With the season almost in the books, awards have to be given out, right? Here are some of my predictions that I think will be announced on Saturday night.
1. Most Valuable Player– Cam Newton: He single-handedly put this Panthers team on his back when they needed him to and he did it. He’s been the best player on the best team all year and he’s made the players around him better all in one process. He’s accounted for 45 total touchdowns this year alone, 35 td passes and 10 rushing touchdowns. Without him, the Panthers wouldn’t have started 14-0, they don’t get the one seed in the NFC, they don’t go 15-1 and they wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl without Cam Newton, plain and simple. He’s turned guys like Ted Ginn, Corey Brown, Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess into household names, that’s what an MVP does. Nobody was more valuable to their team than #1 was to the Carolina Panthers.
2. Coach Of The Year– Ron Rivera: I’ve switched my answer so many times for this award because I feel three great coaches could win it. Mike Zimmer of the Vikings is one. He led them to a division title for the first time since 2009, Andy Reid was my original pick after leading the Chiefs to 11 straight victories, their first playoff win since 1994 and they got to the playoffs without Jamaal Charles and the favorite is Ron Rivera. He’s done a fantastic job in his tenure and it’s shown. I remember at one time, it looked as if he was going to lose his job but the front office stuck with him and he led them to their best season in franchise history. He’s become one of the best coaches in the league and the Panthers have won three straight divisional titles during his tenure.
3. Comeback Player Of The Year– Carson Palmer: In 2014, he had the Cardinals at 8-1 and atop the NFC West then, his ACL tears. A year later, he bounced back and led the Cardinals to their first division title since 2009 and a 13-3 record on top of that. He gave Cam Newton a strong run for MVP consideration and also won a playoff game for the first time in his career. I truthfully feel that if he had stayed healthy in 2014, the Cardinals win the division then as well. He’s had a very up and down career and we didn’t know what Carson Palmer we’d see in 2015. He had his team a game away from the Super Bowl.
4. Offensive Player Of The Year– Antonio Brown: Numbers don’t lie. He is the best player that isn’t a quarterback. He’s Roethlisberger’s go to guy for a reason. When Ben was out, he played with two back up quarterbacks and was still able to post big numbers up. Look at his season stats: 136 receptions, 1,841 yards receiving and ten touchdown receptions along with 8 yards per reception. He does it all. He can go short, make the big play down the field, he can be that possession receiver in the red zone and he’s not the biggest guy but what I take away from him most is that he’s only getting better and improving, that’s the scary thing about AB.
5. Defensive Player Of The Year– Josh Norman: As important as Cam was to the Panthers offense, Josh Norman had that same effect on their defense. Quite a few guys can win this award. Watt led the league in sacks for the second straight season, Mathieu would have been at the top of this list if he didn’t tear his ACL and Talib and Jones along with Von Miller were all key pieces to their respected units. Josh became a star this year and has emerged as one of, if not, the best corner in our league right now. He always wanted the best receiver and he would shut them down with ease. He’s a chippy guy who shows the aggression to get in the receivers head and he’s the anchor of that Panthers secondary.
6. Offensive Rookie Of The Year- Todd Gurley: There were so many guys that you could hand this award out to after putting together a nice first year campaign. Tyler Lockett was a spark on offense and on special teams, Jameis had a great year for the Bucs but I’m giving this to Todd Gurley and I look at the immediate impact that he had once he was healthy and stepped onto the field. He finished third in rushing yards with 1,106 yards and he was everything to that Rams offense. When he had the football in his hands, he always did something with it.
7. Defensive Rookie Of The Year– Marcus Peters: He was tied with Reggie Nelson with eight interceptions and he returned two of them for a touchdown. During his rookie season, Peters also added on an NFL best 26 passes deflected and had such an impact on a Chiefs secondary that finished fourth in the league in yards per attempt allowed.