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2016 NFL award predictions: MVP, Rookie of the Year and more

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On the cusp of the 2016 NFL season, our analysts provide their predictions, including the winners of individual awards, playoff teams for each conference and Championship Sunday/Super Bowl forecasts.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Judy Battista: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. If his receiving corps stays healthy -- and it HAS to be healthier than last season -- Rodgers will enjoy one of his standard MVP-worthy seasons. What puts him over the top? The Packers have the easiest strength of schedule entering the season, with only the Seahawks (vs. Seattle on Dec. 11) looming as a daunting out-of-division showdown.

Jeffri Chadiha: Rodgers. Rodgers played most of 2015 with a depleted supporting cast and an overweight Eddie Lacy. He'll be at his best as long as those disadvantages don't plague the Pack this season.

Kurt Warner: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. I've raved about his ability in the past and think he's going to have another productive year.

Gil Brandt: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers. Newton follows in the footsteps of Super Bowl 50 foe Peyton Manning, the last player to be named MVP in consecutive seasons (in 2008 and '09). Newton will be even better than he was in 2015, thanks to another year of experience -- he'll be ready for the new looks he'll face from opposing defenses.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. He is going to be on a mission (again). It's as simple as that.

Brian Billick: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. With the departure of Beast Mode, Wilson will have to be a 500-plus throw quarterback for the first time in his career and he is more than capable of that workload. Forty-plus total touchdowns and fewer than double-digits turnovers is attainable.

Gregg Rosenthal: Wilson. He plays quarterback well, which is one requirement for this award. He's going to play for a team that wins more games than any other, which is another requirement.

Willie McGinest: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants Sterling Shepard (and possibly Victor Cruz) will open up the field for OBJ. The Giants' offense is going to be more comfortable in its third year under Ben McAdoo. OBJ is going to have a lot of touches and close to 1,800 yards and around 14 touchdowns if he's healthy.

Adam Schein: Rodgers. It's Aaron Rodgers' world and we are just living in it. Rodgers will be back to his explosive self with the return of Jordy Nelson and the slimmer frame of Eddie Lacy.

Bucky Brooks: Wilson. The Seahawks QB1 nearly claimed the league's top honor with a furious finish in 2015, but Wilson leaves no doubt this season with a spectacular campaign (4,000-plus passing yards, 35:10 TD-to-INT ratio) that cements his status as elite.

Eric Davis: Newton. He can easily improve on his mechanics (footwork, timing and his release). He's already the MVP, and with those improvements, he will earn this award once again.

Elliot Harrison: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers. He should've been given much stronger consideration the last two years. In 2016, Brown will become the first receiver to win the AP award.

David Carr: Brown. I would like to see more non-quarterbacks win this award, and I think he has a shot at taking it this season. He put up 1,834 yards a season ago, and he has the potential to have an even bigger year in 2016.

Charley Casserly: Brady. Despite missing four games, Brady proves he is the MVP by leading the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.

Ike Taylor: Newton. He will win for the second straight year simply because he won't lose any weapons from last season -- AND gains his best receiver from 2014 (Kelvin Benjamin). The Panthers have a solid run game, which includes Newton. Cam is set up for another MVP season.

Dave Dameshek: Rodgers. Cam, Big Ben & Russell oughta be in the mix, but -- based on a few of Rodgers' comments this offseason -- the most talented guy to ever play sports' most difficult position has better pass catchers and a chip on his shoulder going into 2016.

BUT IF NOT: Don't be surprised if Tom Brady goes 12-0 while never once handing the ball off.

Chris Wesseling: Wilson. The Seahawks are starting to give off that old familiar Super Bowl vibe again, and Wilson is riding high after authoring the best eight-game stretch of his sterling career late last year.

Colleen Wolfe: Roethlisberger. This is the year he stays healthy and finally gets the credit he deserves. Somebody hold Dave Dameshek.

Heath Evans: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. What does this guy have to do to be the MVP? He has been the most dominant defensive player in the league for several years and deserves this award. I believe Watt is going to have his best season yet, despite having surgery in the offseason.

Marcas Grant: Rodgers. The band is back together in Green Bay! After a "disappointing" season, Rodgers will reassume his place atop the league's best.

Adam Rank: Rodgers. What a year it will be for the Rodgers family! Jordan wins love, Aaron gets another MVP award.

Michael Robinson: Rodgers. I think last year was a real disappointment for him. He is one of the best quarterbacks right now, and he has too much pride to have another down season.

Alex Gelhar: Rodgers. With his weapons once again healthy and in shape, and Mike McCarthy calling plays, Rodgers could be in for another statistically dominant season.

 

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown is so dominant that he even softens the blow of the season-long suspension of Martavis Bryant. Last year, he had 136 receptions for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns -- and that was with Michael Vick and Landry Jones starting five games. Good luck to defensive backs if Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy this season.

Jeffri Chadiha: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams. Gurley won Offensive Rookie of the Year without playing a full season and he'll be even more dangerous in his second go-around.

Kurt Warner: Brown.

Gil Brandt: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. Even with Brady set to miss the first four games of the season, he'll throw for 3,700 yards and 25 touchdowns in leading the Pats to yet another AFC East title.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Gurley. I think he's going to build off what he did as a rookie.

Brian Billick: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the lack of a proven tight end in Pittsburgh, there isn't a quarterback in the NFL who has more weapons at his disposal.

Gregg Rosenthal: N/A. The dumbest award in sports should just go to the MVP.

Willie McGinest: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. He is coming off a mediocre year for him in 2015. He is in the best shape of his life right now and gets some weapons back on offense. He wants to prove that the Packers are still the team to beat in the division and conference.

Adam Schein: Rodgers. See: My MVP blurb.

Bucky Brooks: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys. It's uncommon for a rookie runner to dominate the NFL in his first season, but Elliott makes a push at the 2,000-yard club as the Cowboys' feature back.

Eric Davis: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants. Because of Eli Manning's resurgence, OBJ could get this award.

Elliot Harrison: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots. This should be the same as the MVP, but give it to Gronk because he deserves it for being so much better than everyone else at his position.

David Carr: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants. He has a great group of receivers -- even if Victor Cruz isn't healthy, they still have Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. The Giants improved their defense, so Eli and Co. will have more opportunities.

Charley Casserly: Roethlisberger. With the weapons he has, I look for Big Ben to have a monster year.

Ike Taylor: Brown. This guy will win this award if -- and only if -- Ben Roethlisberger plays in all 16 regular-season games. If both of these players are healthy, nobody can match their production.

Dave Dameshek: Beckham. Even when adjusted for generational differences, Antonio Brown's 2013-15 stretch is the greatest in NFL history. This year, though, Beckham will grab (one-handed?!) the mantle of "Best Receiver" with 120 catches, 1,900 yards and 15 TDs.

BUT IF NOT: Give it to Gronk, the best to ever play his position.

Chris Wesseling: Beckham. I have no idea what the qualifications are for this award, but Beckham is the best athlete on the field every time he steps foot on the gridiron. He's a generational talent.

Colleen Wolfe: Brown. No one can stop him. Not even the barber who gave him that sweet Lego cut last year.

Heath Evans: Brady. Even though he's going to miss four games, Brady will have some of the best numbers in the league. He's on a mission, and I learned -- when I played with the Patriots for four years -- that you should never bet against him.

Marcas Grant: Rodgers. If you're the best player in the league, how are you not also the best offensive player? This feels like a slam dunk.

Adam Rank: Brown. He's the best player in the league.

Michael Robinson: Gronkowski. The Patriots brought in Martellus Bennett, who is a huge threat and normally a TE1. How can defenses possibly guard both of these guys? They can't, and Gronk will take advantage of that.

Alex Gelhar: Brown. His value to the team and personal ability shine this year with the absence of Martavis Bryant.

 

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Tyrann Mathieu, S, Arizona Cardinals. It's tempting to pencil in J.J. Watt again, but let's wait to see how his recovery from surgery goes first. Mathieu's star is ascending and if he is completely recovered from the torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2015 season, he'll make a strong push for this award because of his versatility.

Jeffri Chadiha: Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders. If J.J. Watt wasn't around, Mack could've won this award in 2015, amassing 15 sacks and 77 tackles. Watt won't block his way this time.

Kurt Warner: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams.

Gil Brandt: Donald. In his second pro season, Donald collected 11 sacks and first-team All-Pro honors. He has the great quickness needed to rush the passer and the strength to stop the run.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Mack. He will have a better year than the last, and I think he's going to challenge the single-season sack record.

Brian Billick: Mack. I'm tired of voting for J.J. Watt, and Von Miller is just too easy. Khalil Mack jumped from four sacks as a rookie to 15 last season -- look for that number to be closer to 20 this season.

Gregg Rosenthal: Donald. J.J. Watt's injury allows someone else to step up this year. Why not the author of the best non-Watt season by a defensive lineman this decade?

Willie McGinest: Mack. He was right there with J.J. Watt in 2015, and I think he's going to take his game to the next level this season.

Adam Schein: Mack. Derek Carr told me on my SiriusXM Radio show that Mack will sack the QB 30 times this year. I won't go that far, but put me down for 20, as Mack leads the Raiders to the playoffs!

Bucky Brooks: Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals. P2 takes his game to another level as the Cardinals' shutdown corner. He blanks every marquee WR1 on the schedule and delivers enough splash plays to carry the Cards' D to a top-five ranking.

Eric Davis: Mack. For the Raiders to take the next step, stars have to play like stars -- and Mack is Oakland's biggest star.

Elliot Harrison: Mathieu. Had Honey Badger winning it last year until he got hurt.

David Carr: Mack. If my brother is right, I can't argue against Mack. He sets the tone for the Raiders' defense and is certainly on the rise as a defensive star.

Charley Casserly: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans. I am going with the champ until he is dethroned. Kahlil Mack is my backup choice if Watt is hampered by injuries.

Ike Taylor: Mathieu. If he can stay on the field, his versatility will carry him to this award. He can play anywhere in the secondary and can do so many things for the Cards' defense.

Dave Dameshek: Donald. Even though he doesn't cut the typical hulking figure of an NFL D-tackle, he's always easy to spot on the field. (Note: He's the one in the opponent's backfield on every play.)

BUT IF NOT: Ryan Shazier will do for linebackers what Tyrann Mathieu has done for DBs.

Chris Wesseling: Donald. J.J. Watt is the gold standard, but Donald closed the gap last season. If Watt has to shake off the rust following back surgery, Donald could sprint out to an early lead and never look back.

Colleen Wolfe: Donald. After winning, he will celebrate with a triumphant game of shirtless ping-pong.

Heath Evans: Watt. He has won this award three of the last four years. I don't have a reason to pick against him at this point.

Marcas Grant: Mack. Mack officially announced his presence to the league last year. This year, he'll become impossible to ever ignore.

Adam Rank: Donald. The latest box-office draw in Los Angeles.

Michael Robinson: Mack. I just love this guy. He's a beast and should build off his 2015 season, which saw him earn All-Pro honors at two positions.

Alex Gelhar: Mack. With J.J. Watt working his way back from injury and Aaron Donald playing on a rebuilding team, perhaps Mack gets an early lead and runs away with this award.

 

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys. This is Elliott's award to lose. In his preseason game against Seattle, Elliott showed speed, vision and a willingness to engage defenders. Behind Dallas' dominant offensive line, the rookie's poised to run wild.

Jeffri Chadiha: Elliott. The Ohio State product is a perfect fit for a Cowboys squad that wants to pound the rock.

Kurt Warner: Elliott. He's going to get a lot of carries, especially with Tony Romo sidelined.

Gil Brandt: Elliott. Elliott can do everything: He'll run, he'll block, he'll catch the ball. And he'll be a machine behind the Cowboys' dominant O-line, to the tune of a 1,500-yard debut.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Elliott. He has the best chance at being successful in the offense he's in. He will get a lot of touches and produce big numbers in Year 1.

Brian Billick: Elliott. As of now, none of the three first-round quarterbacks are slated to start in the season opener. Not that that matters. Elliott would still be the pick, running behind what is easily the best offensive line in the NFL.

Gregg Rosenthal: Elliott. Any other pick is just trying too hard. Elliott isn't a bad dark-horse MVP pick while we're at it.

Willie McGinest: Elliott. He has the best offensive line in the game, and the Cowboys are going to lean on the run game. He is built for this system and ready to carry the load.

Adam Schein: Elliott. Elliott gets the nod just ahead of Ryan Kelly and Ronnie Stanley.

Bucky Brooks: Elliott. The Cowboys' RB1 is as good as advertised as a first-year starter. He not only makes a run at the 2,000-yard club, but carries the Cowboys to a playoff berth.

Eric Davis: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans. I think the Titans will use him a lot around the goal line, so he's going to score a lot of touchdowns.

Elliot Harrison: Elliott. Wanted to go Laquon Treadwell here, but after watching the preseason, Ezekiel Elliott is the choice. This kid isn't scared and, uh, that offensive line, man ...

David Carr: Elliott. He's going to have a big year behind the Cowboys' offensive line.

Charley Casserly: Elliott. I said it on Draft Day and I'm not changing my mind now, even though the loss of Tony Romo hurts.

Ike Taylor: Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans. DeAndre Hopkins will get most of the attention, rookie Braxton Miller will work the slot and Fuller will go under the radar and produce big numbers. It's going to be an aerial assault in Houston.

Dave Dameshek: Elliott. Boring choice, but it's gotta be Zeke (although the guy who'll be handing him the ball to start the season is suddenly in a position to change that).

BUT IF NOT: Watch out for Devontae Booker in Denver.

Chris Wesseling: Elliott. It won't be long before Elliott is viewed as the premier all-around back in football. He boasts rare instincts, awareness, vision and toughness -- as if he was born to play running back in the NFL.

Colleen Wolfe: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys. I'm blinded by the preseason light. I have to wear sunglasses when I watch him.

Heath Evans: Braxton Miller, WR, Houston Texans. The Texans suddenly have one of the best receiving corps in the entire league. He's going to be a big threat in this offense and will get a lot of opportunities.

Marcas Grant: Elliott. The best running back prospect in the draft behind the NFL's best offensive line. Is there any other way this can end?

Adam Rank: Elliott. So the best running back off the board is playing behind the best offensive line. That seems fair.

Michael Robinson: Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants. I think he's going to have a big role in the Giants' passing game, simply because I'm not sure Victor Cruz will make the team.

Alex Gelhar: Elliott. If someone other than Zeke wins this award -- especially after Tony Romo's injury -- it'll be a huge upset.

 

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Myles Jack, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars. Assuming his knee is OK and he remains healthy, Jack should have a huge impact on Jacksonville's ability to cover running backs and tight ends, where the Jaguars were dreadful last year. Joey Bosa's protracted holdout probably eliminated him from contention.

Jeffri Chadiha: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Jacksonville Jaguars. Ramsey was one of the most versatile defenders in this year's draft and he should immediately help the Jaguars' defense.

Kurt Warner: Jack. This would be a great story for this kid to win this award on the heels of his knee injury.

Gil Brandt: Brandon Williams, CB, Arizona Cardinals. Like 2015 winner Marcus Peters in Kansas City, Williams will have lots of chances to pick off the ball as opponents avoid the veteran across from him (All-Pro Patrick Peterson, in Williams' case) -- and I expect Williams to make good on the opportunity.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Ramsey. Like Marcus Peters last season, Ramsey will get challenged a lot in his first season and will make plays.

Brian Billick: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jalen Ramsey and Eli Apple were both drafted before him, but I had Vernon Hargreaves as my best-rated cornerback prospect in this class, and he landed in a phenomenal system that will allow him to make plays on the ball.

Gregg Rosenthal: Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons. Linebackers that rack up tackles as rookies often win this award. Jones and teammate De'Vondre Campbell have been flying around the field.

Willie McGinest: Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay Packers. He is playing a much-needed role for Green Bay. He's a middle-of-the-pocket threat and sturdy against the run. Clark is physical and athletic enough to get to the quarterback, and could be a Day 1 starter.

Adam Schein: Jack. I'm going out on a limb here, banking on Jack staying healthy. But if he does, Jack is a perfect fit in Gus Bradley's defense and will make many general managers look foolish for passing on him. Jack edges out Bucs corner Vernon Hargreaves for the hardware.

Bucky Brooks: Ramsey. The Jaguars' defense emerges as one of the league's biggest surprises with Ramsey leading the way on the island. The world-class athlete with extraordinary football instincts plays at a Pro Bowl level as Jacksonville's hybrid playmaker in the back end.

Eric Davis: Jack. The rookie awards are all about stats, and he's going to be put in a position to produce in Jacksonville's defense.

Elliot Harrison: Karl Joseph, S, Oakland Raiders. My editor turned me on to De'Vondre Campbell, a good kid who should get an opportunity in Atlanta. Arizona third-rounder Brandon Williams is a fun candidate, especially with the Cardinals really needing him to win the starting job. Darron Lee should contribute on the Jets' D. Who knows how much opportunity Myles Jack will receive in Jacksonville? Joseph, who will have the luxury of starting Day 1 opposite veteran Reggie Nelson, will win the award for the Raiders.

David Carr: Jack. Even in the preseason, Jack showed us what he's capable of. If this kid is healthy, he's going to do big things for the Jaguars.

Charley Casserly: Ramsey. His impact might be more about forcing opposing quarterbacks to avoid him. Reggie Ragland was my choice on Draft Day because LBs usually win this, but his injury forced me to reconsider.

Ike Taylor: Jarran Reed, DT, Seattle Seahawks. He has a good setup in Seattle with Pete Carroll and that Seahawks defense. Reed was one of the main forces of Alabama's defensive line a year ago, and he'll bring his dominance to Seattle. I think he's going to play less like a rookie and more like a veteran.

Dave Dameshek: Ramsey. If Chargers fans are upset about their team's standoff with No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa, just wait 'til they see No. 5 overall pick Ramsey (the best defensive player available in the 2016 draft).

BUT IF NOT: Darron Lee is in an enviable spot playing behind the Jets' dominant front four. Lots of tackles and a few INTs are in his near future.

Chris Wesseling: T.J. Green, S, Indianapolis Colts. Described as a "rare cat" at 6-foot-3 with 4.34 wheels, Green has been running as the first-team free safety opposite Mike Adams. He has the physical gifts to make splash plays on an otherwise questionable defense.

Colleen Wolfe: Jack. Fear him. He's gonna devour opposing running backs like the monster that ate Barb in "Stranger Things."

Heath Evans: Jack. He's going to be a key player for the Jags' defense and will live up to the high expectations in Year 1.

Marcas Grant: Jack. Fears of a lingering knee issue pushed him down the draft. He'll remind the rest of the league how much of a beast he is.

Adam Rank: Jack. A lot of teams are going to be bummed out that they passed on him.

Michael Robinson: Darron Lee, LB, New York Jets. He is a three-down linebacker and one of the few LBs in this league who can stay on the field in nickel coverage and be an impact in passing defense.

Alex Gelhar: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Arizona Cardinals. Working in a loaded front seven that includes Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell should help Nkemdiche terrorize opposing offenses.

 

COACH OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals. Arians' teams have been thisclose in the last few years, but with a better pass rush and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, this is the best chance for the coach beloved by players and fans alike to lead a Super Bowl run.

Jeffri Chadiha: Arians. Arians has won this award twice, but don't be surprised if he adds a third honor this coming season.

Kurt Warner: Ben McAdoo, New York Giants. He'll be rewarded for getting the Giants back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Gil Brandt: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers. Rivera becomes the first back-to-back winner of this award since Joe Gibbs in 1983 by leading the Panthers back to the Super Bowl with a combination of outstanding offense, defense and special teams -- paying off a process that started the day after Carolina's loss in Super Bowl 50.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars. He is turning things around in Jacksonville and people are going to see that this season.

Brian Billick: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots. We know he is the best coach in the game right now, but this year he will get his due because he will be spotting the league four games while Tom Brady serves his suspension.

Gregg Rosenthal: Belichick. Voters could pick Belichick any year, but they especially appreciate when he does things with a higher degree of difficulty. (Like winning without Tom Brady.)

Willie McGinest: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks. I still can't believe Carroll hasn't earned this award since becoming head coach of the Seahawks in 2010, especially with the way his defense has consistently performed.

Adam Schein: Belichick. I think the Patriots are going 13-3 (including 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo under center). The best coach in NFL history is Bill Belichick, and he's the reason I don't bat an eye on the Pats' prospects in games without Tom Brady.

Bucky Brooks: Carroll. The Seahawks' head coach is finally recognized for his brilliant work in the Pacific Northwest. Carroll guides the 'Hawks to the NFL's best record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Eric Davis: Carroll. The Seahawks aren't supposed to go deep in the playoffs this year, but I think he will lead them to a good season. Not to mention, his defense has been ranked in the top two for quite some time.

Elliot Harrison: Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have talent, and I think Del Rio is the right kind of leader for this group of players. He should get the most out of Khalil Mack.

David Carr: Bradley. He might be a little bit of an underdog for this award, but his players like playing for him. He is a good coach and is building a team that will contend for the division title.

Charley Casserly: Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans. He leads Texans to the AFC Championship Game.

Ike Taylor: Belichick. He will help Jimmy Garoppolo go 2-2, before Tom Brady leads the team to another AFC East title. Belichick does a great job in getting the most out of his team, and this year will be no different.

Dave Dameshek: O'Brien. Many have tsk-tsk'd the Texans' hefty financial investment in Brock Osweiler, but if O'Brien can steer his team to another division title with yet another quarterback at the helm, he'll take the award.

BUT IF NOT: Mike Zimmer gets it if he can right the Vikings' ship on suddenly troubled waters.

Chris Wesseling: Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans. Disparaged as an offseason punchline, Mularkey will get the last laugh after setting his Titans up for a run at a wide-open AFC South with his "exotic smashmouth" attack and a burgeoning superstar in Marcus Mariota.

Colleen Wolfe: Arians. The man is smart and talented. And those hats. No one has rocked a jeff cap that well since Dom DeLuise.

Heath Evans: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings. In Zimmer's press conference Tuesday, he stressed that despite losing Teddy Bridgewater (to a major knee injury), people shouldn't count his team out. I'm with him. I believe Zimmer is going to lead this team to the playoffs again, even without its starting QB.

Marcas Grant: Del Rio. The Raiders are a contender to win the AFC West and end their lengthy playoff drought. JDR will deserve props for his part in the turnaround.

Adam Rank: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs. He doesn't get enough credit for what he does.

Michael Robinson: Del Rio. I like the bully he's building in Oakland. I think this team will win the AFC West for the first time since 2002 because he is developing all of the team's draft picks from the last couple years.

Alex Gelhar: Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns. I'm not saying the Browns are making the playoffs, but if Hue turns them around into a respectable club in Year 1, perhaps he sneaks into consideration.

 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Judy Battista: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers. The drop off in the Packers' offense after Nelson suffered a season ending ACL injury in the preseason is all the testament we need for the receiver's importance to the system. Green Bay averaged a full touchdown less per game in 2015 than in 2014.

Jeffri Chadiha: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts. Luck had the worst season of his career in 2015, but injuries and a bad offensive line had plenty to do with that. He now has plenty of motivation to remind people why his future was so bright in the first place.

Kurt Warner: Nelson.

Gil Brandt: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami Dolphins. The team, coaching changes and scheme held Suh back in 2015. He should return to his All-Pro form in 2016 under former Lions assistant Jim Washburn, who was hired as a pass-rush specialist in Miami, and with the Dolphins set to incorporate a wide-nine defense.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs. He's been in this position before and knows what it takes to bounce back and have a good season.

Brian Billick: Nelson. After missing every game last season, Nelson is primed for the best statistics of any comeback player candidate simply because he is catching passes from the best quarterback in the NFL.

Gregg Rosenthal: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys. The second-dumbest award in sports (Philip Rivers was coming back from what exactly in 2013?) will go to a player who can carry the Cowboys' passing game, no matter who is playing quarterback.

Willie McGinest: Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants. For three years, he was the heart and soul of the Giants' offense. He's been sidelined by some nagging injuries, so I hope he gets the opportunity to come back and perform at 100 percent.

Adam Schein: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans. He will resemble the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year in Tennessee after falling into the abyss in Philadelphia.

Bucky Brooks: Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns. Gordon pulls off the improbable by claiming the receiver "Triple Crown" (receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions) despite missing four games due to suspension.

Eric Davis: Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland Browns. After being benched a year ago in Washington, I think RGIII is going to get back to his old form under Hue Jackson.

Elliot Harrison: Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, his brilliant 2015 campaign was cut short by injury. Allen could lead the NFL in receptions this year.

David Carr: Nelson. Aaron Rodgers looked mortal without Nelson in 2015. The ninth-year Packer receiver is a big threat in the passing game, and he will make his presence known early and often in 2016.

Charley Casserly: Charles. He is one of the top backs in the NFL. He will return to his elite status.

Ike Taylor: Luck. He had a down year, but I think he's going to bounce back. Luck understands now that he doesn't always have to go for the home run and can turn a low-risk play into a 20-plus-yard gain just by being smart and getting the ball to the right guy.

Dave Dameshek: Charles. The last time he came back from a knee injury in the previous season, he rushed for over 1,500 yards. In other words, don't sleep on The Most Underrated Player of The Generation (he's still got a 5.5 career ypc!).

BUT IF NOT: Jordy Nelson was last year's winner of the "Value Revealed in His Absence" award. This year, he'll be the top target in a big year for the Packers' pass attack.

Chris Wesseling: Luck. He was never right last season, starting with the season opener. We're going to see a return to the 2014 form that saw Luck lead the league in touchdowns and finish third in passing yards.

Colleen Wolfe: Allen. Everyone is going to say Jordy Nelson. Everyone is wrong. I am less wrong. Allen stays healthy and catches all the passes.

Heath Evans: Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins. This defensive line is loaded with talent. Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams are going to demand attention, allowing Wake to make plays.

Marcas Grant: Luck. Now fully healthy following a poor year, Luck will once again look like the quarterback who was on the verge of elite just two season ago.

Adam Rank: Nelson. Maybe not so much for himself, but for all of the Packers around him.

Michael Robinson: Charles. After his first ACL injury in 2011, Charles rushed for 1,509 yards the following season.

Alex Gelhar: Luck. These awards tend to favor quarterbacks, and Luck is a marquee name on a marquee franchise. If he plays well, this is likely his.

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