It’s a new year, which means it’s time for weeks and weeks of 2015 entertainment awards shows.
The NFL holds its own NFL Honors ceremony the night before the Super Bowl, and here are the players who should be taking home the hardware.
MVP: Cam Newton
Cam Newton is like a sleek sports car that seats six people comfortably. He can be a classic drop-back passer and he’s mobile.
Not only was the Panthers quarterback tied for second in the NFL with 35 touchdown passes despite not having a dynamic set of receivers, he also led all quarterbacks with 10 rushing touchdowns and 636 rushing yards. Of his 10 interceptions, only one came in the last eight games. Newton threw five touchdown passes three times in the second half of the season as the Panthers locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
With 35 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs, Cam Newton is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 pass TDs/10 rush TDs in same season.
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 4, 2016
Newton has embodied the Panthers during a 15-1 regular season. And he’s made the “Dab” famous.
Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown and Julio Jones essentially had the same season statistically.
They both caught 136 passes, tied for second-most in a season behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002. Jones’ 1,871 passing yards are the second-most in a single season behind Calvin Johnson’s 1,964 in 2012. Brown’s 1,834 are fourth all-time. Jones caught eight touchdown passes and Brown caught 10.
Brown gets the edge when it comes to postseason awards because he helped the Steelers get into the playoffs. It became apparent in 2015 that Brown isn’t the same receiver without Ben Roethlisberger. He caught 17 passes in the four games Roethlisberger missed, but then he caught 17 passes in one game when the Steelers beat the Raiders 38-35 to improve to 5-4. The Steelers remained above .500 for the rest of the season.
In Week 15, Brown caught 16 passes, including two second-half touchdowns, as the Steelers came back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Broncos 34-27. Brown topped off his stellar regular season in a game the Steelers had to win with a 13-catch, one-touchdown performance against the Browns.
Jones was more consistent than Brown, but he caught just two touchdown passes in the second half of the season while the Falcons collapsed after a 6-1 start.
Brown rose to the occasion when the Steelers needed him most.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt
Josh Norman was all the rage earlier in the season when he intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns, in the first four games of the season.
However, while the Panthers cornerback shut down many a receiver this season, he had no interceptions in the last 12 games.
J.J. Watt, meanwhile, pulled the Texans from the wreckage of a 2-5 start and registered 13.5 of his league-leading 17.5 sacks in the final 10 games. Three of those sacks came in the regular-season finale as the Texans secured the AFC South title with a 30-6 win over the Jaguars.
— Jon Zimmer (@NFLhistory) January 3, 2016
Watt also led the league with 29 tackles for loss, according to Team Rankings, and his eight passes defended were the most in the league among defensive linemen. This would be Watt’s third Defensive Player of the Year award in the last four years.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley established a huge lead in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race when he ran for more than 100 yards in four straight games, averaging 141.5 yards in those games, earlier in the season.
His production waned in the middle of the year when the Rams faced big deficits and weren’t in a position to run the ball. But Gurley regained his grip on the award with 271 yards and four touchdowns in his last three games, all Rams wins.
Gurley ran for 83 yards on 19 carries, 4.37 yards per carry, and a touchdown in a 23-17 upset win at Seattle in Week 16.
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota also made a run at this honor, but unlike Gurley they weren’t among the league’s best at their position. Gurley was third in the NFL with 1,106 rushing yards and second with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcus Peters
It wouldn’t be surprising if Marcus Peters gets some votes for Defensive Player of the Year.
The Chiefs cornerback tied for the league lead with eight interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and was alone at the top with 26 passes defended. Deemed a character risk before the draft, Peters bowed to Charles Woodson Sunday as Woodson walked off the field for the last time after a Hall of Fame-caliber career. Perhaps that’s a sign Peters has matured.
Five of Peters’ eight interceptions, and 16 of his 26 pass break-ups, came during the Chiefs’ 10-game winning streak that turned a 1-5 start into an 11-5 record and the No. 5 seed in the AFC.
According to Pro Football Focus, Peters was targeted 137 times this season. That’s more than any cornerback has been targeted since PFF was established.
Quarterbacks won’t be throwing the ball his way nearly as much in the future.
Comeback Player of the Year: Eric Berry
A year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Eric Berry made the Pro Bowl.
The Chiefs were 1-5 and in danger of a lost season when the standout safety made his first post-illness interception in Week 7 against the Steelers. The Chiefs converted that into a touchdown and a 16-3 third-quarter lead and were in control from there. They haven’t lost since.
Berry intercepted two passes and broke up 10 this season. The Chiefs allowed an average of 276.6 passing yards per game during their 1-5 start. That number dipped to 203.8 in winning their last 10 games.
Compared to what he faced a year ago, the Chiefs’ 1-5 start probably seemed like nothing to Berry.
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid
Andy Reid has two of the players on this awards list, but Mike Zimmer has Adrian Peterson and Ron Rivera and Bruce Arians both have elite quarterbacks.
Reid lost his star running back (remember Jamaal Charles?) to a torn ACL in Week 5 yet somehow he coached the Chiefs from a 1-5 start to an 11-5 finish and a playoff berth. No team had won 10 straight after losing at least five straight, and the 1970 Bengals (who started 1-6) are the only other team in NFL history to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start.
The Chiefs cobbled together the NFL’s No. 6 rushing offense with a combination of Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, and were fourth in the league with 47 sacks despite being without team sack leader Justin Houston for the last five games.
Reid inherited a 2-14 team and hasn’t had a losing season in his three years in Kansas City. Now he has a shot at bringing Kansas City its first postseason victory since 1993.