Forecasting some tight races for NFL awards



FILE – Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson walks onto the field for warmups for the team’s NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Dec. 18, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. Brian Daboll, Pederson and Kyle Shanahan are the finalists for AP Coach of the Year award. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)

One game remains in the 2022-2023 NFL season. That’s it, only one more. Before the football world gets to enjoy what is expected to be a fantastic Super Bowl, the NFL will recognize the athletes who starred in their play this year. With many players having standout seasons, it will be very difficult to determine who deserves what award. Taking a look at the finalists for each award, there aren’t any that can be called right now.


Most Valuable Player (MVP)

Patrick Mahomes – Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs

Having lost in the AFC Championship game last year, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were ready for a revenge tour this season. This wasn’t easy, however, as star receiver Tyreek Hill was signed by the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. With Mahomes losing his deep threat, many were intrigued to see how the Chiefs offense would look. They also went out and signed a couple of new receivers that Mahomes has never worked with before. Right off the bat, though, he proved that he could lead the offense without Hill, while continuing to put up very similar numbers as past years. Beginning this year in Arizona, Mahomes threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns. This dominance continued throughout the entire season, as the Chiefs went on to finish with 14 wins and earned the number one seed in the AFC. Mahomes finished the regular season with 5,250 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also ran for 358 yards and four touchdowns. In the postseason, an injury to his ankle took him out of the Divisional Round game for some time, but he eventually went back in and played through the injury. A week later, Mahomes played another solid game in the AFC Championship, helping propel Kansas City to a win and their third Super Bowl appearance in the last 4 seasons. With Mahomes playing this well with an entirely new wide receiver group, it’s clear he is the most valuable player not just to his team, but in the entire National Football League. Leading the Chiefs to the success that they had this year is why I believe Patrick Mahomes deserves the MVP award this season. 


Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY)

Jalen Hurts – Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles

Leading the Eagles to an NFC Championship was just one of the accomplishments of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts this season. The team was 14-1 with him as a starter during the regular season, and won each of their first two playoff games. Given the talent and success of their defense, I don’t believe Hurts deserves the MVP, but given his stats, this award fits perfectly to honor his success. During the regular season, Hurts threw for 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. On the ground, Hurts ran for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns. In the two playoff games, Hurts tallied four total touchdowns and zero turnovers. While Philadelphia hasn’t needed to rely on Hurts as much up to this point, they are still benefiting from his play. His ability to push the ball downfield while continuing to control time of possession and limit turnovers is huge for an Eagles team that only has one more team standing in their way of a second Super Bowl title. Hurts’ play this season has greatly contributed to their success and has impressed many NFL fans. This performance from Hurts is one of the best by an Eagles quarterback in many years, and one of the most awe-inspiring by an NFL quarterback this season. While it might not be the MVP, this award truly can demonstrate the achievements the Eagles and Jalen Hurts had this NFL season.


Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)

Micah Parsons – Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

Following a very successful rookie season, expectations were high for Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons coming into this season. With the pressure on, Parsons delivered another impressive year for his Cowboys team, totaling 65 tackles, 13.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. It isn’t just stats, however, as his overall presence on the field has an effect on the offense. Whenever he rushes the quarterback, it opens up opportunities for other defensemen to get pressure as well, as the opposing offensive lines gave him a lot of attention. Even though the number of sacks may be lower compared to other finalists for this award, such as Nick Bosa, Parsons’ presence was more impactful as a whole. He would also spend a lot of time in coverage and made it very difficult for opposing QBs to fit passes into what he made very tight windows. With all the activity that Parsons has on each defensive snap he takes, he is my clear pick to win this season’s DPOY award.


Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY)

Kenneth Walker III – Running Back, Seattle Seahawks

What a year it was for Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker. What started out as a backup role to begin the season quickly transitioned into a major part of Seattle’s offense. Walker took over the lead role in week five against the Saints, and had a lot of success during his time as the top back. During the regular season, Walker ran for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns, while also catching 27 passes for 165 yards. In 12 starts, Walker ran for over 90 yards in six games, five of which he went over 100 yards. Adding Walker to the backfield took a lot of pressure off of quarterback Geno Smith, and presented defenses with a much more difficult task. As Seattle prepares for the coming years, they’ll look to Walker for an even greater place in the offense. The more he gets involved, the more dangerous the Seahawks offense becomes. Given the instant impact he had this season, it’s easy to say that Kenneth Walker deserves this year’s OROY award.


Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY)

Sauce Gardner – Cornerback, New York Jets

Expectations were high for Jets first round pick Sauce Gardner. Gardner, a rookie from the University of Cincinnati, was selected fourth overall by New York to boost their secondary. Sure enough, Garder helped lead the Jets to the third-best pass defense during the regular season. He finished the season with 75 total tackles, two interceptions, and a league-leading 20 passes defended. Gardner’s presence defensively posed a very difficult challenge for the opposing receiver. Opposing quarterbacks had a 51.1 passer rating when throwing in Gardner’s direction, and completed only 31 passes in 71 attempts. Only one touchdown was scored against him as well throughout the entire regular season. This addition to the Jets defense was huge, as it helped them go from allowing 29.6 points per game last season to only 18.6 this year. Slowing down passing attacks is not an easy task in the NFL, and given how well Gardner performed this year, he is my pick to win the DPOY for this season. 


Comeback Player of the Year (CPOY)

Christian McCaffrey – Running Back, San Francisco 49ers 

Coming off a year in which he missed ten games, Christian McCaffrey was set to have another heavy workload and dominating season. Being traded early on was a key moment in McCaffrey’s career. He went from Carolina to San Francisco, and instantly made an impact on his new team. The 49ers went on to only lose two games with CMC in the lineup, as their offense made a significant jump. McCaffrey was responsible for 13 touchdowns in 14 games with the Niners, while totaling over 1,000 scrimmage yards. His addition into the offense opened up play calling for Kyle Shanahan and posed a bigger threat to every opposing defense in the league. His elusiveness and agility make it so difficult for defenses to contain him, and when they try to, others are left open. With the success that he had this year after a year that injury had a major effect, Christian McCaffrey is my pick to win the CPOY award. 


Coach of the Year (COY)

Doug Pederson – Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars

As if getting to the playoffs wasn’t enough, Doug Pederson coached the Jaguars to their first playoff win since the 2018 season. Having a young team with only a second-year quarterback can be very difficult, but Pederson did a very fine job working with Trevor Lawrence and the team to get them to where they are today. To take a team that finished with the league’s worst record a year ago to a Divisional Round appearance is worthy of being awarded. Not only did they win in the first round of the playoffs, they came back from being down 27-0. Even with Trevor Lawrence throwing four interceptions, Pederson stayed calm, believed in his quarterback, and helped rally the team to an eventual 31-30 win. Jacksonville won the AFC South and finished the regular season with nine wins, just one year after finishing with a 3-14 record. With the success this Jaguars team had, much of the credit should be given to Coach Pederson, and he deserves to be named the COY at the 2023 NFL Honors. 

With these awards being presented on Thursday night, only time will tell who will receive these honors. With many players starring this past season, it will be a great accomplishment for those who are fortunate enough to earn an award. From MVP all the way to the COY, all award races are so tight that they are very intriguing to follow over the next few days. Selecting the winners will be a difficult decision, but in the end all will be players very deserving of those awards.