The night before Super Bowl XLVIII, the NFL will hand out its top individual awards at the 3rd Annual NFL Honors show on Saturday.
The show will be broadcast by FOX beginning at 8 p.m. ET and will be hosted by actor Alec Baldwin at Radio City Music Hall in New York, less than 24 hours before the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks decide the next NFL champion.
As voted on by members of the Associated Press, the top honors include league MVP, Coach of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, as well as Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year. The latest inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame will also be introduced on Saturday, the newest addition to the award show.
Below are our predictions for each of the top awards.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
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Nominees: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers; Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers; Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Lacy was already named overall rookie of the year by the Pro Football Writers Association after carrying the Green Bay defense while Aaron Rodgers was sidelined for most of the second half of the season. The PRWA dubbed Allen the offensive rookie of the year after he joined rare company by posting a 1,000-yard receiving season (the list includes Randy Moss and Cris Collinsworth). Bernard’s explosiveness and tackle-breaking strength provided plenty of highlights, but he shared his carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Strangely enough, none of the nominees were first round picks.
Pick: Lacy in a very tight race.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Kiko Alonso, LB, Buffalo Bills; Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers; Sheldon Richardson, DT, New York Jets
Maybe the hardest selection of the night, Alonso led the Bills in tackles (159) and interceptions (4); Lotulelei was a largely unheralded hero as part of the NFL’s second ranked overall defense with 42 combined tackles and three sacks, and Richardson made sure the league knew he was with 77 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Pick: Alonso’s stats are too gaudy to ignore, but Richardson will siphon off his fair share of votes.
Comeback Player of the Year
Nominees: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers; Ryan Matthews, RB, San Diego Chargers; Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
Rivers was the NFL’s most accurate passer and enjoyed a huge resurgence in his career with 4,478 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and a 105.5 rating. Matthews played in all 16 games for the first time in his four year career and blew past his career-best with 1,255 yards. Moreno notched his first career 1,000-yard season, adding 10 touchdowns, and pulled in another 60 receptions for 548 yards and three touchdowns.
Pick: Fairly or not, quarterbacks typically beat out every other position, so Rivers takes the closest vote of the evening.
Offensive Player of the Year
Nominees: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos; Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs; LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles; Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Manning broke the records for passing yards and touchdowns in a single season for the AFC’s best team; Charles led the Chiefs in rushing and receiving with 1,980 total yards and 19 touchdowns from scrimmage; McCoy led the league in rushing with a career-best 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns for the NFL’s top ranked rushing attack; Gordon played with three different starting quarterbacks and still topped the league with 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine scores.
Pick: Manning’s year overshadows Gordon and Charles, but not by much. Gordon could even get the second total number of votes, but all three are very deserving.
Defensive Player of the Year
Nominees: Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts; Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers; Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams; Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks; NaVarro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers
The absolute deepest field of all the awards. Sherman and Mathis respectively led the league in interceptions and sacks, with the corner the leader of the NFL’s best defense. In just his second year Kuechly brought the Panthers back to the playoffs as the tackle and picks leader; Quinn lost out by half a sack for the overall lead; and Bowman stood out among eight 49ers picked for the Pro Bowl.
Pick: It will come down to Mathis or Kuechly. The best bet is Kuechly since Carolina made a return to the playoffs.
Coach of the Year
Nominees: Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers; Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs; Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles; Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers; Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
All the candidates except one (Philbin) brought their teams back to the playoffs, and three (McCoy, Reid, Kelly) were in their first years in town. Rivera saved his job, and Philbin staved off the Incognito-Martin bullying scandal and kept Miami in the playoff hunt till very late in the season.
Pick: Reid improved the Chiefs record by nine games this year -- he’ll walk away handily.
Nominees: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos; Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs; Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers; Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles; Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots; Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
For the other nominees they could have easily make a case in any other year. Foles emerged as Philadelphia’s starter of the future and was highest rated passer in the league. Newton finally showed the leadership skills asked of him and took Carolina back to the playoffs; Brady broke in a new batch of receivers and the Pats won the AFC East for a fifth straight year; and Wilson led Seattle’s charge to the best record in the NFC.
But Manning’s performance shattered the NFL’s all-time marks for points, yards, and touchdowns in a single season.
Pick: Manning will win in a blowout for his fifth career MVP.