Joe Brackets: 2/4/2017
When they first created the NFL Honors as a night-before-the-Super Bowl made-for-TV event, I was a little skeptical. I really didn’t know what to make of it at first. But, as we head into year No. 6 of the NFL Honors show, it’s pretty clear that it isn’t going anywhere. And, I must admit, I do like the idea of all the awards being handed out in the same place at the same time like they do in hockey. It makes sense, too, since everyone’s already at the Super Bowl and the NFL is the only thing people are thinking about that weekend.
As we come up on the 2016-17 edition of the NFL Honors, some of the awards that will be handed out seem fairly obvious. Meanwhile, there’s a great amount of anticipation over who’s going to win MVP, among others, as well as who’ll be in the Hall of Fame class. More on the Hall of Fame coming up in my next post, but today, I want to take a look at the eight biggest awards that will be handed out on Saturday night and my winners for each.
MVP: Matt Ryan, Falcons-I’ve already stated my case as to why Matty Ice deserves to be MVP over the other Super Bowl quarterback, so there’s not really a need to rehash it here. He was the ringleader of the NFL’s best offense, and Atlanta wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl if not for Ryan. His numbers warranted him a First Team All-Pro selection. His leadership got the Falcons a first-round bye (and Super Bowl appearance). And he did it from Week 1 to Week 17, which is more than I can say for some other quarterbacks in the conversation. In my mind, though, this race isn’t even close. It’s Matt Ryan by a mile.
Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett, Cowboys-Dallas went 4-12 last year, then Tony Romo got hurt in the preseason. All the Cowboys did after all that was go on a franchise-record winning streak and finish with the best record in the NFC. With a rookie quarterback and rookie running back. If Jason Garrett wasn’t the Coach of the Year this season, why do they even have the award?
Offensive Player: David Johnson, Cardinals-It happens every once in a while, but I’m not really a fan of MVP and Offensive Player of the Year going to two different people. How can you be the best offensive player in the league, but not the most valuable? Yet here I am contradicting myself and giving my Offensive Player of the Year to someone other than MVP Matt Ryan. You can’t ignore the absolutely ridiculous numbers David Johnson put up this season, though. He’s not the reason the Cardinals sucked.
Defensive Player: Khalil Mack, Raiders-J.J. Watt was hurt for most of the season, so we know he’s not going to win this award for the third straight year. Even if Watt had been healthy, he would’ve had a tough time keeping up Khalil Mack in this race. Mack was the clubhouse leader all season, and you could argue that, after Derek Carr, he’s the biggest reason the Raiders returned to the playoffs. The field is stacked (Von Miller, Vic Beasley), but I think Mack stands just a bit above.
Offensive Rookie: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys-For all the talk midway through the season that Elliott and Dak Prescott might end up splitting votes, I think it’s clear which one was more instrumental in the Cowboys’ success. A rookie leads the NFL in rushing while serving as the primary back for the team with the best record. That doesn’t happen every year. Ezekiel Elliott had a special season. He was clearly the best rookie in football.
Defensive Rookie: Joey Bosa, Chargers-Unlike Offensive Rookie, there’s no runaway winner on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, this is probably the hardest of the eight awards to pick simply because there’s no clear-cut favorite. But I’m going with Joey Bosa of the Chargers. He only played in 12 games, but that was enough to establish his status as one of the best young pass rushers in the game. He had nearly a sack a game for a very good Chargers defense playing in an AFC West that featured two playoff teams and the defending Super Bowl champions.
Comeback Player: Cameron Wake, Dolphins-No offense to Wake or any of the other top Comeback Player of the Year candidates, but none of their stories will be able to compare with last year’s winner, Eric Berry, overcoming cancer to return to the NFL. There are plenty of players who were injured or ineffective in 2015 that returned and made major impacts in 2016. So why Wake? Because a 34-year-old coming off a torn Achilles shouldn’t have 11.5 sacks for a playoff team!
Man of the Year: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals-Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning and Greg Olsen are the three finalists and, like most years, they’re all deserving. But I’m going with Fitzgerald simply because of the volume by which he gives back to the Arizona community that has embraced him ever since the Cardinals drafted him in 2004. The future Hall of Famer is arguably the greatest player in Cardinals history, and he’s donated over $1 million throughout his career to a number of Phoenix-area charities. He truly exemplifies everything the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is all about.
Without question, MVP is the tightest race of them all, and the winner of that award likely won’t be there to accept it (he’ll be a little busy). Don’t be surprised if they both take an MVP trophy home this weekend, though. Although, I think they’d both prefer to be MVP after a win on Sunday than on Saturday.
Joe Brackets can be followed as well on his blog, and we are proud to have his experience and expertise on our team.