With the regular season in the books and the playoffs around the corner, it’s time to hand out my official awards for the 2021 NFL season, From MVP to Worst Coach of the Year! It’s also time to make my (dreadful) playoff picks. It’s the most exciting time of the football year!
Getty Images/Circuit Artwork
The 2021 NFL season was the longest in history, with a seventeenth game added to the schedule. That, coupled with the latest COVID strand, tested teams and rosters this season in pretty remarkable ways. And from Brady returning to New England, to the strangest tie that wasn’t on the final game of the season, it was a great season! Now it’s time to see what I got right, and more importantly, what I got very wrong in the preseason.
Three things I was BIG RIGHT on…
1- The Ravens would miss the playoffs
I predicted the Ravens would suffer the year from hell and miss the playoffs this season, and while it didn’t look great for me through October, I was right! I’m not happy Lamar is injured, but I am happy that I was right on this one.
2- The Patriots would finish 10-7 and make the playoffs
I’ll admit, I was spot-on with the Patriots this year, just in reverse. I thought they would struggle the first half of the season and catch fire down the stretch. So even though I had it flipped, I still hit the bullseye on this one.
3- The Los Angeles Rams would finish 12-5
I’ll be honest I took a lot of swings and misses on the NFC side. I picked the Packers and Buccaneers to win their divisions, but that was pretty easy calculus. And even though I didn’t pick the rams to win the West, I did have them at 12-5, so I’ll take the win there.
Now for the fun part!
Five things I was BIG WRONG on…
1- The Houston Texans would finish 0-17
This was by far my biggest swing in the preseason, picking Houston to be the worst team ever. So I think they have earned the top spot on my wrong list, as a sign of respect. Now to be clear, they were terrible this season and finished 4-13, so it’s not like I was wrong about them being bad. Just wrong about to which degree they were bad.
2- The Giants would win the NFC East
3- The Bengals would be bad
Can you blame me? Picking Cincinnati to finish 5-12 was not a bad prediction, they’ve been dreadful for years and their young quarterback is coming off of a major injury. But kudos to the Bengals, they were one of the best stories in the league this year.
4- The Cardinals would finish in the NFC West basement
I really like this Arizona team. I liked them last year, and I liked them in the preseason; I just thought they were in the best division ever. But Seattle imploded and San Francisco once again under-achieved, paving the way for the Cardinals to make the playoffs with ease.
5- The Chiefs would finish 16-1
What the hell happened to Kansas City this season? They still won the division, but in very unconvincing fashion.
1 Tennessee Titans (bye)
2 Kansas City Chiefs def 7 Pittsburgh Steelers
6 New England Patriots def 3 Buffalo Bills
4 Cincinnati Bengals def 5 Las Vegas Raiders
1 Green Bay Packers (bye)
2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers def 7 Philadelphia Eagles
6 San Francisco 49ers def 3 Dallas Cowboys
4 Los Angeles Rams def 5 Arizona Cardinals
6 New England Patriots def 1 Tennessee Titans
2 Kansas City Chiefs def 4 Cincinnati Bengals
1 Green Bay Packers def 6 San Francisco 49ers
4 Los Angeles Rams def 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2 Kansas City Chiefs def 6 New England Patriots
4 Los Angeles Rams def 1 Green Bay Packers
4 Los Angeles Rams def 2 Kansas City Chiefs (MVP: Aaron Donald)
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
I hate giving him this award, but there were no good alternatives. Taylor might have gotten my vote, but the Colts didn’t even make the playoffs. Kyler Murray was hot-and-cold. Mahomes was not Mahomes, Derrick Henry missed half the season. So begrudgingly, Rodgers is my MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year:
TJ Watt (Pittsburgh Steelers)
He tied the all-time record for most sacks in a single season (17 games, but still) on a playoff team. Watt deserves this award, no questions asked.
Coach of the Year:
Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans)
There were a few coaches that garnered consideration, but given that Henry and Jones missed significant time and Vrabel still coached Tennessee to the top AFC seed is enough to give him the award.
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals)
Mac Jones and Jaylen Waddle made strong cases (while Trevor Lawerence did not), but Chase was electric and helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs. In a close race, Chase outpaced the field.
Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys)
This award is not even close. Parsons is the only option here.
Jim Tomsula Worst Coaching Award:
Urban Meyer (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Honestly, it’s pretty impressive to have a coach fired two months into the season for hundreds of racist emails, and he wasn’t the worst coach. But that’s how impressively miserable Urban Meyer was this season.
Tim Tebow Hot Streak Award:
Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia Eagles)
All season long I had Mac Jones here, and I was feeling great about that. But I can’t in good conscience give him that award when they had their hot streak in November. Meanwhile, the Eagles went 6-2 the last two months of the season to sneak into the playoffs, so Hurts takes this award.
Mark Sachez Butt Fumble Award:
Carson Wentz (Indianapolis Colts)
How in the HELL did the Colts miss the playoffs? All they had to do was beat Jacksonville! That was the most embarrassing loss of the season for anyone in the league, and Wentz had a golden opportunity to ride Taylor to the Super Bowl. Instead, he metaphorically ran right into the backside of Quentin Nelson and fumbled this season away.
Kirk Cousins You Like That? Award:
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
I had this right from the start! To be clear, I did not think Big Ben would be particularly special this season, but I did think he would prove everyone wrong and get the Steelers into the playoffs, and that’s exactly what he did.
Randy Moss Summer Transaction Award:
Odell Beckham Jr. (Los Angeles Rams)
This might be cheating a little given it was an in-season trade, but OBJ gave the Rams a much needed boost on offense. While the jury is still out on how far they will go, Beckham gives them a great chance to go far.
There you have it! My official awards and playoff predictions for the 2021 NFL season. Stay tuned for my 2021 NFL Reflection post after the playoffs are over, and make sure to check out all of our great content here at The Circuit!