Normally, the closer we get to the end of football season, the sadder I become. This season however, I welcome the stretch run.
The NFL has been crazy-weird in 2016. On any given week, I have no idea which teams are good. The closer we get to the playoffs, the sooner mathematics can start eliminating some of these squads. And for that I’m excited.
But the end of the year will also allow me to see how my awards predictions went. What awards predictions you ask? Well, you clicked on a page that said “NFL Odds: 2016 Awards Predictions,” so obviously they are going to follow. (Sheesh you’re not very bright.)
At the midway point of the season, here’s who I see keeping up their performances all the way to the end, as well as the players most likely to throw a wrench in their plans.
2016 NFL Awards Predictions
Tom Brady, QB; New England Patriots
On pace to post a similar touchdown to interception ratio to his 2010 MVP season, Brady’s return to the field has unsurprisingly spurred the Pats to a four-game win-streak. With the best tight end duo in the league and a consistent ground game, there’s little reason to think Brady’s production will tail off in the second half of the season. Maybe his QB rating won’t stay on record-pace at 133.9, but he should lead New England to the league’s best record.
Though this should be a slam dunk, some will point to New England’s 3-1 record without Brady as evidence that he’s not the most valuable to his team. Well that’s a load of – and I don’t throw this word around haphazardly – hooey! You may even go as far to say that it’s bunkum.
New England ranked 13th in offensive DVOA without Brady, and have quickly scaled the ranks to third with number 12 back under center. In a year where the NFL lacks any great teams, Brady makes the Pats the most fearsome of the bunch. And though he’s won two MVPs already, there’s nothing wrong with giving more accolades to one of the game’s greatest.
Potential wrench: Matt Ryan, QB; Atlanta Falcons
The contrarian pick for those who are tired of Brady getting recognition, Matty Ice is enjoying his best statistical season and has led the Falcons to some impressive wins this year. But has his year been so impressive that the leader of a 10-6 NFC South winner will take home the award?
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Marcus Peters, CB; Kansas City Chiefs
Last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year could make the jump to best defensive player period if he continues his ball-hawking ways in the second half. The NFL’s leader in interceptions takes a ton of gambles in coverage, but they’ve been paying off more and more for the Chiefs as the season wears on. Most quarterbacks are now weary of where Peters is on the field and avoid throwing his way, so he may not have as many opportunities for picks in the second half of the year.
Also leading the league in passes defended, it’s easy to forget about Peters given how boring the rest of the Chiefs team is. But he is one of the league’s best and very much in the running for this award.
Potential wrench: Von Miller, LB; Denver Broncos
Miller has had a great sequel to his Super Bowl MVP performance, racking up 8.5 sacks through the Broncos first eight games. But with J.J. Watt out for the year, it feels sacrilegous to give the award to the NFL’s second-best pass rusher. Plus, if Miller wins, it’ll make my colleague Matt happy, and we can’t have that.
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
Ezekiel Elliott, RB; Dallas Cowboys
What a surprise. The running back that’s leading the NFL in rushing and might set a new rookie yards record will win this award. I hope I don’t fall off this limb I’m way out on.
Potential wrench: Dak Prescott, QB; Dallas Cowboys
Quarterbacks always seem to get preferential treatment (Cam Newton not included), but it’s hard to see that being the case here. Prescott has been great, but his life has been made so much easier by the threat of Elliott in the run game, as well as having him as a checkdown option.
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
Joey Bosa, DE; San Diego Chargers
Apologies to teammate Jatavis Brown, but the Chargers defense has been an entirely different monster since their prized rookie finally joined the team. In four games, Bosa has four sacks and six QB hurries and looks to have all the tools to rack up plenty more in the second half. With the rest of this defensive rookie crop failing to make a noticeable impact, Bosa’s quick success stands out even more.
Potential wrench: Leonard Floyd, LB; Chicago Bears
After a slow start to the year, Floyd has stopped trying to race around blockers and is instead powering through them. Despite his slender frame, that strategy is working rather well; Floyd has three sacks, a forced fumble, and a touchdown in the past two games. If this is a sign of what’s to come, Bosa could have some competition in the latter half of the season.
Comeback Player of the Year
Jordy Nelson, WR; Green Bay Packers
This award is dumb. By most accounts, DeMarco Murray is the favorite to win Comeback Player after bouncing back from … what exactly? A bad case of Chip Kelly? Call me old-fashioned, but I like my comeback players to actually be returning from an injury. So I’ll go with Nelson, who has posted a solid 415 yards and six touchdowns so far in his first season following a torn ACL.
Super Bowl Participants
New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
The NFC is just the blurst. There’s an abundance of okay teams, but the closest thing to a dominant force at the halfway point is the Cowboys and their dynamic rookie tandem. While that’s all fun and dandy now, it will be hard to trust two rookies come playoff time, not to mention Dallas’ shockingly competent (read: overachieving) D.
Maybe Matt Ryan isn’t my MVP, but currently I have more confidence in him than any of the other flawed QBs in the conference. If the Falcons offense stays healthy, they should be able to roll through whatever poo teams lay in their path.
Potential wrenches: Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys
The Chiefs and their watching-paint-dry approach to football are the only team I could see going into Foxborough and possibly tipping the Patriots’ apple cart. The rest of the AFC just doesn’t seem to have it. And if you’re saying to yourself “a healthy Steelers team could win there,” think about how ridiculous that sounds: a healthy Steelers team.
Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].