From the Kansas City Chiefs shocking the New England Patriots in the first game to the Cincinnati Bengals’ fourth-down miracle touchdown that sent the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs in the finale, the NFL’s regular season provided a lot of entertainment.
We polled our Shutdown Corner writers — Jay Busbee, Kevin Kaduk, Shalise Manza Young, Jordan Schultz, Blake Schuster, Frank Schwab and Anthony Sulla-Heffinger — to determine the major awards, and some other superlatives like game of the year. We also provided our updated Super Bowl picks at the end:
Brady led the NFL with 4,577 passing yards, had 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and helped lead the Patriots to a No. 1 seed in the AFC. Others built a good case, but it was hard to ignore what Brady did at age 40.
Gurley had 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, putting up a dominant season. It’s hard for anyone other than a quarterback to win an MVP, but Gurley was a great candidate for that award too. (NOTE: Voters couldn’t vote for the same player for MVP and offensive/defensive player of the year.
Votes: Gurley (5), Brady (1), Alex Smith (1)
Campbell was a significantly impactful free-agent addition. Campbell had 14.5 sacks for the NFL’s best defense, and helped the Jaguars to their first division title since 1999.
It was a tough call between Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt and Kamara. Hunt won the NFL rushing title, but Kamara was very efficient, averaging a league-best 6.1 yards per carry. Kamara also averaged 10.2 yards per catch. Kamara had more touchdowns, Hunt had more yards from scrimmage. Both led their teams to division titles. Kamara won our vote, barely.
Votes: Kamara (4), Hunt (3)
Lattimore fell in the Saints’ lap (there was a story they wanted quarterback Patrick Mahomes and settled for Lattimore) and no rookie defender had nearly the same impact. The Saints’ defense improved in a big way, and a big reason was Lattimore played like a No. 1 cornerback.
Votes: Lattimore (7)
No surprise here. McVay took over a team that fired Jeff Fisher in the middle of last season after fielding one of the worst NFL offenses in years, and turned the Rams into a powerhouse. McVay did wonders for quarterback Jared Goff, made Todd Gurley an MVP candidate, and brought an NFC West title to Los Angeles.
Votes: McVay (6), Mike Zimmer
The Rams’ incredible turnaround under Sean McVay is a great story for the franchise, and it’s also a great one for the NFL as it tries to get re-established in the Los Angeles market.
Votes: Rams (4), Vikings (2), Jaguars (1)
Keenum had 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and a 98.3 rating, while leading the Vikings to an NFC North title and a first-round bye. In the process he became one of the top free agents of the 2018 class. Nobody saw that coming.
Votes: Keenum (3), Jared Goff (2), JuJu Smith-Schuster (1), Carson Wentz (1)
There was a tie for most disappointing team. The Giants went from a 2016 playoff team to the second-worst record in the NFL. What a plunge. That’s not even mentioning the myriad of off-field drama (and much of it not Odell Beckham-related). It led to the firing of coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. The Raiders weren’t much better, falling from a playoff season in 2016 to 6-10. They also fired their head coach, Jack Del Rio
Votes: Giants (3), Raiders (3), Buccaneers (1)
Another tie. Carr and Ryan were MVP candidates last season, and Ryan won it. Neither came close to their 2016 numbers. At least Ryan helped his team get to the playoffs, unlike Carr.
The Patriots-Steelers showdown was the most anticipated game of the NFL season, and it was a classic. The Patriots took the lead on a late drive. Then a long catch by JuJu Smith-Schuster gave the Steelers a shot to win, or at least tie. We had the Jesse James catch rule controversy. And to end it, an interception on a fake-spike play by Ben Roethlisberger. Let’s all hope if these teams make the AFC title game, the rematch is this good.
Votes: Patriots-Steelers (3), Green Bay Packers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31, Week 5 (2), Seattle Seahawks 41, Houston Texans 38, Week 8 (2)
The Bills’ streak without a playoff berth, which dated back to the 1999 season, ended when the Bengals hooked up on a 49-yard touchdown to knock off the Ravens. As crazy as the play was, the Bills’ reaction was even better.
Votes: Dalton to Boyd (3), Robert Woods scores on third-and-33 (1), Corey Coleman’s drop seals 0-16 for Browns (1), Tyreek Hill weaves through the Cowboys on the final play of the first half (1), JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown vs. Lions (1)
Wentz’s injury against the Rams changed the MVP race and put a serious dent into the Eagles’ playoff hopes. It’s also amazing he stayed in and threw a touchdown at the end of the possession.
Votes: Wentz (4), Anthony Barr breaks Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone (2), Dalton to Boyd (1)
It was a close vote, with a few votes for the rash of injuries that hit big-name players. The NFL had an astonishing amount of its most famous players on IR, from Aaron Rodgers to Odell Beckham to J.J. Watt to Carson Wentz and seemingly everyone in between. But who could forget the protests during the national anthem that sparked a feud with President Donald Trump? What happened before games dominated coverage of the season.
Votes: Protests (3.5), injuries (2.5), beginning of the end for “Thursday Night Football” (1)
Rosen won the vote, but four different players got a vote (and none of them went to Sam Darnold or Josh Allen, who will also be rumored to go first overall). This year’s top pick seems wide open, and the Browns are rarely predictable anyway.
Votes: Rosen (4), Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (1), Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (1), Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (1)
It could get wild on the quarterback carousel. The big piece will be Kirk Cousins. Then Case Keenum, and perhaps Alex Smith if the Chiefs move onto Patrick Mahomes. Once they’re settled, guys like Josh McCown will have decisions to make. And what if Eli Manning becomes available? Don’t forget that Jimmy Garoppolo needs a contract from the 49ers, too. Buckle in.
Votes: Quarterbacks (4), Jon Gruden to Raiders (2), charity work by current NFL players and teams (1)
… AND OUR UPDATED SUPER BOWL PREDICTIONS
Busbee: Patriots over Vikings
Kaduk: Falcons over Patriots
Manza Young: Vikings over Patriots
Schultz: Vikings over Steelers
Schuster: Chiefs over Rams
Schwab: Steelers over Rams
Sulla-Heffinger: Saints over Patriots
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