Friday, January 4, 2013

If It Ain't Steel's 2012 NFL Awards and Super Bowl Predictions

by Jayden Matthews

The NFL regular season has now ended and the debate can truly begin as to whom will win the yearly awards as well as which teams will take the coveted ultimate prize - the Super Bowl.

We at If It Ain’t Steel wrote a piece mid-season where we made predictions for the season awards based on what we knew then. Now that the season has shown us everything, we are going to follow that up to see if it has changed any and to make our official prognostications. Then, when the awards are announced, you can refer back to this to see if we hit it on the head (or, if Jason was wrong), and also if our Super Bowl prediction holds up. -

The MVP Award: We predicted that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would win this in our mid-season article, and that has not changed. Though, there is a candidate who ended up making a good case for himself: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. A.P., also known as A.D. for "All Day", cemented himself in the Most Valuable Player talk with a monster year. After coming back from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) injury that some thought would sideline him for some of the season, A.P. did not miss a single game and coming within nine yards of the recognized single-season NFL rushing record. -

We still believe Peyton, "The Sheriff", has the edge because, like A.P., he came back from what some considered a career-ending injury. Some, myself included, didn't think The Sheriff would make it much past the first game, let alone all season. But he did far more than that, he led the Broncos to a 13-3 season and the first seed in the AFC Playoff chase. The Sheriff played the way he always played, deadly lethal, again making household names out of ordinary receivers. For those reasons, we believe that Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning will deservedly win the MVP award.

As for A.P., we still believe that, though this and the MVP awards could ultimately be flipped, "Purple Jesus" has the Comeback Player of the Year award...all day.

Defensive Player of the Year: We predicted the Houston Texans J.J. Watt at the mid-season and that, like our MVP, hasn’t changed. San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith was building a good resume, but in the end we still believe it will be Watt. He led the league with 20.5 sacks, had 81 tackles, 16 passes defensed (which is more than some defensive backs), four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a partridge in a pear tree. Though the Texans Defense struggled down the stretch, the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month for December didn’t. He may even be more feared right now than Clay quarterback wants to see No. 99 coming for them right now.

Coach of the Year: We really didn’t make a choice on this one because there seemed to be a lot of good choices at the time. Arguably, one could say that Indianapolis Colts "interim-head coach" Bruce Arians deserves consideration, naturally, though, he won’t get it because he is still just an offensive coordinator. If he could be, though, he would be my (Jayden's) clear cut choice. What Arians was able to do with the Colts, to keep them winning in the absence of their head coach Chuck Pagano as he battled cancer, is nothing short of amazing. No one really give the Colts a chance once Pagano went out, but Arians took the bull by the horns and led them to a winning season and a playoff spot. Even his former team's (former) players admit he's a good coach. Way to go Brucey!!! -

So, while there are only a few truly viable choices, this even put my partner-in-crime and I in a quandary of as to who should get the nod. So, we are each going to make our individual cases for who we think will win.

Jayden: John Fox I believe John Fox is the best choice for Coach of the Year. He took the Broncos from 8-8 last year to 13-3 this year and in the playoffs again. Yes, my partner argues that it was because of Peyton, and we both do say that Peyton makes any coach look great. While that is true, I still just think that he deserves the nod. Even though he has Peyton now, he still had to provide Peyton a dominant defense as a compliment in order to have a chance at the last dance. To his credit, he has done that. He has slowly built a great team in Denver that keeps a smile on John Elway’s face. Therefore, I believe he deserves that nod and should get it. Peyton doesn’t may not need coaching, but the rest of the players do.

Jason: My choice for the coaching award is, once again, Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons. But, I admit that his winning it in 2008 may put a damper on this prediction. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been only been six repeat winners (Chuck Knox{3x}, Joe Gibbs, Mike Ditka, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves and Bill Belichick {3x}), but I believe his team's consistant performance all season, pulling them up from an average 2011, gets "Smitty" the trophy this season.

Rookie of the Year: Andrew Griffith 1.5 - No, we didn’t have a clear cut choice then and we still don’t now that the season is over. RGIII and Luck are arguably the best rookies to come into the NFL at the same time in a long time. At the quarterback position at the very least. Both are playing very well and both will be in the playoffs this year as the 4th and 5th seeds in their respective conferences. So, we still are at a quandry over coming to a clear choice because an entire article could be written making a case for either of them. Not to mention the fact that another emerged as a solid choice, the rookie playing for the Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson.

Wilson has also played well enough to be in consideration for this honor. And oh, yeah, he has his team in the playoffs as well. So, with that being said, we're going to go out on a limb and say that the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year will be Russell Luck III. We know it's a bit of a cop out, but we have no idea which one of these guys will win it.

That now brings us to our Super Bowl prediction, which naturally will not involve a repeat champion considering the Giants missed the playoffs. With the Pittsburgh Steelers also on early vacation, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger cannot participate in helping keep the streak alive of one of only three teams representing the AFC in the big show. However, while the Colts and the New England Patriots are in the playoffs, Manning is with Denver now. There is still a chance that either he or the Patriots Tom Brady, the other two QBs in this streak, could be in the Super Bowl and we believe the streak will remain intact.

We chose the Texans and the Chicago Bears as our early picks, and that has definitely changed. The Bears took a turn for the worse and missed the playoffs, and while the Texans at the time were arguably the best team in the AFC, they are not anymore. The Texans were sitting pretty in the No. 1 spot for a long time, but fell down to the third seed in the AFC and now may have to take their act on the road. We believe the Denver Broncos will come out of the AFC and that The Sheriff will fire his six-gun all the way to New Orleans and could walk away with another piece of jewelry in the process. On that, we agreed. The NFC, not so much.

As stated earlier, there will be a new team emblem on the NFC side of the Super Bowl ensign. My partner and I have once again disagreed on who that will be. Shocking, I know. So we are going to again make our case just like with coach of the year.

Jayden: I think the Seattle Seahawks will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They are playing lights out right now and have a very good defense. They have been on a tear as of late with Wilson and Marshawn Lynch going all "Beast Mode" on defenses. The though that they could not win on the road has been laid to rest with wins over Buffalo and Chicago. They have a ball-hawking secondary that can pick you off or force a team to fumble and are poised to make a strong run and make it to the big show. I know I may be wrong on this, but I like the Seahawks chances.

Jason: As long as Justin Smith is on the field, the defense of the San Francisco 49ers and the Colin Kaepernick-led offense will take them to The Big Easy. Linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith get more of the publicity, but defensive tackle Justin Smith is the glue to their front seven that solidifies a bruising and stingy unit. Add to that a running game led by Frank Gore, and the 49ers should see their first NFC Championship and Super Bowl berth since 1994.

There you have it, If It Ain't Steel's final 2012 season award and Super Bowl predictions. Come February 4th, we'll see how many of our prophecies came true.