Russell Wilson (Seahawks)
Patrick Mahomes has significantly narrowed the gap between him and Wilson in the race for the MVP, but for now let’s put the Seahawks quarterback ahead. Wilson is a little less surrounded than Mahomes is in the Chiefs, and with 28 touchdown passes in 8 games, he could threaten the mark of Peyton Manning, who had 55 touchdown passes in 2013. Wilson did never received a single vote for the title of MVP. Yet very few players have been as important to their team’s success as they have been since joining the NFL in 2012.
Honorable mentions: Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Aaron Donald (Rams)
Best offensive player
Derrick Henry (Titans)
For the purposes of the exercise, let’s exclude quarterbacks in this category. Other running backs have had excellent seasons, but the difference is that the Titans’ one is eagerly awaited by their opponents every game. Defensive fronts and linebackers who have the mission to stop can’t skimp. on intensity or strength to achieve it. “King Henry” is still heading for a season of approximately 1,700 rushing yards and has already registered eight touchdowns. With the exception of quarterbacks, no other offensive player has a bigger impact in the NFL than him.
Honorable mentions: Alvin Kamara (Saints), Davante Adams (Packers) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings)
Best Defensive Player
Aaron Donald (Rams)
The Rams are second in yards and points on defense, and that’s a huge, huge part of Donald. Since the tackler is constantly pitted against two players, his teammates often have free rein to do their jobs and make plays. The University of Pittsburgh product has nine sacks in eight games, although there is no other top quarterback hunter in the Rams. We seem to be heading towards a race between Donald and TJ Watt for the title of best defensive player. Donald received this distinction in 2017 and 2018.
Honorable mentions: TJ Watt (Steelers), Myles Garrett (Browns) and JC Jackson (Patriots)
Offensive rookie par excellence
Justin Herbert (Chargers)
Some quarterbacks (Herbert, Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa) who seem dedicated to very good careers; a running back who plays and produces like he’s at the peak of his career (Clyde Edwards-Helaire); a few good linemen (Jedrick Wills Jr. and Tristan Wirfs); and a long list of wide-spread ends who contribute significantly to their team’s success, including Chase Claypool, Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb. No, the options are not lacking for the title of best rookie in attack. Of the group, however, Herbert was the most impressive. His efficiency coefficient of 104.7 places him ninth in the league, which is remarkable for a rookie.
Honorable mentions: Clyde Edward-Helaire (Chiefs), Joe Burrow (Bengals) and Chase Claypool (Steelers)
Defensive rookie par excellence
Chase Young (Washington)
Contrary to what we see on the side of the attack, the candidates do not jostle at the gate for the title of defensive rookie par excellence. Selected second in the draft, Chase Young was the starting favorite and still is midway through the season. But we cannot say that he is a dominant player at the moment. In seven games, the former Ohio State defensive end had 3.5 sacks and caused a fumble. He should normally stand out a little more in the second half, being slowed down by a groin injury in the first half.
Honorable mentions: Antoine Winfield junior (Buccaneers), Patrick Queen (Ravens) and Julian Blackmon (Colts)
Best comeback of the year
Alex Smith (Washington)
This may be the easiest choice to make. Smith had to undergo 17 surgeries after the terrible injury to his right leg he sustained in November 2018. Doctors even seriously considered the option of an amputation. Coming in on two occasions since the start of the season, the first pick in the 2005 draft will get his first start in two years, Sunday, in Detroit.
Honorable mentions: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Todd Gurley (Falcons) and Cam Newton (Patriots)
Head coach par excellence
Mike Tomlin (Steelers)
This title is sometimes similar to what we see in the category of best director at Oscar night. Filmmakers sometimes receive this honor more for their body of work than just for their latest film – see Martin Scorsese in 2007 with The Departed. Even though he’s already won a Super Bowl and never had a losing season in 14 years with the Steelers, Tomlin was never named Coach of the Year. And it helps that her team are still unbeaten, they who find a way to win close games since the start of the season. Tomlin’s work is also more appreciated since we understand a little better what he had to deal with when Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell were playing in Pittsburgh.
Honorable mentions: Andy Reid (Chiefs), Brian Flores (Dolphins) and Matt LaFleur (Packers).
Miguel Bujold’s predictions
Houston v. Cleveland: Cleveland
Washington v. Detroit: Detroit
Jacksonville v. Green Bay: Green Bay
Philadelphia v. NY Giants: Philadelphia
Tampa Bay v. Caroline: Tampa Bay
Denver v. Las Vegas: Las Vegas
Chargers v. L. A. in Miami: Miami
Buffalo v. Arizona: Arizona
Seattle v. Rams de L. A .: Rams de L. A.
San Francisco v. New Orleans: New Orleans
Cincinnati v. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh
Baltimore v. New England: Baltimore
Minnesota v. Chicago: Chicago
Last week: 8-5
Season Total: 83-41-1
Three matches not to be missed
Tampa Bay v. Caroline, Sunday, 1 p.m.
It is the most promising match at 1 p.m., when only five games will be played in this time slot, three or four less than normal. This is because the CBS network will not broadcast any game at 1 p.m., being also the broadcaster of the Masters. The Buccaneers are a much better team than what we saw on Sunday against the Saints. However, they have things to correct and it will be essential for them to find the right “chemistry” before the playoffs. Few teams have had as many newcomers as they did in 2020. As for the Panthers, their 3-6 record does not do them justice. They play good football and should have one or two more wins. They will represent a good test for a team which must certainly have some doubts at the moment.
Seattle v. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Unlike the 1 p.m. time slot, this is no shortage of choice at the end of the afternoon. Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa will meet for the first time in Miami. The Bills and Cardinals meet at Glendale. Joe Burrow and the Bengals will want to inflict a first loss on the Steelers. But it’s the Seahawks-Rams game that matters most, at least when it comes to the standings. The two division rivals are set to battle the Cardinals for the top spot until the end of December. On leave last week, Sean McVay’s team should have a few bunnies in their hat. The Seahawks have lost two of their last three games because their defense doesn’t stop anyone. Russell Wilson can’t do it all alone.
Baltimore v. New England, Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
The Patriots preserved their slim hopes of making the playoffs by winning in the snatch Monday night against the Jets. The order will be a little more difficult this weekend… Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will test the agility of the defensive front and linebackers of the Patriots with their dynamic play on the ground. When it will be the Pats who will have the ball, the Ravens tertiary should not have too much difficulty neutralizing the receivers in front of her. Damiere Byrd leads the Patriots with 26 catches and 337 yards, but still hasn’t scored a touchdown. N’Keal Harry is also the only wide winger of the team with a touchdown to his record. Cam Newton has only managed two touchdown passes since the start of the season.