and got them back in the playoff race. He withstands a late surge by Khalil Mack.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You can go a variety of ways here: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have both made tremendous impacts to their respective teams, Todd Gurley has taken the league by storm and has emerged as one of the best back in the leagues, at times, Amari Cooper has been the #1 WR in Oakland while emerging as one of the best up and comers in the game.
At the end of the day, it’ll be the #1 overall pick who has quickly turned around an abysmal Tampa Bay franchise who have 6 wins on the season – tripling last year’s total. Winston has shown tremendous maturity and leadership, much quicker than many had originally thought. Winston has brought the Buccaneers to a completely different level this season and even had them in the playoff hunt for a little while there.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
Unlike the Offensive Rookie of the Year, this is quite an underwhelming crop to choose from. For most of the year I had Buffalo’s Ronald Darby here, but Marcus Peters has emerged in the final stretch of the season.
Entering the draft process, Peters was a huge question mark due to off-field concerns. He hasn’t let that become a distraction and has been playing tremendous football at the corner position. His 7 interceptions through 15 weeks are 2nd in the NFL. He capped off his great rookie campaign with a Pro Bowl selection.
Comeback Player of the Year: Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
It’ll be interesting to see the route they go here. They can give it to a guy like Eric Berry who beat cancer and made his way back onto the football field while being named to the Pro Bowl in the process. Then you have a guy like Adrian Peterson who was out all of last season due to an off field issue and came back to lead the NFL in rushing.
It was hard to pass on a guy like Berry after his tremendous story, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be Carson Palmer. He’s a guy who’s career has been nagged by injury after injury; including last year (torn ACL) which caused him to miss half the season. Palmer came back this year and has played at the level of a Tom Brady and has proved how valuable he is to Arizona’s defense. Without him, the Cardinals aren’t a threat in the NFC.
Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
There are a few viable candidates for this award, but it’s gotta be Riverboat Ron. After Kelvin Benjamin went down with the season-ending ACL injury, many were quick to write off the Panthers, including myself. There was no way a team with barely any offensive playmakers was going to make a run, let alone take the league by storm and start 14-0 and be the last undefeated team left standing.
The Panthers have won in a variety of ways this season; they’ve won comfortably, they’ve scrapped out wins and they’ve come from behind. Rivera has been just as valuable to the team as the players on it. No doubt he deserves to be named Coach of the Year, especially if the Panthers finish undefeated – wouldn’t that be something?