2018 NFL predictions: Drew Brees has MVP season, Browns end named Defensive Player of the Year
Plus picks for Rookies of the Year, breakout player, hot coach and GM candidates and more
Earlier this week I regaled you guys with. Now, less than a week away from the start of football games that actually count in the standings, I figured I'd give my best guess at how I believe some individual awards will go down.
Obviously, injuries will invariably through a wrench into all of this, but I'll give it my best shot anyway.
MVP: Drew Brees
I am tempted as always to put Tom Brady here, but I believe the Brady bar has been set so impossibly high, and the cast around him this year is so suspect, that I opted to go with a different older QB instead. Brees is in line to become the most prolific passer in NFL history this season, and his team will be watched closely each week with the Super Bowl hopes surrounding the Saints. If Brees can run through the gauntlet of the NFC South and emerge on top, I see him grabbing some hardware along the way.
Offensive Player of the Year: Philip Rivers
Wouldn't it be kinda quirky if the QB whose arrival in San Diego led to the end of Brees's time in that former NFL city ended up pushing him for the MVP? You could always slot Brady or Aaron Rodgers here as well, but I believe the Chargers could be the class of the AFC, and I love the talent on that roster. If Rivers can cut down on the multi-pick games (they tend to come in bunches with him) just a bit, I could see some prolific things in the immediate future. I'd feel better about this choice if Hunter Henry wasn't already lost for the season, but I'm rolling the dice anyway.
Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Garrett
I may be jumping the gun by a year or two, but better to be early than late. This kid is going to tear up the league, and I like the group of guys around him in Cleveland. I also have reservations about several of the offensive lines he will face (I mean, feast on). So I am riding a hunch here. Von Miller, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey all will make a case for this, but I could see Garrett leading the NFL in sacks and taking a massive leap forward as one of the game's elite disrupters.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: D.J. Moore
He is a plug-and-play playmaker in what I anticipate will be a dynamic offense in Carolina. He is learning three receiver positions on the fly, so his speed of thought will have to catch up to his speed of play, but I don't think it will take very long. Cam Newton already trusts him, and he can be explosive in the slot and on the outside and will see plenty of run-after-the-catch with him, too.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Bradley Chubb
Sometimes you don't have to overthink it. He immediately pairs with Von Miller to add to an already fearsome Denver front. He is learning with the best and from the best, and you can't double team everybody. The best pass rusher in the draft lands in the ideal spot. Yeah, sign me up for that.
Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan
I am buying the 49ers as a much improved football team and one that will make leaps and bounds. And much of it will have to do with the synergy between Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Recall Shanahan's second season with Matt Ryan and the MVP accolades that came with it. I don't see Jimmy G winning MVP, but I do see very prolific things ahead and when you factor in just how broken this franchise was in the aftermath of the Jim Harbaugh/Jim Tomsula/Trent Baalke implosion(s), if a coach this young can quickly navigate his way out of that, people will notice in a big way.
Breakout Player: Patrick Mahomes
He technically isn't a rookie after being on the Chiefs all season in 2017, and he won't be making his first NFL start this season either, after running the Kansas City offense in Week 17 a year ago. But this will be his first Week 1 start, and he is going to immediately begin making eye-popping plays in Andy Reid's offense. He's going to throw a bunch of picks, too, and he's going to need to put up 28 points or more a lot of weeks given the state of the Chiefs' defense, but the good is going to far outweigh the bad for the future franchise quarterback.
Breakdown Player: Adrian Peterson
This will finally be the end. One big preseason game is nice and all, but this is a marathon and a grind. Old running backs don't age gracefully. I have a hard time believing so many teams were wrong in their evaluation of him, and I suspect that by midseason he is no longer seeing regular work. I also worry about Rob Gronkowski staying healthy another year, and there are plenty of execs around the NFL who believe J.J. Watt's days of being an elite defender are behind him after all of the devastating injuries he has suffered.
Coordinator of the Year: John DeFilippo
Sure, he had some great toys to play with in Philadelphia a year ago, but this cast in Minnesota might be better. Kirk Cousins is under scrutiny with his fully-guaranteed $84 million contract, but he will thrive in this offense. The Vikings have more weapons than they need, frankly, and should actually be better running the football this season. This looks like a great fit to me, and with a stingy defense behind him this group can afford to take some chances and get creative. Flip may not be long for Minny -- he landed on several head coaching lists a year ago -- if this season goes as well as I believe it will.
Next hot head coach candidate: Jim Schwartz
I was fairly surprised he did not get more traction on the interview circuit a year ago after a Super Bowl victory (albeit one in which his defense suffered at the hands of Brady), and I can't see that being the case again this season. He has prior head-coaching experience and actually got the Lions to the playoffs. He has a sharp, analytical mind and would seem ideal to any number of young GM types looking for a forward-thinking coach. And while I don't think the Eagles repeat, I do believe they get to the playoffs and the defense shines along the way.
Next hot GM candidate: Joe Douglas
Eagles GM Howie Roseman knows his right-hand man is at the top of many GM search lists, and he knows that with all of the success this franchise has had comes some serious brain drain. A year ago he lost trusted coaches Frank Reich and DeFilippo, and Douglas stands out at a time when the field of top young execs has already been picked through. He learned from a decidedly old-school GM in Baltimore (Ozzie Newsome) and now has spent years with Roseman (on the other end of the analytic spectrum) and has three Super Bowl rings on his resume. That's instant credibility that owners can't resist.
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