NFL Predictions Continued: Superlatives & Unperlatives


So far we’ve focused on team results in our NFL Preview Series, including last week’s articles on the AFC win-loss predictions and the NFC win-loss predictions.

Today we turn our attention to individual accolades. In a way, the following categories should be easier to nail than team predictions because individual performance is pretty predictable from year to year. But as soon as I think that way, I remember that both of the coaches that Neil and I selected last year to win “Coach of the Year” were fired by season’s end. So there you go. Either football is unpredictable or we’re idiots or both things are true.

Let’s dive in.

League Leader – Passing Yards

  • Ross: If you think hard enough about this, you can talk yourself into 10 or more quarterbacks. But I’m only considering two: Drew Brees (11/4 odds), who finished 2nd in passing last year, and Andrew Luck (18/1), who’d have to throw for about 1,000 more yards than he did in 2013 to have a chance. Brees plays 11 dome games, Luck plays 10 dome games. The Colts are more likely to have NO running game whatsoever. But Brees has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in four of the past six years. Tough call, but I’m going with the longer shot. Andrew Luck wins the passing title.
  • Neil: Brees and Peyton Manning are the co-favorites according to Vegas (+275). I think I go Brees here. Easier schedule, plays inside a dome. If you want a longer shot pick, I like Matt Ryan at (16/1) or Jay Cutler at (20/1).
League Leader – Rushing Yards
  • Ross: Only ignorance can lead you to any conclusion other than LeSean McCoy (4/1) for this award. Skill + offensive system/head coach + age + sheer volume of plays + defenses respecting a legitimate passing threat from his QB = McCoy for his 2nd straight rushing title.
  • Neil: Alfred “Old Fred” Morris. Word on the street is that RGIII is not doing great in the new offense. I can see the new coaching staff wanting to run the ball. Morris was only 300 yards off the pace last year in a bad situation. Seems like a super deal at (16/1).
League Leader – Receiving Yards
  • Ross: Initially I was leaning towards Dez Bryant (15/2) but I quickly remembered that Brandon Weeden could play a prominent role in the 2014 Dallas Cowboys season. So I’m going with a guy who’s never won it, never even come close, but certainly has the talent to do it. He also happens to play in a dome and his team could have the worst rushing attack in the NFL. My pick is Julio Jones (10/1).
  • Neil: Dez Bryant (15/2). Dallas’ defense is going to be horrible. They are going to have to throw a lot on offense. I also think Detroit throws a bit less this year. If you want a real long shot here, Cordarrelle Patterson at (50/1) is a nice option, but I’d feel better about that if Cassel was benched after week 1.

Regular Season MVP

  • Ross: The usual suspects have to be considered: Manning, Rodgers, Peterson, etc. But what if there really is a budding dynasty in the Pacific Northwest? What if, with a harder schedule and the potential of a Super Bowl hangover looming, the Seahawks still roll through the league? What if they bust out a 15-1 season? Even if the defense is great again, Marshawn Lynch carries a big load on offense, and they get contributions up and down the roster, Russell Wilson would easily be an MVP front-runner. Considering the odds for him to win it is 16/1 (a better payoff than the guys I mentioned above plus Brees, Brady and Luck), I’m going with Wilson as the 2014 MVP.
  • Neil: Tom Brady at (9/1) is very enticing here. Increased familiarity with the receiving group and a much better defense are going to make the Patriots seem better, which is going to make people think Brady is having a much better year than last year, which actually was not bad at all. Colin Kaepernick at (25/1) is an intriguing long shot, mainly because the Niners defense is going to be fairly bad so if they do well it will almost all be because of Kaepernick. Plus it seems like the media has always been all over his nuts ever since he became the starter even though he can’t throw a simple 10 yard out.
Offensive Player of the Year
  • Ross: This is one of the least fun awards to predict because it’s essentially picking the MVP runner-up. We like to pick winners, not spend our time on giving out the “hey, but good job by you too, [fill in the blank].” Maybe this is the year that the young quarterbacks firmly grab onto that torch that Manning & Brady have been refusing to pass for the last few years. I’m going with Andrew Luck for Offensive Player of the Year.
  • Neil: Drew Brees. Easy-ish schedule, tons of weapons, plays indoors, etc…
Defensive Player of the Year
  • Ross: I was surprised to learn that in 10 of the past 12 years the winner of this award was on a playoff team. That rules out guys like Robert Quinn, Luke Kuechly and J.J. Watt. Last time I picked the guy I’m about to pick, he tore his ACL in week 3. But I think if you’re singlehandedly responsible for the Patriots’ passing defense ranking above 14th in the league for the first time in eight years, you might just walk away with this award. I’m going with Darrelle Revis (20/1) for this crapshoot of an award.
  • Neil: I wanted to go with either Watt or Jadeveon Clowney here, but I can’t decide which one gets the triple teams allowing the other to have 48 sacks. So let’s just go with Robert Quinn (15/1).
Comeback Player of the Year
  • Ross: I gotta double down on Julio Jones (8/1) here. It would be strange if Jones leads the league in receiving (as I predicted above) but doesn’t get this award. I guess Gronk (7/1) could haul in 34 touchdowns and then they’d probably have to give it to him, but otherwise I’m all in on the fantastic Julio Jones season.
  • Neil: From wikipedia: “The National Football League Comeback Player of the Year Award refers to a number of awards that are given to an NFL player who has shown perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance.” So, Ray Rice? Too soon? OK, my real answer is Doug Martin (25/1).
Coach of the Year
  • Ross: This is a tough one to predict. It seems like some years the coach of a powerhouse team wins it, and other years the coach of just an above average team that bounced back from an awful season wins it. I flirted with Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay) and Bill O’Brien (Houston) for this pick before ultimately settling on Marc Trestman. Maybe Jay Cutler finally stays healthy, the offense fulfills its potential and the defense does enough to help them earn the #2 seed in the NFC.
  • Neil: I really want to go with Lovie Smith here. Maybe his teams are never great, but they are always solid. He is going to be a huge upgrade from Greg Schiano, who I believe I picked for this category last year. I’m a little worried that the Tampa Bay QB situation makes the team look worse than they really are, so my head says to go with Sean Peyton. You know what, screw it, let’s pick the Bucs here again this year, lightning can’t possible strike twice. Lovie Smith gets it.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • Ross: I’ve repeatedly suggested that watching NFL preseason games is a good idea. With so much football and such little time, I often formulate opinions based on very small samples (sometimes they work out for me…Jordan Cameron. Other times they don’t…Christian Ponder, Zach Sudfeld.) This is one of those cases. I love what I saw out of Mike Evans in Tampa Bay’s preseason games this summer. I’m not going with one of the rookie quarterbacks, nor am I intrigued by overhyped guys like Sammy Watkins. I’m going with Evans (12/1) for the best offensive rookie.
  • Neil: Brandin Cooks (11/2) is my pick; however, if Teddy Bridgewater (12/1) starts 12 games, I think he wins it.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
  • Ross: I cheated and peeked at Neil’s pick before making my own, and sure enough, he sums this category up as succinctly as possible. As intrigued as I was to pick Ha Ha Clinton Dix (25/1) just for the name, there’s no category more locked up right now than this one. Jadeveon Clowney (9/4) wins this easily.
  • Neil: This entire 3:40 clip is entertaining, but you get the idea after the first 10 seconds:
 First Coach Fired
  • Ross: If I was picking the Steelers to have yet another mediocre season, I’d be fully on board with the long shot of Mike Tomlin getting fired first (33/1). But I think they’re going to have a good season, and I’m also not sure the Pittsburgh organization would ever fire someone midseason. So instead I’ve set my sights on The Dirty South. Over the past three years of football blogging, the only thing I’ve written more frequently than “New England will win the Super Bowl this year” is “Mike Smith blows.” I legitimately think his team quits on him this year and he gets fired after their 1-5 start (or maybe they wait until their week 9 bye to send him on his way). Mike Smith at 12/1 odds is my pick.
  • Neil: I’m going with Jason Garrett (3/1), but if you’ve watched “Hard Knocks” at all this year, you can easily see a situation where Atlanta starts 1-4 and gets rid of Mike Smith.
First QB Benched (due to ineffectiveness)
  • Ross: Now we’ve gotten to the categories with no legitimate Vegas odds. That doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun still. I guess we could have just handed this award to Matt Schaub and called it a day, but let’s predict from this point forward. Last year there were two rookie quarterbacks in the AFC East, and both of them were pretty terrible. One of them was head and shoulders better than the other. The worse one is getting benched by week 7. That man is EJ Manuel.
  • Neil: It has to be Matt Schaub, right? However if the Raiders decide Carr is actually the opening day starter then I go with Alex Smith.
First Devastating Injury (from a fantasy standpoint)
  • Ross: Eddie Lacy because Green Bay seems to have pissed off the football gods three years ago and has caught bad break after bad break.
  • Neil: Calvin Johnson. He was banged up last year, getting a little bit older, has the defenders around him at all times, Stafford throws the ball side arm…

Next Team Owner To Die

  • Ross: Morbid as it may be, they’re dropping like flies these days (Al Davis, Bud Adams, Ralph Wilson). Virginia Halas McCaskey (91) became the oldest owner when Wilson died…you know what? I got half way through researching the ages and looking for any possible known sicknesses/diseases for each owner and it got really creepy and depressing. Just know I’m picking San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos for this category.
  • Neil: Do I have to pick this? This is a bit morbid for such a happy time of the year. I hate to win this one on a technicality, but I’m going to go with one of the 364,122 Packers stockholders. Seems like a mathematically sound pick.
Last Winless Team
  • Ross: Two obvious candidates who are both terrible and have tough starting schedules: Buffalo and St. Louis. Between the two of them, I’d select Buffalo to go the longest without winning (finally getting their first W in week 7). But there’s a long shot here too: Kansas City. If they lose at home to Tennessee in week 1, it could realistically be week 8 when they host St. Louis before it happens. Keep an eye on that.
  • Neil: I’m going with Jacksonville.  They have a tough opening stretch so the Raiders may get a win before them.
Last Undefeated Team
  • Ross: This one was a lot harder than the winless category for some reason. Seems like so many teams could stay undefeated if things break right. Seattle has Green Bay, San Diego and Denver before six pretty easy games. But those first three are tough. If you think Indy wins at Denver, then you might take them because they could get to week 10 undefeated after that. But I’m going with another unexpected pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers. As long as they take care of Baltimore in week 2, it could easily be week 8 before they’re challenged again.
  • Neil: New England. This is actually not a homer pick. They have a very manageable early season schedule.

As I’m posting this, we’re roughly 34 hours away from the regular season kickoff. As a buddy said to me this morning in an email, Wednesday night is like Christmas Eve. There’s no chance I’m getting good sleep. In fact, I’d like to think the NFL Network is showing some awesome games from years past for crazy people like me who might consider staying up late tonight consuming even more football.

We’ll be back with our playoff and Super Bowl picks before Thursday’s kickoff.