Who would have thought that Bruce Arians––Indianapolis’ offensive coordinator at the beginning of the 2012 season––would have won Coach of the Year last season, as an interim coach? How about Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers leading the league in tackles (164) on his way to capturing the 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year award?
That’s the beauty of the game of football. You can predict all you want but once the season kicks off in September, anything can happen. I think that’s how the term “Any Given Sunday” came about.
Of course that still isn’t going to prevent us from predicting how the season will play out, so here’s All-Out Blitz’s Regular Season Award-winners:
Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning, Broncos
I promise you this has nothing to do with Manning’s career-high and NFL record (tied) seven touchdown passes in Thursday night’s opening victory over the defending champion Baltimore Ravens. It certainly helps his case, but we had Manning winning MVP prior to all of this. With Wes Welker arriving in Denver to complement on-the-rise wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, coupled with Manning’s arm being much stronger than last season, we have an MVP-favorite.
Offensive Player of the Year: Dez Bryant, Cowboys
I’m one of the many Bryant believers out there. With Dallas’ offense stronger than it has been in years, and Bryant breaking out for a career-year in 2012 (92 catches, 1,382 yards, 12 TD) in 14 starts for the ‘Boys, it’s safe to say Bryant is finally a force to be reckoned with. Not only will he emerge as a top three wideout, but he could end up being the factor that puts Dallas over the top (and into the postseason) and even beat out the league’s most dangerous receiver in Calvin Johnson Jr.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brian Cushing, Texans
Two Texans winning back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year awards (J.J. Watt was 2012’s winner)? Yes, it’s definitely possible. Without Cushing in the lineup for 11 games last season, Houston didn’t do much other than win the AFC South title and fall just 13 points shy of the AFC Championship game. No big deal, right? Houston benefits greatly from Cushing’s return, but I think Cushing may be the biggest benefactor in being surrounded by such a talented defense.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy, Packers
Everyone else seems to be leaning towards explosive receiver Tavon Austin in St. Louis or Buffalo’s new starting quarterback E.J. Manuel. The two first-rounders are safe picks, and have the most upside among the rookie offensive skill players, but the second-round RB Lacy will start off as Green Bay’s No. 1 back, used as a three-down back and should get quite a bit of red zone work as well. Lacy is the key to Green Bay establishing a two-dimensional offense, and could set up the play-action pass for Aaron Rodgers and his receivers very nicely. Lacy will break 1,000 yards and could come close to reaching double-digit TDs.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Manti Te’o, Chargers
Last season’s Heisman runner-up from Notre Dame fell out of the first round of the draft because he’s undersized and slow for his position at inside linebacker. But the thing with Te’o is he has already fit in with the Chargers and earned respect from his veteran teammates, and his work ethic and drive makes up for his lack of size at linebacker. Te’o is a playmaker and will end up being a steal for San Diego in the second round. Te’o could very well end up leading the Chargers in tackles and pick off a couple of passes during his 2013 rookie campaign on his way to winning the DROY award.
Coach of the Year: Marvin Lewis, Bengals
People seem to forget that Lewis’ Bengals have been to two consecutive postseasons while sharing a division with the Ravens and Steelers, with a young Andy Dalton quarterbacking the offense. This is Cincinnati’s season to step up and beat out big brothers Baltimore and Pittsburgh and capture the AFC North title. As a result of this, Lewis will win Coach of the Year and possibly even win the first playoff game of his head coaching career.
Comeback Player of the Year: Brian Cushing, Texans
Well, I already explained how great of a season I see Cushing having in Houston’s stout defense. I also already mentioned that he started just five games last season due to a torn ACL. We’ve all seen how well players come back from ACL tears (i.e. Adrian Peterson, and possibly Robert Griffin III this season), so that doesn’t concern me when it comes to Cushing.