The NFL Honors will be held the night before the Super Bowl, Saturday, Feb. 6. On a night hosted by Conan O’Brien, the best players in the league will be awarded for their play during the regular season. Some winners will leave us scratching our heads, while others will get a nod of approval.
Who will win: Cam Newton
Who should win: Cam Newton
Every fiber of my being wants to give the award to Carson Palmer. This was his year. He led an aggressive, highly-entertaining offense. He threw a gorgeous deep ball. He was the best QB in the league this year. Tom Brady also deserves his usual nod for leading an injured offense to the second best record in the AFC.
But, Cam Newton was hands-down the most valuable player in the league this year. The Panthers flat-out dominated the league this year, and they couldn’t do it without Super-Cam. Newton absolutely ignited the Panthers with his play, his attitude and his leadership. He led a group of nobodies at receiver after Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury before the season. He was dominant in the air and on the ground. He was scary accurate at times, but most of all–he was a clutch, confident winner.
Coach of the Year
Who will win: Ron Rivera
Who should win: Ron Rivera
Rivera has been snubbed before in this category, but it won’t happen this year. He led a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs last year to a 15-1 record. He embraced and enhanced the culture and attitude of a smash-mouth football team. While their swagger was pushed aside as unsportsmanlike to some, to the objective few, it looked like players with a strong team bond and a love for the game. This level of teamwork and play should be attributed to their leader, Ron Rivera.
I would be shocked if Rivera lost this one, but Andy Reid, Bruce Arians, and Mike Zimmer would also be deserving candidates. Zimmer was the nucleus of a stout defense and a blooming offense. His players clearly loved playing for him. The Vikings had the league’s fewest penalties, and they won the NFC North for the first time since 2009. Andy Reid led the Chiefs to an improbable 10 wins in a row to close out the season without their best player, Jamal Charles. Bruce Arians is the sole reason for the Cardinals’ success. Besides the Kurt Warner years, they didn’t exist before Arians.
Offensive Player of the Year
Dumb award — pass.
Defensive Player of the Year
Who will win: J.J. Watt
Who should win: Luke Kuechly
Unless the AP gets tired of voting J.J. Watt, he’ll take this award. I think he deserves it, and he is the best defensive player of this generation. However, I don’t think he made a big enough impact this season. The Texans defense got beat up early in the season. Through the first eight games, they were the worst team in the league. They were boring, and they got beat up. J.J. Watt can’t make his team win.
Sadly, I think Josh Norman would win this award before Luke Kuechly. It’s not like Kuechly is underrated or overlooked, but his play certainly is. He is a mixture of Ed Reed and Brian Urlacher. He is a sure tackler and a ball hawk on defense. He is always in the right place at the right time–it almost seems lucky, but it’s not. He is incredibly intelligent and athletic. He has the power to change games. He is the Cam Newton on the other side of the ball. He deserves this award.
P.S. The Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu would win this award hands down if he didn’t get injured at a key moment in the Cardinals’ season. He is the most versatile defender in the league.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Who will win: Jameis Winston
Who should win: Todd Gurley
This whole year, I was confused. I would watch games and highlights of commentators panting and praising Jameis Winston. He had a couple wide open play-action roll-out QB keepers for a couple of TDs, and everyone is going bananas. I think Jameis will have a good career and reinvigorate a franchise that has suffered the boring gene since their Super Bowl victory in 2003, but he wasn’t that impressive. He threw a bunch of ugly picks where his receiver wasn’t even in the vicinity.
Todd Gurley didn’t play the whole season, and in only 12 full games, he broke 1,100 yards. He also had 10 touchdowns–just one less than Adrian Peterson. Gurley ran for over 100 yards five times this season–four of them were his first four starts. He broke 1,000 yards despite the Rams having the worst passing attack in the league, facing eight and nine man boxes. Gurley was a stud this year, and will be a stud his whole career. I should also mention Amari Cooper, who was the best rookie WR of the year, and a close second for this award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Who will win: Marcus Peters
Who should win: Marcus Peters
Not so fast! This wasn’t easy. Peters played like a big, physical veteran in his rookie year. He had flashy numbers and he made veteran QBs pay, but he gave up seven touchdowns. That part was hard to overlook.
Eric Kendricks was a menace for the Vikings this year at MLB. He had 92 tackles and four sacks, but he was beat too many times in the passing game. Leonard Williams stuffed runners for the Jets at DT this year, but he didn’t make enough of an impact on a D line full of stars.
Comeback Player of the Year
Who will win: Carson Palmer
Who should win: Carson Palmer
Palmer had the best season of his life. He was the poster-(36-year-old)child of the most aggressive offense of the league. He was the best, most accurate passer from the pocket. He came back after his devastating knee injury last season only to have one of the most entertaining seasons at QB ever.
Adrian Peterson should also be in the discussion. However, the reason he had to “come back” may not be viewed as honorable.