Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NFL Awards - Projected Defensive POY

With the majority of the season having been played, I don’t think it’s too early to start looking at prospective winners of the league’s postseason awards. I'll start things off with...

Defensive POY
James Harrison won this award last year, but I think it’s safe to say that the award will have a new winner this season. There are quite a few worthy candidates this season, and here are my top 5.

5) Darren Sharper (S, New Orleans Saints)
- 54 tackles, 8 INT (3 returned for TD), and ½ sack
- 8 INT are 2nd in the league
- 3 pick-6 lead the league
Key games:
Week 1 vs. Lions – 2 INT
Week 2 @ Eagles – 3 tackles and 1 INT returned 97 yards for a TD
Week 4 vs. Jets – 9 tackles, ½ sack, and 2 INT for 99 yards and a TD
Week 7 @ Dolphins – 4 tackles and 1 INT returned 42 yards for a TD
Week 9 vs. Panthers – 9 tackles
Week 12 vs. Patriots – 6 tackles and 1 INT returned 38 yards

The Saints are undefeated, and while the Drew Brees and the offense gets all the headlines, the defense has taken a big step forward this year. They still rank 23rd in passing yards per game as they did last year, but here’s the big difference. Last year the Saints gave up 21 passing TDs and intercepted 15 passes. This year, with 3 games to go, the Saints have given up 13 passing TDs and have intercepted 24 passes (2nd in the league). Acquiring the 13 year veteran was one of the best offseason moves in the entire league.

4) Elvis Dumervil (DE, Denver Broncos)
- 15 sacks in 13 games; 44 tackles, 3 FF, 3 PD
Key games:
Week 2 vs. Cleveland – 4 sacks and 7 tackles
Week 3 @ Raiders – 2 sacks and 5 tackles
Week 4 vs. Cowboys – 2 sacks
Week 6 @ Chargers – 2 sacks, 5 tackles, and a FF
Week 12 vs. Giants – 2 sacks and a FF

His numbers are even more impressive when you consider that he’s learning a new defense and plays at a whopping 5’11, 260. He’s easily overmatched size-wise by every tackle he encounters, but Dumervil still consistently finds a way to get to the QB.

3) Patrick Willis (LB, San Francisco 49'ers)
- 132 tackles (leads NFL), 4 sacks, 2 INT (1 returned for a TD), 3 FF, and 6 PD
Key games:
Week 1 @ Cardinals – 14 tackles and 1 INT
Week 3 @ Vikings – 10 tackles
Week 4 vs. Rams – 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 1 INT returned 23 yards for a TD
Week 5 vs. Falcons – 12 tackles and 2 FF
Week 7 @ Texans – 10 tackles
Week 9 vs. Titans – 10 tackles
Week 10 vs. Bears – 11 tackles
Week 12 vs. Jaguars – 11 tackles and ½ sack
Week 13 @ Seahawks – 16 tackles
Week 14 vs. Cardinals – 9 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 FF

He’s the best LB in the league in my opinion, and it took him less than three seasons to get there. He’ll finish with over 100 tackles for the third year in three tries, and yes, he’ll make the Pro Bowl for the third time in three tries. He’ll win this award eventually, but I don’t think it happens this year.

2) Charles Woodson (Packers)
- 60 tackles, 8 INT (2 returned for TD), and 2 sacks
Key games:
Week 2 vs. Bengals – 10 tackles, 2 INT returned for 59 yards and a TD
Week 3 @ Rams – 6 tackles and 1 INT
Week 7 @ Browns – 3 tackles, 1 FF, and 1 INT returned for 25 yards
Week 10 vs. Cowboys – 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF, and 1 INT returned for 3 yards
Week 12 @ Lions – 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 INT returned for 38 yards and a TD

The Packers rank 3rd in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and Woodson’s physical, lockdown style is a big reason. He’s won the NFC Defensive player of the month twice this year and will most certainly earn his 6th trip to the Pro Bowl this year. This will likely be the best year of his career.

1) Darrelle Revis (Jets)
- 46 tackles, 27 PD (leads the NFL), 6 INT (1 returned for TD)
Key games:
Week 6 vs. Bills – 5 tackles and 3 PD
Week 12 vs. Panthers – 2 INT returned for 67 yards and 1 TD and 3 PD
Week 13 @ Bills – 4 tackles, 1 INT, and 5 PD
Week 14 @ Bucs – 3 tackles, 1 INT returned for 54 yards, and 4 PD

It might be most accurate to summarize his season by pointing out the stats of his opponents:
Week 1 @ Texans – Andre Johnson: 4 catches for 35 yards
Week 2 vs. Patriots – Randy Moss: 4 catches for 24 yards
Week 4 @ Saints – Marques Colston: 2 catches for 33 yards
Week 6 vs. Bills – Terrell Owens: 3 catches for 13 yards
Week 11 @ Patriots – Randy Moss: 5 catches for 34 yards and a TD (a 4 yard quick pass; Revis was frozen at goal line)
Week 12 vs Panthers – Steve Smith: 1 catch for 5 yards
Week 13 @ Bills – Terrell Owens: 3 catches for 31 yards
Week 14 @ Bucs – Antonio Bryant: 2 catches for 22 yards

In a tight race, I give the edge and Defensive POY award to Revis. He’s become the league’s premier corner and, as the above numbers point out, he can shut down the finest in the league. It’s no surprise that the Jets allow the least passing yards per game and have surrendered the least passing TDs (7) in the league. He’ll earn his second Pro Bowl berth at the end of the year, and in my estimation, his first NFL Defensive POY award as well.

(Just missing the list: Jared Allen, Andre Carter, and Jon Beason)


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

4 Weeks Left - Where Will Tampa Bay Finish?

Barring a trade, we're looking at 4 teams in the mix for the top spot in the draft: Tampa Bay (1-1), St. Louis (1-11), Cleveland (1-11), and Detroit (2-10).

If my sources are correct, here are the current strengths of schedule (lowest gets highest pick):
Browns .451
Rams .467
Lions .470
Bucs .580

Cleveland – I don’t see the Browns beating the Steelers, despite how bad Pittsburgh is playing, but Cleveland’s last three games should be competitive. They play at Kansas City in what might be their most winnable game, and they close things out at home against Oakland and Jacksonville. I still don’t see how the Jaguars are in the playoff race. That teams simply isn’t that good. I’ll give Cleveland a win against either Kansas City or Oakland.

St. Louis – They won’t win this week at Tennessee, and they won’t win at Arizona in two weeks. Do they have a shot against the freefalling Texans at home next week? What about San Francisco at home in the finale? I think the Rams finish 1-15.

Detroit – I think the next two games are easy losses (@ Baltimore and at home vs. Arizona). Can they then win at San Francisco? Will they beat the Bears at home? I think the final game is the most winnable for them, but I see a 2-14 finish for the Lions.

Tampa Bay – I had this game as one of my three Buccaneer wins heading into the year, and I think this is their best shot at another win this year. Kellen Clemens starts for the Jets in what will likely be a very ugly and low scoring contest. Darrelle Revis will take Antonio Bryant out of the game, and Freeman will have little luck against the rest of the secondary. He’ll likely be blitzed all day and forced into bad situation after bad situation. I don’t see this team (given our history) going out west and beating the Seahawks next week. Regardless of the Saints’ mindset, we’re not beating them in New Orleans, and the Falcons beat us without Matt Ryan a couple weeks ago. If they’re still in the playoff hunt come week 17, we’re getting their A game.

So here’s how I have the top of the draft shaping up:
1) St. Louis – Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
2) Tampa Bay – Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
3) Cleveland – Jake Locker (QB, Washington)
4) Detroit – Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma) or Russell Okung (T, Oklahoma St - I have a feeling he won't be my highest rated tackle in the next month or two)

As long as we stay ahead of the Lions, I think we’ll have our shot at Suh.