Some categories are your basic MVP, players of the year, stats leaders stuff, and others are the fun awards…first coach fired, first QB benched, first team that has to deal with a player arrest, etc.
League Leader In Passing Yards
Ross: It’s weird that I didn’t even consider Drew Brees for this award. The smart money’s probably on him since he now regularly exceeds 5,000 yards passing and his defense might be atrocious once again. But I’m going with a dark horse in Peyton Manning. He was 6th in the league in passing yards in 2012, some 500 yards behind Brees’ final number. But Manning’s schedule is so damn easy this year, I can’t help but think he puts up 300+ yards in most games and then sits the final eight minutes while their blowing out the competition.
Neil: I think Matthew Stafford wins this award, but if I was picking a longshot, it would be Jay Cutler.
League Leader in Rushing Yards
Ross: To find the top rusher in the NFL, you have to eliminate anyone who won’t get 300 or more carries during the season. I checked as far back as 2002 and the person who wins the rushing title always has at least 300 carries. So certain guys are automatically out: Ray Rice and Frank Gore are out because their teams are trying to decrease their workload and neither guy had close to 300 carries last year. C.J. Spiller’s probably out because he had 207 carries last year and I doubt he’s going to increase his rushing attempts by nearly 100 this year. Even Jamaal Charles, who had 285 carries in 2012, might be out because Andy Reid is likely to increase his workload through receptions not rushes. I’m eliminating Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch because they have QBs who might snatch some of the rushing yards for themselves. Arian Foster is out because I’m worried about his nagging injuries and Ben Tate seems totally capable of taking on some of Foster’s workload to keep Houston’s lead rusher fresh for December and January. That leaves Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. I’m buying into Martin because he has an improved offensive line and his team has more offensive weapons to take the defensive focus off him than AP has. He also has a much easier schedule from a running standpoint than Peterson. Doug Martin is my 2013 rushing champ.
Neil: This is going to be Doug Martin. I know Adrian Peterson is the obvious choice here, but with Christian Ponder as his QB, every opposing defense is going to put 10 men in the box this year, right? My longshot would be Maurice Jones-Drew.
League Leader in Receiving Yards
Ross: Just like it would have been easy to pick Brees in the passing yards category, and it would have been even easier to pick Peterson in rushing yards, Calvin Johnson is the obvious name with receiving yards. He’s won the title the past two years and nobody thinks Detroit is suddenly turning into a ground & pound team. But we’re here to have fun, not to get on board with the obvious, unsexy predictions. I’m doubling down on the Denver easy schedule and lots of throwing theory. I’m going with Demaryius Thomas to lead the league in receiving yards. He was only 530 yards short of Calvin’s record last year. Should be pretty easy to close that gap.
Neil: I’m going with Calvin Johnson to lead the league in receiving yards. I know its not a sexy pick, but I just don’t trust The Ginger Prince (that would be Andy Dalton) to get A.J. Green there. And my longshot in this category would be Vincent Jackson.
2013 MVP Award
Ross: This is an award for quarterbacks or running backs. The MVP has been awarded for the last 56 years, and only three times has it not been a QB or RB. We got our “once every few years a RB has to win it” quota out of the way last year, so I’m focusing on quarterbacks. I can envision a narrative where the Saints go 12-4 and Brees wins the MVP for leading the turnaround, but his league-leading interception total from 2012 has me worried he’s slowly morphing into Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers can win this just by replicating last year’s 108 passer rating and crossing his fingers that a running back doesn’t go off for 2,000 yards again. But I’m actually debating between the elder statemen of quarterbacks, Manning and Tom Brady. What if Brady throw for 5,000 yards, maintains his 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio and leads the Patriots to 13 wins? After all, we’ve spent the entire offseason crying for the guy because he gave up money on his contract just to watch all his receivers either leave voluntarily, leave in handcuffs or leave in an ambulance. If he puts up those numbers with this cast of characters… But since the Mannings have a seemingly endless deal with the devil, I’m going with Peyton Manning to win the 2013 MVP Award, and sadly I think that offense might look like the 2007 Patriots when it’s all said and done.
Neil: The MVP is going to be Peyton Manning. As much as I hate it, their defense isn’t going to be good and their WRs are. Their schedule is easy so he’s going to be throwing the ball all over the place throughout the entire season. My longshot would be Doug Martin.
Offensive Player of The Year
Ross: Often different than the MVP, but almost never a wide receiver. Jerry Rice is the only non-QB/RB to win this award. I’m going with Tom Brady. Manning gets the MVP and Brady gets the “but you had a good season too, Tom” award.
Neil: It’s Peyton Manning again for the same reasoning as the MVP Award. Longshot here would be Jamaal Charles.
Defensive Player of The Year
Ross: Earl Thomas, free safety for Seattle is my choice. That might be one of the best defenses in recent memory and he’s the anchor. You do not pass on this team and he’s a huge reason why. Seattle’s coming out party began last year with Russell Wilson and the offense bursting on the scene. Now I think they keep the momentum going and have the league talking about their D all year long.
Neil: J.J. Watt because he’s just a beast. Longshot is Julius Peppers.
Comeback Player of The Year
Ross: This one’s simple. It’s RGIII. Adrian Peterson finished 2nd in the comeback voting last year and he essentially got hurt at the end of the 2011 season just like RGIII got hurt at the end of the 2012 season. So there’s no rule that says the comeback player has to have missed game time with the injury. If RGIII starts even 10 games this year, he wins this award.
Neil: I say comeback player is Maurice Jones-Drew and my longshot is Brian Orakpo.
Head Coach of The Year
Ross: The New England fan in me wants to make the case for Bill Belichick. With the offseason he’s endured, if he gets this team to 11 or 12 wins, it could be his finest hour. But he’s held to such a high standard these days. Basically if the Patriots win 14 or more games, he’ll be considered. Anything less will be just another typical season. It’s time to back my prediction of Cleveland winning the AFC North. If they do that, Rob Chudzinski automatically wins Coach of the Year so that’s who I’m picking.
Neil: Greg Schiano from Tampa Bay. Long shot is Andy Reid.
First Coach Fired
Ross: At first there seemed to be only three choices for this “award”: Rex Ryan, Jason Garrett and Jim Schwartz. And I do feel any of those three could get fired during the season. But then a 4th option emerged that I like better than the rest. Mike Munchak of the Titans. It was just last December when Titans owner Bud Adams was hinting at a future coaching change through the media after a terrible 55-7 loss to the Packers. And have you seen Bud Adams? The man’s 90 years old. He obviously doesn’t have a lot of time left. If anyone’s going to have an itchy trigger finger it’s the man who may not live long enough to see the Titans win a Super Bowl if he doesn’t do something IMMEDIATELY. The Titans also have a relatively easy schedule, so if they get off to a 1-6 start, the ax is going to fall quickly on Munchak.
Neil: The first coach fired this year is going to be Rex Ryan. I really wanted to go with Jason Garrett here, but Jerry Jones seems to be in love with him, whereas the new Jets front office was not part of the Rex Ryan hire. My longshot is Panthers coach Ron Rivera.
First QB Benched (Due to Ineffectiveness)
Ross: The conservative part of me wants to say Blaine Gabbert or Geno Smith. I have no doubt Rex Ryan will jerk Geno around all season and may even pull him after week 1 if he plays particularly bad. And once the Jags find out by week 4 that Gabbert is not the long term answer, he gets pulled for Chad Henne. But I’m going with an extreme longshot here. I’m saying Josh Freeman is the first quarterback benched due to ineffectiveness. Mike Glennon gets the call and improbably leads the Bucs to the playoffs.
Neil: Whoever the Raiders start in week 1 is a good candidate, but I have no idea what the Raiders are doing or thinking. They have four QBs and two punters on their 53-man roster. Even though it is a somewhat easy pick, I think Blaine Gabbert gets benched in favor of Chad Henne by week 5. My long shot is Michael Vick.
First Devastating Injury from a Fantasy Standpoint
Ross: (What we mean is that while a significant injury to a team’s left tackle could be a season-crushing loss, we’re more interested in the highly-rated fantasy player who might suffer a major injury).
I’m going with running back David Wilson. No real reason. I do wish badness on the Giants so why not hope for a devastating injury.
Neil: Sorry to all you fantasy owners out there who kept or spent a lot of money on C.J. Spiller, but he is going to be our first big injury of the year. He was healthy all last year, but historically has injury concerns, so law of averages.
First Player Who Gets In Trouble With the Law Once The Season Starts (Name The Team)
Ross: Ridiculous category, right? It’s a total flip of a 32-sided coin. And it’s a good thing I specifically said “once the season starts” because between the time I emailed these categories off to Neil to get his answers (about 4 days ago) and now, a Colts player was arrested on three charges after resisting arrest. I’m going to say the Ravens have the first player arrested. Fingers crossed that it’s Terrell Suggs and that he’s going away for years, but most likely it’ll be a practice squad player for a DUI.
Neil: The first team that has a player get in trouble with the law once the season begins is going to be Detroit. We’ve seen this team’s discipline on the field, I can’t imagine it is another team.
The Last Winless Team
Ross: We’ll get to the last undefeated team in a minute. But sometimes it’s even more fun to laugh at the team that just can’t seem to capture that first win of the year. Last year Cleveland was that team, starting off 0-5 before taking care of the Bengals 34-24 in week 6. This year my choice is between Arizona and Miami. It’s purely based on schedule. Even though I think Jacksonville and Oakland are the two worst teams by far in the NFL, they actually play each other in week 2 so someone’s gotta win. I’m going with Arizona and I don’t think they win a game until week 11. There I said it. I think the Cardinals only have one winnable game before week 11…a week 5 home game against Carolina. Outside of that, I dare you to find an easy win for Arizona over the first two months of the season.
Neil: The last team to win a game is going to be Buffalo. It would be easy to pick Oakland or Jacksonville for this, but those two teams “battle” each other in week 2, so if you hitch yourself to the wrong wagon you are wrong with this pick early. My longshot is Minnesota.
The Last Undefeated Team
Ross: If Denver gets by Baltimore in the opener, they’re pretty much a lock to stay undefeated the longest. Seattle is the only other team I’m considering. If you think Seattle starts the season 2-0, you’re basically saying they’re going to be 9-0 before facing their first true test with a road game against Atlanta in week 10. I’m getting on board with Seattle for this pick.
[Editor’s Note: Wow, I just looked at Neil’s pick for this category and I can’t believe how precisely the same our picks and reasoning are. Scary.]
Neil: Picking the last undefeated team is a little bit tricky. Several of the best teams have games in the first week or two that could easily trip them up, especially Green Bay and San Francisco, who have tough road games. This pick is down to Denver and Seattle for me. I’m actually more worried about Seattle on the road at Carolina in week 1 than hosting the Niners in week 2. For Denver, if you think Peyton can get by his younger brother with more Super Bowl rings in week 2, they have easy sailing until they travel to New England on November 24th. I’ve picked Denver for too many things already, so let’s go with Seattle as the last undefeated team. My longshot is New England. They start with two easy games, but weeks 3-6 are brutal.