The NFL season sort of officially kicked off last night with the annual Hall of Fame game between the Vikings and Steelers in Canton, Ohio. The starters only played a handful of minutes but it was good to see players back in uniform playing against another team.
With the start of the season comes thoughts of how it will project. Which teams will make the playoffs, which will be bad and who will make the Super Bowl are among the common questions asked. Right now I am going to look at individual performance though for players who will truly have an impact on the game this year. Some of these are no-brainers. Others are a little bit trickier. Either way, here is my best shot at predicted the end of the season award winners.
MVP: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Runner up: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
The popular pick is probably Rodgers with all of the weapons he has at his disposal. Weapons that are nowhere close to as effective with him out of the lineup either. However, Luck has been winning since day 1 in Indianapolis. This team is built around Luck and truly will go as far as he can take them. Adding Andre Johnson and Frank Gore gives the Colts some veteran options to work with and I expect Luck to get the most out of them. Expect another AFC South crown from Indy and this time Luck will be the catalyst to a top spot in the AFC.
Offensive Player of the Year: LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
Runner up: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
This seems like an odd pick considering McCoy had a down year last season and is starting with a brand new team. But think for a second what Rex Ryan likes to do more than pretty much anyone in the world. Run the football. McCoy will get more than his fair share of touches in the backfield and will be able to stay fresh with Fred Jackson spelling him whenever he needs. With no reliable quarterback in place either, McCoy will be the main source of offense in Buffalo this season.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Runner up: Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams
This is one of those no-brainers when making these selections. J.J. Watt has simply been superhuman over the past three seasons and I see no reason for that not to continue here. He consistently dominates the competition and with some potential help coming the form of Jadeveon Clowney, Watt could have even more opportunities to be disruptive. Look for another strong showing from the league’s best defensive player.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers
Runner up: Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper might very well be the best player from this draft when all is said and done but for now Melvin Gordon is taking home the honors. Gordon enters a great situation in San Diego. They have a well established offensive line and a team that likes to light things up on offense. You can assume that Gordon will get 15 to 18 touches per game. Which should be more than enough to make his impact felt. He won’t need to be the key source of offense at all times with Phillip Rivers under center but Gordon will still make a major impact.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, New York Jets
Runner up: Marcus Peters, CB Kansas City Chiefs
When it first happened, the Jets selection of Leonard Williams seemed kind of redundant. Once Sheldon Richardson received his suspension for violating the NFL drug policy and then the ensuing legal run in, Williams seems like he will play a much more important role. He will play alongside Damon Harrison and Mo Wilkerson so there is not much of a chance Williams sees too much of the attention when blocking. He will be a disruptive force in the running game and could wind up with his fair share of sacks with the way Todd Bowles likes to blitz. Williams will have a big year for this defense.
Comeback Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Runner up: Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
If it wasn’t for the fact that Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in the NFL then Palmer would have this award locked up. However, Peterson is returning from a year where he played one game before missing the whole season due to legal trouble. With an offense that seems to have a much more solidified passing attack than when he left, Peterson won’t need to carry this team but he will still be the best player on it. That will be good enough to earn Peterson the award.
Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Runner up: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
I think Andy Reid will have a successful year coaching the Chiefs in the wide open West. However, the job that Mike Zimmer has already done with the Vikings should earn him the award. He dealt with the Peterson drama all offseason and now has the Vikings looking like a playoff team. They won’t surpass the Packers for the NFC North title but he will get them into the wildcard. Zimmer will coach this group up to a 10-6 record and get the most out of his guys.