With the NFL Honors awards being announced tonight at 9pm ET on NBC, I decided who I think earned each individual trophy. I listed the top three candidates for each award and explained why they should win it. Here it is:
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
2. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
And right away I don’t respect my own rules. But let’s be honest – this is a two-man race. Rodgers set the standard for all quarterbacks and led his team to the number two seed in the NFC while Watt had one of the most impressive seasons any defensive player has ever had. Watt is by far the best player at his position and overall the best player in the league, but I gave the nod to Rodgers. And here’s why: Watt hasn’t had the chance to win that many games for them. Yes, he has made some unbelievable plays, but he could not get his team to win on his own. Arian Foster was the Texans offensive MVP. But when you look at the Packers, Rodgers is THE MAN. Yeah, he has two good receivers and one of the best running backs behind him, but his defense has allowed a lot of points at times and Aaron was the main reason they won games. If the Packers wouldn’t have blown so many teams out at Lambeau and Rodgers wasn’t taken out of games in third quarters his numbers would have been off the charts. I love J.J. Watt, but I think if you put Rodgers in the Texans backfield and take away Watt they would win their division.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
2. Le’Veon Bell, HB, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
As I already said before the season – I’m not big on naming a guy the MVP and not the best offensive or defensive player in the league as well, so Rodgers gets my vote.
Right behind him is the best and most complete running back in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell. He combined for 2215 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. That’s crazy.
And if you look at Gronkowski you have to think he’s already more important to the Patriots to win games. When he’s hot (and most of the time he is) New England almost can’t be stopped.
1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
2. Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
3. DeAndre Levy, OLB, Detroit Lions
Notable mention: Darrelle Revis, CB, New England Patriots
I can’t remember the last time the winner of this award was so obvious. Forget all of the touchdowns and big statistics, Watt disrupts every single play he’s on the field. Nobody comes close.
Houston led the league in sacks with 22 and has become one of the big names because of that, but most people forget what a great run stopper he is. He spends most of his time in offensive backfields, no matter what the play is and he has a knack for making big plays.
Some might argue that Levy’s interceptions and pass deflections have gone down compared to last year, but he has been the key to the Lions success on defense all year long. He finished second in the league with 151 tackles and was a force in both the passing and running game. His other stats have dropped because he basically played inside linebacker and quarterbacks tried to avoid throwing it to the middle.
Richard Sherman is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but I think Revis was once again the premier shutdown corner in the game and was asked to do so much for New England’s defense.
1. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
2. Zack Martin, G, Dallas Cowboys
3. Jeremy Hill, HB, Cincinnati Bengals
If you take OBJ’s statistics and add the games he missed because of injury he would have led all receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. This guy is a freak and I don’t think there’s any other rookie that really has an argument to take this award from him.
The only offensive rookie that played as well at his respective position was Martin. He started all sixteen games and was the final piece to building the most dominant offensive line in the NFL while earning First team All-Pro honors.
Coming into the year everybody thought Giovani Bernard would be the guy at running back for the Bengals, but I knew at some point Hill would become their workhorse. He finished the year with the most rushing yards among all rookies and an average of 5.1 yards a carry.
1. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
2. Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis Rams
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Oakland Raiders
Notable mention: Chris Borland, ILB, San Francisco 49ers
The Ravens lost their emotional leader and legendary middle linebacker Ray Lewis when he retired two years ago. Fortunately for them they might have found their next star player at that position. Mosley started all sixteen games and finished the year with 133 tackles (most among rookies), three sacks, eight pass deflections, two picks and a couple of plays on loose balls. He’s just been so active.
Donald was the key for the Rams to get going on the defensive line. Since he was put in the starting lineup St. Louis’ pass rush has taken off. Additional to his help to the success of the Rams D-line he has added 9 sacks on his own and has put pressure on quarterbacks all year long while showing off his ridiculous motor.
Mack’s four sacks may not jump off the stat sheet and neither do his 76 tackles, but he has been on a force on the Raiders defense and is already their best player. He has been a beast in the run game and put a lot more pressure on quarterbacks than his stats might make you suggest.
Borland started only started eight games this season and still made more than a hundred tackles and had two picks. I don’t think he has played enough games to have earned this award, but just think what would have been if he played the entire yard …
Coach of the Year:
1. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
2. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
3. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Another award that has one clear-cut favorite is this one. The Cardinals lost so many players before the season even started and that trend hasn’t stopped during the year. At the end of 2014 they were with their fourth quarterback on the depth chart and still finished with a 11-5 record and made the playoffs. What Arians did with this team is just remarkable.
The Patriots started the year with a 2-2 record. Since that point there was only one game in the regular season (not named their irrelevant season finale against Buffalo) in which they weren’t the better team and that was when they lost a close one at Lambeau where the Packers didn’t lose all year. In most of those games they dominated their opponents with a lot of that coming because of the brilliant game plans by Belichick.
Garrett took the Cowboys who nobody believed would finish better than 8-8 and made them one of the most feared teams around the league. They ended the year with a perfect road record and the number three seed in the NFC.
Comeback Player of the Year:
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Rolando McClain, ILB, Dallas Cowboys
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Jones missed eleven games last year because of a fractured foot, but came back this season to be one of the two best receivers in the game (the other one being Antonio Brown). He fought threw hip problems this year and still at times was as dominant as any player in the game.
McClain came back from early retirement to fail condition tests with the Ravens, but finally found a place with the Cowboys. After coming into the lineup he was the best player on Dallas’ defense and made a couple of game-changing plays. What comes first to my mind was the game-ending interception against Russell Wilson.
Gronk had one of the most dominant seasons of any tight end in the history of the game and was the key to the Patriots’ success offensively. I put him behind Jones and McClain because I think those two had to overcome more than him. Still, he had an unbelievable year.
Play of the Year:
Does this really need any explanation?
A final word:
I stay with three of my candidates before the season and they haven’t disappointed me at all. I should have picked Julio Jones over RG3, but I thought he’d have a good year and we all know this is a quarterback-driven league. Maybe he comes through for me next year. As for now I’m good with my picks.