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The 2020 NFL season is a little over halfway over, meaning it’s the perfect time to reflect on what’s happened so far. A trio of quarterbacks and running backs are dominating the league this year as young stars begin to stake their claims to the NFL’s annual awards. In this article, we’ll run through all of the top candidates for every significant end-of-season award and predict the winners.
Make sure you check out the predictions I made after Week 4 to get a better understanding of how these choices have evolved over the past five weeks.
Russell Wilson firmly held this position for most of the season, but he recently dropped out of first place in the Quarterback Power Rankings. Despite his four-turnover game against Buffalo, Wilson might retain his position atop the NFL in the eyes of some voters. However, Mahomes has 25 passing touchdowns this season and only one interception. Wilson leads the NFL with 28 passing touchdowns, but he’s thrown eight interceptions.
At this pace, Wilson will set a new career-high for interceptions in a single season. His previous record was 11, set in 2016 and 2017. Interestingly enough, the former Super Bowl champion is also on pace for a new best passer rating (117.1). Mahomes is trending toward a new career-high passer rating as well (115.9), even topping his MVP season.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is the third-wheel in this MVP discussion. The 36-year-old has an NFL best 117.5 passer rating through the season’s first half. He’s also thrown 24 touchdowns to only two interceptions and is on pace for 4,506 yards, the second-most of his career.
Maybe quarterbacks sweep the offensive awards, and the loser of the Mahomes-Wilson MVP race takes home the OPOY award. However, it’s more likely a running back claims this award. Cook’s primary competition includes Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara. With Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, and Christian McCaffrey battling injuries, we’ve gotten to see a new group of running backs emerge.
Outside of Cook and Henry, no other player in the NFL has more than 600 rushing yards. For comparison, Cook already has 858 yards on the ground, and Henry has 843. However, Kamara leads the NFL with 1,036 yards from scrimmage. Cook isn’t far behind with 1,031 yards. The Florida St. product also leads the league with 13 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns.
Considering the modern NFL’s emphasis on versatility, it seems far-fetched that Henry wins the OPOY award. Kamara is on pace for 120 receptions and 1,130 receiving yards, while Cook is pacing 1,839 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns despite missing a game.
This is a three-way race between Donald, Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt. The three star pass-rushers won’t be denied a shot at the league’s greatest individual honor for defensive players this season. One monster week could make the difference in who walks away with the extra hardware in the spring.
Donald and Garrett are currently tied for the NFL lead in sacks with nine while Watt follows close behind with seven. Garrett also leads the league with four forced fumbles, and Donald is hot on his trail with three. Watt hasn’t forced a fumble this year, but he’s intercepted a pass and broken up six more. Neither Donald nor Garrett have a pass breakup this year.
According to Pro Football Reference, Watt also leads the other two superstar defenders in quarterback hits (24) and pressures (34). In comparison, neither Donald nor Garrett have more than 15 quarterback hits or 25 pressures.
Alex Smith deserves a spot on the podium alongside Roethlisberger. Smith’s story of perseverance and dedication is astounding, especially considering that he could’ve lost his leg or even died after contracting a flesh-eating disease in his leg. With Kyle Allen nursing a dislocated ankle and small fracture, Smith should start most of Washington’s remaining games.
If the former Pro Bowler plays even moderately well, he will overtake Big Ben in a few weeks. However, Roethlisberger has his team at 8-0 and has already engineered three fourth-quarter comebacks. The two-time Super Bowl champion is on pace to set a new single-season career-high by completing 68.1% of his passes.
Aldon Smith still has a nice case for the Comeback Player of the Year award as well. The pass-rusher hadn’t played in a game since 2015 when he suited up for Dallas earlier this year. Smith has five sacks and 37 tackles through nine games, already topping his production from 2014 and 2015.
At 5-3, the Dolphins are legitimate playoff contenders and could even challenge the 7-2 Buffalo Bills for the AFC East’s top seed. Flores has quickly established his culture in Miami, and the front office did a great job acquiring new talent during the offseason. Flores knows how to get the best out of his players, and the Dolphins have a clear path to the playoffs with five of their next six games coming against teams with losing records.
This race isn’t cut and dry. Burrow might project out as the better quarterback in three to four years, and he’s the better player right now, but Justin Herbert has numbers that top Burrow’s across the board. Herbert is working with a better offensive line, but the offensive supporting casts are otherwise reasonably equal. The debate might come down to which rookie wins more games, which currently favors Burrow.
At his current pace, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will finish his rookie year with 4,544 yards, 22 touchdowns, ten interceptions, and a 91.4 passer rating. Meanwhile, Herbert is on track for completing 67.3% of his passes (compared to Burrow completing 67.0%), for 4,599 yards, 36 touchdowns, ten interceptions, and a 104.7 passer rating. Keep in mind, Herbert didn’t play in Week 1.
Unless Burrow shows something spectacular down the line or picks up four or five more wins, he’ll probably get overwhelmed by Herbert’s raw statistical production.
The son of a former Pro Bowl defensive back, Winfield Jr. is making his mark in Tampa Bay. The second-round pick hasn’t missed a start yet. He’s already amassed an interception, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, two sacks, and 51 tackles. Winfield plays with ideal physicality and has instincts that could even make veteran players jealous.
Chase Young has played well in Washington, but he’s not making the same amount of noise as Nick Bosa last year. The Ohio St. product has 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss in seven games. Baltimore’s Patrick Queen and Carolina’s Jeremy Chinn should also draw some attention.
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