NFL Honors 2017: Predictions for Each Award

Predictions for each award that will be handed out on Saturday, Feb. 4 at NFL Honors 2017

The 2016-17 NFL season comes to a close on Sunday night with Super Bowl LI taking center stage. On Saturday night, though, Houston will also play host to the sixth-annual NFL Honors show with NFL Honors 2017. For the night, 16 awards will be handed out at the event with Keegan Michael-Key hosting the proceedings.

Among the many awards handed out at NFL Honors 2017, the most notable are the seven awards from the Associated Press. From the AP Most Valuable Player to AP Coach of the Year, the most widely accepted awards will be handed out throughout Saturday night.

Some of the awards may feel like they’re already decided heading into the NFL Honors ceremony, but others are certainly a bit tougher to call. Regardless of level of difficulty, though, we’ll try to forecast what’s going to happen on the night.

Starting with Comeback Player of the Year, here are the predictions for the major awards at NFL Honors on Saturday from Houston.

Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) celebrate their touchdown connection in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports

Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) celebrate their touchdown connection in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports

Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR – Green Bay Packers

Jordy Nelson missed the entirety of the 2015 season due to a torn ACL and the Green Bay Packers offense suffered. Yes, Aaron Rodgers was still great, but they weren’t the unit that they had been before. At 31 years old, Nelson was able to return for 2016, though, and didn’t miss a beat in terms of his production on the season in Green Bay.

Nelson caught 97 of his 152 targets on the season for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year. While those raw numbers are impressive in their own right, that doesn’t even speak to the fact of how he got those numbers. Prior to the knee injury, the wideout was a pure deep threat with secondary route-running ability. Due to age and the injury, though, that wasn’t the case in the 2016 season.

Instead, Nelson in essence had to re-invent himself and did so wonderfully. He remained Rodgers’ most trusted and productive target and a key cog in the offense. For him to not only come back from such a serious injury and play so well, but to also do it in essentially a different way than he’d ever had to play before makes this award an easy call to kick off our predictions for NFL Honors.

Now let’s move on to a Buckeye-dominated rookie class.

Jan 1, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz (71) reacts to the rush of San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) during the first half of the game at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chiefs won 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz (71) reacts to the rush of San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) during the first half of the game at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chiefs won 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa, DE – San Diego Chargers

Frankly, the race for the Rookie of the Year on both sides of the ball is so decided at this point that there is no need to have a drawn out discussion about other candidates. Jalen Ramsey was great and guys like Keanu Neal played well, but San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa was far more dominant than any other first-year player on that side of the ball.

Just in terms of his raw numbers, Bosa was absolutely phenomenal in his first year with the Chargers. Despite not even playing the full season due to early-year injuries, Bosa still finished with 41 combined tackles, one forced fumble and a ridiculous 10.5 sacks on the year. Those sack numbers are great alone, but pale in comparison to his pressure rate and how often he affected plays even when he didn’t get the sack. He’s the next great at the position and should take the award with ease.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB – Dallas Cowboys

Much like Bosa’s dominance on the defensive side of the ball, Ezekiel Elliott was delivering the same type of performance on offense. This is so much so the case that the only player with a real case for Offensive Rookie of the Year beyond Elliott is his own teammate: quarterback Dak Prescott. However, Elliott gets the nod over him for the award.

In his first NFL season, the Ohio State standout led the league in rushing with 1,631 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. For good measure, he also added 32 receptions for 363 yards and another additional score. Most impressive of all, he did all of this while starting slow through two games and then sitting out Week 17. Without a doubt, Elliott is the Offensive Rookie of the Year and by a comfortable margin.

Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) celebrates a sack in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons defeated the Broncos 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley (44) celebrates a sack in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons defeated the Broncos 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley, LB – Atlanta Falcons

Perhaps the closest race that will be decided at NFL Honors 2017 will be that of Defensive Player of the Year. It’s certainly not due to a lack of performance—though it might be due to J.J. Watt not being healthy this season. Rather, the close race is because there were a number of player that put forth award-worthy efforts throughout the entire season. Therefore, a number of guys could justifiably take home DPOY.

Khalil Mack for the Oakland Raiders started off the year slow, but came on strong as the Raiders made their strong push as contenders prior to the Derek Carr injury. What’s more, Landon Collins was the anchor for the impressively turned-around New York Giants defense, making plays more often than not. Von Miller was the force he has been for some time with the Denver Broncos as well. For my money, Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald was the best defensive player in the league. However, Vic Beasley of the Atlanta Falcons still wins the award.

While things like team success normally only influence MVP, the perception of this Rams team seems like it may ultimately kill Donald’s chances. The team was horrible and their approval rating was even worse. Subsequently, defaulting then to the NFL sacks leader and one of the best breakout edge rushers in the league—for a team that won their division and made it to the Super Bowl—as the winners seems like the safer prediction.

NFL Honors 2017

Nov 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for yards in the first quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB – Arizona Cardinals

There’s a viable chance that Ezekiel Elliott could sweep Offensive Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the year at NFL Honors 2017. He was that impressive this season and put forth that type of effort, as we’ve already discussed. What’s more, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Le’Veon Bell all have a strong case to be made in regards to their candidacy for this award.

With that being said, it would be a travesty to see Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson be effectively robbed of the award he truthfully deserves.  Johnson broke out in his rookie season once finally given the opportunity. Subsequently, many fans were excited to see what he and the Cardinals would do in 2016. While the team as a whole disappointed tremendously, the sophomore back out of Northern Iowa did nothing of the sort as he was the lone consistent bright spot of possibly the entire Arizona roster.

Playing in all 16 games, Johnson finished the year with 1,239 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. While impressive in its own right, it’s incredible when also considering that the budding Cardinals star also amassed 879 yards receiving on 80 catches for the season, finding paydirt four more times as well. Perhaps most impressive in all of this was that he managed to be this productive and dangerous while running behind an offensive line that was deserving of little praise throughout the year. Johnson became a star this season and no other offensive player is more deserving of this award than he.

Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett celebrates a touchdown with running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett celebrates a touchdown with running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys

This might be the best race for AP Coach of the Year in recent memory. There are always qualified coaches who find success and deserve consideration for the honor. However, this season featured so many coaches facing adversity in a number of forms and overcoming that to have tremendous overall success on the year.

Bill Belichick and Dan Quinn, ahead of their Super Bowl LI matchup, both certainly qualify in this regard. The New England Patriots head coach started the first four games without Tom Brady and managed to go 3-1 before then wreaking havoc with Touchdown Tom. Quinn, on the other hand, faced intense scrutiny after his team’s collapse last season and answered it by winning the NFC South, despite key defensive injuries that occurred throughout the year.

Meanwhile, there are other coaches such as Jack Del Rio of the Oakland Raiders and Mike Mularkey of the Tennessee Titans that are equally deserving of the award after turning their respective teams around drastically from 2015 to 2016. However, there was no coach who did a more impressive job given the circumstances of the season than Jason Garrett with the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes, they were always going to have an elite offensive line in Dallas. However, Garrett saw Tony Romo go down again in the preseason and was forced to turn to a fourth-round rookie to lead the offense. As we all know, Dak Prescott took up the mantle as the starter and never relinquished it. While much of that is due to the rookie signal-caller simply being a great talent, Garrett deserves more than a pat on the back as well.

Even with that adversity and with a expectedly lackluster overall defense that was riddled with injuries, the Cowboys still went 13-3 and won the NFC East. This came after the team went 4-12 the previous season due to an injury to Romo. What more does Garrett have to do to get Coach of the Year?

Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) rolls out to pass against the San Diego Chargers in overtime at the Georgia Dome. The Chargers defeated the Falcons 33-30 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) rolls out to pass against the San Diego Chargers in overtime at the Georgia Dome. The Chargers defeated the Falcons 33-30 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

NFL MVP: Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons

If Tom Brady had played 16 games or maybe just 15, this award would be his. The fire, proficiency, and efficiency that he displayed upon his return from his Deflategate suspension was unparalleled in the league. 28 touchdowns to just two interceptions are numbers you see in Madden—not in the actual NFL. However, MVP shouldn’t go to a player who isn’t on the field for the full 16-game season. That’s why it should ultimately fall to his Super Bowl LI adversary, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

As great as Brady was for his 12 games on the field, Ryan may have been just as good for the entirety of the year. Ryan finished the season with a 69.9 percent completion rate, 38 touchdown passes, a mere seven interceptions, and just shy of 5,000 yards (4,944 to be precise). The success he led his team and offense to are obvious as they prepare to take the field in Houston on Sunday. However, even that fails to fully encapsulate the consistent and masterful effort that Ryan displayed in the 2016 season.

Throughout the year, Ryan threw for under 250 yards in a game just twice. What’s more, he didn’t have a single game with multiple interceptions. The most impressive thing about Ryan and the Falcons offense, however, was the versatility of the attack. Ryan’s 38 touchdown throws went to 13 different receivers, a number that’s simply absurd but that also displays just how locked in Ryan was for the year.

Despite coming off of a disappointing season that left many questioning the 31-year-old’s future in Atlanta, he was the picture of an elite quarterback, perhaps for the first time in his career with the Falcons. He’s the league’s MVP as he did it from start-to-finish in 2016 and now has his team in the Super Bowl as further proof of that.

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