Last week we talked about the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year.
This week we're talking about some of the veterans: the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year.
While I feel pretty good about my choices for the rookie awards, I'm still on the fence a little about these awards.
Especially about the Offensive Player of the Year, which is where we'll start today.
With the OPOY, you can sometimes see the same guy who wins this award win the MVP. I tend to want to split those awards up though but this year that's difficult to do as I am not 100% sure which way I want to go on the MVP. I'm almost there, but I want to do a little more thinking before I cast my vote (the PFWA voting period starts on Monday and runs until January 8th) and am not sure if any one player stands out to take both.
So let's talk about the choices and their pros and cons.
Of course, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is probably the strongest candidate. He has beaten Tom Brady's single season touchdown record, which has only stood since 2007. Notably, Brady won the Offensive Player of the Year award that season (as well as MVP).
Manning has carried the team much of the season, especially with a defense which has fallen apart at times.
The one big issue I have with Manning as OPOY is that he is also a likely MVP winner and as I said, I prefer to split the awards up.
Behind him is Tom Brady himself, and few quarterbacks have done more with less this year. Manning has Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and former Brady target Wes Welker to throw to. That's two 1,000 yard receivers and Welker, who if he hadn't missed two games, would probably have made for three 1,000 yard receivers.
Who has Brady thrown to? His biggest producer is Julian Edelman, who might top 1,000 yards by the end of Sunday. Danny Amendola has been hurt and underwhelming, Rob Gronkowski has been injured most of the year and Brady's other weapons have been rookies.
Yet Brady has kept the offense producing, thrown for the sixth most yards in the NFL and led the team to it's 11th straight year of ten-plus wins.
While he hasn't thrown as many touchdowns as he normally does, he has been incredibly productive with a lot less talent than he is accustomed to have.
There are two running backs worthy of note as well.
LeSean McCoy should finish the year with a combined total of 2,000 yards, and ten or so touchdowns. Jamaal Charles should end up around the same number, with more touchdowns. When you total both his ground and receiving touchdowns, it's a pretty impressive number. Nineteen is a pretty good total.
The problem is, in this day and age, running backs tend to need a record-breaking year to get any award and neither is close (the same issue which will submarine them in the MVP voting). While both have had impressive stretches, has either one really been more impressive than many other backs?
Yes, McCoy is two hundred yards ahead of McCoy and Adrian Peterson, but 1,600 yards on the ground, while impressive, isn't amazingly so.
Eagles fans might disagree.
I lean towards Manning right now, but I've thought long and hard about the other options.
Defensively, I'm leaning towards St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn.
I think it's always much harder to choose the defensive player because oftentimes what the best players do doesn't end up visible as easily. Sure, it's easy when a player dominates the way J.J. Watt did last year but it isn't always like that.
Quinn gets a lot of attention from offenses, frequently double-teamed with a running back or tight end dedicated to chipping him or redirecting him. Despite that, he leads the league in sacks going into Week 17.
The same can be said of the New York Jets' defensive Muhammad Wilkerson. While I praised Sheldon Richardson last week, the heart and soul of this defensive front is Wilkerson.
When Wilkerson is on his game, disrupting plays in the backfield and overpowering tackles, the Jets defense is tremendous. When he isn't the pressure isn't there and the lack of playmakers in the secondary is more apparent.
Finally, I don't think Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker LaVonte David gets enough credit. Outside linebackers in a 4-3 don't tend to put up numbers like he has. His 137 total tackles is impressive enough, but adding in six sacks makes it even more so.
Of course, being on a losing team like the Bucs isn't going to help him. He should get consideration though.
I'm leaning towards Quinn right now, but I have some more work to do.
I mentioned LeSean McCoy earlier for Offensive Player of the Year, but he could easily win Comeback Player of the Year with his stats. McCoy had concussion issues last season and a down season in part because of it. His year has been a huge bounceback for him.
Washington outside linebacker Brian Orakpo missed most of last season due to a torn pectoral muscle, but has been playing very well this year. His ten sacks (assuming he doesn't add any Sunday) are his second highest total since he entered the NFL in 2009, while his 60 tackles are already a career high.
He should get some consideration for this award.
Two San Diego Chargers could get some votes as well. New head coach Mike McCoy has Philip Rivers playing at a very high level, while Ryan Mathews has been healthy for an entire season and posted career highs in rushing yards. Both have been more effective than they have been in years (for Mathews, perhaps ever).
Either player would be a fine choice though I would say Rivers-who is ranked as the fourth highest in total passing yards and has only thrown 10 interceptions-has been more impressive.
The award seems to go mostly to those who were injured,but in Rivers' case he has had to overcome several years of awful play.
Many in the media had counted him out, yet he is one of the more productive quarterbacks in the NFL this year.
For me, that makes him the Comeback player of the year.
What are your thoughts? Add them down in the comments.
Next week we'll talk Coach of the Year and MVP.