Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NFL Regular Season Awards Plus First Round Predictions

Hmmm, let's see. Who remembers Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Season as if it were yesterday! Not just me, that's for sure. What exactly do we remember? Kevin Kolb was the Eagles' starting quarterback. Chad Henne was projected to be the next breakout star. The Raiders and Chiefs were expected to finish in the basement of the AFC West. The Cowboys and Vikings were projected to play in the NFC title game. Donovan McNabb was supposed to lead the Redskins back to the playoffs. Peyton Hillis and Arian Foster were probably not selected in any fantasy draft. The Bucs were expected to have the worst record in the NFL. The Jets did not have any scandals involving DUIs, Harrassment suits, and especially feet.

So much changes in this damn league. And that's why we all adore it. Here are the Rant's 2010 NFL Regular Season awards:

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, New England.

Sorry, Michael Vick supporters. Brady has been consistent all year long and has not thrown an interception since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. This even after the trade of his biggest target. Brady is the heart and soul of the Pats, and he arguably had his best season in 2010.

(Honorable mention: Vick, Troy Polamalu)

Offensive Player of the Year: Brady

(Honorable mention: Vick, Foster)

Defensive Player of the Year: Clay Matthews, LB, Packers.

In a season in which Green Bay was ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball, Matthews remained the most consistent on a very good defense. He has been the backbone of the Pack's D and has developed into one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL.

(Honorable mention: Polamalu)

Coach of the Year: Todd Haley, Chiefs.

Kansas City is far, far ahead of schedule in its rebuilding process. Haley led the Chiefs to their first division title since 2003.

(Honorable mention: Raheem Morris, Bucs and Mike McCarthy, Packers)

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Bradford, QB, Rams

The next Peyton Manning? He put up numbers comparable to Manning's in his rookie season, and his Rams came one win away from their first playoff apperance since 2004. Not bad for a team that went 1-15 last year.

(Honorable mention: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers)

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndomakong Suh, DE, Lions

Detroit finally has a true franchise cornerstone to build around the way Barry Sanders was in the 90s. And he's just getting started.

(Honorable mention: Devin McCourty, S, Patriots)

Biggest Surprise, player: Arian Foster, RB, Texans.

The first undrafted player in NFL history to win the rushing title. 'Nuff said.

(Honorable mention: Vick, Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders)

Biggest Surprise, team: Kansas City Chiefs.

Best running game in the NFL, a maturing quarterback, and an outstanding defense. They will be a force for the next few years.

(Honorable mention: Raiders, Bucs)

Biggest Disappointment, player: Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals.

If you need any more proof that Palmer has fallen from elite status to bum in a little over a year, just look at the last offensive play vs. Baltimore last Sunday. TWO, yes, TWO recievers were wide open in the end zone and he didn't see either.

(Dishonorable mention: McNabb, Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins)

Biggest Disappointment, team: Dallas Cowboys.

It was destiny. They were supposed to play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium built for billions by their megalomanical owner. Everything fell apart. The QB got hurt, and the coach was fired mid-season. At least they made strides under Jason Garrett.

(Dishonorable mention: Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans)

Biggest Surprise, coach: Raheem Morris, Bucs.

One year ago, he was on the hot seat after an awful first season. This year, he led the youngest team in the NFL to 1o wins. Can it be duplicated next year?

(Honorable mention: Tom Cable, Raiders and Lovie Smith, Bears)

Biggest Disappointment, coach: Mike Singletary, 49ers.

He loudly declared he wanted winners two years ago. Too bad his players did not take on the same attitude. Not to mention the Niners were heavily favored to win the awful NFC West. And when the champion of that division is 7-9, you really screwed up.

(Dishonorable mention: Wade Phillips, Cowboys and Josh McDaniels, Broncos)

Breakout star of 2011 (assuming, of course, there is no lockout): Josh Freeman, QB, Bucs.

He grew up as an NFL quarterback almost overnight this season. As long as he doesn't go down the Chad Henne route, the Bucs are in good hands for the next decade.

(Honorable mention: Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos and Andrew Luck, QB, Panthers?)

Sleeper team of 2011: Detroit Lions.

If Matt Stafford can stay healthy, and the defense adds enough complimentary parts around Ndomakong Suh, this team just may make the playoffs in 2011.

(Honorable mention: Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans)

Team that will fall the farthest in 2011: Miami Dolphins.

Chad Henne may not be the real deal. The players have revolted against Tony Sparano. Brandon Marshall's talents are being wasted. Unless there is a complete attitude adjustment, I don't see any improvements by this unit.

(Dishonorable mention: Tampa Bay Bucs, Chicago Bears)

Player that will fall the farthest in 2011: Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals?

Maybe the player formerly known as Chad Johnson should stick to his TV work, because I don't see him being an elite reciever anymore.

(Henne, Vince Young, QB, Titans)

Picks for the first round (2-2 last week, 21-23 overall)

New Orleans 35, Seattle 14. (NO -10).

The defending champs are hitting their stride at the right time, and as long as Drew Brees doesn't turn the ball over, New Orleans should have an easy time against the first 7-9 division winner in NFL history.

N.Y. Jets 20, Indianapolis 17. (OT)(NYJ +3).

I honestly think the Jets will get their revenge on Peyton and Co. Saturday night. The Colts are simply not the same team as last year. Two of Peyton's favorite targets, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, are out for the season. Reggie Wayne is simply good now, not great. The Colts can't run the ball to save themselves. If Rex Ryan's brash talk is backed up by his faithful players, they should be able to squeak by Indy.

Baltimore 24, Kansas City 20. (BAL -2 1/2).

Where have we seen this Baltimore team before? They went into Foxboro last January and embarrased Brady, Belichick, and co. This year, they face an inexperienced, overachieving Chiefs team that contains many players with no postseason experience. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ray Rice and co. know how to win road playoff games. This will be no exception.

Philadelphia 23, Green Bay, 20. (PHI -2 1/2).

Honestly, this game is a toss-up. I won't be surpised if either team wins this one. The big difference between both teams since their Week 1 matchup is that Michael Vick will play the entire game, and the Packers will be without Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley. For that, I give the Eagles a slight edge.

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