Friday, December 05, 2014

The NFL Three-Quarters Award Winners

DECEMBER 5, 2014


We’ve made it three-quarters of the way through the NFL season, so that means one thing: It’s time to catch up on the various award races.
Everyquarter, I run through the regular-season trophies to get a gauge on how perceptions are changing as the season goes along. The league moves so quickly that it’s actually pretty incredible to see players enter a race and then disappear over the course of mere weeks. Philip Rivers went from being an MVP candidate to downright mediocre and then flipped that script in Sunday’s win over Baltimore alone.

Please keep in mind that these aren’t my picks for who should win each award, but instead who I think is most likely to win. These are also based on a combination of each player’s current output and what’s likely to happen over the remainder of the season; if I had thought Haloti Ngata deserved to be defensive player of the year for his performance through the first 13 weeks of the season, the news of his suspension for Adderallwould immediately ix-nay his candidacy.

Let’s start with an award where one teammate’s late surge might very well usurp another’s …

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Week 4: Kyle Fuller, Bears
Week 9: Anthony Barr, Vikings
Week 13: Chris Borland, 49ers

Last time, I jokingly wrote Borland’s name before crossing it out. No joke this time. Borland’s profile has exploded over the past four weeks, to the point where he’s now the highest-profile defensive rookie seeing regular playing time. Seahawks fans were actually trying to troll me on Twitter on Thanksgiving by pointing out that Marshawn Lynch had run over Borland, not noting that Borland had made probably a half-dozen solo tackles on Lynch up to that point, let alone that we’re talking about the most powerful running back in football versus the fourth inside linebacker on the 49ers depth chart. It’s a sign of how far Borland has come.

It’s also a sign that there really isn’t a clear-cut choice to compete with Borland. Barr had only one sack during this past quarter and he left Sunday’s win over the Panthers with a lingering knee injury that will likely keep him out for at least one week. C.J. Mosley has immediately settled in and taken over as a fine inside linebacker for the Ravens, and he’s actually a better player than Borland, but Borland’s story is better, and that matters to the electorate that votes on these awards.

Aaron Donald is an absolute freak and deserves the J.J. Watt–lite comparisons he got before the draft, but his rookie-leading sack total is at just six. He is Borland’s biggest competition for the award, and it should come down to how these two play over the final month.

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