On the cusp of the 2014 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
Bucky Brooks: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. After proving to the football world that he is more than capable of guiding the Seahawks into the 2014 postseason on the strength of his right arm, Wilson walks away with the league's highest individual honor due to Seattle's emergence as an offensive juggernaut.
Elliot Harrison: Brady. The 37-year-old knows he has to play at a highly efficient level for this team to succeed -- something more analogous to his 2010 season, in which he posted a 36:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, than his epic 2007 campaign.
Gregg Rosenthal: Rodgers. He's an all-time transcendent talent who is due for another all-time transcendent season, like what he did in 2011. His weapons, especially in the running game, have never been better.
Michael Silver: Rodgers. He's the best player in football, and now he's got a beast in the backfield -- so I feel kinda secure in picking him.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Judy Battista: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts. The Colts seem ready to put more of the offense on the arm of Luck and a full complement of healthy receivers that includes Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. If he's not already there, Luck ascends to the Brady-Manning-Rodgers-Brees pantheon.
Gil Brandt: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks. The Super Bowl champion, who has logged a triple-digit quarterback rating and 26 touchdown passes in each of his first two NFL campaigns, becomes an even better passer in Year 3. While he lost steady target Golden Tate in the offseason, he'll be gaining a healthy Percy Harvin, who missed all but one regular-season game in 2013.
Bucky Brooks: Brees. The emphasis on limiting illegal contact in the passing game helps Brees top the 5,000-yard mark for the fifth time in his career.
Dave Dameshek: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears. The offensive line is now a position of strength, Matt Forte is the best dual-threat RB in the NFC, the receivers are the best in the NFL and Marc Trestman is Chip Kelly in hipster horn-rimmed glasses. In other words, there's no more room for excuses for Cutler. Fortunately, he won't need any.
Gregg Rosenthal: Abstain. This is a ridiculous award we need to get rid of. How is it not always the MVP?
Michael Silver: Rodgers. In what universe can a QB be the MVP but not the Offensive Player of the Year?
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Gil Brandt: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers. Kuechly is one of eight players in NFL history to win both Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year -- and he did so in his first two pro campaigns. Still just 23 years old, he continues to pile up the hardware this fall, thanks to his ability to stone ball carriers and make plays in space.
Charley Casserly: Kuechly. This is a very instinctive football player, and performing alongside a number of additional studs in Carolina's front seven certainly doesn't hurt his game.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Gil Brandt: Cooks. This guy was drafted by the right team -- a team that put the ball in the air 651 times in 2013, and a team that boasts one of the game's best quarterbacks. Cooks is very hard to cover and gobbles up yards after the catch.
Charley Casserly: Cooks. No one jumps out to me. I'll go with Cooks, as Sean Payton will find ways to get him the ball, and the explosive rookie can be a factor in the return game. Odell Beckham could emerge as Eli Manning's best receiver in New York, but it's hard to pick him, given his injury-riddled preseason.
Stock watch: Rookie quarterbacks
Our resident scouts, Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, provide preseason grades for Blake Bortles and his fellow rookie QBs. READ
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Brian Billick: Clowney.J.J. Watt has 31 sacks in the past two seasons. Clowney had 24 sacks in his three seasons at South Carolina. Combined in Houston's scheme, this duo has the ability to break the single-season sack record for a tandem (39, currently held by Chris Doleman and Keith Millard of the 1989 Minnesota Vikings).
Gil Brandt: Ryan Shazier, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers. The last rookie to start on Pittsburgh's defense? Linebacker Kendrell Bell, who earned Defensive ROY honors back in 2001. Shazier can duplicate this feat under the direction of coordinator Dick LeBeau, who will find ways to maximize the athletic linebacker's impact. I expect Shazier to lead the Steelers in tackles and big plays.
Jeremiah: Defensive ROY candidates
Which rookie will emerge from a loaded draft class to take home the defensive award? Daniel Jeremiah ranks top contenders. READ
Elliot Harrison: Clowney. He has shown ridiculous potential on specific plays in the preseason. The key for Clowney will be the effort he puts forth each down. Here's saying he will consistently bring it.
Gregg Rosenthal: Shazier. Linebackers usually win this award, and Shazier will make the type of plays that show up in highlight reels.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brian Billick: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons. Jones was averaging 116 yards on 8.2 receptions in the first five games of last season before having to miss the remainder of the year with a fractured foot. Had he continued at that pace, he would have led the league in receptions, with 18 more than Pierre Garcon, and would have finished with 210 more yards than category leader Josh Gordon.
Harrison: 2014 All-Pro projections
Which players will define the 2014 campaign? Elliot Harrison glances into his crystal ball for preseason All-Pro picks. READ
Dave Dameshek: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins. Forget all the hooey and applesauce about Kirk Cousins and instead remember just how good RGIII was in 2012. Now, with his knee rehabbed and new target DeSean Jackson in the fold, it's hard to see Griffin not putting up good numbers this year.