For what looked to once be impossible, the 2020-2021 NFL Season was about as close to normal as we could have expected. The occasional postponement or a team playing down an entire position group threw some wrenches in the works, but the goal of completing a season is looking like it will be entirely accomplished. Even as it felt like the world was slowly crumbling around us at points this fall, every Sunday NFL Football was played, and that is something to celebrate. Now, we find ourselves in Super Bowl and awards season, one of the most bittersweet times of all. As both a fun exercise and a distraction from the reality that football is going into hibernation once again, I have decided to fill out a OTB version of an NFL Awards Ballot and make a few predictions about the big game.
NOTE: This is what my ballot would look like if I had a vote, not predictions like I have done in the past for the NBA.
Aaron Rodgers, QB Green Bay Packers
Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans
Josh Allen, QB Buffalo Bills
At this point, I think it’s impossible to give it to anyone else. Green Bay’s loss in the NFC Championship certainly left a sour taste in the mouth of fans after an otherwise incredible season which was spearheaded by their Hall of Fame Quarterback in arguably the best season of his career. Rodgers threw for 4299 yards on 372 completions with 48 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions, leading the Packers to a 13-3 season. Sheesh. Having Davante Adams helped, but Rodgers’s case for most talented QB of all-time is becoming less and less arguable. No doubt he, and Cheeseheads everywhere, would rather have another championship instead, but with that no longer a possibility claiming MVP would ease the pain. More on Henry later, but Allen absolutely deserves finalist status after leading the Bills to their best season in a very long time. If he can repeat this level of production, an MVP of his own is not far away.
Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans
Davante Adams, WR Green Bay Packers
Stefon Diggs, WR Buffalo Bills
If they rewrote the rules to make this award the “Most Valuable Non-QB Offensive Player” I don’t think anyone would be opposed, and with that in mind Henry is the easy pick here. The workhorse for the Titans, Henry trudged his way to 2027 yards on 378 rushes and 17 touchdowns, averaging 126.7 yards per game and 5.4 yards per attempt. At any point throughout NFL history that would be a monster year, let alone in today’s pass-heavy game. Adams and Diggs both had elite seasons in their own right, but 2,000 yards for a playoff team cannot be ignored. Henry is unlike any other back in football, and it’s only right he gets recognized for it.
TJ Watt, LB Pittsburgh Steelers
Aaron Donald, DT Los Angeles Rams
Xavien Howard, CB Miami Dolphins
Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the league. His presence and insane skill affects every play, and he absolutely has an argument for this award. However, TJ Watt should win. On a Pittsburgh defense that dealt with injury problems all season, Watt went ballistic with 15 sacks, 53 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, and was generally just a menace. He did slow down as the season went on, similar to the team he plays for, but his impact for the first ¾ of the year was just too great. Howard in Miami deserves recognition as well for his 10 interceptions, and other corners such as Jalen Ramsey and Jaire Alexander could easily make this ballot, but Watt shouldn’t get robbed again.
Justin Herbert, QB Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Jefferson, WR Minnesota Vikings
Jonathan Taylor, RB Indianapolis Colts
Toughest decision on the entire ballot, but I have to go Herbert. Jefferson had an absolutely incredible rookie season in Minnesota and the receiving tandem of him and Adam Thielen could already be the best in the league. He has put himself in position to put up 10+ touchdown and 1000+ yard seasons for the foreseeable future and deserves an immense amount of recognition. With that being said, quarterback is the most important position on the field and Herbert is already excelling. Throwing for 4336 yards on 396 completions with 31 touchdowns (all rookie records) and only 10 picks in 15 starts as a rookie is ridiculously good. Even though the Chargers only ended up 6-9 with Herbert starting, very little of that blame can be pointed at their newest QB1, and he's my OROY.
Chase Young, DE Washington Football Team
Jeremy Chinn, S Carolina Panthers
Antoine Winfield Jr., S Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Much easier than the other side of the ball, Chase Young absolutely ran away with this award this season. The number two pick in the draft somehow exceeded expectations with 7.5 sacks, 44 tackles, and 10 tackles for loss, insane numbers for a rookie defensive end. Deeper than just the stats, Young became a vocal leader for the surprising WFT early in the season and will be a focal point for a hopeful culture change coming real soon. Chinn was great for the Panthers all season and will be a star for years to come, but DROY belongs to Young.
Alex Smith, QB Washington Football Team
No one else will get a first place vote, and that is exactly how it should be. Smith came back from nearly losing his leg to lead the WFT to the playoffs after a plethora of other QB woes struck the organization. Renaming the award after Smith doesn’t look out of the realm of possibility, so it’s ridiculous to think anyone else even has a chance.
Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team
In this two-horse race I lean towards McDermott over Stefanski for a couple reasons, most paramount being that the Bills were better with, in my opinion, less offensive weapons. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs are both obviously elite, but beyond that the Bills won games often by out-scheming and holding off opponents, which can be attributed to McDermott (and OC Brian Daboll) more than anyone. While Stefanski put together an amazing first season in Cleveland and has that city more excited for football than it has been in decades, I have to side with Bills Mafia on my ballot.
Super Bowl Predictions:
Kansas City Chiefs 38 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
Yeah, it’s chalk, but I would be lying if I said I saw this going any other way. While the Chiefs looked moderately beatable late into the season, when this team is firing on all cylinders keeping up isn’t an option. While the Bucs’ defense has been solid all year, guarding Travis Kelce (who would be #4 on my OPOY ballot), Tyreek Hill and co. is a different game. Tom Brady is the best Super Bowl quarterback of all-time and I do believe the Tampa Bay offense is better than the Kansas City defense, but it won’t be enough. Chiefs go up early and never look back, cruising to another championship.
See y’all tomorrow.