Half­way to NFL awards: De­ci­sions, can­di­dates

The Arizona Republic - - Nfl - Barry Wil­ner

By the time ev­ery NFL team has played eight games, there are some heav­ily es­tab­lished fa­vorites for The As­so­ci­ated Press NFL awards that are handed out on Su­per Bowl eve. Not this year.

MVP? Lots of can­di­dates – and not just quar­ter­backs.

Coach of the Year? Nearly ev­ery di­vi­sion has a con­tender.

Come­back Player? Some likely Hall of Famers are in the mix there.

So the AP polled a few of the 50 vot­ers for the awards, in­clud­ing gen­uine Hall of Famer James Lofton.

The theme was clear: There isn’t much clar­ity as we head into the fi­nal eight weeks of the sched­ule.

MVP

This honor has gone to a quar­ter­back the past five sea­sons and 10 of 11.

Two run­ning backs, Adrian Peter­son in 2012 and LaDainian Tom­lin­son in 2006, broke through the QB dom­i­na­tion in the past dozen years.

Lofton and some oth­ers se­lect Chiefs quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes.

“So good you just can’t take your eyes off of him,” the CBS an­a­lyst says.

“Maybe this opin­ion changes next week, given the stel­lar com­pe­ti­tion that in­cludes (Todd) Gur­ley and (Drew) Brees,” adds USA To­day’s Jar­rett Bell. “Maybe not, as the kid keeps show­ing up. A first-year starter as quar­ter­back? Hey, Ma­homes is like the new Kurt Warner.”

Paul Do­mow­itch of the Philadel­phia Daily News opts for Brees. Charean Wil­liams of Pro Foot­ball Talk prefers Gur­ley.

Don’t for­get about Tom Brady, Adam Thie­len or Philip Rivers, and per­haps even a de­fen­sive force such as J.J. Watt.

COACH

An­other wide-open field headed by, ac­cord­ing to Jenny Vrentas of Mon­day Morn­ing Quar­ter­back, Kansas City’s Andy Reid.

“I se­lected Andy Reid … for his abil­ity to seam­lessly tran­si­tion from Alex Smith to Ma­homes,” Vrentas ex­plains. “He’s been so in­vested in Ma­homes’ de­vel­op­ment that he sits with him on the bench in be­tween of­fen­sive se­ries, go­ing over what they see and how they’ll at­tack the op­po­nent next. Reid has demon­strated an abil­ity to keep his of­fense fresh and tai­lored to his play­ers, up­dat­ing his West Coast sys­tem with spread con­cepts pulled from the col­lege ranks.”

Bob Glauber of News­day points to last year’s win­ner, Sean McVay of the Rams.

“He’s one of the bright­est minds in the game, and at 32, is prov­ing not only to be a bril­liant play caller, but an ex­cep­tional leader as well,” Glauber says.

Not far be­hind in our lit­tle poll: the Saints’ Sean Pay­ton, the Tex­ans’ Bill O’Brien, the Bears’ Matt Nagy, and the Charg­ers’ Anthony Lynn, whose team “plays a road game ev­ery week,” Lofton notes.

COME­BACK PLAYER

Rarely has there been such an im­pres­sive group vy­ing for an award no one re­ally wants to win con­sid­er­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of a come­back.

From Watt to Peter­son to Aaron Rodgers, from An­drew Luck to Car­son Wentz to De­shaun Wat­son, from Odell Beck­ham Jr. to Richard Sher­man – WOW!

“It’s ei­ther An­drew Luck or Watt,” says Wil­liams, “but Watt has re­turned to be­ing one of the best at his po­si­tion. He is play­ing at an All-Pro and Pro Bowl level. Luck is not one of the top­five quar­ter­backs in the NFL and maybe not in the top 10.”

Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports goes for the Colts quar­ter­back.

“Can’t imag­ine the frus­tra­tion he’s faced,” Adelson says. “A pro’s pro.” Vrentas picks Watt.

“The surgery Watt had last Oc­to­ber to put his leg back to­gether after a tib­ial plateau frac­ture was so com­pli­cated that the sur­geons couldn’t even be cer­tain that it would work, and that his leg would be able to bear the full weight of his body while run­ning full speed,” she ex­plains. “Watt, who has nine sacks in nine games, was un­de­terred. He wasn’t back to full strength in the sea­son opener but has steadily got­ten bet­ter each week, a scary thought for op­po­nents.”

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