Our staffers make their bold selections for individual award winners and provide some contrasting viewpoints on who’ll hoist the Lombardi in Houston in Super Bowl 51
The MMQB editor-in-chief Peter King revealed his 2016 Super Bowl pick earlier this week, and now our staffers join in. The consensus is, expect big things from Antonio Brown, Khalil Mack and Tyrann Mathieu. And at least one of our writers sees something special with a QB in Cleveland. As for Super Bowl 51, you’ll have to read on.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Peter King: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle. Without the subtle/overt pressure of Marshawn Lynch in the locker room and huddle, Wilson, already a beautiful thrower of the deep ball, takes his game to its highest level--and takes Seattle into January again.
Albert Breer: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. No LeVeon Bell until October. No Martavis Bryant until God knows when. No problem.
Jenny Vrentas: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. Bolstered by the return of Jordy Nelson, and Mike McCarthy’s day-to-day involvement in the offense again, we welcome back the Aaron Rodgers we’re used to seeing.
Robert Klemko: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati. Don't @ me.
Emily Kaplan: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. He has the most talented cast, and there should be nothing preventing Big Ben from having a highly productive year.
Tim Rohan: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina. He gets his No. 1 receiver (Kelvin Benjamin) back, and he’s on a mission to avenge the Super Bowl loss.
Andy Benoit: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. Has mastered the system of the most dynamic offense in the league.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
King: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. Again, and unfortunately, Minnesota puts its season on Peterson's shoulders. Again, he performs superbly, with an 1,800-yard rushing season.
Breer: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles. There will be bumps in the Rams’ return-to-L.A. campaign. So they’ll give Gurley the ball. A lot.
Vrentas: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh. MVPs are for QBs, but this award can go to a skill position player based on the sheer volume of offense he generates. And Brown, who has caught more than 100 balls each of the last three years, is sure to generate a high volume of offense.
Klemko: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England. He’s the greatest tight end ever, and now he has the benefit of fellow big man Martellus Bennett to stress defenses in the red zone. I’m thinking career year.
Kaplan: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh. Consider his gaudy numbers in 2015—which included five games of Landry Jones and Michael Vick quarterbacking. Brown rarely drops passes, he’s always improving and I expect nothing but a monster 2016.
Rohan: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh. Brown puts up video-game numbers again.
Benoit: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh. Will be the most productive player in the NFL’s most prolific offense.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Peter King: Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland. Nice of J.J. Watt to cede this. Once. Mack has a 20-sack season in him one of these years, and I think it's this year, starting with a favorable matchup opening day in New Orleans.
Breer: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Arizona. He became the NFL’s human highlight reel in 2015, and the comeback from ACL surgery will just add to his legend.
Vrentas: Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland. J.J. Watt’s back surgery perhaps opens the door for someone else to win this title. A good bet is Mack, who was once famously described by Hue Jackson as “a rolling ball of butcher knives.”
Klemko: Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona. Probably one of the more under-appreciated superstars in the NFL.
Kaplan: Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland. The league’s next dominant pass-rusher is going to be a household name after a 20-sack season.
Rohan: Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland. The Raiders’ linebacker takes the next step, rises to J.J. Watt territory.
Benoit: Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland. But only if voters realize that he’s an even better run defender than pass rusher.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Peter King: Ronnie Stanley, LT, Baltimore. Now, the assignment is my pick for offensive rookie--not the guy who will win it. And almost certainly someone who touches the ball will win it. But Stanley, a vital guy for Baltimore's future, is the best offensive rookie this year. And Indy center Ryan Kelly is second.
Breer: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas. The hashtag #FEEDZEKE gets imported from Ohio to Texas. With Tony Romo down, the Cowboys will oblige.
Vrentas: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas. As our Albert Breer wrote in June, one reason the Cowboys drafted Elliott was so their offense could be more competent in the event they lost Tony Romo again. Well, they’ve lost Romo for a while again, and the rookie has the great fortune of running behind the league’s best OL.
Klemko: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas. I freely admit to drinking the Kool-Aid. Great offensive line, with the benefit of Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I can't remember a rookie QB in a better position to thrive. Okay I can: Roethlisberger.
Kaplan: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee. Maybe this is a hot take considering Henry isn’t the Titan’s No. 1 back. But I think Tennessee is going to run the ball 40 times a game and Henry will shoulder a fair share of the load — especially on the goal line.
Rohan: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas. With Tony Romo out, the Cowboys will lean on Elliott and their superb offensive line.
Benoit: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas. As Elliott himself has already said, with Dallas’s O-line, his job is easy.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Peter King: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay. He had a superb preseason. Nothing was a surprise for him. Unfortunately, he'll have to get six or eight picks to be in the running for this award. With his instincts, he just might get that many.
Breer: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Jacksonville. This freakish LB-sized CB/S will be used every which way—and show why he was considered such a unique prospect.
Vrentas: Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville. For cornerbacks to win this award, they have to rack up a lot of interceptions. Jack, assuming his scrutinized knee holds up, will turn heads with a sideline-to-sideline athleticism that creates big plays.
Klemko: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Jacksonville. Incredible nose for the ball has been evident this preseason; my only trepidation is that teams will be able to throw away from him against this defense. Runner up: Arizona CB Brandon Williams, who will have plenty opportunities for interceptions playing opposite Peterson.
Kaplan: Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville. I’m a sucker for a good story, and the Jaguars linebacker making other general managers look foolish for passing on him will be a great one.
Rohan: Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville. Racks up a ton of tackles and helps lead the Jags’ resurgence.
Benoit: Karl Joseph, S, Oakland. Raiders D and its strong pass rush will generate turnovers. Typically, safety is the one capping those forced turnovers.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Peter King: Gus Bradley, Jacksonville. Year four (after going 12-36 in his first three Jag seasons) is significantly more friendly to Bradley. His patience with players pays off in a big way, with an AFC South title.
Breer: John Fox, Chicago. I’m buying in on Fox’s patented second-year bounce—and the roster implosion that Ryan Pace has overseen.
Vrentas: Ben McAdoo, Giants. Sitting in the same seat one occupied by Tom Coughlin and Bill Parcells, the first-time head coach earns this honor by leading the Giants back to the postseason after a four-year drought.
Klemko: Jack Del Rio, Oakland. The AFC West looks wide open and the Raiders are in a great position to take advantage, provided recent offensive line expenditures and a re-tooled secondary get the job done. Runner up: Marvin Lewis.
Kaplan: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota. It will be impossible not to choose him after he leads Minnesota to the playoffs with Sam Bradford under center.
Rohan: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota. Guides the Vikings to the playoffs despite the quarterback shakeup on the eve of the season.
Benoit: Bill Belichick, New England. With Martellus Bennett now opposite Rob Gronkowski, New England's two tight end system will border on unstoppable. Remembering that they were without their Hall of Fame QB for the first quarter of the system, voters will credit this success to New England's Hall of Fame head coach.
Peter King: Tyrann Mathieu, rover, Arizona. When I saw him in camp, he was playing deep safety. He'll play lots of press corner, and some inside linebacker. All coming off an eight-month-old knee reconstruction. Runner-up: Dante Fowler, pass-rusher, Jacksonville.
Breer: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona. If I’m gonna pick him for DPOY, this one is academic.
Vrentas: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona. Few players in the NFL are the kind of Tasmanian Devil of energy—those are GM Steve Keim’s words—that Mathieu is. He transforms the personality of the Cardinals when he’s on the field, and he’s back after his second ACL
Klemko: Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland. Robert will have to split this award with Hue Jackson, who will work wonders with the guy who was a healthy scratch all of last season in Washington.
Kaplan: Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego. Before his season-ending knee injury, Allen had 67 passes through eight games, which ranked third-most in NFL history. He’ll pick up right where he left off.
Rohan: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona. Coming back from an ACL tear, Mathieu becomes the face of the Cardinals defense.
Benoit: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay. Nelson’s healthy return will get Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense back on track.
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NFC PLAYOFF TEAMS
|NFC East||NFC North||NFC South||NFC West||Wild Cards|
|Peter King||Washington||Green Bay||Carolina||Arizona||Seattle, Minnesota|
|Albert Breer||Washington||Chicago||Carolina||Arizona||Seattle, Minnesota|
|Jenny Vrentas||NY Giants||Green Bay||Carolina||Arizona||Seattle, Atlanta|
|Robert Klemko||Washington||Green Bay||Carolina||Seattle||Arizona, NY Giants|
|Emily Kaplan||NY Giants||Green Bay||Carolina||Arizona||Seattle, Minnesota|
|Andy Benoit||Washington||Green Bay||Carolina||Seattle||Arizona, Atlanta|
|Tim Rohan||Washington||Minnesota||Carolina||Arizona||Seattle, Green Bay|
* * *
AFC PLAYOFF TEAMS
|AFC East||AFC North||AFC South||AFC West||Wild Cards|
|Peter King||New England||Cincinnati||Jacksonville||Oakland||Denver, Pittsburgh|
|Albert Breer||New England||Pittsburgh||Houston||Oakland||NY Jets, Denver|
|Jenny Vrentas||New England||Pittsburgh||Indianapolis||Kansas City||Baltimore, Denver|
|Robert Klemko||New England||Cincinnati||Indianapolis||Oakland||Kansas City, Pittsburgh|
|Emily Kaplan||New England||Pittsburgh||Houston||Kansas City||Cincinnati, Oakland|
|Andy Benoit||New England||Pittsburgh||Indianapolis||Denver||Oakland, Jacksonville|
|Tim Rohan||New England||Pittsburgh||Jacksonville||Kansas City||Cincinnati, Denver|
* * *
SUPER BOWL 51
King: Green Bay 30, Pittsburgh 26. The Steelers rise from the sixth playoff seed to fall one possession short in a rematch of Super Bowl 45. Aaron Rodgers finishes his season of redemption with a Super Bowl MVP game.
Breer: New England 30, Arizona 23. I came very close to giving Tom Brady the MVP, so let’s just hand him his record fourth Super Bowl MVP instead. No matter what happens over the season’s first month, this team is loaded with 20-something talent on D, and New England’s 12-game finish will be something to see.
Vrentas: Arizona 31, Pittsburgh 24. All of the Cardinals’ star players had a bad game on the same day in last year’s NFC Championship. Don’t count on that happening again. Go-big-or-go-home coach Bruce Arians is the perfect coach to shepherd the Super-Bowl-or-bust Cardinals.
Klemko: Carolina 21, Cincinnati 20. I felt Andy Dalton had turned a corner last season before his injury, with just seven picks in 13 starts and the highest completion percentage of his career. I'm banking on TE Tyler Eifert coming back strong from his ankle injury, and LB Vontaze Burfict coming back fit and dominant after his three-game suspension. In the end, I think Carolina survives the fact they did nothing this offseason to improve the offensive line simply because all the elite pass rushers are in the AFC (with the exception of Seattle, which has bigger problems on its own offensive line).
Kaplan: Cardinals 28, Steelers 24. The best offense in football (Pittsburgh) has made enough improvements in the front seven to go deep in the playoffs. But Arizona has too much talent, and the right coach, to beat anyone.
Rohan: Cardinals 35, Steelers 28. The Cardinals’ innovative defense – led by Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Deone Bucannon – slows Big Ben and Antonio Brown just enough. Carson Palmer redeems himself from last year’s playoff dud. Brown gets two touchdowns anyway, and Ryan Shazier gets three sacks, but Palmers throws four touchdowns to four different receivers. John Brown scores the winning touchdown in a close one. How’s that for a pick?
Benoit: Pittsburgh 31, Green Bay 27. Pittsburgh has the most explosive offense in the NFL, even without Martavis Bryant. And that defense is schematically complex and full of young players reaching their primes. The Packers have all of their weapons back and should be able to regain the identity that they lost in 2015.
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