As we head towards Super Bowl 50, I thought it would be ideal to look at the night before the big event and predict the potential winners for the NFL’s Honors Award Show.
Most Valuable Player – Cam Newton
Although there are a few names in the hat in this one, Cam Newton is the clear front-runner. Having led his team to a 15-1 regular season record and the Super Bowl, Cam has really matured into the leader on this team and into a very good quarterback capable of carrying his team across the line.
This season, he recorded 35 passing touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, throwing for 3,837 yards with a 59.8% pass accuracy. Add onto that his 10 rushing touchdowns, as he himself added 636 yards on the ground as he lost just four fumbles.
It’s been a sensational year for the former Heismann trophy winner and he, along with Russell Wilson, are making the duel-threat quarterback a legitimate option. He’s inspired comebacks, he’s danced a lot and given some young kids moments they will never forget, this one is an easy call.
Coach of the Year – Ron Rivera
This is a very close award between two-time winner Bruce Arians and Panthers coach Ron Rivera and by a slight margin, Rivera comes out on top. He helped his team continue the excellent work from the end of last season and really attack the 2015 campaign.
A superb 15-1 record, where he kept everyone in check and then added to that two superlative playoff wins against two strong teams really puts him above everyone.
Rivera has bread an atmosphere in Carolina that his players clearly both enjoy and thrive within. They have a superb team, credit to the general manager Dave Gettleman there too, and Riverboat Ron has continued ploughing away as his team only gets better and better.
Offensive Player of the Year – Carson Palmer
There is a number of names that could quite easily win this award, Tom Brady being one of them, but the NFL should recognise how good the Arizona Cardinals were in some way and this will be how they will do it.
Carson Palmer threw for 4,671 yards with a 63.7% pass completion percentage, notching 35 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. He had a QB rating average of 104.6 and added a rushing touchdown as the 36-year-old came back healthy to lead the Cardinals to a 13-3 record.
Despite playoff disappointments, Palmer had a very strong year and just came up short against the best team in the NFL. If he can stay healthy, along with the entire team, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with again next year.
Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechly
The preview I had a month ago saw JJ Watt, Aaron Donald and Tyrann Mathieu ahead of this man but when it came to the business end, Luke Kuechly stepped up and showed why he absolutely should win this award.
In 13 games, he notched 118 combined tackles, a sack, 10 passes defended and a career-equalling four interceptions, including his first touchdown. In the post-season, he has 19 combined tackles, a fumble recovery, two interceptions returned for touchdowns and three passes defended.
He has been the heartbeat of the superb Carolina Panthers defence and if he was fit all season, he would have won this award with his eyes closed. His two tempo-setting interceptions in the playoffs should seal the deal, the middle linebacker changes games.
Rookie of the Year – Todd Gurley
It’s hard to predict this award as no-one really separated themselves from the crowd but Todd Gurley might have just done enough to win this one.
The first-round running back rushed for 1,106 yards in 13 games, averaging nine yards a carry and scoring 10 touchdowns. He did lose a few fumbles, three to be exact, but he still flashed explosive talent that could torment the NFL for years to come.
Many thought he may struggle after missing his final year in college through injury but Gurley proved doubters wrong very swiftly. He’ll be the face of the Rams as they move to Los Angeles and they need to build around him and that strong defence to push forward.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Amari Cooper
He may have won the above award had he not slowed down towards the end of the season but Amari Cooper has shown people enough to let them know he’ll be a success in the NFL.
The Alabama alumni caught 72 balls for 1,070 yards, scoring six touchdowns and fumbling just once. He was used sporadically and only caught three balls in his final two games that may have hurt his cause but there’s no doubt that the rookie deserves at least one of the awards.
Cooper will just lose out to the running back who carried a sorry offence but make no mistake, he is one to keep an eye out for in the future. The Oakland Raiders are building again and the young wideout will be a big part of their next few seasons at least.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Marcus Peters
A rightful Pro Bowler in his first year, Marcus Peters has really impressed since he was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The young cornerback has had 60 tackles in 16 games, 26 passes defended and eight interceptions, with two returned for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble in a terrific year that has been a position of need at the Chiefs and has been duly filled by Peters.
The former Washington standout has a really bright future within a solid defence. Some may have had questions about him starting before the start of the season, now he’s even starting in Honolulu, it’s been a meteoric rise.
Comeback Player of the Year – Eric Berry
Absolutely no questions about this one, Eric Berry will be the Comeback Player of the Year. He absolutely deserves it and no one will argue with it, his comeback this year has been monumental.
Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2014, ending his season and he began treatment straight away. He was cleared for action nine months later and despite not starting one game, he has been sensational yet again.
61 combined tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions as he became a key cog in the Kansas City Chiefs defence again and was selected to the Pro Bowl. To come back so quickly and at such a high level, you can only admire the terrific resolve of a real quality football player.