The greatest sport in America has played its final regular season game. As I sit here writing this article, I am both excited and sad at this reality. Part of me is excited for the playoffs to start, but the other part is upset this regular season is over. We have a number of story lines each season but this year just was different; it was a special year to say the least.
I could write all day about the things that really impressed me but I will only talk about a few of my favorites:
Record Breakers & Chasers
Calvin Johnson- I wanted to see Calvin eclipse the 2000 receiving yards this season. I think what Jerry did was more spectacular (given it is the age of the quarterback and enormous offensive outputs) but you can’t take that away from Megatron. Madden Curse?
Adrian Peterson- Can you believe it? I think that may have been the greatest second half I have seen out of a running back, ESPECIALLY one coming off a major knee surgery. I really wish AD broke that record in a passing era.
Single Season Sack Record- What a chase we had going down to the final days between Watt, Smith & Von Miller. Ultimately the record wasn’t broken but it was great to watch these three defensive player of the year candidates make it interesting.
The ideology of allowing rookie quarterbacks to learn on the bench is in the past; I believe this to be due to increased responsibilities and expanded offenses on both the high school and college levels. Luck and RGIII were different breeds of quarterbacks coming into the draft but look at Russell Wilson & even Ryan Tannehill. Luck, RGIII and Wilson all have led their teams to the playoffs! TO THE PLAYOFFS!! Wilson is such a great story; he was a cast off of his college team, transfer to Wisconsin, drafted as a project and now is in the Rookie of the Year race. Even Foles & Weeden did well, at times, this season.
Do I really need to expand on this one? Peyton Manning is back and possibly better than ever after dangerous neck surgery. He started the season off a little slow but Manning picked it up to usual form. When his career is all said and done, I think he may go down as arguably the best to have ever played the game. There is a very elite group and he is definitely in it.
Adrian Peterson. I can’t say enough about this guy as he is a freak of nature; I think he may be the only human that could have responded from the injury like he did.
Passing Records Were Meant to Be Broken…Unfortunately.
The NFL is ever-changing and as fans we must learn to deal with the changes. I have a firm stance on NFL Passing Records being broken; I am not very impressed. Rules have changed to allow offenses to flourish thus teams are now passing 40/50 times per game instead of the 20/30 in the past. I commend players on passing for 5000 yards and breaking rookie passing yard records but it’s not my thing.
It’s not about how you start, but how you finish.
The Chicago Bears looked like a lock to make the playoffs. We are now finished with the regular season and the Bears will be watching the playoffs from their homes. In the last five games of the NFL regular season, the following teams finished:
Packers 4-1, Vikings 4-1, Seahawks 5-0, Redskins 5-0, Bears 2-3, Giants 2-3, Bengals 4-1, Colts 4-1, Patriots 4-1, Broncos 5-0, Ravens 1-4, Steelers 2-3, Texans 2-3.
Do I need to say much more?
Defense Wins Championships..and Offense too.
Of the Top 10 teams for Total Offense and Total Defense, 6 of the top 10 offenses made the playoffs while 5 of the top 10 defenses made the playoffs. The old saying was offense wins games ans defense win championships but, in this new NFL, you need an offense or you won’t keep up.
… Moving Forward (and backwards)
In the AFC, I was correct on 3 of 4 division winners and 4 of 6 playoff teams (Really Pittsburgh?!). The Bills- what a great pick by me.
As for the NFC, 2 of 4 division winners and 3 of 6 playoffs teams. Two teams (Cowboys & Bears) were down to the final game. Giants not making playoffs? Called that one…
My Super Bowl Prediction was: Packers over Ravens. I think I am still in good shape on this one (Green Bay at least) but I think the sputtering Ravens may not make it. I remember when I was doing my preseason picks and I couldn’t decide between the Ravens & the Texans. In the end, I chose the Ravens because I thought they would be healthier than the Texans, who seem to end up hurt every season. Well, looks like I was wrong on who would have more injuries…
Current NFL Playoff Predictions
When the Broncos were everyones preseason pick, I thought it was just a fad. Peyton Manning and that Bronco defense are the real deal and I expect them to come out of the AFC.
Part of me wants to take my preseason pick of the Packers but I think the 49ers do it this year.
In all reality, I believe both conferences are wide open and I would not be surprised to see any NFC team in the Super Bowl and the majority of the AFC teams (besides the Colts & Bengals) as well.
…Now the Good Stuff
NFL Awards Predictions
Coach of the Year
The Candidates: Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, John Fox, Mike Smith, Chuck Pagano (kinda?), Mike Shanahan
The Winner: Carroll. Call it what you like, the Seahawks were the best team at home this season. They nearly won the NFC West with a rookie quarterback. I think Harbaugh is a close second, especially after making a gutsy move to the second year quarterback.
Comeback Player of the Year
The Candidates: Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson
The Winner: Manning. I want to give AD my vote but Manning came back from a surgery that may have ended his football career. What Peterson did was absolutely remarkable but Manning couldn’t throw a football this time last year (granted AP probably couldn’t walk that well).
Defensive Rookie of the Year
The Candidates: Janoris Jenkins, Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, Casey Hayward
The Winner: Jenkins. I was so impressed with Jenkins every game this season because he is a game-changer. The rookie had the ability to defend any wide receiver in the NFL. Kuechly may lead the league in tackles but Jenkins top 10 ability showed. This kid is going to be a superstar for a long time (IF, and a big IF, he can keep his act together)
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The Candidates: Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson
The Winner: RGIII. I honestly think all three deserve this award but RGIII will take it in the end. Wilson and RGIII have nearly identical numbers besides a few hundred rushing yard difference. I really like what Andrew Luck did this season but I do think he finishes third in this race.
Defensive Player of the Year
The Candidates: Von Miller, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt
The Winner: Watt. I think Miller is a very close second but Watt was the most dominant player on the field for the majority of the season. While Miller may be the more complete player, Watt wrecked havoc week after week; he even had 16 pass deflections!!
Offensive Player of the Year
The Candidates: Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson
The Winner: Peterson. Truly the OPOY! Again, I really wish Peterson broke the rushing record but the second most all-time is pretty damn impressive. Calvin Johnson may finish second in this statistic race.
Most Valuable Player
The Candidates: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson
…… Drum Roll Please…..
The Winner: Manning. I truly think Peterson is the Most Valuable Player to his team (cuz we all know how highly I value Christian Ponder) but we know how the media really votes on these awards; its a quarterback award. The Vikings getting into the playoffs really helped Petersons resume but a rushing record would have even more. Manning was not only good, he was great. 68.6 completion percentage, 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, 105.8 Rating. More than impressive. Just a few weeks ago I wanted to vote Brady but after a few subpar weeks (for his standard), I think he finishes behind.
Thanks for reading!
Onto the playoffs!!
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Chief Sports Activist for The Cover 4