As Week 12 of the NFL season wraps up, the race for the major awards are still wide open. The debate over the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year awards will be rampant in the closing weeks of this season. Let’s dive into my NFL awards rankings through Week 12, including the state of each race and the top 3 candidates for each award at this point in the season.
*NOTE: Updated through Week 12, besides Ravens at Steelers*
Stats: 3,497 Passing Yards, 69% Completion Percentage, 30 Passing Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions (11 games)
Patrick Mahomes has had a ridiculous season so far. Mahomes may be performing better than he did in his 2018 MVP season. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards and is a close third in passing touchdowns. The most remarkable stat is his just two interceptions. He has protected the ball at a crazy rate. Mahomes has a league-low 0.5% interception rate. With those current numbers, Mahomes would have the fewest interceptions and lowest interception rate of any quarterback who won MVP over the last decade. This race is extremely close however, with many quarterbacks putting up crazy numbers this season. Mahomes is the leader of the pack by just a bit right now as he has led the Chiefs to a 10-1 record on great numbers.
Stats: 3,100 Passing Yards, 69% Completion Percentage, 33 Passing Touchdowns, 4 Interceptions (11 games)
Aaron Rodgers is right in the thick of the MVP race right now. He is splitting hairs with Mahomes up to this point. Rodgers has had a great start to the season, leading the league with 33 passing touchdowns. His 4 interceptions, 2 less than Mahomes has, slightly outweighs his 3 more passing touchdowns. 4 interceptions is still very minimal though. Rodgers may be literally a singular Mahomes turnover from being the frontrunner right now. These two are so close in what might be one of the tightest MVP finishes ever. Rodgers is right in the conversation as the race becomes more clear down the stretch.
Stats: 3,216 Passing Yards, 71% Completion Percentage, 31 Passing Touchdowns, 10 Interceptions (11 games)
Russell Wilson was the early leader in the MVP conversation as his quest for his first MVP award got off to a raging start. The legendary quarterback already has famously never received a singular vote for the award. That looked like it would certainly change. Wilson threw 19 touchdown passes in the first 5 games of the year. Then, he hit a cold stretch which will ultimately cost him this award. Wilson threw 7 interceptions in a 4 game stretch from Weeks 7-10. Wilson’s 31 passing touchdowns is a fantastic amount, but they are not enough to move him to the front of the race with his bloated interception number. As long as Mahomes and Rodgers keep their interception numbers down, Wilson’s quest for the award and even a vote is an uphill battle. Wilson, my preseason MVP pick, is having another impressive season, but not quite an MVP year after his tough stretch.
Defensive Player of the Year Award
1. Aaron Donald
Stats: 10.0 Sacks, 66 Pressures, 31 Tackles, 4 Forced Fumbles (11 games)
In another very close award, Aaron Donald is the slight leader for Defensive Player of the Year. Donald is chasing the record books. The 2-time DPOY winner is chasing his third, which would tie him for the most all time with Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt. The surefire future Hall of Famer would reach a stratosphere in the conversation for best defender of all-time if he wins this award. Donald has 10.0 sacks and 4 forced fumbles (tied first), which both lead the league. Ultimately, while they can be subjective and they should not be worth too much, the advanced stats set Donald apart. Donald’s 66 pressures are absurd and give him a small edge for the award as of now.
Stats: 9.5 Sacks, 40 Pressures, 31 Tackles, 4 Forced Fumbles (9 games)
Myles Garrett has missed the past two games for the Browns, but he is still right in the DPOY conversation. Garrett’s stats are right there with Donald’s despite playing a couple of less games. Garrett has just a 0.5 less sack, and the same amount of tackles and forced fumbles. The pressures set Donald apart, but these are objective. You have to wonder if Garrett would be the frontrunner had he played those two games, but that is in the past now. Garrett needs to get back on the field this week and continue his legitimate case to win this award.
3. T.J. Watt
Stats: 9.0 Sacks, 54 Pressures, 32 Tackles, 0 Forced Fumbles (10 games)
T.J. Watt is an absolute superstar. The brother of J.J. Watt wants to chase J.J.’s record three DPOY awards and is smack in the race to win his first this year. Watt has 9.0 sacks, just about keeping pace with Donald and Garrett. His no forced fumbles is a little shocking, as strip sacks used to be his specialty. He led the league with 8 forced fumbles last season, but has none this season. Watt also has an impressive 54 pressures, but his team dilutes those a bit. Watt plays on an absolutely loaded defensive front in Pittsburgh, which prevents offenses from locking in on him like offenses do to most premier pass rushers. This is not at the fault of Watt and he clearly helps his teammates, but he certainly has it a little easier. Watt has crazy numbers and is not at all far off from the lead but he will likely need to outpace Donald and Garrett in all the major stats to win this award (which is very possible).
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Stats: 1,257 Rushing Yards, 12 Rushing Touchdowns, 4.9 Yards Per Carry, 1,350 Total Scrimmage Yards (11 games)
Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook are splitting hairs in rushing stats which makes the Offensive Player of the Year Award so close right now. Henry has the slight edge for now which makes him the frontrunner. Henry’s 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games are absurd. While he is not much of a receiving threat out of the backfield, he does more than enough running the ball. Henry is on pace to have a historical season. Cook is on his tail, but Henry paces the pack for the OPOY award as of now.
2. Dalvin Cook
Stats: 1,130 Rushing Yards, 13 Rushing Touchdowns, 5.2 Yards Per Carry, 1,385 Total Scrimmage Yards (10 games)
Dalvin Cook is right there with Derrick Henry, despite missing one game. Cook offers a bit more of a receiving threat which is why he has slightly more scrimmage yards. Cook is having a monster year in his own right and might be one great game away from pulling ahead. His 1,130 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns through 10 games are also in historical territory. Ultimately, this award will likely come down to who wins the rushing title, and it will be extremely close as it is now.
3. Alvin Kamara
Stats: 585 Rushing Yards, 8 Rushing Touchdowns, 4.6 Yards Per Carry, 1,231 Total Scrimmage Yards (11 games)
Alvin Kamara is a vastly different running back than the aforementioned pair. Kamara is an explosive and dynamic receiving back who does most of his damage through the passing game. Kamara has kept pace in the scrimmage yards total by hauling in 646 receiving yards already at this point in the year. Kamara is a rare breed who can do so much in the open field and should definitely receive consideration for this award. At the end of the day however, having just about half the rushing yards of the other two running backs who are the frontrunners will keep him from making serious noise in this race.
Offensive Rookie of the Year Award
Stats: 3,015 Passing Yards, 67% Completion Percentage, 23 Passing Touchdowns, 7 Interceptions (10 games)
Justin Herbert has been fantastic so far in his rookie season. After a medical mishap to Tyrod Taylor, Herbert was thrust into the starting job in Week 2, way earlier than expected. Herbert has thoroughly impressed, putting up fantastic numbers, including 23 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. With Joe Burrow out for the rest of the season, Herbert looks to be in pole position for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award as it tends to favor quarterbacks and he is the only rookie of them putting up great numbers. The future looks bright for the Chargers due to Herbert’s great rookie season that will likely end in Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Stats: 52 Receptions, 918 Receiving Yards, 6 Receiving Touchdowns (11 games)
Justin Jefferson has established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL just 11 games into his very young career. Jefferson has 918 receiving yards on an efficient 72 targets and 52 receptions. For comparison, Stefon Diggs has 945 yards this season on a massive 110 targets. Jefferson has been explosive every time he touches the ball. Jefferson is having an all-time great rookie season as he is well on pace for 1,000 receiving yards. He also still has a shot to break the record for most receiving yards as a rookie which is held by Bill Groman for his 1,473 yards in 1960. In most years this would likely be Jefferson’s award but not when a quarterback is having a year like Herbert is. Anyways, Jefferson is still in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year with his fantastic numbers.
Stats: 890 Rushing Yards, 6 Rushing Touchdowns, 4.6 Yards Per Carry, 1,170 Total Scrimmage Yards (11 games)
James Robinson is having a great rookie season in his own right. Robinson was an undrafted rookie who impressed enough in the truncated Training Camp to take the started running back job in Jacksonville from the established Leonard Fournette. Fournette was cut before the season to clear the way for Robinson. Robinson has exceeded all expectations as he is third in the entire league in rushing yards. Robinson is an undrafted gem uncovered for the Jaguars. He has been one of the best running backs in the league this season and is smack in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year Award
Stats: 69 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 1 Interception, 4 Pass Deflections, 89.2 Passer Rating Allowed (12 games)
This race is probably the closest of them all. There are a ton of talented defensive rookies, and most of them play safety. Antoine Winfield Jr. has stood out the most thus far. He has had a couple of lapses in coverage but has been great for a rookie. He is also a force all over the field. Winfield is an elite run defender and pass rusher from the safety position. He has stuffed the stat sheet in many different ways. Winfield is the most well rounded defensive rookie so far. This award is extremely close, but Winfield is my choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year as of now due to his solid coverage skills, elite run defense, and great pass rushing ability for a safety.
Stats: 28 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 6 Pass Deflections, 27.8 Passer Rating Allowed (10 games)
Julian Blackmon is looking like the steal of the draft based on his performance so far this season. Blackmon has been fantastic for the Colts this season. He stepped in right away after the injury to Malik Hooker and has been a great starting free safety. Blackmon has been extremely impressive in coverage, allowing a minimal 27.8 passer rating in coverage. Blackmon is playing out of his mind for a third round pick, and is splitting hairs in the race for this award. Blackmon is not as well rounded as Winfield as he struggles a bit in other areas, but he has a real shot to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
3. Jeremy Chinn
Stats: 87 Tackles, 1 Interception, 5 Pass Deflections, 104.0 Passer Rating Allowed (11 games)
Jeremy Chinn has played very well for the Panthers this season. Chinn is an explosive strong safety who is practically a linebacker as he plays towards the box near the line of scrimmage so often. Chinn therefore gets a ton of tackles. This has a lot to do with just his volume of snaps closer to the line of scrimmage, but it is still impressive. Chinn is not great in coverage as he has allowed a 104.0 passer rating. He mostly makes up for that with his other skills. Chinn flies around the field and is going to be a force in the league in the future, as he is starting to be now. Chinn has been very impressive as a rookie and is right in the running for this award. He has not quite played to the level of Winfield and Blackmon as of now, but Chinn definitely has the chance to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Coach of the Year Award
1. Mike Tomlin
Team Record: 10-0 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Mike Tomlin is already a legendary coach, acquiring a Super Bowl ring and 143 wins, yet still just 48 years old. This season has been Tomlin’s best work yet by far though, which is saying a lot. Tomlin has orchestrated Pittsburgh to an undefeated season so far at 10-0. Tomlin has navigated his team through multiple COVID scheduling complications, including a Week 4 bye week and multiple postponements of their Week 12 game against Baltimore. Tomlin should be a lock for Coach of the Year as long as Pittsburgh stays undefeated or finishes near it.
2. Brian Flores
Team Record: 7-4 (Miami Dolphins)
Brian Flores has done a remarkable job turning around the Dolphins so quickly. Miami tore down their roster and rebuilt at the start of the 2019 season, but Flores was able to establish a winning culture during that year. All of a sudden the Dolphins are playoff contenders in 2020, despite nobody expecting them to turn things around so quickly. Flores has had the Dolphins prepared in every game and his coaching has definitely won them some games that other coaches would’ve lost. In most years, Flores would probably be the frontrunner at this point due to the so impressive turnaround, but not with Tomlin and the Steelers undefeated. Flores is still in the thick of this race however.
Team Record: 8-3 (Cleveland Browns)
Kevin Stefanski has done a great job in his first year with the Browns. Being a first year head coach in this COVID environment is certainly not easy and Stefanski deserves a ton of credit for the job he has done. He has the Browns at 8-3 after they had just 6 wins all of last season. The Browns had talent but could not turn it into wins last season, but Stefanski has changed that. Stefanski has turned the offense into a running game powerhouse and has led the Browns to true playoff contention at 8-3. Stefanski is certainly in the running for Coach of the Year for the remarkable job he has done in giving the Browns a winning culture.
Comeback Player of the Year Award
Stats: 2,534 Passing Yards, 67% Completion Percentage, 24 Passing Touchdowns, 5 Interceptions (10 games)
Ben Roethlisberger looks close to his prime self again coming off injury. Roethlisberger started just 2 games in 2019 due to a tough shoulder injury. He is back and has not missed a beat though. Roethlisberger has tossed a very impressive 24 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions in 10 games as quarterback for the undefeated Steelers. I value how good the player is more than the type of comeback when judging the Comeback Player of the Year Award. This makes Roethlisberger the choice, especially as long as Pittsburgh is undefeated, as he is playing great at the most important position for them.
2. Alex Smith
Stats: 1,067 Passing Yards, 69% Completion Percentage, 3 Passing Touchdowns, 5 Interceptions (5 games)
Alex Smith has made a remarkable comeback to the NFL after a devastating leg injury during the 2018 season. Smith had to have 17 surgeries to fully recover from the injury and the ensuing infections. It is a miracle to see Smith back on an NFL field. Many think that this should automatically give him Comeback Player of the Year. While he is definitely a leading candidate, Smith has played bad in his return to the field. His 3 passing touchdowns and 5 interceptions are both extremely subpar numbers. It is great to have Smith back in the league, but it makes no sense to give him this award over Roethlisberger who is playing fantastic for an undefeated team. Smith may very likely win this award and deserves to be right in the conversation for his comeback, but he is not the frontrunner as of now due to the vast difference between him and Roethlisberger’s performances.
Stats: 32 Tackles, 1 Interception, 4 Pass Deflections, 85.7 Passer Rating Allowed (9 games)
Jason Verrett had been injured for just about four years from 2016-2019. Verrett constantly suffered setbacks once he was on the cusp of returning to form. Verrett is playing his first full season since 2015, and the results have been tremendous. Verrett has picked up right where he left off from his Pro Bowl 2015 season and has reestablished himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this season. He has been great for the depleted Niners, allowing just an 85.7 passer rating when targeted. Verrett has also only given up 6.0 yards per target. He has been a solid run defender from the corner position as well. Verrett has been rock solid for the Niners after a long journey back to health. He is a real candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, but has stiff competition from quarterbacks, who are obviously generally favored in these awards.
Some of these awards are still splitting hairs at the moment. They fluctuate game-by-game. These NFL awards rankings are a good gauge of where the races stand now, but this final stretch of the season will be crucial in deciding the outcome of these awards, with no definite winner in any of them as of now.
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