It’s been a wild ride, but 17 regular-season weeks of NFL football now are behind us.
The playoffs are upon us, but before we get to the real fun, let’s look back at the regular season and hand out some awards.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and even Derek Carr all could make a case for MVP. And maybe it’s recency bias, but it feels like Rodgers did enough to put himself over the top.
Rodgers put up decent numbers through the first six weeks of the season, but he didn’t look like his dominant self. Even when Rodgers started to play better, the Packers hit a nasty slump, losing four consecutive games over a period in which the QB still posted a 101.9 passer rating.
However, Rodgers really turned it on after the Packers’ season hit rock bottom with an embarrassing Week 11 loss to the Washington Redskins. Green Bay then turned red-hot, with Rodgers playing near-perfect football, completing 71 percent of his passes for nearly 1,700 yards to go along with 15 touchdown passes and zero picks over a six-game stretch, which the Packers swept. Of those six games, four came against defenses that ended the season ranked in the top 11 in passer rating against.
When it was all said and done, Rodgers led the league in passing touchdowns, and finished ninth in completion percentage, fourth in passing yards and fourth in passer rating. And no one had a better fourth-quarter passer rating.
That Rodgers makes plays like this doesn’t hurt, either.
Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan ultimately could win MVP, and no one should have an issue with that. We laid out the case for Rodgers, but Ryan’s numbers actually are better on the whole.
It’s pretty incredible that 16 quarterbacks attempted more passes this season than Ryan … and the Falcons quarterback still finished with the second-most passing yards in the league. Ryan also finished second in touchdown passes, first in passer rating and first in QBR, all while not throwing more than a single interception in any game.
While he benefited from playing in the NFC South, where his three opponents all ranked among the 15 worst opposing passer ratings this season, Ryan helped orchestrate a road win over Denver (before the Broncos’ slide) and probably should’ve had a road win in Seattle had officials actually called pass interference.
Defensive Player of the Year: Landon Collins, Safety, New York Giants
Plenty of folks believe the Giants could make another run to the Super Bowl this season, and New York’s defense is the biggest reason for that. So it’s only fitting that we give this award to the man who’s been the star of that defense all season long.
The Giants spent a lot of money on that unit during the offseason, but Collins’ emergence has been the biggest reason for New York’s defensive success. What makes him so valuable is that he does a little bit of everything. He’s a great tackler, he’s able to get after the quarterback while blitzing, and he has a nose for the football in coverage. If you don’t believe us, this stat pretty much says it all.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
It’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it?
Elliott led the league in rushing by more than 300 yards, despite not playing at all in the Cowboys’ meaningless Week 17 game. His 15 rushing touchdowns were good for third in the league, and no one had more rushes of 20 yards or more than the rookie phenom.
Along with the NFL’s best offensive line, Elliott helped establish the Cowboys’ identity as a team that can grind down games and dominate the time of possession battle. When they get a lead, Elliot and Co. make it almost impossible for opponents to come back.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego Chargers
Just 12 players in all of the NFL had more sacks than Bosa this season … and he missed the first four games after a contract dispute.
Bosa actually led all rookies in sacks, and he was a game-changer after finally getting on the field. He finished the season on a dominant tear, too, recording 6.5 sacks in the Chargers’ final six games. He had at least one sack in seven of 12 games and posted three multi-sack games. He should be an elite pass rusher for a very long time.
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
We shouldn’t punish Belichick for his reputation, as you could argue he’s the coach of the year every season and will be until he retires to his boat on Nantucket. But it’s especially difficult to deny him the honor this season after the Patriots started the season without some guy named Tom Brady.
The Patriots spent a quarter of their season without arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game and still won more games than any other team — and made it look easy. No need to overthink this one.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports Images