As the regular season winds down the picture for the most prestigious NFL awards is becoming clearer. Who are the leading favorites for each honor?
MVP – Tom Brady – New England Patriots
With all due respect to what Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning have accomplished, it’s really hard to argue against Tom Brady considering the changes he had to go through. While Wilson and Manning got upgrades to their respect wide receiver corps or offensive lines (or both), Brady suffered reductions or massive upheaval in both areas. Yet in spite of it all the future Hall of Fame quarterback hasn’t faltered. His numbers aren’t flashy but the New England Patriots are 9-3 and very much in the hunt for home field advantage in the AFC. Throw in the string of injuries to top players on defense and that magnifies what Tom Terrific has accomplished.
Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechly – Carolina Panthers
J.J. Watt deserves prime consideration for repeated as winner for this award but unfortunately such honors typically go not just to good players, but good players on winning teams. So in that vein, second-year linebacker Luke Kuechly is the most deserving. His Carolina Panthers are on a roll, 9-3 heading into a huge showdown with New Orleans after starting 1-3. The big reason is a dominant defense led by their star in the middle, Kuechly. He has 102 tackles on the season along with a sack and three interceptions. Beyond that his leadership on the field rivals what Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis brought before they retired. While others may have him beat in stats, he has them beat in results.
Coach of the Year – Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks
Andy Reid had a stranglehold on this award, but three-straight losses have cooled that engine. Zooming up from the pack is the always enthusiastic and understated Pete Carroll. The job he has done with the Seattle Seahawks is nothing short of astounding. They have lost just once in 2013, are undefeated at home, boast a dominant defense and running game, not to mention an MVP contender at quarterback who was a third round pick last year. Seattle is the clear cut favorite in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl. They are undefeated at home and just another win or two away from home field advantage. Much of that should get credited to Carroll.
Rookie of the Year – Kiko Alonso – Buffalo Bills
Due to the rare nature of the 2013 draft, it’s been somewhat difficult to find rookie players who would qualify for this award. Some might try to slip Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon into the conversation, but there has really been one name that has led the way from wire to wire. That is Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso. He ranks third in the NFL in tackles with 125, and has flashed amazing versatility with two sacks, a forced fumble and four interceptions. How he fell into the second round is something experts have already discussed. Either way, the young man has not hit any sort of rookie wall and continues to produce. He deserves this award far more than anybody else.
Comeback Player of the Year – Josh McCown – Chicago Bears
Is he even qualified for the award? That’s up to experts but there is no question the story of Josh McCown has come very close to earning the title of Comeback Player of the Year. Before this season, the last time he saw action was 2011. The Chicago Bears cut him in August of 2012 and only brought him back in November after Jay Cutler sustained a concussion. At that point he was working at a high school. Named the primary backup, he got his chance to start this season when Cutler suffered groin and ankle injuries. During that time he has played lights out. In just four starts this season, counting some extra time logged of a little over a half against Washington and Detroit, he has thrown for 1,461 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception. That averages out to 324 yards and two touchdowns per game. A full season may be required to win this honor, but that doesn’t mean McCown is any less deserving.