NFL predictions 2016: Awards and Super Bowl picks

Jan 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Minnesota won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Minnesota won 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Khalil Mack
Dec 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tackle Michael Schofield (79) is unable to pass block Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Raiders defeated Broncos 15-12. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

With the 2016 National Football League season only a few days away, it’s time for predictions ranging from award winners to the Super Bowl champ.

At this second, 32 teams believe they can win the Vince Lombardi Trophy at NRG Stadium come February 2017. Some have more realistic hope than others, but the fact remains that all teams, and fans, have belief.

How much hope should you have? We predict all the award winners and then get into the standings before crowning a champion in our NFL predictions.


Most Valuable Player

Matt Verderame: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers is due for a monster season after having a down campaign in 2015. With Jordy Nelson back in the fold and Eddie Lacy looking slim, Rodgers could give the Packers 4,500 passing yards and 45 touchdowns.

Josh Hill: Aaron Rodgers,  Green Bay Packers

Jordy Nelson is back and a viable candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. The reason for that is because Rodgers is going to play out of his mind this season. The NFC North is wide open, and having a lighter Eddie Lacy in the backfield is going to open this offense wide up.

Patrick Allen: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

This is the year for Andy Dalton and the Bengals. As long as the Red Rifle stays on the field, he will finally silence his critics and get Cinci over the significant hump that is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Offensive Player of the Year

Matt Verderame: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Again, Rodgers should get back to form after struggling by his standards in 2015. Green Bay has built up the talent around him, signing Jared Cook to be a quality tight end in the seam. With Nelson returning and the continued maturation of both Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams, this could be special year in Titletown.

Josh Hill: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

The Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season, which means Gronk will carry them. When Brady returns with a thirst for vengeance, he’s going to light up Gronk left and right on the latter’s way to the Offensive Player of the Year award.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Since 2011, the OPY winner alternated two positions; QB and RB. This year, it is the RBs turn and I see no reason why AP won’t take the crown. With Teddy Bridgewater out for the season, the Vikings will desperately lean on their best offensive weapon and he won’t let them down. It still won’t be enough for the Vikings to make the playoffs but at 31, Adrian Peterson is going to turn in the last truly great season of his career, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest of all time.

Defensive Player of the Year

Matt Verderame: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

Mack is one of the best players in the sport, and he is only 25 years old. After notching four sacks in his rookie season, Mack lit up the league in 2015, going for 15. He became the first player to be an All-Pro at two different positions in one season (defensive end and outside linebacker) in NFL history and this year, will pick up more accolades.

Josh Hill: Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders

J.J. Watt seems to be the default vote here, but he’s nowhere near the level of talent that Mack is at. Watt is talented, and one of the best defensive players in the NFL — but not the best. That’s Mack, and this year we’re going to see him shine as the superstar linebacker he looks to be.

J.J. Watt

While Mack very may well steal his crown, Watt is still the most intimidating defender in all of the NFL. I see no reason for that to change this year. Keep your eye on Chiefs CB Marcus Peters, however. Last year’s DRoY has a nose for the football and if he improves this season, he could give Watt a run for his money.

NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Matt Verderame: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

Mathieu tore his ACL last year, largely jeopardizing the Cardinals’ chances of winning the Super Bowl. From all indications, Mathieu is back and better than ever. After inking a deal to make him the highest-paid safety in NFL history, look for the Honey Badger to dominate in his return.

Josh Hill: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Charles is coming off another knee injury, and things could go similarly to how he came back the first time. He’s two ACL injuries deep in his career, but he’s still the most underrated player at his position and running behind a Chiefs line that got better this offseason with the signing of Mitchell Schwartz. He’s in for a big return year on a Super Bowl contending team.

Patrick Allen: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Given the crowded Chiefs backfield, this could be a stretch but Charles is such a stud when healthy, he seems like a good choice. Remember, Charles returned from a busted knee before so he knows how this works. While he is older now, I still think Charles is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. The Chiefs have more weapons on offense than perhaps any other time during Charles’ career. Add to that a favorable schedule and the table is set for J.C. to run wild.

NFL Coach of the Year

Matt Verderame: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

With Tony Romo once again injured, the Cowboys are being counted out across the league. However, Garrett has shown he can guide a team through troubled waters. With the help of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, I think he proves his mettle and gets the Cowboys a division crown. If that happens, he walks away with this award.

Josh Hill: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

Zimmer was a hot pick for Coach of the Year before the Bridgewater injury. He’s even hotter, if not more unstable, of a candidate without his star quarterback. If Zimmer can take a team without it’s franchise quarterback to the playoffs, he’s easily the coach of the year. Anytime you get to the postseason with Shaun Hill under-center, that’s an award-winning feat.

Patrick Allen: Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders are going to make the playoffs as a Wild Card and for that, Del Rio will deserve much more than Coach of the Year; he deserves the Presidential Medal of Honor. Perhaps even the Nobel Prize.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Matt Verderame: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants

Shepard was a steal for New York in the second round. The former University of Oklahoma star can play both inside and out, forcing defenses into mismatches. While Odell Beckham Jr. will deservedly get all the attention, this youngster will reap the benefits and post 1,000 yards as a rookie.

Josh Hill: Ezekiel Elliott,  Dallas Cowboys

This is a cliche pick but it could end up being the right one. Even without Tony Romo, the Cowboys will be a heavy run-first team with a bulldozing offensive line. If Darren McFadden could run wild behind that line, Elliott is due for a massive rookie season. Barring injury, this will be Todd Gurley hype all over again.

Patrick Allen: Ezekiel Elliott,  Dallas Cowboys

Zeke is the total package. With Romo down early, the Cowboys are going rely on the running game to kill clock and keep themselves in each game. Elliot is a workhorse and should put up impressive numbers.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Matt Verderame: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville will be a fun team to watch this year (seriously) and Ramsey will be a big part of the reason. Versatile enough to play either safety or corner, Ramsey is going to make an immediate impact on a burgeoning defense. Ramsey was the best player in the draft last year, and he’ll show why in 2016.

Josh Hill: Vernon Hargraeves III,  Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A lot of attention will be focused on Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey, but don’t sleep on Vernon Hargraeves III. The Buccaneers rookie has already looked great in the preseason and he’s poised to succeed at Tampa Bay’s top cornerback. Not only that, but in Mike Smith’s defense he could become a bruising defensive back that becomes the best in all of football in a few years time.

Patrick Allen: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are going to be decent this year and Ramsey is going to be a big reason. With Jacksonville’s offense expected to take another step forward, look for the dynamic Ramsey to make a big impact on the other side of the ball.

NFL Man of the Year

Matt Verderame: Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos

Harris is well known for his great play between the lines, but he’s a phenomenal person. Back in his home state of Oklahoma, Harris runs camps and gives back to kids, both in teaching football and presenting life skills. He does the same in Colorado and Kansas (attended University of Kansas) and this year, he gets recognized for it.

Josh Hill: Eric Berry,  Kansas City Chiefs

Berry was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award last year, and this could be the year he collects. Not only is his story incredible, but his role in the community is massively important. Berry has annual football camps and even helps hand out scholarships to kids in the community who otherwise might not have the means. He deserves this.

Patrick Allen: Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens

Smith was nominated for the award last year and should win it this year. Though he has made a career with his work on the field, Smith’s work off the field is equally impressive. Smith and his wife founded the Steve Smith Family Foundation in 2013, which supports causes such as domestic violence and childhood wellness and education. Give some of the recent high profile incidents of domestic violence involving NFL players, Smith’s shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Next: Standings, Playoffs and Super Bowl