By Chris Thompson
Published: November 15th, 2017
Most Valuable Player – Tom Brady: No player has meant more to its team in recent history than Tom Brady to the New England Patriots. If you take Brady away from the Patriots, the team will likely look like the Green Bay Packers do without Aaron Rodgers: bad. New England has played in four games this season that were decided by one possession, and in these games they carry a favorable 3-1 record. Without Brady, the Patriots could be looking at a 4-5 record at best. This would place them behind the New York Jets, who are currently holding down the fourth spot in the AFC East. Despite a 29th ranked defense, Brady has maintained his skill as a quarterback with 19 touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with a 67.3 percent completion rating for a passer rating of 108.3. With his play, Brady has carried the Patriots to a record of 7-2. New England looks like its well on its way to what could be the NFL’s first back-to-back Super Bowl champion since the 2003 and 2004 Patriots teams accomplished the same feat.
Offensive Player of the Year – Carson Wentz: Carson Wentz could be the closest contender to Brady for the 2017 MVP award this season. Wentz has been spectacular this season, playing for a team that is second in league scoring and looking like he’s well on his way to becoming a superstar. Currently with 23 passing touchdowns, Wentz has already surpassed his 2016 total of 16. He appears to have addressed the issue of turnovers that plagued him and the Eagles last season, having only thrown 5 picks this season. Wentz is not above Brady because Philadelphia has a far better defense than New England, especially when it comes to stopping the run, so the wins aren’t solely because of him. Philadelphia has an identity in the run game now that running back Jay Ajayi has joined the squad after a questionable trade with Miami. Wentz has created an energy in Philadelphia that hasn’t been seen since Donovan McNabb’s time as an Eagle.
Defensive Player of the Year – Calais Campbell: If the season ended today, the 5-3 Jacksonville Jaguars would be in the playoffs. Let that sink in. The halfway mark of the season has passed, and the Jags are in the playoff hunt. The addition of 10-year veteran Calais Campbell has been the catalyst that has carried Jacksonville to a tie with Tennessee for the top spot in the AFC South division. Campbell’s league-leading 11 sacks—his career best—come in the most opportune moments, as 8 of those 11 sacks have been enjoyed during Jaguar victories.
Rookie of the Year – Deshaun Watson: I know! The guy is out for the rest of the season, a crying shame. Watson had been the most electrifying player to watch up until his season-ending knee injury that occurred during a Week 9 practice. Before his injury, Watson was tied with Wentz in passing touchdowns with 19. Since being inserted into the lineup midway through the Houston Texans’ opening game against Jacksonville, his team was considered among the best offenses in the league, averaging 34 points a game. If Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt can return to the same form he was in during Weeks 1-5, he could end up being the NFL ROY. At this point of the season, though, Watson shines in his rookie class.
Coach of the Year – Sean McVay: It’s a no-brainer that the 31-year old rookie head coach of the LA Rams is this year’s NFL Coach of the Year. After inheriting the league’s worst offense, which finished dead last in scoring with only 14 points per game during the 2016 season, Coach McVay has quickly turned the Rams around, catapulting them into the playoff conversation. After finishing the 2016 season with a 4-12 record, the team is currently 7-2 and standing alone at the top of the NFC West division, above the Seattle Seahawks. The young skill position players of the Rams—quarterback Jared Goff and star running back Todd Gurley II—have shown massive improvements since the addition of their new head coach. McVay, the former offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins, has helped elevate the second-year quarterback to a new level this season. Goff has already surpassed his last season’s touchdown total by throwing for 16 scores this year. Gurley II has also enjoyed an increase in carries this season, as he is on pace for 322 carries and currently remains just 131 yards behind last season’s 885 total rushing yards. If the McVay-led Rams can continue the pace they have set midway through the season, the city of Los Angeles could witness its first NFL playoff team since the Art Shell-coached LA Raiders in 1993.