Aaron Rodgers

NFL Awards Predictions

After ten weeks of regular season play, it is time to start predicting who will win what awards in the NFL.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

Many may argue that Carolina Panther’s wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is the clear offensive rookie of the year since he has caught seven touchdowns compared to Watkins’ five. However, Watkins provides more of an impact to his team. Anytime Watkins hauls in over 80 receiving yards in a game, the Bills are 4-0. When he records less than 80 yards in a game, the Bills are 1-4. Watkins and Benjamin have put up similar numbers but Watkins’ impact to his team is undeniable.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Chicago Bears

Despite dropping off the radar the last couple of weeks due to injury, Kyle Fuller is still in contention for defensive rookie of the year. Fuller’s performance this season should have Bears fans excited about their heir to Charles Tillman. As the first player in 20 years to record three picks and two forced fumbles in his first three NFL games, Fuller’s play indicates he will easily fill in Tillman’s big shoes. Fuller currently has three forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. Regardless of Fuller’s impressive play, if the Bear’s defense keeps giving up 50 points per game, there is no way Fuller wins this award.

Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers

After breaking his collarbone last year in a contest with the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers has sought out revenge against Chicago and is playing some of the best football of his career. Rodgers has torched Chicago this season throwing for ten touchdowns against them in two games, including a six down touchdown performance in the first half alone against the Bears this past Sunday. Rodgers isn’t only performing well against Chicago, as he is third in the league with 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. What’s amazing is that Rodgers has thrown for 25 touchdowns on only 277 passing attempts. In comparison, touchdown leaders Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have compiled passing attempts of 353 and 393, respectively. Rodgers is officially back.

Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians is the clear-cut coach of the year. Through Week 10, the Arizona Cardinals are 8-1 and hold the best record in the league after defeating the St. Louis Rams 31-14 in Week 9. Arians’ performance this season has been especially impressive since he has lost many key players on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals somehow continue to win games. However, it will be tough for the Cardinals to recover after losing quarterback Carson Palmer for the season due to an ACL tear, but if Arians is able to get the Cardinals to win the NFC West with Drew Stanton under center, Arians should win the award unanimously.

Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys

DeMarco Murray has been everything and more that the Cowboys have asked for this season. Murray started the season rushing for 100 yards in each of his first eight games. Perhaps the reason for these amazing numbers is that his workload is insane. He has carried the ball a total of 244 times and has rushed for a league high 1,233 yards.  If Murray stays healthy, he is on pace to break the 2,000 rushing yard mark and possibly Eric Dickerson’s regular season rushing yard record of 2,105 yards. The only blemish on Murray’s resume is that he has fumbled the ball five times this season. Murray’s performance this season is one of the key reasons why the Cowboys are playing so well.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Defensive end, Houston Texans

Watt’s dominant performance this season has not only put him ahead in the defensive player of the year discussion but also in the NFL MVP conversation. In addition to three touchdowns, Watt also has 39 tackles, eight and a half sacks, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Since 1957, the NFL MVP has been awarded to the best player who is thought to be the most valuable to his team. The award is almost always won by a quarterback or a running back and has only been awarded to a defensive player twice. Lawrence Taylor, linebacker of the New York Giants, last won the award back in 1986. Watt is with no doubt going to win the defensive player of the year award, the real question is, will he be the first defensive player to win the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor?

Most Valuable Player: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts

There are many candidates for MVP in the NFL this year including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and J.J. Watt but, through Week 10, Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck is the frontrunner for the award. With a league leading 3,085 passing yards through nine games, Luck is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 passing yards in a season. Luck’s completion percentage (63.6%) and average yards per attempt (7.85) are significantly higher than his first two seasons in the NFL. Luck and the Colts are also on pace to win the AFC South for the third straight year and could possibly clinch a first round bye in the postseason. Even with similar numbers to Brady and Manning, Luck might be given the award simply because he has never won it before.

For former Texas Longhorns, Week 2 of the NFL season was collectively one of the most impressive in recent memory.  Here's a recap of some of the great Longhorn performances this week, as well as a look ahead to their teams' matchup in Week 3.

Earl Thomas - Safety, Seattle Seahawks

Along with Seattle's deafening home crowd, Thomas was a large part of a phenomenal defensive effort against the potent 49ers' offense. He recorded three tackles and intercepted the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. This week the Seahawks will host the Jaguars. Expect Thomas and the Seahawks' secondary to perform well against struggling Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Brian Orakpo - Defensive End, Washington Redskins

Orakpo filled out his stat sheet nicely this week against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Despite the Skins' 18-point loss, Orakpo's never-ceasing motor earned him five tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.This weekend he'll face another relatively immobile quarterback in the Lions' Matthew Stafford.

Aaron Williams - Cornerback, Buffalo Bills

The Bills fought hard for new head coach Doug Marone's first NFL victory against Carolina last week. Aaron Williams made a pretty bit difference in the Bills' secondary, as he made a game high 12 tackles including one for a loss. He's always been a lock down corner but sometimes had issues tackling. It appears he's corrected that problem since he left Texas.  This weekend, Geno Smith and the New York Jets await Williams, a great matchup.

Jermichael Finley - Tight End, Green Bay Packers

Finley had an effective outing last week against the Redskins. With Greg Jennings gone, Finley figures to be a bigger target for Rodgers going forward. His six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown last week certainly validates that claim. He and Rodgers will face a tough Cincinnati secondary next week.

Jamaal Charles - Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs

Compared to Charles' standards, last week's results weren't all that impressive: 16 carries for 55 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, is far below his career averages. But he made big runs when the Chiefs needed them the most. He ran for a key first down late in the fourth quarter to keep Dallas' offense off the field, sealing the win.

Joe Flacco has last laugh after vindicating Super Bowl victory

When Joe Flacco said he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL in a radio interview last April, most people thought he was crazy.

I know I did.

It was like saying Crocs had the most swag in the market when they came out.

Eli Manning went through the same type of scrutiny when he claimed that he was one of the quarterback "elites" in 2011, and he had to win the Super Bowl just to prove that claim. Surely, Flacco knew better than to make an assertion that exceeded a two-time Super Bowl champion.

But throughout the season I watched, as did others who doubted, as Flacco outperformed his opponents, defeating supposed superiors throughout the postseason and amid the purple and white confetti it was he who held the Lombardi Trophy, smiling as if to say, “I told you so.”

After throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions throughout the playoffs and earning Super Bowl MVP honors, Flacco proved his claim with the best postseason performance by any quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989.

Here's that list of quarterbacks who I thought were better than Flacco, and how Flacco proved me wrong. In short, the five-year quarterback out of the University of Delaware went mad scientist on everybody, and it was he who had the last laugh.

Quarterbacks better than Flacco (as of last April)

1. Aaron Rodgers
Why:
For one, I don’t see Flacco saving anyone money on their auto insurance. Secondly, he needs to earn MVP status before he passes Rodgers. With 45 touchdowns and six interceptions on the year, Rodgers put up video game-like numbers, leading the Packers to a 15-1 season. One of the few flaws to his season came in the Divisional Playoffs, being outplayed by Eli Manning, another quarterback seeking elite status.
Why Not:
As reigning Super Bowl MVP, Flacco earned the status I said was necessary. In contrast to Rodgers, his video game-like numbers came in the postseason with 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games; the best playoffs performance by a quarterback since Joe Montana in 1989. There are three quarterbacks in NFL history who everyone wants to be compared to: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Flacco’s got one. But unlike Rodgers, he won’t be saving anyone money with the contract he will be receiving.

2. Drew Brees
Why:
After breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record that had stood for 27 years, I thought Brees was on his way to being named league MVP. Like Rodgers, Brees has proved essential to the team’s success, bringing it from the bottom of the NFC South to Super Bowl champions only two years ago. With 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns on the season, Brees has stated a better case for being named “the best” along with his leadership role with his teammates.
Why Not:
Brees had almost the same success in the 2012 season as he had in the year prior, and his team missed the playoffs. Although they were without Sean Payton for the year, I still believe that disproves my theory of Brees’ vitality to the team’s success, or at least diminishes it. However, Brees just may be the closest argument to Flacco’s claim. Brees threw the ball almost 140 more times than Flacco, and without the consistent running game and defense that Baltimore possesses, New Orleans was in more of a position to pass the ball more frequently. There are many arguments that can be made for Brees’ case against Flacco, but Flacco can always play the “I’m the Super Bowl MVP” trump card. We are talking about the present, anyway.

3. Tom Brady
Why:
Although Flacco outperformed Brady in the AFC Championship (2011), one cannot argue against the consistency that Brady has had. Throughout the season (2011), Tom Brady’s performance in the AFC Championship was the only game in which he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Although Brady is in a more pass-oriented system that has given him 70 more attempts than Flacco, he has completed around 10 percent more of his passes and threw the same number of interceptions.
Why Not:
Flacco has not only once again outplayed Tom Brady in the postseason, but improved his completion percentage, pulling within three points of Brady. Flacco also showed maturity throughout the postseason, completing deep passes that he normally would have thrown inaccurately, such as the 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones that sent the Ravens into overtime with the Denver Broncos.

4. Peyton Manning
Why:
Even with three neck surgeries in a span of 19 months hanging a veil of uncertainty over his future, Peyton Manning is higher up the ladder than Flacco. Manning is almost his own offense. He is crazy smart and picks defenses apart. Earlier I discussed how essential Brees was to the Saints. The Colts went 2-14 without Manning. Now that Denver has claimed him, it will be interesting to see how the No. 1 rushing offense will adapt with Manning. He might be at the tail end of his career, but his name is about to go right alongside Unitas, Montana, and Elway when it comes to greatness, and I think even at his lowest point he will outperform Flacco.
Why Not:
This argument will sound much like the case against Brady. Manning gets the credit for being able to bounce back after a season-ending injury like he had. I don’t know what exactly they did over in Europe (perhaps moose antler spray), but Peyton was certainly back up to speed. In fact, he threw for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than he did when he took the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009. So why is Flacco better? For some reason I keep likening these comparisons to a schoolyard fight. You’ve got the big kid versus the average kid, and all day before recess everybody makes their predictions based on what they can see. Well in this case, Manning’s the big kid and Flacco’s the average kid. Manning has the better statistics and he’s beaten up all the other kids that have come through the fourth grade as he’s been held back (metaphorically speaking). But head-to-head, in the midst of the fight, Flacco outperforms. He makes the big plays, he throws for more yardage, more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage in their Divisional Playoff matchup. In that sense, I consider him the better quarterback. But I guess it depends on what you value. By the most current sense of the word, Flacco is better than Peyton Manning.

5. Eli Manning
Why:
I decided to put Eli up here because I feel this leads up well to the point I’m trying to make: You have to earn your spot to be listed up here. Eli went out on a limb and said he was "elite," then played elite, beating most of the quarterbacks on this list along the way. So Flacco… Your turn.
Why Not:
Flacco certainly followed up with his turn, beginning his case ironically against the Giants in Week 16 when he threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 win that gave the initial nudge that was the falling out of New York’s season. From then on he would not throw another interception, outperforming Eli and the rest of those on this list in backing up his claim.

Flacco and the Ravens organization will now enter the offseason, writing up what many expect to be a very sizable contract. But who knows if Flacco will accept the
offer? He might think he’s worth more. He is mad after all.

G-Men's Defense Too Much For Rodgers

Over the past several seasons, teams have proven over and over that it no longer requires a great defense to win in the NFL.  However, every once in a while the guys who are supposed to stop the other team from scoring can actually manage to do so. Just ask these fantasy players:

1) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Coming into Sunday’s showdown with the Giants, Rodgers had thrown for at least two touchdowns in every game since a week three loss to the Seahawks, and had not turned the ball over twice on a given day all year.  However with the Packers’ offensive line in shambles and New York boasting a tenacious pass rush, Rodgers struggled mightily in Green Bay’s 38-10 loss, throwing for 219 yards and a touchdown while throwing an interception and losing a fumble.

2) Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers

Davis’ up and down season continued against the Saints this week, failing to have a single pass thrown his way in Colin Kaepernick’s second consecutive start for San Francisco. Considering he did not even get on the stat sheet, it’s no wonder the veteran tight end vouched for the recently replaced Alex Smith to resume the role of starting quarterback for the 49ers after the game.

3) Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

I would have put the entire Steelers’ offense here if I could after their eight-turnover game against the Browns. However, that would be a little much, so I’ll single out Wallace.  The self-proclaimed leader of Pittsburgh’s “Young Money Crew,” Fast Money was held to a single catch for nine yards, and was a non-factor with third-string QB Charlie Batch under center.  The Steelers and Wallace’s fantasy owners cannot wait until Ben Roethlisberger is healthy.

Aaron Rodgers is the only player to ever have 400 passing yards, throw for four touchdowns, and run for two more in the same game.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Week 4 of the fantasy football season has come and gone. Here are a few of the outstanding fantasy performances and some of the duds.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
This guy was a fantasy god this week: 408 yards, four touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Rodgers literally scored more points than half the players on most people’s rosters. What a week for those who own him and what a killer for those that had the misfortune to play him.

Beanie Wells, Arizona
So much for not playing this week. Wells broke out against a banged-up Giants front seven, rushing for 138 yards and three touchdowns, making him the top fantasy runner for the week. Wells should continue to see plenty of carries the rest of the year as the Cardinals have trouble airing it out. He could be snagged in a trade if owners in your league aren’t paying attention.

Arian Foster, Houston
Finally fully healthy after his hamstring injury, Foster showed why he was the No. 1 overall pick in many drafts this year. He rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown against a stingy Pittsburgh defense. His owners can breathe a sigh of relief.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
This guy isn’t starting in many leagues and Sunday night was a perfect example why. Sanchez only had 119 yards passing and on top of that pathetic performance, he threw a pick and surrendered three fumbles against the Ravens. Quarterback is the easiest position to rack up fantasy points at but Sanchez couldn’t even manage to do that, coming away with -2 points this week. “Sanchise” should ride your bench unless you’re desperate.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh
Mendenhall was a top-10 pick in many leagues coming off a breakout season in which he rushed for 1273 and 13 touchdowns. But this season, he just can’t get it started, rushing for only 148 yards in four games. His fantasy owners might need to start looking elsewhere for a while until Mendenhall starts picking it up.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
After Jamaal Charles got hurt many people, including McCluster, thought the former Longhorn star might break out with increased touches, but so far that isn’t the case. Since JC went down, McCluster has yet to put up more than five fantasy points. At best, he should be a flex option in a deep league. 

Printed on October 4, 2011, as: Rodgers has record-setting day, scores 6 TD

Michael Vick has just signed a 6 year, 100 -million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, making him the third highest player in the NFL. This is just two years after he was released from jail.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Quick — name the three best quarterbacks in the NFL. Most people come up with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady right off the bat. The third quarterback chosen might be Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Philip Rivers.

All of these players are deserving of consideration for the spot, but none of those signal callers are the third-highest paid at the position. That distinction belongs to the Eagles’ Michael Vick, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract on Tuesday.

This is the same player who, just over two years ago, was serving jail time. He was out of work and bankrupt. Now he’s the first player ever in league history to sign two deals worth $100 million.

“The thing for me was believing in the people who were there for me in my time of need,” Vick said at his press conference.

“You never know what’s going to happen.”

Vick’s story is a great one, and completely exemplifies the beauty of the American justice system and the way it gives people the opportunity to redeem themselves.

But has Vick really earned that sum of money in just two years back in the NFL? The short answer to that question is no, not yet.

In his first year back, he rarely saw the field, just coming in briefly to run the wildcat package behind Donovan McNabb.

In his second year — a season that began on the bench behind Kevin Kolb — he put up some gaudy numbers, throwing 21 touchdowns and running for nine more in 11 starts. He finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting to Brady.

The key number there is 11 — as in only 11 starts out of 32 chances since he has been back. That’s not enough of a sample size to support a $100 million contract.

Vick is also injury prone, and has only been healthy for a full 16-game schedule just once in his eight-year career.

But perhaps most importantly, Vick has not proven himself as a winner in the big games yet with a 2-3 all time playoff record. Manning, Brady, Brees and Rodgers have each won at least one championship.

So while Vick’s story is a great one, a redemption story for the ages, the Eagles may have jumped the gun a little on the contract, paying an injury-prone 31-year-old like an all-time great. 

Aaron Rodgers has turned the Green Bay Packers into Super Bowl champions once again.

ARLINGTON — Aaron Rodgers has turned the Green Bay Packers into Super Bowl champions once again.

Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and Nick Collins returned an interception for another score, leading the Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

This was Green Bay’s fourth Super Bowl title. The Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Vince Lombardi coaching Bart Starr, and captured another with Brett Favre in January 1997.

The Steelers trailed 21-3 before halftime. Ben Roethlisberger got them within 28-25 midway through the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass and a nifty 2-point conversion. The Packers answered with a field goal, giving Roethlisberger one last chance.

Needing to go 87 yards in 1:59 with one timeout left, Roethlisberger couldn’t make it across midfield.

As the Packers ran out the clock, fans chanted, “Go Pack Go!” Rodgers — who was named the game’s MVP — wound up with the ball, bouncing up and down. He hugged Clay Matthews Jr. near midfield as confetti shot out of cannons and silver streamers dropped.

“This is a great day to be great, baby,” said wide receiver Greg Jennings.

“We’ve been a team that’s overcome adversity all year,” he added. “Our head captain goes down, emotional in the locker room. Our No. 1 receiver goes down, more emotions are going, flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exert it all out here on the field.”

This was only the second time Pittsburgh lost a Super Bowl. The Steelers still have the most wins with six and are tied for the most appearances with eight.

The crowd at Cowboys Stadium was 91,060 paying attendees, or 103,219 counting “credentialed attendees.” It fell short of the record.

Green Bay led 21-17 after three quarters, but the Packers were without cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields and receiver Donald Driver.

The Steelers had the momentum, the experience and the crowd — tens of thousands of fans twirling “Terrible Towels” and making things tough for Rodgers to bark out signals at times.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter, with Pittsburgh possibly driving for a go-ahead touchdown, Rashard Mendenhall fumbled on a hit by Clay Matthews Jr. The Packers took over at their own 45.

Jennings caught his second TD pass of the game to give the Packers a 28-17 lead with 11:57 to play — their third touchdown following a takeaway.

The Packers’ final points came on a 23-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2:07 left.

Christina Aguilera got the game off to a rocky start by flubbing a line in the national anthem. The Steelers didn’t do much better at the outset.

Green Bay jumped ahead 14-0 with touchdowns on consecutive plays: a 29-yard touchdown catch by Jordy Nelson, then Collins’ interception, which featured a weaving return, a dive into the end zone and hip-swiveling dance toward the Pittsburgh sideline by B.J. Raji, the Packers’ jumbo-sized nose tackle.

Rodgers stretched the lead to 21-3 by drilling a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jennings. The ball whistled past safety Ryan Clark, with Jennings making a tough catch look easy just before getting popped by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. That drive also was set up by an interception, a pickoff at midfield by Jarrett Bush.

Roethlisberger’s miserable first half turned a little better at the end.

Taking over deep in his own territory after Jennings’ touchdown, he threw a 37-yard completion to Antwaan Randle El. That started a seven-play, 77-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown catch to former Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward.

Also on that drive, Woodson hurt his collarbone diving for a pass. He spent the second half in street clothes, with his left arm in a sling, appearing quite uncomfortable. Driver was out with an ankle injury, and Shields hurt a shoulder.

With two defensive backs out at the half, everyone expected the Steelers to come out throwing in the third quarter. Nope. They gained all 50 yards on their opening drive on the ground, with Mendenhall bowling in from the 8 for the touchdown. He jumped up and flung the ball into the stands with a two-handed basketball chest pass.

The first Super Bowl held at $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium came following a week of ice and snow that caused all sorts of problems. Hopes for an uneventful gameday were ruined when several sections of temporary seats — holding about 1,250 people — were deemed unsafe.

Celebs were everywhere: from former President George W. Bush to baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez, who was seen having popcorn shoveled into his mouth by actress Cameron Diaz. Hollywood stars John Travolta, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart, Mark Harmon, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas were in attendance, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson was seated near new Cowboys coach Jason Garrett; on Garrett’s other side was Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Football stars were sprinkled around, too. The newest Hall of Fame class, chosen Saturday, took part in the pregame coin toss, with Deion Sanders handling the flip.