Prior to the start of the 2018 NFL season, your friends here at CBS Sports set out to predict the winners of all the major NFL awards. We picked our Super Bowl winners, our MVPs, our rookies and coaches of the year, etc. But it’s been eight weeks! It’s time to run things back and do it all over again.
This round of predictions from Pete Prisco, Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson, Sean Wagner-McGough and myself looks quite a bit different than it did the first time around. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get any votes for MVP. The names of David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott are erased from the document entirely. The same applies to Kyle Shanahan, Bill O’Brien, Bradley Chubb, and Allen Robinson.
Sorry to interrupt your reading, but just a quick PSA here. We have a pretty amazing daily NFL podcast you may not be aware of. It’s hosted by Will Brinson and it’s all the things you’re looking for: news, fantasy, picks, really, just football stuff for football people. Subscribe: via iTunes | via Stitcher | via TuneIn | via Google Play.
Instead, you’ll see a whole lot of Todd Gurley and Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees and Andrew Luck and Sean McVay and Khalil Mack. Just about the only thing that remained constant is that a whole bunch of us picked Aaron Donald for Defensive Player of the Year.
Just a quick note before we let you in on these updated predictions: the selections below are NOT not not meant to be “mid-season awards winners” meaning who we would vote for as of this very moment. Instead, we attempted to work with the information we currently have, and forecast who will win the awards at the end of the year.
Prisco: Patriots. The Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That’s good enough for me. Belichick will fix the defense as the season moves along and the offense will be explosive the rest of the way.
Brinson: Chiefs over Saints. Feeling pretty good about still riding half of my preseason prediction. I thought about Saints before the year but zigged to another NFC South team in Atlanta. Give me New Orleans this time around, because their offense looks like it can’t be stopped and the defense should only improve. Kansas City is mowing through teams and isn’t going to slow down on offense.
Breech: Patriots vs. Saints. Instead of explaining why I picked these two teams, I’m going to explain why I don’t have the Rams or Chiefs here. On the Chiefs’ end, until Andy Reid wins a big January game with Kansas City, I won’t be convinced it can happen, which means I don’t see them coming out of the AFC. On the Rams’ end, they have a lot of small holes that I think a smart team will be able to take advantage of in the postseason like the Falcons did with L.A. in last year’s playoffs.
Wilson: Rams. The Saints are currently in the best position to challenge them but can they win on the road? Taking a larger view, the Chiefs might be the only AFC team capable of going touchdown-for-touchdown with the Rams’ high-powered offense, but the difference is that while Kansas City sports one of the league’s worst defenses, Los Angeles still sports a top-10 unit.
Dubin: Rams. It’s difficult to see anybody beating this team before the Super Bowl at this point, given the likelihood that they have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Once there, I just think they’re a way better two-way team than anybody from the AFC.
Wagner-McGough: Saints. I picked them before the season. Nothing I’ve seen since will make me change my pick, even if they look like the second or third best team behind the Rams and Chiefs. With Drew Brees playing like an MVP and a defense that should improve, the Saints should be able to secure a home game or two in the postseason, which makes them difficult to beat. The Rams are a better team, but if the two teams meet in the playoffs, the Saints will enter the game with the better of the two quarterbacks.
Super Bowl MVP
Prisco: Tom Brady, Patriots. The greatest quarterback of all time does it again on the biggest stage. If he does, will he walk away?
Brinson: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs. What a fun little shootout this would be on CBS. Just an explosion of points in Atlanta. Falcons fans will be rooting HARD for the Chiefs, if only to keep Drew Brees and the Saints from winning on their turf.
Breech: Brady. At some point, Tom Brady is going to retire and I won’t be surprised if it comes in February after he hoists up his sixth Super Bowl trophy and his fifth Super Bowl MVP trophy. I mean, you have to get tired of winning trophies at some point, right?
Wilson: Todd Gurley, Rams. Midway through the season and he’s one of the league’s most dynamic players. According to Football Outsiders he ranks first in total value among all running backs and fifth in value per play. He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has 11 rushing touchdowns this season to go along with three receiving touchdowns. And for as good as Jared Goff has been, the running game has provided some much-needed balance. The result: The Rams have the league’s best rushing attack and the passing attack ranks third.
Dubin: Gurley. Usually I would just go with the quarterback here, but the Rams’ insistence on feeding Gurley every time they get in scoring range makes me think he’d take the trophy.
Wagner-McGough: Drew Brees, Saints. The quarterback of the winning team seems like a safe bet.
Regular Season MVP
Prisco: Mahomes. His numbers will be unreal by the end of the season. Can anybody slow him? His fast start has been so impressive. I loved his potential, but he’s started much faster than I expected.
Brinson: Brees. He’s worthy of consideration here and I think he’s going to end up getting a bit of a lifetime achievement award.
Breech: Gurley. I thought about putting Mahomes here, but the fact of the matter is that every quarterback in the NFL is putting up huge numbers this year, so I’m just not as impressed as I probably should be. On the other hand, Gurley could end up breaking the NFL record for total touchdowns in a season. He’d need 32 to do it, but if that happens, I have to think that giving him the MVP would be an easy decision.
Wilson: Mahomes. It’s hard not to love what Patrick Mahomes has done in his first season as starter. We know Andy Reid can get the most out of his quarterbacks — we saw that most recently with Alex Smith — but Mahomes has taken it to another level. At the midway point, he’s the league’s most efficient passer, via Football Outsiders, and is also No. 1 in terms of value per play. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers also deserve a name check here, but Mahomes has been better.
Dubin: Mahomes. This dude’s numbers are absolutely insane and there’s no reason to think he will slow down over the second half of the season. Certain benchmarks make MVP votes inevitable and Mahomes seems likely to hit them.
Wagner-McGough: Mahomes. Mahomes faces tough competition, but he gets the edge because he’ll have more WOW plays and his stats will be on par — if not better than — his competitors. By this point in their careers, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees are under-appreciated even when they’re playing at MVP levels. In Los Angeles, Todd Gurley and Jared Goff should split some votes. That leaves Mahomes, who has been sensational for the best team in the AFC.
Defensive Player of the Year
Prisco: Aaron Donald, Rams. He’s a one-man game-wrecker at times. He had four sacks against the 49ers to show how dominant he can be from the inside. Donald has competition from guys like J.J. Watt, but he’s the leader now.
Brinson: J.J. Watt, Texans. Playing his tail off right now and helping the Texans move into first place in their division.
Breech: Donald. I thought about putting Khalil Mack here, but he’s been battling an ankle injury and it could be weeks before he’s actually playing at 100 percent again. In the meantime, one player who is definitely playing at a 100 percent is Donald, who currently leads the NFL with 10 sacks.
Wilson: Khalil Mack, Bears. Yes, he’s battling an ankle injury and his production has tailed off as a result, but when he’s healthy Mack is a one-man wrecking ball. in his first four games with the Bears he had five sacks, four forced fumbles, two passes defended, an interception and a touchdown. Through six games, the Raiders — the outfit that traded Mack just before the season — have seven sacks, four interceptions and four fumbles. If the Bears are going to stay relevant in the NFC North, Mack will need to get healthy and continue to dominate.
Dubin: Donald. Like I said before the season, he’s going to be my pick until somebody actually takes the award from him.
Wagner-McGough: Mack. An ankle injury has slowed Mack after his historic start to the season, but if he can get healthy and finish strong, he’ll be in the conversation. I picked him before the season, so I can’t really change that prediction now.
Offensive Player of the Year
Prisco: Gurley. He leads the NFL in rushing and has 14 touchdowns, 11 rushing and three receiving scores. Gurley remains the game’s best running back and a big reason why the Rams are undefeated.
Brinson: Mahomes. He could easily win the MVP award the way he’s playing.
Breech: Mahomes. Although I’m giving my MVP vote to Gurley, I also think Mahomes deserves some recognition for his performance, so I’m going with him for my Offensive Player of the Year.
Wilson: Adam Thielen. Seven games, seven times Thielen has at least 100 yards receiving. And it’s more than cumulative stats; Thielen is No. 1 in total value among all wideouts, ahead of Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Deandre Hopkins, Antonio Brown and whoever else you consider one of the NFL’s best receivers. Thielen’s five touchdowns through seven games also ties a career best — with nine games to go.
Dubin: Gurley. He might get 2,000 total yards and will almost certainly get to 25 touchdowns. Yeah, I’d say that’s OPOY-worthy.
Wagner-McGough: Gurley. He’s the best offensive player who isn’t a quarterback and he’s playing in a system designed around him. I think it’ll be too difficult for him to steal MVP with so many quarterbacks playing at an MVP level, but he’ll be given OPOY as a consolation prize.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Prisco: Saquon Barkley, Giants. He plays on a bad team, but he is doing a lot of things to help the offense. He has 519 rushing yards and 497 receiving yards. He’s been as good as expected and his numbers will go up as he gets used to the NFL game.
Brinson: Sam Darnold, Jets. Saquon Barkley is probably going to get a lot of love for this award.
Breech: Barkley. Barkley might be on a bad team, but he’s easily been the best rookie. Despite the fact that the Giants offense has been horrible, Barkley is still on pace to record 1,000 rushing yards AND 1,000 receiving yards, which would make him just the third player in NFL history to pull that off.
Wilson: Calvin Ridley, Falcons. It was unclear what kind of impact Ridley would have as a rookie since he’d be sharing snaps with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. But through seven games, the first-round pick has 27 receptions for 392 yards and six touchdowns. He ranks first in value-per-play among all wideouts, and is seventh in total value, ahead of Mike Evans and the aforementioned Jones, who is still searching for his TD in 2018.
Dubin: Barkley. His team is terrible but that’s not his fault. He’s actually been pretty inconsistent on a play-to-play basis but none of the rookie QBs have been good enough to take this award from a guy who will have some insane counting stats at the end of the season.
Wagner-McGough: Barkley. He’s been incredible running behind a bad offensive line and alongside a bad quarterback. He’s also generated the kind of flashy highlights that should help him pick up votes. Unless one of the rookie quarterbacks ends the season on fire, this is a one-man race.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Prisco: Derwin James, Chargers. He has been all over the field this season for a Chargers defense that is improving by the week. He can blitz and can play in coverage. His versatility is key to the Los Angeles defense.
Brinson: Darius Leonard, Colts. Playing his tail off and impacting games in some pretty big ways.
Breech: Leonard. This was actually the most difficult award to hand out. I thought about giving it to Denzel Ward or Derwin James, but instead, I went with Leonard and that’s because he’s been a sparkplug for a Colts defense that’s flown under the radar for most of the year. Not only does Leonard lead THE ENTIRE NFL in tackles through eight weeks, but he also has four sacks and three forced fumbles on the season. Also, unlike Ward and James, who were both taken in the first round, Leonard was a steal as a second-round pick.
Wilson: James. When James was selected with the 17th overall pick last spring, many people couldn’t believe he lasted that long. And through seven games, he’s proving why he is one of the league’s best players already. James already has 3.5 sacks to go along with six passes defended and an interception. Pro Football Focus ranks him sixth among all safeties.
Dubin: James. I nearly picked him before the season only to chicken out and he has been exactly as good as I expected.
Wagner-McGough: Denzel Ward, Browns. Ward is making the Browns look smart for passing on Bradley Chubb, which was an out of nowhere move at the time. If he keeps generating turnovers at this rate, he should be able to run away with the award.
Coach of the Year
Prisco: Sean McVay, Rams. His team is the last undefeated team in the league and his offensive play calling is outstanding. It’s hard to believe he’s only in his second season.
Brinson: Pete Carroll, Seahawks. If Seattle gets to the playoffs it’s going to be hard not to reward him for doing this job.
Breech: Jay Gruden, Washington. If the Redskins win the NFC East, and I think the Redskins are going to win the NFC East, then I think you have to give this award to Gruden. The Redskins made the bold move to let Kirk Cousins walk and then turned around and added two old guys (Alex Smith, Adrian Peterson) who are now the focal point of the team’s offense. It was a crazy gamble, but it seems to be paying off.
Wilson: McVay. It’s hardly a surprising pick given that the Rams are 8-0. But it’s how McVay has done it. The Rams have scored 33 or more points six times and they have the league’s best point differential (107), 29 points better than the Chiefs. Not surprisingly, the margin of victory –15.3 points — is also best in the NFL. Finally, McVay has taken Jared Goff, who struggled as a rookie in Jeff Fisher’s last season, and transformed him into one of the league’s best players.
Dubin: McVay. Duh.
Wagner-McGough: Andy Reid, Chiefs. Sean McVay and Bill Belichick are also deserving, but I’m giving Reid bonus points for grooming Mahomes and turning him into an MVP this early in his career. Reid for so long has been so under-appreciated. He has his faults, but what he’s doing this season is awesome to watch.
Comeback Player of the Year
Prisco: Andrew Luck, Colts. There was some doubt whether he’d be the same guy when he returned after missing all of last season. But he’s the same guy. He’s been a one-man band at times for the Colts – like the old days.
Brinson: Luck. He overcame so much and is playing well for a sneaky Colts team that could steal that division.
Breech: Luck. After Luck missed the entire 2017 season, I was starting to think he might not ever return to the NFL, but here he is and he’s putting up absurd numbers. Luck is on pace to throw 46 touchdown passes, which would rank fifth all-time for a single-season (Or sixth all-time if Mahomes ends up throwing more than him).
Wilson: Deshaun Watson, Texans. He was our choice before the season and after a slow start — which we’re blaming partially on rust as he recovered from ACL surgery and partially on a suspect offensive line — Watson looks every bit the franchise quarterback the Texans traded up to take in 2017. If the Texans’ O-line can hold it together, this team get back to the playoffs after winning just four games a year ago.
Dubin: J.J. Watt, Texans. Yeah. This guy is exactly as good as we remember. It’s awesome.
Wagner-McGough: Watt. After losing his past two seasons to series injuries, Watt looks like Watt again with eight sacks in eight games. That’ll work. If I hadn’t already picked Mack to win DPOY, I would’ve switched my vote to Watt. He’s got the name recognition. And he’s playing up to his reputation.