The season has officially started so it’s time to make some predictions that will be fantastically wrong by season’s end. Here we go!
Coach of the Year
Sean Payton – With Payton back in the fold in New Orleans I can’t imagine this team not making the playoffs. I’d go so far as to say they are the favorite in the South. Additionally giving him the award is a perfectly feeble way for the NFL community to say they are sorry for how the whole bounty scandal went down.
Comeback Player of the Year
Brian Orakpo – Prior to last season when Orakpo went down with a torn pectoral muscle he had accumulated 28.5 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. While a torn pec is significant it won’t have any effect on Orakpo’s speed and ability to get around the corner to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Also in his favor is the emergence of Ryan Kerrigan. With both possessing excellent pass rushing skills offensives won’t be able to key on just one player. But maybe the biggest advantage Orakpo has is playing in the NFC East where he gets to chase down Manning, Romo, and Vick who all take more than their fair share of sacks. I’d put Orakpo down for four sacks against the Eagles alone with Vick’s pension to hold the ball waaaay too long.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Jarvis Jones – Jones was the most talented pass rusher coming out of college this year, but slipped in the draft due to some concerns with his neck. Predictably the rush linebacker fell to the Steelers who snapped him up. I’ve been watching football since the early 90s and I can’t remember a time when the Steelers didn’t have a dominant sack artist so I figure it is safe to assume Jones is next in line. Swell.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
E.J. Manuel – Four of the last five offensive ROY have been quarterbacks. And right now the only other rookie QB with a job is Geno Smith making the choice between the two very easy. Manuel is also going be surrounded by some solid playmakers in C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson, and fellow rookie Robert Woods. Smith meanwhile gets to throw to Santonio “I have a note to get out of playing” Holmes. New coach Doug Marrone is also supposed to want to run a more up-tempo offense, which means more opportunities for Manuel to make plays. Manuel’s biggest advantage over Smith though is his foot speed. Manuel will almost definitely be able to add a few hundred yards on the ground forcing defenses to respect him on the ground and opening up more wide receivers for easy throws.
Defensive Player of the Year
Geno Atkins – If not for J.J. Watt playing like Thor last year Atkins would most likely have won the award. He collected 12.5 sacks last year and forced four fumbles as well from the defensive tackle position. I might also be making this pick based on Hard Knocks and liking Geno Atkins while he was on the show. Atkins will be aided by fellow defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson who can both get to the passer as well. Offensives will also have to worry about the should be institutionalized and slightly old James Harrison, a one time Defensive Player of the Year himself. With so many playmakers on defense teams will have a hard to doubling Atkins without exposing themselves somewhere else on the field.
Offensive Player of the Year
Lesean McCoy – This is admittedly a homer pick, but it is hard to find an analyst out there who does believe McCoy will have a big year in Chip Kelly’s light speed offense. Kelly’s running backs at Oregon turned in great season year after year. The offense is ground focused contrary to what some believe. Without the offense that is perfect for McCoy’s skill set he might be the most talented back in the NFL not named Adrian. I will catch shit for this, but the last time a saw someone make cuts like McCoy was Barry Sanders. He constantly humiliates defenders in the open field, so as long as McCoy can stay healthy and Vick can throw the ball competently McCoy could put up enormous numbers.
Peyton Manning – Yes last night certainly helps my cause, but I thought Manning would be MVP even before they took the Super Bowl champion Ravens and roughed them up like a freshman on the first day of high school. In the off season the Broncos added the whiny but talented Wes Welker to the wide receiver core giving Manning a security blanket he didn’t have last season. So in addition to Baby Wes Manning will have deep threat Demaryrius Thomas and the physical Eric Decker to throw to as well. The only thing that might slow Manning down would be an injury or a non-existent run game, which would allow defenses to sit back and cover with 7 or 8 players.
NFC Division & Wild Card Winners
Division: Philadelphia, Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay
Wild Card: San Francisco and Atlanta
Explanation: I don’t think the Eagles are particularly good, but I do think the NFC East is the worst division in football. RGIII is coming off ACL surgery and I don’t care what sorcerer James Andrews says he isn’t going be the same until later in the season. Dallas hasn’t gotten out of their own way since Y2K and the Giants defense doesn’t look like it has the same talent it once did. The rest of the picks should not really need an explanation considering most people are picking those teams as well.
AFC Division & Wild Card Winners
Division: Denver, Cincinnati, New England, Houston
Wild Card: Indianapolis and Pittsburgh
Explanation: A lot of people believe the Colts will regress, I’m not one of them. Luck is in my opinion the best QB to come from the class last year. He led them to the playoffs with a lack of weapons and a coach that was unfortunately missing for most of the season. Pittsburgh meanwhile still has one of the best coaches in the league in Mike Tomlin. I just find it hard to believe this team won’t win again this season. The last time they were at the bottom of the standings is when they picked Plaxico Burress in 2000 which was the same year that Survivor first aired on television.
Seattle over New Orleans
If Seattle or New Orleans gets home field advantage I have a hard time imagining either one losing before the championship game. Advantage goes to Seattle though cause they have the superior defense.
Denver over New England
I don’t see any team in the AFC stopping the Broncos offense and I won’t pick against the Patriots until Tom Brady retires. Edge goes to Denver though because they have offensive players whose name I recognized before 3 weeks ago when I had to study for my fantasy football draft.
Seattle over Denver
Manning might be the better QB, but I think Wilson has the more complete team. Come the end of the season the team with the better defense and running game tends to win. It’s boring and predictable but still true and with that said Seattle has the upper hand in both categories with probably the best defense in the NFL and the better running back in Marshawn Lynch.