2010 NFL awards: Doling out the hardware for MVP, top rookie, more
Tom Brady leads QBs in touchdowns and least amount of INTs thrown
Stats don't do justice to Haloti Ngata, the best defensive player in '10
Credit for the Chiefs' surprise season goes to Charlie Weis and Scott Pioli
Week 17 in the NFL looms, and that means it's time to prepare my ballot as one of the 50 media members who vote on the Associated Press individual awards. Here's my call on who should get the hardware, along with a few bonus categories to boot:
Tom Brady, QB, New England
No quarterback in the league makes do with a lower-profile supporting cast, and makes them look better than Brady does his fellow Patriots. Despite an offensive scheme that shifted rather dramatically to a share-the-wealth approach once Randy Moss was traded in early October, the Patriots have not only survived but thrived. Brady does everything you could possibly want from a quarterback, in all kinds of weather, and in some ways this year's record-breaking season is even more impressive than the one he assembled in 2007, when he won his first and only MVP.
Brady has an NFL-best 34 touchdown passes and an NFL-low four interceptions, with his last pick coming on a Hail Mary pass in Week 6. That was 10 full games and 319 passes ago, and that broke the record that Bernie Kosar set in Cleveland in 1990-91. And did we mention that Tom Terrific has now had eight consecutive games of at least two touchdowns and no interceptions, breaking Don Meredith's league record of six?
Kudos to: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia
Vick has undoubtedly electrified the league with his renaissance season for the Eagles, and in the process given us some breath-taking performances. Like that tour de force 59-point destruction of the Redskins on Monday night, and a comeback for the ages against the Giants two weeks ago. He's a quarterback and a runner this season, consistently bedeviling defenses with both his arm and his legs.
Vick's thrown for 3,018 yards, with 21 touchdowns, just six interceptions, and a career-best 100.2 passer rating, and rushed for 676 yards and nine more touchdowns. That's 30 touchdowns he has had a hand in, not a bad showing for his 12 games of action, a total that includes only 10 games that he both started and finished (the Eagles are 8-2 in those). And Vick is one of the league's preeminent big-play threats this year, with 12 passes of 40-plus yards, second in the league behind Philip Rivers' 13.
Kudos to: Roddy White, WR, Atlanta.
Haloti Ngata, DL, Baltimore
The big-bodied Ngata is the beast of Baltimore's defense, and he has been the one tone-setting constant for the Ravens this season. He elicits a pair of blockers on the majority of snaps, which allows Ray Lewis to roam around and be Ray Lewis, and also affords Baltimore's cornerbacks the ability to take more chances in coverage. He's a force, and impacts nearly every play in some way or another.
Ask players and coaches around the NFL who the best player on the Ravens defense is and they won't say Lewis, Terrell Suggs or Ed Reed. They'll tell you it's the unsung Ngata, and everyone in the Baltimore locker room recognizes he's the team's defensive MVP. His 5½ sacks, 62 tackles and four passes defensed don't begin to tell the whole story of his value to the 11-4, playoff-bound Ravens.
Kudos to: Clay Matthews Jr., OLB, Green Bay.
Bill Belichick, New England
Just because you've long been acknowledged as the best in the business doesn't mean you can't better your game, and then get the deserving accolades. Belichick really is doing his best work ever this season, and that's a mouthful for the future Hall of Famer who's consistently a step ahead of the competition.
The Patriots literally re-invented themselves on offense in midseason, following the Moss trade, and a youth-infused New England defense has also made strides as the year has unfolded, turning into a unit that makes big plays when the moment demands. Here's all you really need to know: The Patriots are 13-2, own the No. 1 seed in the stacked AFC, and have beaten the Ravens, Chargers, Steelers, Colts, Jets, Packers and Bears. In the course of its current seven-game winning streak, New England has won by an average margin of almost three touchdowns per week (20.4 points).
Kudos to: Todd Haley, Kansas City.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis
Funny, but no one seems worried about his surgically repaired shoulder or his history of playing in the shotgun formation any more. Bradford has had one of the finest rookie seasons at quarterback in recent memory, and he's a win away from taking the Rams to the playoffs after St. Louis endured 2009's 1-15 finish. His stats are impressive, but most importantly he gave the Rams a chance to win the moment he walked through the door.
Bradford has 18 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions, but he's thrown a whopping 554 passes, an interception ratio of just 2.52. For comparison sake, Peyton Manning threw 28 picks in 575 attempts as a rookie in 1998, a 4.86 interception ratio. Bradford is so good at taking care of the football that in one six-game stretch this season he threw just one interception, to go with 11 touchdowns. Add it all up, and Bradford is a no-brainer as the league's best offensive rookie.
Kudos to: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh