Halfway to NFL awards: Decisions, candidates
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.
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.
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.
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.”