2012 NFL Postseason Award Predictions

Yesterday evening prior to kickoff I laid out where I believed each team would finish for the 2012-13 NFL Season.   Dallas impressed last night and only verified where I believe they are as a team and that they will move ahead of the Giants in the NFC East.  Today we look at individual players and see what the postseason award picture will look like.  While I knew all of these picks on Tuesday, this is my first chance to write them down.  Last night’s game solidified my belief in one of my picks.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – 

Doug Martin, RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

More often than not, the offensive rookie of the year has been a running back.  While we’ve had a few young quarterbacks receive the award in recent years, I foresee a return to the running back trend.   The Boise State product has great vision and is a threat running the ball as well as catching out of the backfield.  He has already secured a starting position on a talented roster that considers itself a playoff team this year.  While I don’t see Tampa making their playoff return quite yet, I’m expecting great things from Martin.

Others that will be considered: Andrew Luck, QB – Indianapolis Colts, Robert Griffin III, QB – Washington Redskins, Trent Richardson, RB – Cleveland Browns, Kendall Wright, WR – Tennessee Titans, Alshon Jeffrey, WR – Chicago Bears, Coby Fleener, TE – Indianapolis Colts, & Matt Kalil, OT – Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Rookie of the Year –

Luke Kuechly, LB – Carolina Panthers

Going into this year’s draft, I thought that – outside of Vikings OT Matt Kalil – Kuechly was the rookie most prepared for the NFL.  The young star from Boston College has great vision and leadership qualities and he has been thrust into a talented defense that fits his talents perfectly.  I am a big believer that linebacker is the easiest defensive position for a rookie to have success in and I believe that given his talent, situation, and position that Kuechly will be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this season.
Others that will be considered: Morris Claiborne, CB – Dallas Cowboys; Harrison Smith, S – Minnesota Vikings; Stephon Gilmore, CB – Buffalo Bills;  Janorris Jenkins, CB – St. Louis Rams; Mychal Kendricks, LB – Philadelphia Eagles; Dont’a Hightower, LB – Houston Texans; & Fletcher Cox, DT – Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive Player of the Year –

Arian Foster, RB – Houston Texans

There is a very good reason that most fantasy football experts listed Foster at the top of their draft boards this season.   It is because, in my opinion, the Houston Texans are the most talented and most complete team in the NFL.  On a team that I expect to have the NFL’s best regular season record in 2012, Foster is the best player.   He is a threat on the ground and in the receiving game.  If he can stay healthy, I fully expect Foster to eclipse the 2,000 all-purpose yards mark.

Others that will be considered: Calvin Johnson, WR – Detroit Lions; Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore Ravens; Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers; Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans; Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots; & Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons

Defensive Player of the Year –

DeMarcus Ware, LB – Dallas Cowboys

Last year I mentioned on multiple occasions that I believed 2011 would finally be the year that Jared Allen broke through and won his 1st NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after being such a force for so many years in the League (and let’s face it – not giving the award to Allen was a travesty).  Well this year I believe that Ware will finally get his due.  I see Ware getting a minimum of 15.5 sacks this year (and last night’s 2 sack performance making him the 2nd fastest player ever to record 100 sacks) doesn’t hurt matters.  I believe that Dallas wins the East this year and Ware is going to be a big part of that.
Others that will be considered: Jared Allen, DE – Minnesota Vikings;  Aldon Smith, OLB – San Francisco 49ers; Von Miller, LB – Denver Broncos; J.J. Watt, DL – Houston Texans; Patrick Willis, LB – San Francisco 49ers; Patrick Peterson, CB – Arizona Cardinals; & Mario Williams, OLB – Buffalo Bills

 NFL MVP –

Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers

Only two quarterbacks have ever won back-to-back MVP awards, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, but there is no reason to believe that Rodgers can’t duplicate this feat.   The Packers were far and away the best offense in the NFL last season but at the same time, if something were to happen to Rodgers, the Packers would fall off pretty drastically.  I really believe the Packers without Rodgers would be close to the 2011 Colts without Manning.  The Packers figure to be in the thick of things this year and it’s Aaron Rodgers who is going to get them there.

Others that will be considered: Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots; Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans; Arian Foster, RB – Houston Texans; Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons; Tony Romo, QB – Dallas Cowboys; & Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore Ravens

Comeback Player of the Year –

Peyton Manning, QB – Denver Broncos

I’m more than aware that this is an extremely popular pick for this award and while I gave it a lot of thought I came to the conclusion (that like Brett Favre when he went to the Vikings) you can never count Peyton Manning out.   I find it so hard to pick against Peyton Manning that I chose the Broncos to get into the postseason over the Steelers, Bengals, Jets, Chargers, Titans, & Raiders.  There are concerns now but Peyton Manning is going to make Demaryius Thomas & Eric Decker into household names.  After everything he has gone through if he can get the Broncos to the playoffs there is no doubt this award will belong to him.

Others that will be considered: Randy Moss, WR – San Francisco 49ers; Eric Berry, S – Kansas City Chiefs; Jamaal Charles, RB – Kansas City Chiefs; Adrian Peterson, RB – Minnesota Vikings; & Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans

Coach of the Year –

Romeo Crennel – Kansas City Chiefs

Now if the carousel of New Orleans Saints coaches can get that team to the playoffs they may be considered but let’s look at the facts: the NFL loves to give this award to rookie head coaches who have success.  Secondly, a team either has to be extremely dominant or go from worst to first (a la a San Francisco 49ers transformation) for a coach to get this award.  While this is Crennel’s 2nd go-around as a head coach, I believe that he will win.  His team finished in last place in the AFC West last year (though they only finished a game behind champion Denver) and the roster is much improved.  On top of that this team is getting Matt Cassel, Tony Moeak, Jamaal Charles, and Eric Berry all back from injury.  I believe that the Chiefs can make some noise in the AFC this year and when they do, Romeo will receive his first Coach of the Year award.

Others that will be considered: Gary Kubiak – Houston Texans; Chan Gailey – Buffalo Bills; Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks; Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys; Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers; & Mike Smith – Atlanta Falcons

Executive of the Year –

John Elway, Executive VP of Football Operations – Denver Broncos

Let’s look at everything this guy has done in the last two years.  He took a team that had the #2 overall pick in last year’s draft and got them to the playoffs by playing a running back at QB.   That player started a media blitz that could fill the hole in ESPN programming left behind by Brett Favre’s 17th retirement.  In the process that running back turned QB became the most popular athlete in the Mile High City since well… John Elway.  And then Elway was actually cheered for shipping that QB off to New York (ask the Nuggets how hard it is to ship a beloved Denver athlete to New York) because he brought in the man who in my estimation will one day be, statistically, the best QB of all-time.   He had another great draft and surrounded Manning with young and veteran talent alike.  If the Broncos get back to the playoffs, there is no doubt that Elway should be the Executive of the Year.

Others that will be considered: Ryan Grigson, GM – Indianapolis Colts; John Schneider, GM – Seattle Seahawks; & Les Snead, GM – St. Louis Rams

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The Cafe 101: The 1st Course

Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

Imagine there’s a sports heaven;
It’s easy if you try.
Where sports’ greatest legends
Depart to when they die.

Imagine all the athletes, of past and present day.

Now imagine a Cafe;
It’s not that hard to do.
There’s only 101 tables;
It’s open to a select few.

Imagine all the athletes, hoping to get a seat.

You may say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Deciding the greatest athletes by number;
Who get to enter the Cafe 101.

Imagine this sports paradise and the Cafe 101 is the most exclusive of restaurants in sports heaven.  There are only 101 tables with each numbered table being given to the greatest athlete to don that number.   Who would get the table, who would just miss out? Who would at least be worthy of placing on a waiting list?

It’s time to introduce the first four members of the athletic afterlife’s most exclusive club.

TABLE

JOHN ELWAY

Quarterback, Denver Broncos (1983-1999)
2x Super Bowl Champion, 5x AFC Champion, 9x Pro Bowl Selection, 1987 NFL MVP, Hall of Fame – 2004

Without a doubt, the number 7 is one of the most sacred jersey numbers in all of sports.  To those who love baseball it’s Mickey Mantle, to soccer lovers it’s David Beckham, and for basketball fans it stirs up images of “Pistol Pete” Maravich.  Without a doubt, Table # 7 is one of the most exclusive tables at the Cafe 101 because so many great athletes have worn the number but when push came to shove, I had to choose John Elway.

John Elway is one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history.  He led a once irrelevant franchise to 5 Super Bowl appearances, winning the last two and leaving the game on top.   He is the only quarterback (and one of two players) to have a rushing touchdown in 4 different Super Bowls.  He is 4th all-time in passing yards and completions and is one of the winningest QBs of all time.  He is 5th in passing touchdowns and one of only four quarterbacks to have passed for over 3,000 yards in 12 seasons.  His nine Pro Bowl appearances are second among quarterbacks.  While Mickey Mantle could easily lobby the hostess for why Table number 7 should belong to him, I have to give this table to “Mr. Ed.”

RUNNER-UP: MICKEY MANTLE, Outfielder, New York Yankees (1951-1968)

ON THE WAITING LIST: David Beckham, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Mauer, Craig Biggio, Michael Vick, “Pistol Pete” Maravich, Phil Esposito, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Raul Gonzalez, Luis Figo, Anne Donovan, Danica Patrick (Indy Car), and Cristiano Ronaldo

TOO SOON TO TELL: Carmelo Anthony, Christian Ponder, & Lamar Odom

TABLE

NOLAN RYAN

Starting Pitcher, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros, & Texas Rangers (1966-1993)
1969 World Series Champion, 8x All-Star, 1977 AL TSN Pitcher of the Year, Hall of Fame – 1999

Table #30 was another tough one but for me it came down to 2 defenders who were leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.  There are many who are going to be disappointed that I selected Nolan Ryan over perhaps the greatest goaltender of all time in Martin Brodeur but there is no denying Ryan’s dominance as a pitcher.  His 5,714 strikeouts are the most all-time and I believe that no one will ever approach his mark of 7 no-hitters.  On top of that he had 12 more games that were one-hitters.   Of course on the flip side, Ryan is the only pitcher in MLB history to have walked 200 batters in a season twice.  However I think with Ryan, the good outweighs the bad.  What I most respect about Ryan is that he excelled as a pitcher over such a long period of time having played in the Majors in 4 different decades.  He is so respected that he is the only player in the MLB to have his number retired by three different teams.

RUNNER-UP: MARTIN BRODEUR, Goaltender, New Jersey Devils (1991 – Present)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Terrell Davis, Tim Raines, Magglio Ordonez, & Orlando Cepeda

TOO SOON TO TELL: Ryan Miller & Tim Thomas

TABLE

DON DRYSDALE

Starting Pitcher, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1956-1969)
3x World Series Champion, 9 x All-Star, 1962 Cy Young Award Winner, Hall of Fame – 1984

As we get into larger numbers, the pickings get a bit more slim as many sports rarely have numbers past 40.  While the pickings are a bit more slim than 7 and 30 were, there were still some very great athletes the donned jersey number 53.  The best athlete to ever wear the number was Don Drysdale who, along with Sandy Koufax, formed the most dominant pitching duo in MLB history.

Don Drysdale was overlooked throughout much of his career because he always pitched in Koufax’s shadow but he was a legend in his own right.  In his Cy Young season in 1962,  he won 25 games.  In 1968, he set an MLB record with six consecutive shutouts and 58 consecutive shutout innings (since broken by Orel Hershiser).  Drysdale is also one of the better batting pitchers of all time.  In 1965 he batted .300 with 7 home runs.  He finished his career with over 2,400 strikeouts, 209 wins, 167 complete games, and 49 career shutouts.  What is unbelievable is that he was forced into retirement by a sore shoulder, it’s crazy to think about what he could’ve accomplished with 5 or 6 more seasons in the league.

RUNNER-UP: HARRY CARSON, Inside Linebacker, New York Giants (1976-1988)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Randy Gradishar, Derek Morris,  & Artis Gilmore

TOO SOON TO TELL: Maurkice Pouncey & Bobby Abreu

TABLE

ALAN PAGE

Defensive Tackle, Minnesota Vikings & Chicago Bears (1967-1981)
4x NFC Champion, 9x Pro-Bowl Selection, 6x All-Pro, 3x NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 1971 NFL MVP, Hall of Fame – 1988

I thought I had this great #88 debate solved when I finally decided to take Alan Page over Michael Irvin but then I was reminded that Tony Gonzalez, the greatest Tight End to ever play the game and 2nd most prolific receiver of all time, is also #88.  After much consideration I still had to give the edge to Alan Page who was the cornerstone of the greatest defensive line in NFL History – the Purple People Eaters.  He may just be the greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game.

He played in 218 consecutive games in which he recovered 22 fumbles and collected an unofficial 148.5 sacks .  His three safeties are the second-most of all time.  Additionally in 1971, he became the first defensive player to be named the NFL MVP.  Page was such a great athlete that he was the first active NFL player to complete a marathon.  While I mean no disrespect to other great athletes who wore the number 88, I believe this table belongs to Alan Page.

But seriously, if someone wanted to challenge Alan Page for this table – could they really take it from him?

RUNNER-UP: TONY GONZALEZ,  Tight End, Kansas City Chiefs & Atlanta Falcons (1997 – Present)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Michael Irvin, Lynn Swann, Terry Glenn, Tory Holt, Marvin Harrison, Albert Belle, Eric Lindros, John Mackey, & Dale Jarrett

TOO SOON TO TELL: Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Patrick Kane, & Jeremy Shockey

Click photo to enlarge the seating chart for Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant

Will your favorite athletes be able to get a table at the Cafe 101? Keep reading to find out!  If you have any questions, comments, or snide remarks please comment below or tweet them to @can_of_corn!