The 2015 NFL season came to a close on Sunday and with it each of the races for the league’s top individual prizes. We may already have a strong inkling about who will win the Most Valuable Player award, but there could be some very tight vote totals for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
The league will announce the winners for each major award the night before the Super Bowl, Saturday, Feb. 6 at the NFL Honors show.
Here’s our updated predictions for MVP, OROY, DROY, DPY, and COY.
Most Valuable Player
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots; Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers; Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
If we filled out a timeline for the entire season, Brady led for the first nine weeks, then Newton took a seemingly unsurmountable lead, followed by Palmer making his case and nearly swiping the NFC’s No. 1 seed from Newton in the last three weeks of the season.
However, with new career-highs across the board and a 15-1 record Newton’s sewed up the MVP.
Prediction: Newton in a landslide
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks; Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams; Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders; David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Each rookie candidate has put together an excellent first-year resume, and each has some eye-popping highlights to show voters they will be major contributors in the league for years to come. Winston nearly got the Bucs back into the postseason, Lockett provided some timely and breathtaking plays as a receiver and return, Cooper led all rookies in receptions and contended with veterans atop the leaderboard, and Johnson helped stabilize the Cardinals running back corps and helped them reach the playoffs.
But Gurley has both the top comeback story and the stats to back everything up. He finished third in the rushing (1,106 yards) and tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns (10) despite missing three games, and recovering from a torn ACL in his final year at Georgia in less than a year.
Prediction: Gurley in yet another lopsided vote
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs; Hau’Oli Kikaha, OLB, New Orleans Saints; Ronald Darby, CB, Buffalo Bills
Similar to the MVP race, Kikaha burst onto the scene but did little to take ahold of DROY honors as the Saints defense faded in the final 14 weeks of the season. Peters came up with four of his NFL-leading eight interceptions in Kansas City’s last five games, finished first in the league with 26 passes defensed, and there’s no question he deserves plenty of credit for K.C.’s postseason berth. However, Buffalo lost major secondary veterans Aaron Williams and Stephen Gilmore and Darby made up for the loss of both.
Prediction: Peters gets the nod since the Chiefs made the postseason in what should be a close vote
Defensive Player of the Year
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans; Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona Cardinals; Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers; Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos; Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
Every single candidate guided their respective team to the postseason, so that won’t be the deciding factor here. Watt led the NFL in sacks for the second time in four seasons and helped Houston rally to post the fourth-best defense in the league and clinch a division title. Mathieu could have improved his case if he had stayed healthy, though a case based on absence could be made considering Arizona was blown out by 30 with him out of the lineup against Seattle. Talib and Jones were the leaders for the AFC’s two best defenses, and while they have strong numbers, none really stand out.
Norman’s emerged as a huge star, in the same vein as Seattle’s Richard Sherman, and with voters potentially suffering fatigue from picking Watt so often these last few years he’ll take it. The Panthers wouldn’t be where they are without both Newton and Norman. Take one away and their season would be drastically different.
Prediction: Norman, with Watt a close second
Coach of the Year
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers; Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals; Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos; Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs; Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins; Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers; Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
When it comes to dealing with injuries, no one did a better job of keeping his team in the playoff hunt and actually getting there than Tomlin. The Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell for most of the season and Ben Roethlisberger for almost a quarter of the year. Lewis made the Bengals a major redemption story and title contenders but how the team sputtered when Andy Dalton went down hurts his chances. Kubiak deserves significant kudos for dealing with a quarterback controversy, winning games with the NFL’s best defense, and stealing the No. 1 seed from New England. Gruden and Reid began the year with little expectations, but led their teams to the playoffs in convincing and surprising fashion.
Arians and Rivera are the ones to beat, however. The Cardinals have the best offense in the league and may have taken the NFC’s top bid if there was one more game to play in the regular season. Rivera, though, nearly earned a perfect regular season record and coaxed out all of the talents and domination we always knew was there in Newton.
Prediction: Rivera runs away with it