WATCH: THE TOP 5 QBs ON DRAFTKINGS THIS SEASON
Before the 2016 NFL season kicked off, I made my preseason predictions here on the DK Playbook. I followed that up with some midseason revisions. And now with the regular season over, it’s at last time to make the final predictions on some awards and postseason outcomes.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Dak Prescott/Ezekiel Elliot — QB/RB, Dallas Cowboys
(Preseason pick: Elliot, Midseason pick: Prescott)
Honestly, just let them share this. Neither are going to win the MVP, but both are extremely deserving of some type of hardware for what they did in taking the Cowboys from a 4-win team to a 13-win team. We don’t even have to go over the individual stats, but both of these rookies were electric. No need to play favorites or steal votes from each other here.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Jalen Ramsey — DB Jacksonville Jaguars
(Preseason pick: Ramsey, Midseason pick: Ramsey)
I’m sticking to my guns here. Honestly, Joey Bosa was fantastic this season, racking up 10.5 sacks in just 12 games. However, despite some occasional rookie struggles, Ramsey was on the field all season predominantly as a shutdown corner. The best compliment you can give a rookie CB is to avoid throwing at him, something teams did at times.
Offensive Player of the Year
Matt Ryan — QB, Atlanta Falcons
(Preseason pick: Julio Jones, Midseason pick: Ryan)
There’s no doubting just how good the Falcons were on offense this season, and a lot of that’s because of Ryan’s improvements. He had a career season, completing 69.9% of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions — good for a 117.4 QB rating. All of those are career-bests.
Defensive Player of the Year
Von Miller — LB, Denver Broncos
(Preseason pick: Khalil Mack, Midseason pick: Miller)
Miller didn’t have a sack in the last four games of the season, finishing with 13.5. It was extremely disappointing and didn’t help Denver’s collapse at all, but the season fell apart for the Broncos on offense, not defense. Furthermore, nobody else on a playoff team stepped up and dominated, while Denver still finished above .500. With no other real dominant force, Miller still had a good enough season to claim the award.
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Coach of the Year
Bill Belichick — New England Patriots
(Preseason pick: Belichick, Midseason pick: Jack Del Rio)
Despite some other candidates flashing at times, this award has to be Belichick’s. 14-2 with three different starting quarterbacks, while trading Jamie Collins away and losing the most dominant force in the NFL (Gronk) for the season sounds … almost disastrous. Instead the Pats are the top team in the AFC. Jason Garrett may get the award, but Bill deserves it. Even if you’re a Patriots hater, you’ve got to admit it was an impressive season.
Comeback Player of the Year
Jordy Nelson — WR, Green Bay Packers
(Preseason pick: Andrew Luck, Midseason pick: Melvin Gordon)
This award flip flopped all year. Luck clearly wasn’t even close to earning it, but Gordon was on track until his recent injury. In the end, Nelson was right back to being the focal point of one of the league’s best offenses. After missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL, he came right back to play in all 16 games and drop a 97-1,257-14 line (leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns).
WATCH: THE TOP 5 WRs ON DRAFTKINGS THIS YEAR
Matt Ryan — QB, Atlanta Falcons
(Preseason pick: Aaron Rodgers, Midseason pick: Tom Brady)
Those have to be the indisputable top-3 candidates for the award. And while I’d take Brady or Rodgers on my team any day, it was Ryan’s season. The Packers’ slow start and Brady’s suspension helped shift momentum in Matty Ice’s favor. You saw the numbers above, but Ryan also got all of his receivers involved (Sanu and Gabriel emerging behind Julio) while opening up a running game that helped the Falcons’ offense take the next step. He improved Atlanta by three wins and earned them a first-round bye. That’s what MVPs do.
For the record, I picked eight of the 12 playoff teams correctly in the preseason, whiffing on the Jags, Colts, Panthers and Cardinals (yea … those weren’t good picks) over the Texans, Dolphins, Lions and Falcons.
Nonetheless, it leaves us with a pretty interesting playoff bracket that’s heavily weighted towards the NFC. Here’s how I like it to shake out.
Wild Card Weekend
Raiders @ Texans — Yuck. The battle of the backup quarterbacks … in Oakland’s case maybe third-string quarterback if that’s what you want to call Conor Cook? Whatever this game is, it’s not going to be pretty. Houston won the worst division in the NFL and Oakland caught some tough luck with Carr going down. Give me the home team with a solid defense in the “Let’s go get demolished by the Patriots next weekend” Bowl.
Lions @ Seahawks — The Lions surprised a lot of people this season, and Matthew Stafford was on the cusp of the MVP discussion with Calvin Johnson gone and practically no defense or running game. He willed the Lions to where they are (although if Washington was competent enough to win a home game against a team not even trying, Detroit wouldn’t even be here). That said, the Lions have way too many holes to win a playoff game in Seattle.
Dolphins @ Steelers — Forget the 30-15 thrashing Miami handed Pittsburgh this season. The Steelers are completely healthy and playing at home. They’ve got all the tools to win this game over a team that barely squeaked into the postseason missing its starting QB.
Giants @ Packers — Obviously, the NFL is saving the best for last here. This should be the game of the weekend between a couple of red-hot teams. Unfortunately for the Giants, they’re catching the wrong team at the wrong time. Aaron Rodgers keeps rolling. I wish I could be more interesting, but I really like the spot that all the home teams are in this weekend.
Seahawks @ Falcons — Atlanta was almost good enough to win Week 6 in Seattle. Seattle would definitely be a sexy pick to win this game on the road, but something tells me this is Atlanta’s year. Their offense is legit, they’re at home and Seattle has taken a step backwards.
Texans @ Patriots — It doesn’t matter if the matchup is with Miami, Oakland or Houston, this sets up to be one of the more lopsided playoff games in the Brady/Belichick era.
Steelers @ Chiefs — This matchup feels right as it really is the two teams most agree are the second and third best teams in the AFC. We just need to find out which one is which. Playing in KC is a huge advantage for the Chiefs, but the Steelers’ firepower is just too much to ignore.
Packers @ Cowboys — The Cowboys stuck it to the Packers, 30-16, at Lambeau Field in another Week 6 matchup that we could see again in the divisional round. This game figures to be much more competitive the way the Packers are playing, and one of the best games of the playoffs. Green Bay has what it takes to win this game, but will they? I say yes.
Packers @ Falcons — The NFC playoffs should be filled with rematches, and this one will be no different. The Packers fell at the Georgia Dome in Week 8 in a wild 33-32 shootout. This would be a fun game between two stud quarterbacks …
Steelers @ Patriots — In my opinion, the Steelers are the only team in the AFC with the weapons to beat the Patriots. They played in the regular season in Pittsburgh, but without Big Ben there aren’t any real takeaways. It’d be a tall task with the way the Patriots are playing, but not a shocking upset …
Packers vs. Patriots — And wouldn’t this be a fun one? Another QB duel for the ages. I’ve had New England representing the AFC since the preseason, whereas I’ve gone from the Cardinals in the NFC preseason (whoops), to the Cowboys in my midseason picks. Although I still like Dallas, I think the winner of the Giants vs. Packers game is making a run to the Superbowl, which will be a fun matchup either way. Green Bay is the hotter team, so I have them making it there, but I’ll stick with the Pats as my champion. Brady and Belichick collect their fifth ring 15 years after upsetting the Rams for their first.
For questions or comments hit me up on Twitter: @julianedlow.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.