With Super Bowl LIII on the horizon, I figured it was time to look back at the 2018-2019 season in a way only I knew how: Handing out awards. Similar to last year’s column, you’ll find only awards in this week’s DRFN, though a Super Bowl prediction will make an appearance as well. If you’re looking for predictions on real awards, check out my Week Seventeen column. As the clock looms on the NFL season, join me as I look back on a fantastic 2018-2019 season. And yes, there will be a Super Bowl prediction.
Best Prediction: ‘AFC South Becomes Best Division’
I had some pretty spot-on predictions this season. I was super high on Jared Goff, Christian McCaffrey and Kerryon Johnson, to name a few, and all were viable candidates for this award. Alas, none topped my Five-Word Bold Prediction from our Armchair Staff predictions article. No division finished with a better cumulative record than the AFC South. Three teams finished with winning records, the only division with that distinction this year. As good as the division performed, the future is generally promising for the Colts and Texans, with the Jaguars and Titans not too far behind.
Worst Prediction: Marquise Goodwin
Prior to the season, I had this to say about Goodwin: “Aside from Goff, there’s no one I’m more confident in than I am in Goodwin to blow past his ADP this year. His play with [Jimmy] Garoppolo last season and their budding chemistry during the offseason sets him up to see WR1 targets.” Goodwin dealt with injuries all season long, leading to five missed games and his worst stats since 2015. Not to mention that Garoppolo played three games before tearing his ACL, which definitely hurt Goodwin when he was healthy.
Fantasy Surprise of the Year: James Conner
With starting RB Le’Veon Bell sitting out, Conner filled Bell’s shoes as a top RB. He missed three weeks yet still finished among the top-ten RBs despite being undrafted in most leagues. He looks like a first-round lock next season.
Fantasy Disappointment of the Year: Le’Veon Bell
What a shocker. Considering Conner’s impact, this should be obvious. Projected by ESPN as the first pick in fantasy drafts, Bell contributed the same amount to the Steelers as I did this season. If only someone had warned about this possibility before the season…
Play of the Year: Miami Miracle
My thoughts on the ‘Play of the Decade’ haven’t changed since it’s creation in Week Fourteen. Looking back on the miraculous game-winner, it’s still incredibly awesome to watch. Had the Dolphins not pulled it off then the Patriots would’ve had home-field advantage in the AFC Conference Championship, though it didn’t end up mattering.
I said it then and I’ll say it again: That fantastic game could change the NFL. The game had non-stop action and previewed a likely future of the NFL in which offenses rule with an iron fist. Despite the offensive-driven stigma that comes with the game, don’t forget that there were three defensive touchdowns, too.
Hands of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins
I don’t care that this unreal, insane, circus catch was overturned due to a bogus penalty. It happened. Therefore, it wins this esteemed award over Keelan Cole’s sexy one-handed catch in Week Two. To see what I initially thought about Hopkins’ generational snag, check out my Week Eight column.
Blunder Ball of the Year: NFL Referees
There are so many instances that I could name here. For now, I’ll just direct you to last week’s thoughts on the ‘Greatest Gaffe Ever’. Keep in mind that these guys are only human; they will make mistakes, even if they’re terrible ones.
Weekly Warrior of Year: Phillip Lindsay
By now, everyone knows the story of the undrafted rookie. His inaugural season consisted of 1,037 rushing yards, nine rush touchdowns and 1,278 total yards from scrimmage. He also made the Pro Bowl (and not as a pointless replacement, either). Week in and week out, Lindsay proved that he belonged.
Uniform Set of the Year: Los Angeles Chargers
I’ve praised the Chargers’ uniforms for some time now, which is why they are officially the first ever back-to-back winner of DRFN’s yearly Awards column. The powder blue jerseys are especially enjoyable to watch and the Chargers’ color combo of navy, yellow and electric blue work on anything. Even the team’s all-royal-blue Color Rush uniforms are something to drool over.
Individual Uniform of the Year: Los Angeles Rams’ throwbacks
Congratulations to the second-ever back-to-back award winner! This had to be the most obvious award; I gushed over these glorious threads all year. The team has said they’d try to wear them as often as possible this year and thank goodness for that. They first wore them in Week Four and have since then worn them six times, not including their magnificent plan to don them in the Super Bowl.
Best Celebration: Seahawks’ Dance
This was a tough one, but I ultimately had to go with this Seahawks’ dance routine. The Vikings’ limbo was a close second due to creativity and usage of Adam Thielen as a prop. However, I enjoyed the synchronicity and smoothness of Seattle’s four-man touchdown dance. The Titans’ bowling act was cool too, yet slightly unoriginal.
Celebration Artists: Seattle Seahawks
Hands were thrown, bodies went flying, and mayhem ensued in what was the best action all game long. This scrum escalated so quickly that Leonard Fournette sprinted from the Jaguars’ bench all the way to the opposite corner of the end-zone, an act that would later lead to a one-game suspension.
Future Superstar: Saquon Barkley
Many people, myself included, held Barkley in pretty high regards prior to the season and the rookie did not disappoint. He was first in yards from scrimmage, second in rushing yards, fifth in rushing touchdowns and fifth in overall touchdowns. Yeah, this kid will be great for a long time.
Number of the Year: 1,371
That is how many total touchdowns were scored in the 2018 NFL regular season, setting a new league record. Out of those scores, 1,286 were offensive, which is also a new record. As seen through multiple instances this season, the NFL is clearly shifting towards an offensive-dominated league. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the games are getting worse. Another record was set as 73 games were determined by three points or fewer. Scoring might be on the incline but it appears the quality of the games are, too.
The Award of Confusion: Vontae Davis
It feels like a lifetime ago when Davis abruptly retired at halftime of the Bills’ defeat to the Chargers in Week Two. After opening up the season on a 47-3 loss to Baltimore, I can see where Davis’ frustration stems from. It doesn’t mean his act wasn’t utterly bizarre and kind of selfish, though.
Faith in Humanity Restoration Award: Allen Hurns
Before his devastating injury that sidelined him for the foreseeable future, Hurns played wearing the number ’17’ as a tribute to the 17 lives lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting last February. See what I wrote about his honorable act here.
Trade of the Year: Amari Cooper to the Cowboys
Following the former first-round pick’s trade to Dallas after Week Seven, the Cowboys went 8-3 (including the playoffs) and clinched the NFC East title. Meanwhile, Cooper saw an increase in stats and was even named to the Pro Bowl (for whatever that’s worth). Cooper’s value clearly became worth more than the 27th-overall pick that Dallas gave up for him.
The Cleveland Browns Annual Award of Atrocity: Arizona Cardinals
Ironically, it’s finally not the Browns this year. The Cardinals finished with a league-worst record of 3-13 en route to securing the first pick of the NFL Draft. The season went so poorly that they even fired their first-year coach Steve Wilks. We’ll see if new coach Kliff Kingsbury can turn things around in Arizona, though I’ve been dubious.
Breakout Team: Indianapolis Colts
At this point, I probably sound like a broken record but very, very few people pinned the Colts as a playoff team prior to the season. Well, the Colts made those few believers look pretty darn good. Not only did they reach the playoffs, but they also advanced the past wild card round. None out of thirteen Armchair staffers picked them as their sleeper team, either.
Gold Jacket Award: Drew Brees
As if there was any doubt the legendary QB wouldn’t be Canton-bound. The 13-year veteran became first all-time in passing yards and passes completed this season. Brees will be a Hall of Famer eventually, it’s just a matter of when.
Scapegoat of the Year: NFL Kickers
There was no one who took the blame nor than kickers did this year. It turns out kickers need to make kicks for people to actually like them. The most obvious example was Cody Parkey’s infamous missed kick until it was revealed the kick was actually blocked.
Breakup of the Year: Raiders and Oakland
I touched on this during the season but that doesn’t make this issue seem any less stranger. As of now, the Raiders still have no place to call home in 2019. What was once a team with a loyal, raging fanbase has now turned their backs on the people who supported them through all the good and the bad times over the past 24 years.
The Walking Dead Award: Josh Johnson
The first-overall pick in the American Alliance of Football signed with the Redskins to make it his eighth team in five years. His career was basically dead as he hadn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2011. He ended up starting Washington’s three final games and even helped win one. Never give up on your dreams, kids.
Irony Award: The Pro Bowl
There’s so much irony in this clip that I thought I’d be blunt: Just like the Pro Bowl award, the Pro Bowl is broken. Hats off to commentator Jason Witten, who can’t seem to present a trophy right, either.
Fans of the Year: You
I could probably write an entire column thanking those who read my articles so I’ll just keep it short. I’m immensely grateful to anyone who reads my columns. I love writing them and it means so much when people show their support for this passion of mine. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
ONE LAST THING
It wouldn’t be a DRFN article with some Super Bowl talk. This year, the dynasty of the past takes on the dynasty of the future. I dived into Sunday’s big game a lot last week so be sure to check that out. I also predicted that the Patriots will beat the Rams. Has anything changed?
As of this sentence, I don’t know. I figured once I say why each team can win I’ll have my mind made up. Let’s start with the 2.5 favorites and five-time Super Bowl Champions, a.k.a New England. Historically, New England is 5-5 all-time in Super Bowls and have never lost in back-to-back years. They have had the number-one total offense in the postseason, including the best passing offense and the second-best rushing offense. On defense, the team is fourth in total defense and first in rushing defense. Tom Brady has been his usual defense-tearing self, though his passer rating of 71.2 while under pressure is not ideal. The big offensive factor for the Patriots has been the usage of their multiple running backs. Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead have all shown they can make a huge impact.
Let’s look at the new kid on the block: Los Angeles. Their lone Super Bowl came back in 1999 and have since experienced nearly two decades of losing, unlike their opponents. With whiz-kid Sean McVay now in his second season as head coach, the team is second in total postseason offense and first in rushing offense. Defensively, the team is second in total defense and third in rushing defense. As low as Brady’s rating under pressure was, Goff’s is worse at 59.8. The Rams have used an 11 personnel for 87 percent of their plays. That means they had 3 WRs, 1 TE and 1 RB on the field. C.J. Anderson’s revival has added another layer to the complex L.A. offense.
I think the key matchup to watch is the Rams’ RBs versus the Patriots’ defense. Anderson has been the Rams’ most productive back recently while Todd Gurley is still an elite player. Both have proven successful in the passing game, which makes it harder for New England to cover three WRs and two RBs. The Patriots have not bode well against RBs in the passing game so look for the Rams to exploit that. If Los Angeles can find ways to utilize both Anderson and Gurley as runners and receivers then I can see the Rams bringing the Lombardi Trophy to the West Coast. If I’m the Patriots, I’ll look at what the Chargers did a few weeks ago to stop the Ravens and use defensive backs to shadow the Rams’ RBs instead of slower LBs. Both teams employ creative enough play designs that I think this can be a close one that ultimately comes down to a one huge defensive play.
However, I’m still buying into New England’s big-game experience and the ‘underdog’ mentality they’ve curiously adopted. McVay and Goff will have their chance soon. For now, the motivation and experience in New England is enough to give them the edge over Los Angeles. I can see it being a high-scoring first quarter featuring at least one turnover. I can also see it being close until the end when one team (likely the Patriots) capitalizes and solidifies the game. As for my official score prediction, follow me on Twitter @ZachCohen12 because there is no chance I’ll be able to decide on one until Sunday.
The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, fantasy updates, and more. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
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