NFL Predictions: Playoff Picks, Super Bowl LII Winner, Awards and More

1:37 | NFL
NFL Season Preview in 97 Seconds
Tuesday September 5th, 2017

Before the new season kicks off on Thursday, with the Chiefs heading to Foxborough to take on the reigning Super Bowl champions in the first game of 2017, the writers of The MMQB peer into the crystal ball and make their playoff predictions and awards picks for the 2017 season.​

Who will claim the title of the NFL’s most valuable player? Which rookie players will emerge above the rest? Which two teams will be squaring off at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in February, and who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy? Read on...

Ben Baskin

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: T.J. Watt, LB, Steelers
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin, Steelers

It seems almost like a foregone conclusion that the Patriots will be back in the Super Bowl this year. But it also feels like not only will the Packers’ defense be improved, but the offense will be unstoppable. Aaron Rodgers should put up numbers similar to his 2011 season, when he was at his most ridiculous best, which will carry him to his second Super Bowl, catapulting him to the higher echelon of quarterbacks where he belongs. David Johnson will be the third player in NFL history to join the 1,000-1,000 club. Joey Bosa, with a full training camp and full season, will continue to be a beast. Christian McCaffrey will be among the most versatile weapons in the NFL, as long as Cam Newton figures out how to use him. And the Watt Brothers will reign terror on opposing quarterbacks.

Andy Benoit

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year: Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller, LB, Broncos
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Browns
Comeback Player of the Year: Casey Kreiter, LS, Broncos
Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer, Vikings

I searched for the courage to not pick the Patriots, but intellectual honesty kept getting in the way. A team that went 17–2 a year ago has gotten not just better, but markedly better. And on both sides of the ball! Future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski is now healthy, and electrifying ex-Saints receiver Brandin Cooks is aboard. There are more capable running backs on the roster than in the entire Central Time Zone—at least, that’s how it seems. The defense, which gave up the fewest points in the league last year, added a stud corner, Stephon Gilmore. And, of course, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still live.

Greg Bishop

MVP: Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller, LB, Broncos
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jamal Adams, S, Jets
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio, Raiders

It’s hard to bet against the Patriots in the AFC but here we are. I like Oakland—it has an MVP-candidate in quarterback Derek Carr, one of the best young wideouts in the league in Amari Cooper, a great tandem in Cooper/Michael Crabtree, Beast Mode in the back field, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and several playmakers on defense. This season, they end New England’s reign. In the NFC, I could see any of the four teams I picked to win divisions making the Super Bowl. I bet against Atlanta because of how the team lost the last Super Bowl, and I don’t have confidence in Dallas’s defense or Seattle’s offensive line. So the Packers are my pick there, because, Aaron Rodgers. I like Oakland in that Super Bowl matchup because the Raiders have the better, more complete team.

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Albert Breer

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Cardinals
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Derek Barnett, DE, Eagles
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Coach of the Year: Mike Mularkey, Titans

I should have known better than to pick a guy coming off ACL surgery for Defensive Player of the Year last September. I should have known all along that THIS was the year—in his second season after surgery—to pick the Honey Badger to be the sport’s best player on his side of the ball. So consider this my mulligan. If Mathieu’s preseason is any indication, and with a juiced-up Cardinals’ pass rush in place, big things should be ahead for Arizona’s 25-year-old hybrid superstar-in-waiting. Kinda forgot about him last year, did you? That’s on you. You’ll see where this is going.

Chris Burke

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Browns
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Chiefs

I stared at my picks for a long time, because I was uncomfortable laying the chalk through the Super Bowl but ... well, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC and, given the competition level in their division, probably will have home-field throughout the playoffs. And the Packers, honestly, weren't even that good last season and still reached the conference-title game. Now that they’ve improved their roster, they have to be among the NFC favorites. To me, though, that conference is far more wide open than the AFC. I could see any of at least eight NFC teams reaching the Super Bowl (Green Bay, Dallas, Seattle, Arizona, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, maybe even one or two others); the AFC race, to me, looks like it really boils down to New England, Pittsburgh and whichever teams come out of the AFC West.

Jacob Feldman

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Offensive Player of the Year: Roethlisberger
Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Derek Barnett, DE, Eagles
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Coach of the Year: Dan Quinn, Falcons

What hangover? Atlanta’s young defense will come closer to matching the team’s still-dominant offense this year, and a manageable schedule (featuring the top-heavy NFC North and AFC East) will help the Falcons secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 2016 Pats were only the second preseason favorites this century to wind up holding the Lombardi. So even if a repeat feels predestined, it’s not—especially if the Steelers’ playmakers can stay on the field into January for the first time since 2013. In the most offensively loaded Super Bowl ever, the Falcons prevail because, well, because they deserve it after what happened last year.

Jonathan Jones

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Offensive Player of the Year: Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Browns
Comeback Player of the Year: Desmond Trufant, CB, Falcons
​​Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy, Packers

I kept my playoff picks as close as I possibly could to my comprehensive 32-team predictions from the spring. I took the Bengals over the Ravens because of the uncertainty regarding Joe Flacco’s health. And though I think the Cowboys are better than the Giants, they are not without Ezekiel Elliott or any pass rush for an extended period of time. Picking a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl isn’t exactly innovative, but I don’t care—though I really wanted to pick a Steelers’ upset in the AFC title game rematch. I think McCarthy finally gets his due as a “highly successful NFL coach” without having to say it himself. Mike Evans improves for a fourth-straight year with the help of speedster DeSean Jackson clearing out the defense. And Desmond Trufant returns to his island form for a Falcons’ secondary that really could have used him in February.

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Peter King

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Reuben Foster, LB, 49ers
Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
Coach of the Year: Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers

On the afternoon of the 2017 first round of the draft, I was with 49ers brass in general manager John Lynch’s office. They told me that if they could not get Solomon Thomas with their first pick, the third overall, they were going to take a linebacker from Alabama, Reuben Foster. I was slightly incredulous because Foster's stock had fallen because of injury concerns. The 49ers didn’t care—their doctors liked him, and Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan loved him. He has done nothing to tarnish that love in the last six weeks since putting on pads. I think he is going to become an excellent centerpiece to their rising defense.

Tim Rohan

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Browns
Comeback Player of the Year: Watt
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots

Imagine a world where the mantra in the Gatorade commercial came true, where all the talk about the Falcons putting last season’s Super Bowl collapse behind them actually worked. The Falcons’ defense gets another year of experience, another year of maturity. Matt Ryan leads the offense to another prolific season. Dan Quinn guides the Falcons back to the mountaintop, just like how the Spurs returned to the Finals a year after Ray Allen’s dagger three-pointer. But this time, the Falcons …  lose again at the hands of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The Patriots’ dynasty won three rings from 2001–04. They complete the set, adding three more from 2014–17.

Jenny Vrentas

MVP: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Browns
Comeback Player of the Year: J.J. Watt

Yes, this Super Bowl pick was made even after Julian Edelman’s season-ending injury. The versatile receiver has of course been a huge part of the Patriots’ offense—look no further than the unit’s drop in productivity when he missed half of the 2015 season with a broken foot—but New England’s current roster is deeper and has many more options to replace Edelman than that team did. The Patriots loaded up for a run this offseason, which is crazy to say for a team that just won the Super Bowl, but they, almost uncharacteristically, spent resources to add talent on both offense and defense. It’s a bold statement to say in the NFL, but it feels more likely that they repeat than not. 

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