2015 NFL Awards: Who Wins MVP and More
The 2015 NFL season is quickly winding down, as week 16 is just about in the books as this is being written. The Carolina Panthers won’t be going undefeated, we still don’t know which running back will take down the league’s rushing title and the top overall seed has yet to be decided in the AFC.
Needless to say, the story of the 2015 NFL season is far from written. The actual regular season is almost over, though, and it’s extremely unlikely anyone can change their stars with just one more week to go. In other words, if you’re not sure who wins each award in your mind yet, you may never be. Either way, we’re here to help as we take a look at every major award and pick our winner for 2015:
MVP – Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
It has to be Cam. I know he and the Panthers came out flat in week 16 and didn’t get to 14-0, but for the entire year they’ve held the league’s best record and have found a way to win countless games in about every way possible. It’s true that the first half of their schedule wasn’t that tough, but they’ve earned some quality wins and have been fairly impressive in some hostile environments on the road. They weren’t truly perfect even when winning, but they were as good as they were 100% because of how Cam Newton picked up a would-be lifeless offense that lost star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin before the start of the season due to a torn ACL.
As good as Carolina’s vaunted defense is, it’s come up short several times in 2015 and Cam ended up bailing them out. That’s led to a ridiculous three five-touchdown outings and a career high 33 touchdown passes up against just 10 picks. Newton has been a menace as a rusher, too, piling on over 500 rushing yards for the fifth straight season, including seven scores with his legs. You can absolutely make a very strong case for guys like Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, but Newton has been the more versatile player and has been asked to turn in several clutch efforts. Aside from week 16, he responded every single time and in all actuality, probably earned this award weeks ago.
Offensive Player of the Year – Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
When you think of offensive player, it’s generally all about who had the best statistical season and how that played into their team’s success. I think Brady wins this one three-fold, as his numbers are amazing in any world, but he’s also achieved them despite missing a ton of weapons at different spots in the year and also has put these digits up during a sick 12-3 run. Throw in the distraction of #deflategate this summer, and his 36 touchdowns to just seven picks are even more impressive. His 36 passing scores pace the entire league, while his 4,636 passing yards are also tops in the NFL. I can hear cases for Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, as they’ve both topped 120 receptions and have been total beasts. Jones is on a losing team and Brown’s effectiveness went way down when Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t healthy, however. Neither was the case with Brady, who has lit up the league all year, no matter the situation he’s found himself in. He might fall just short of the MVP trophy, but he deserves to be the OPOY.
Defensive Player of the Year – J.J. Watt, DL, Houston Texans
I hate to make the easy call, as Oakland pass rusher Khalil Mack even currently has more sacks, but what defensive player in the league has a bigger impact for his team? It’s Watt, hands down, as he’s countlessly double-covered at the line and when he does find a way to get free, he’s stopping a running back, swatting down a pass or getting one of his 14.5 sacks (second in the league). His efforts also haven’t been in vain, as the Texans were 2-5 and left for dead, but Watt never quite and fueled a revitalized Houston defense to spear a huge turn around that likely will ultimately lead to a Houston playoff trip via winning the AFC South crown.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams
Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Amari Cooper are all in the running this year, as I don’t know if one guy for sure is the head and shoulders leader above the rest of the top rookies. If there is one, however, it has to be Gurley. Winston rebounded quite nicely from a horrific pro debut and even had his Bucs in playoff contention late in the year. Mariota flashed some franchise quarterback potential, but fizzled down the stretch and even bowed out early with a knee injury. Amari Cooper burst onto the scene as an elite play-maker, but struggled against tougher matchups and like Mariota and Winston, couldn’t find his way into the playoffs. Neither did Gurley, but by comparison, his trek through the NFL in his first go around was more impressive.
Not only was Gurley fresh off of a torn ACL that he sustained the year before in college, but he did his damage in fewer games, having sat out the first two games of the year. Add in spending the entire year with shaky quarterback play and an inconsistent o-line ahead of him, and it’s truly unreal that Gurley has found himself as the league’s #3 rusher in terms of yardage on the ground. He’s also been a productive scorer despite the limitations around him, as he’s found the end-zone nine times on the ground (third in the league). There are arguments for other rookies, but taking everything into consideration, Gurley has earned this award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
Peters has been a total machine in his first year in the league, picking off a league-leading eight interceptions while helping the Chiefs to a dramatic turn around. After an ugly 1-5 start, the Chiefs have leaned on a balanced offense and an elite defense to win nine straight. Heading into week 17, they’ll potentially have a shot at winning the AFC West, and their play-making rookie defensive back is a big reason why. There have definitely been some other rookies that have made solid impacts or even have impressive stats, but leading the league in picks while helping his team to a potential playoff spot seems to be untouchable when it comes to the race for DROY.
Coach of the Year – Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers)
Riverboat Ron was on the hot seat just a year ago, yet he’s pieced together a third straight playoff appearance, as well as a third straight NFC South division title. It helps that his division is largely trash, but no one can scoff at the job Rivera has done with a 14-1 Panthers crew that lost their top wide receiver before the season even started. Record has a lot to do with winning COY most years, but Rivera has led this team to numerous tight wins and has also battled through obvious adversity – especially on the offensive side of the football. Through it all, Rivera has remained true to his philosophy and the Panthers have enjoyed their best season in franchise history. With the first round bye and #1 overall seed in the NFC likely wrapped up, Rivera could be primed to lead these Panthers to even greater heights in the playoffs.
Comeback Player of the Year – Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Let’s make this one quick and easy. The Cardinals felt what it was like to not have a stable quarterback before they ever traded for Palmer, and after losing him to a torn ACL last year, they sadly felt it again. Not only did Palmer restore faith in the organization and return from a brutal knee injury, but he ended up putting up arguably his best season ever as a pro. His 4,200+ passing yards and 32 passing scores are so good that he’s a viable MVP candidate, but when you consider the Cardinals are one of the best teams in the league at 13-2 and he’s coming off a knee injury, it’s infinitely more impressive. There are a few other guys who have bounced back from injuries or stormed back from off field issues, but in reality, no one comes remotely close.