NFL Predictions: Week 11 Awards Watch

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor INovember 13, 2013

NFL Predictions: Week 11 Awards Watch

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    Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard remains in the offensive rookie of the year discussion.
    Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard remains in the offensive rookie of the year discussion.Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

    As the 2013 NFL season unfolds, all 32 teams are trying to get better in an attempt to reach the playoffs.

    It’s time for us to up our game, as well.

    So we’re taking an expanded look in forecasting the league’s seven individual awards.

    Once again, here is a look at the front-runner for each honor. There is also a thumbnail on four more top candidates as well as five other men who we feel are in the running, as well.

    All told, it’s a look at the top 10 players/coaches for each accolade, rather than just five. Why boil it down to only one handful when you have two hands?

    And while we are on that subject, let’s put those two hands together and congratulate everyone listed for a job well done to date.

Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Think about this. The Denver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers last week as quarterback Peyton Manning and Co. were held to a season-low 28 points.

    What remains interesting is the fact that although the Denver defense is playing better these days, the team has still given up 20 or more points in all but one of their nine games this season.

    And that’s why Manning remains the front-runner for MVP honors. Minus the veteran quarterback, the Broncos may be in a world of trouble.

    Then again, if Manning isn’t able to avoid the potent pass rush of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, hurting could bring on a new meaning for he and his team.

    And as for a few other very worthy candidates this season…

    2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Last season, the Saints’ signal-caller threw for 5,177 yards and 43 scores but was also picked off 19 times, tied for the most in the league. Brees is on course for another 5,000 yards and 40 scores, which would mark the third consecutive season he has achieved those figures. And only Peyton Manning has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns in 2013.

    3. QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Not only does the Lions’ talented quarterback have his team in first place in the NFC North, Stafford is in the midst of a bounce-back campaign. In 2011, he threw for 41 scores and only 16 interceptions, but last season, Stafford threw only 20 touchdown passes and was picked off 17 times. In 2013, Detroit’s signal-caller has served up nearly three times as many touchdown passes (19) than interceptions (seven).

    4. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Under new head coach Andy Reid, we have seen a different side of the talented running back. Charles not only leads the team in rushing yards (725) but receptions, as well. His 47 catches are already a career high, and there are still seven games to play. The former Pro Bowler has also scored eight of the team’s 16 offensive touchdowns this season.

    5. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots: The defense is better in many regards these days, and the Patriots are running the ball with some commitment. But Brady still makes the Patriots go and to ignore that fact is somewhat foolish. He and the team not only get back to action after a week off, but when we last saw New England, the veteran quarterback was coming off his best performance of the season.

    In The Discussion

      6. WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

      7. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

      8. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

      9. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

    10. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    The numbers continue to be astounding.

    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown 33 touchdown passes compared to only a half-dozen interceptions in nine games this season.

    That means the veteran signal-caller is 17 scoring tosses away from tying New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s NFL record of 50 touchdown passes set in 2007. By the way, Manning has also thrown for a league-best 3,249 yards and is completing 71.0 percent of his passes.

    That is hard to top, to say the least. But here are some other notable performances.

    2. TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: Teammate Drew Brees has thrown for 25 scores this season and 40 percent of them (10) have gone to Graham, who is tied for the league lead in touchdowns scored. The star tight end is also tied for fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (805), averaging 14.9 yards per catch.

    3. WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals: The third-year pro is the first player this season to crack the 1,000-yard mark in receiving (1,013). Green has also totaled 100 or more yards in receptions in each of his last five games. And we all saw him make a “Hail” of a catch last Sunday at Baltimore.

    4. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: The Birds are tied for first place in the NFC East and have won their last two games. And while second-year quarterback, Nick Foles, deserves plenty of credit, McCoy has been the steady force in the Eagles’ new-look offense. The former Pro Bowler leads the NFL in rushing yards (932) and total yards from scrimmage (1,258).

    5. WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: One week it is 329 receiving yards and a score, and the next time out, it is two touchdown grabs in a 21-19 road win over the Chicago Bears. Johnson has 904 receiving yards and nine scores on 53 grabs this season and would need exactly 1,060 receiving yards in his last seven games to tie his NFL record total from a year ago. But who is counting?

    In The Discussion

      6. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

      7. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

      8. WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

      9. QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

    10. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

Defensive Player of the Year: FS Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Welcome yet another new face to the top spot for the coveted Defensive Player of the Year honors.

    Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas, a member of a defense that ranks third in the league in total yards allowed per game this season, leads his team with 72 tackles.

    Thomas is also tied for the club lead with four interceptions, is third on the Seahawks with seven passes defensed and has also forced a pair of fumbles.

    The “Legion of Boom” has certainly made its mark in recent seasons. Now Thomas hopes to leave his mark as the 9-1 Seahawks inch closer to home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

    Still, a look at some of the other worthy candidates tells you that this will be a tough decision come December.

    2. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets: The one-time first-round pick has made a name for himself this season on one of the league top defensive units. No team has given up fewer rushing yards per game, and Wilkerson has totaled eight of the 27 sacks racked up by the Jets this season.

    3. OLB Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs: Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has done a great job with this unit, and Hali has been solid, totaling 30 tackles and 9.0 sacks. The former Pro Bowler has forced four fumbles and also scored two of the five touchdowns tallied by the Chiefs’ defensive unit this season.

    4. OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts: The NFL leader with a career-high 13.5 sacks, Mathis and his teammates were blasted by the Rams last Sunday. Still, the veteran has settled in well in his second season at outside linebacker in Indianapolis’ new-look defense.

    5. OLB Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs: One of the leading candidates for this award throughout 2013, Houston has had no problem spending plenty of time in opposing backfields. A Pro Bowler last season, the standout defender has totaled 33 tackles and a career-high 11.0 sacks in nine games this season. And the Chiefs have yet to allow more than 17 points in any game this season.

    In The Discussion

      6. CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

      7. DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

      8. DT Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions

      9. DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

    10. MLB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Although the Green Bay Packers, sans starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have dropped two games in a row, running back Eddie Lacy continues to do his part.

    The second-round pick from Alabama leads all rookies with 158 attempts and 669 yards rushing this season, the latter figure also ranking eighth in the league overall.

    And as Mike McCarthy’s team gets ready to start a third different quarterback in as many games in the form of Scott Tolzien, Lacy’s role may increase even more this week against the New York Giants.


    2. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: The versatile performer is tied with second-year wide receiver Marvin Jones for the team lead with seven touchdowns. Bernard ranks second on the Bengals in both rushing yardage (419) and receptions (38).

    3. TE Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins: It may surprise some to know that Reed leads all rookies in the league with 44 receptions. Those grabs have been good for 487 yards and three scores. The third-round pick from Florida has caught at least four passes in each of the last six games he’s played.

    4. WR Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers: The third-round pick and 76th overall selection in April’s draft got off to a slow start this season but has emerged as the team’s top wideout. Allen has totaled 100-plus yards receiving in three of his last five games and has totaled 38 catches (three touchdowns) in 2013.

    5. RB Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams: Head coach Jeff Fisher is getting just what he needs from the former Vanderbilt standout the last three games. Stacy has totaled at least 26 carries in each of those contests with 323 of his 537 rushing yards coming over that span.

    In The Discussion

      6. QB Geno Smith, New York Jets

      7. WR Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys

      8. RB Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals

      9. WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

    10. WR/KR Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Only seven teams in the league have allowed more total yards per game than the New York Jets.

    That was indeed the case by season’s end in 2012.

    However, Rex Ryan’s team ranks first in the NFL this season against the run. A year ago, only six clubs allowed more rushing yards than the New York defense.

    Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson deserves his share of credit for that. The 13th overall pick in April has totaled 41 stops and 2.5 sacks in his debut campaign. He’s also helped make talented defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson even more dangerous.

    But there are a lot of worthy candidates here, such as...

    2. MLB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills: Doug Marrone’s team has dropped three straight and has still given up at least 20 points in each of their 10 games this season. Still, Alonzo has tried to do his part, and his 99 tackles are 40 more stops than any other player on his team. The second-round pick has also totaled a pair of sacks and a team-high four interceptions.

    3. FS Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers: The opportunistic defender was knocked out of Sunday’s 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers with a concussion, but he still made his presence felt in that game. And he hopes to be back this week when the Niners take on the New Orleans Saints. Reid has totaled five of the team’s 18 takeaways this season and ranks fourth on the team with 40 tackles.

    4. OLB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams: The team’s other first-round pick in April has enjoyed a pretty steady season, ranking second on the team with 64 tackles. Add in an interception return for a touchdown, six passes defensed and three forced fumbles and you can see the potential for the former University of Georgia standout.

    5. DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers: It’s still hard to believe that the Panthers have allowed only nine touchdowns in as many games this season, including just one in the first half. Lotulelei has filled his role to date and is a big reason that only the Jets have allowed fewer rushing yards per game in the NFL so far this season.

    In The Discussion

      6. CB Marcus Cooper, Kansas City Chiefs

      7. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints

      8. FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

      9. DT Chris Jones, New England Patriots

    10. OLB Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders

Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Kansas City Chiefs are the league’s lone undefeated team at 9-0, but they seemingly have more critics now than they did when they underachieved at 2-14 in 2012.

    There’s been no underachieving from head coach Andy Reid, who has wrapped up the team’s first winning season since they won the AFC West in 2010.

    And the one-time sideline leader had some good insights during a teleconference he conducted on Monday, courtesy of Randy Covitz of The Kansas City Star.

    Some of the other top coaching candidates include…

    2. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers: Following a pair of 2-8 starts in 2011 and 2012, the buzzards were circling Carolina after the Panthers opened this season with three losses in four games. But Sunday’s 10-9 road win over the San Francisco 49ers certainly opened some eyes, as has five straight wins. Rivera offered some thoughts on Monday, via Joseph Person of

    3. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions: From eight straight losses to close 2012 and a 0-6 mark within the division last season to first place in the NFC North with seven weeks to go. Schwartz’s team is also 3-1 versus its divisional foes and last week completed the team’s first sweep of the Chicago Bears since 2007.

    4. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: Quarterback Tom Brady isn’t having one of his better years. So how come the Patriots are one-game better in 2013 (7-2) than they were at this stage last season, when they opened 6-3? One answer is obvious as Belichick’s team eyes a fifth straight AFC East title.

    5. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals: Last season, due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, Arians earned Coach of the Year honors as he took over the top spot and helped get the team to the playoffs. Now the highly regarded offensive coach has the Cardinals in playoff contention in his first NFL regular head-coaching assignment.

    In The Discussion

      6. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

      7. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

      8. Rex Ryan, New York Jets

      9. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears

    10. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

Comeback Player of the Year: RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles are suddenly flying high these days.

    One reason these Birds have soared their way into a first-place tie in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys has been the re-emergence of running back LeSean McCoy.

    Yes, the usually-productive performer only missed four games last season but still only ran for 840 yards. But 10 games into 2013, McCoy is tops in the NFL with 932 yards on the ground, and his 1,258 yards from scrimmage, also first in the league, is 45 more yards than he amassed during all of 2013.

    As for a few other deserving performers…

    2. MLB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys: The productive Lee has been in the running all season for not only top defensive honors, but this award as well. Unfortunately for the productive defender and the Cowboys, he’s going to be out of action for a few weeks. Lee leads the team in tackles (93) and interceptions (four) this season.

    3. OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens: The defending Super Bowl champions are hanging in the AFC North title race despite a 4-5 record, and Suggs has been steady all season. The 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year ranks second on his team with 64 tackles and leads the Ravens with 9.0 sacks.

    4. WR Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers: The speedy wideout has totaled 28 receptions for 377 yards, his best numbers since 2010 when he was a member of the Denver Broncos. But Royal’s seven touchdown receptions are a career best and the high for the Chargers this season.

    5. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: The numbers aren’t sensational, but that win-loss record is hard to ignore. And Smith is doing exactly what everyone wanted him and expected him to do in Kansas City. The former San Francisco 49ers signal-caller has thrown nine touchdown passes, ranks second on the team with 265 yards rushing and has committed only four turnovers in nine outings.

    In The Discussion

      6. CB Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

      7. RB Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

      8. CB Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens

      9. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars

    10. DT Johnny Jolly, Green Bay Packers