Tonight, we'll finally have an answer to many awards debates among pundits as the NFL Awards show recognizes the league's individual best in the 2016 season. There's a lot of ground to cover.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a stellar all-time season as he was second in the league in passing yards (4,944) and threw for 38 touchdowns to only seven interceptions for one of the most prolific offense's in football history. His season may just be capped off with a Super Bowl victory for his underdog Falcons. Ryan is the likely favorite to take home MVP honors.
The Rookies of the Year should mostly seem straightforward as the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott is the heavy favorite on offense while the Chargers' Joey Bosa should figure to take home the defensive award. Perhaps Elliott's rookie teammate in Dallas, Dak Prescott - who won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award - has something to say about Elliott's standing, though.
While for Bosa, well, it's hard to see anyone toppling him, but crazier things have happened. The Bears' Leonard Floyd should have finished more with sacks.
Nevertheless, here's the WCG staff making all of their award picks:
Jeff Berckes: Matt Ryan - Atlanta finished as the seventh best offense in league history and Ryan has been lights out for most of the year.
Jack Silverstein: Tom Brady - 11-1 record, only two interceptions, came back from suspension and never looked rusty.
Ken Mitchell: Matt Ryan - Ryan had a great year, and is a perfect example of a guy who was the key to his team winning.
Robert Zeglinski: Matt Ryan - This is a 16-game award. If you factor in the entire season, there was no one better than Ryan. The Raiders’ Derek Carr may have had a say, but injury did his season in short. Ryan is the primary reason Atlanta is playing in the Super Bowl.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Matt Ryan
Josh Sunderbruch: Matt Ryan - An adjusted net yards per attempt of 9.03. That's the fourth-highest ever, and above anything Brady has ever posted for a season (it’s almost two full yards per attempt above Brady's career average). Honorable mention has to go to Carr, because without him, we saw what happened to the rest of the team.
Sam Householder: Matt Ryan - Yes there is an argument that Brady or Rodgers could win it every year, but Ryan had a fine season and has taken his game to another level. He is probably the single biggest reason that the Falcons are in their second-ever Super Bowl.
Ed Snyder: Matt Ryan - What Brady did is incredible, but without the four additional games, Ryan's critical contribution in getting the Falcons to the Super Bowl is greater. “Matty Ice” takes the hardware.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jeff Berckes: Eric Berry - In a JJ Watt-less year, the field is a bit more open. Berry set the tone for one of the best units in the league in the Chiefs, that missed significant time from other marquee players en route to an AFC West championship and the AFC’s two seed. The sack totals for Miller and Mack are great, but Berry was a force on a contender.
Jack Silverstein: Khalil Mack - Lots of good candidates, but he's my favorite. A game changer who helped revitalize a franchise in Oakland.
Ken Mitchell: Aaron Donald - Despite the Los Angeles Rams being absolutely horrible, Donald again showed that he is the king of the defense. Honorable mention to Houston’s Whitney Mercilus
Robert Zeglinski: Khalil Mack - One could make the argument that no one did more for their defense than Mack this year. The Raiders had the 23rd worst defense in DVOA and were torn apart routinely. The man that would come through with game-changing play again and again to buoy this unit, was Mack. He put himself in the conversation for best overall players in the game.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: (Split-vote) Von Miller (Broncos) & Landon Collins (Giants)
Josh Sunderbruch: Eric Berry - Pure envy for this kind of playmaker.
Sam Householder: Khalil Mack - The guy had 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception which he returned for a score. That is a defensive playmaker.
Ed Snyder: Khalil Mack - Plays all over the defensive front. Always makes an impact. A defensive player that offenses must always account for.
Offensive Player of the Year
Jeff Berckes: David Johnson - Over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and over 20 touchdowns. His statistics for the Cardinals were amazing, even more so considering the passing attack was a shell of its former self with Carson Palmer struggling and the offensive line not considered a top tier unit.
Jack Silverstein: David Johnson - For all the reasons Jeff gave.
Ken Mitchell: Tom Brady - Brady had another monster season (after his suspension).
Robert Zeglinski: David Johnson - Johnson is so good as a receiver at running back, that Pro Football Focus named him their best receiver of 2016. A tailback. We haven’t seen a multi-purpose player like this since Marshall Faulk.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: David Johnson
Josh Sunderbruch: David Johnson
Sam Householder: David Johnson - He is the best playmaker in the league and deserves recognition despite the fact that his team lost a lot of games. He is the best all-around running back in the NFL.
Ed Snyder: David Johnson - Equally dangerous as a runner or receiver. Few players in NFL history can truly say that. Reminds me of Roger Craig.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Jeff Berckes: Dak Prescott - Solidified the future at the most difficult position with a steady hand. His teammate Elliott had a great year in Dallas, but the mental leap for a young, fourth-round quarterback is so much more impressive for Prescott than a top-five running back behind an elite offensive line.
Jack Silverstein: Ezekiel Elliott - With apologies to Jordan Howard and Prescott.
Ken Mitchell: Ezekiel Elliott - Really not much debate on this one, I think. Elliot is a "next level" kind of back. Honorable mention goes to Howard.
Robert Zeglinski: Ezekiel Elliott - Lead the league in rushing as a rookie on the NFC’s number one seed, then you deserve the world. Like it or not, there is some measure of team success factored in these awards. Howard might have had more of a say in that light.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Ezekiel Elliott
Josh Sunderbruch: Dak Prescott - To quote Romo: "That ain't (blank) easy, and he's the man."
Sam Householder: Ezekiel Elliott - I don't like Ohio State or the Cowboys, but I have to give credit where credit is due and Elliott is a stud.
Ed Snyder: Dak Prescott - What Prescott did as a rookie was more impressive than what the super-skilled Elliott did behind Big D's all-world offensive line.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Jeff Berckes: Keanu Neal - The young safety helped solidify an Atlanta defense that is one of the youngest in the league. In head coach Dan Quinn's defense, Neal serves in the Kam Chancellor role and has served as a critical piece of the puzzle in this Super Bowl run.
Jack Silverstein: Joey Bosa - Chargers rookie sack king.
Ken Mitchell: Joey Bosa - Bosa, from the moment he stepped onto the field, was a one-man wrecking crew, totally living up to his high draft position despite playing on a train wreck of a team.
Robert Zeglinski: Joey Bosa - Nothing changes a defense as much as a dominant pass rusher. Lead all rookies in sacks with 10.5 and come in second among rookies in quarterback pressures with 23, you vault yourself to the top of the list as Bosa did in San Diego.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Joey Bosa
Josh Sunderbruch: Keanu Neal - Might just be secondary-envy.
Sam Householder: Joey Bosa - He led rookies in sacks in just 12 games.
Ed Snyder: Bosa gets the nod over Deion Jones, and that's some crow eating from me. I really liked Bosa, but was not a fan of Jones and he killed it this year (108 tackles, 11 passes defended, 3 interceptions [two for touchdowns], and a forced fumble).
Coach of the Year
Jeff Berckes: Bill Belichick - Too often this award goes to the "coach of the most improved team", but let's not overlook what the great Belichick did this year guiding the Patriots to a seventh Super Bowl in 16 years after a 14-2 regular season. This, despite dealing with the Tom Brady suspension for four games, trading Chandler Jones in the offseason and Jamie Collins before the deadline, along with losing all-world tight end, Rob Gronkowski, for most of the season. The Patriots have the best scoring defense and have gotten significant contributions from guys like Shea McClellin. For what it's worth, the award should be named after him.
Jack Silverstein: Bill Belichick - The more I see, the more I read, the more I respect.
Ken Mitchell: Bill Belichick - A.k.a Darth Hoodie. Honestly, he may be the best coach in the history of the league.
Robert Zeglinski: Jack Del Rio - What Del Rio did in Oakland for a franchise that hadn’t been to the postseason in 13 years can’t be lost. He helped galvanize an organization that was listless for a long time. The Raiders would have likely made a deeper playoff run if not for Carr’s injury. A team set to contend for a long time.
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Jason Garrett
Josh Sunderbruch: Bill Belichick - With his All-Pro quarterback suspended, he went 3-1. He has his team in yet another Super Bowl after losing the team's best offensive weapon in Gronkowski. What this guy does makes me sick.
Sam Householder: Jason Garrett - Just like Brady can always be MVP, Belichick can always be Coach of the Year. However, Garrett took a team that a year ago was injury depleted and down trodden and got them to rally around two rookies, while bringing those guys along into the NFL quickly.
Ed Snyder: Bill Belichick - Possibly watching the greatest NFL coach ever in action. He never lets down and adapts to any situation on or off the field.