In the spirit of the NFL—far and away the most popular sport in America—starting, we thought we would not only predict division winners and Super Bowls (see “NFL Team Predictions 2013-2014”), but also would predict the award winners for the 2013-2014 season. Here are our picks for some of the most coveted awards in football:
Cory Lovec: Aaron Rodgers. Most NFL analysts agree that right now he is the most talented and complete quarterback in the league. Necessity dictates his selection as MVP. Rodgers is in a very competitive division and conference, and with a rookie running-back he will have to be the MVP-caliber player he has been the last few years for the Pack to get back to the Super Bowl.
Cheyne Jones: Drew Brees. The return of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will have no greater effect on anyone than the star QB. Payton’s tendency to move the ball through the air will give Brees a chance to surpass 5,000 yards passing and 40+ touchdowns for the third year in a row.
Offensive Player of the Year (POY)
Lovec: Drew Brees. Reunited with Sean Payton, Brees should be excellent once again. The only player in NFL history to have three seasons with 5000+ yards passing, Brees should be electric as ever, and no doubt will improve his accuracy, as he had too many interceptions last year. Brees is poised to bring the Saints back after a sub-par year.
Jones: Tom Brady. The addition of Danny Amendola to the Patriots receiving corps will once again give Brady a reliable slot receiver. Assuming tight end Rob Gronkowski can stay healthy throughout the year, Brady will put up numbers that rival that of MVP Drew Brees.
Lovec: Patrick Willis. He was the leader of a defense that was actually the reason the 49ers lost the Super Bowl, as they let the Ravens jump to a 28-6 lead. He and the rest of the defense have a lot to prove this season, and he has every tool to do so—with a great supporting cast.
Jones: Richard Sherman. The outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback will put an end to the question of who the best cornerback (and defensive player for that matter) in the league is. Expect at least 12 interceptions and 25 passes deflected, leading to one of the most dominating performances at the position in years.
Offensive Rookie of the Year (ROY)
Lovec: Eddie Lacy. Lacy is essentially the only runner in an offense that wants to run the ball more. He looked good in the preseason, and has the best chance of any rookie to immediately contribute to a winning team. Plus, runningbacks tend to adapt to the game quicker than wide receivers do. Having Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback definitely won’t hurt him either.
Jones: Tavon Austin. Austin will provide quarterback Sam Bradford with a new favorite toy. Austin is lightning fast and will be involved in nearly every facet of the Rams game plan. You’ll see Austin catching passes, lining up in the backfield, running the ball and returning kicks. He’s a can’t-miss rookie at the wide receiver position this year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year (ROY)
Lovec: Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu was my choice for the best steal of the NFL Draft. He had 1st-Round talent and playmaking ability, but dropped in the draft due to drug and personal/integrity issues. He had a great preseason, and can also make noise in the return game as well. He has vowed that his drug days are over; if that is true, the Cardinals could have a hidden gem on their hands.
Jones: Tyrann Mathieu. The one award we can agree on is Mathieu at Defensive ROY. Mathieu has a knack for making big plays on defense and has the hands of a wide receiver. The “Honey Badger” looking to create a more positive image for himself in the NFL will also create one of the best feel-good stories in the league over the course of the year.
Comeback Player of the Year (POY)
Lovec: Maurice Jones-Drew. Robert Griffin III and Darrelle Revis will both have cases to make for this selection too. With RGIII’s knee fresh off surgery, and Washington vowing to run him less, RGIII will have to adapt his style of play—and that will take away some of his dynamism. Revis has chances to prove himself vs. Steve Smith, Julio Jones and Roddy White, and Marques Colston, and may just sneak away with the award. But MJD will once again be the focal point of the Jaguars offense, and has the talent and will to be one of this year’s leading rushers. Like last year, it should be close.
Jones: Philip Rivers. Coming off of his worst year since 2007 in terms of passing yardage and touchdowns, Rivers will benefit from a healthy Antonio Gates and Ryan Matthews. Rivers will once again throw for over 4,000 yards and at least 30 touchdowns as the resurgent Chargers fall just short of edging out the Broncos for the AFC West division title.
Coach of the Year
Lovec: Sean Payton. Payton will be rewarded after a yearlong suspension. His Saints will be tough this year; Brees and Payton are so in-tune to each other, and just have so much chemistry—almost like they’ve been married for 20 years. The Saints could be a dark-horse Super Bowl contender. Mike Tomlin has the potential to win this award if the Steelers overcome some major deficiencies and have a good year.
Jones: Pete Carroll. Capping off one of the greatest four-year turnarounds in NFL history, Pete Carroll will have taken his Seahawks from winning the NFC West with a losing record in 2010 (7-9) to having the league’s best record, best roster and the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.
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