Last Word on Pro Football Roundtable: And the Award Goes To

Every season there’s always interesting questions to be answered like: Who’s better: Joe Montana or Tom Brady? Is Walter Payton the best running back of all time? And of course, the always hilarious why didn’t Seattle run the ball?. Don’t worry, LWOPF three for five (three writers, five questions) has got you covered! Join Last Word on Sports Network writers Joe Garcia, Chad Kooiman, and Chris Voloschuk as they make exciting predictions about the 2016 NFL season.

Last Word on Pro Football Roundtable: And the Award Goes To

1. Who Will be Crowned 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Joe Garcia, LWOS Cowboys: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Interesting subplot of the season: teammates vying for the same Rookie Of the Year trophy. The last time that happened, Robert Griffin and Alfred Morris lit up the division en route to the playoffs. Considering the Cowboys soft schedule, the quarterback repeats again: Dak Prescott over Ezekiel Elliott. Sorry Zeke, you and your crop top will be “in” next season.

Chad Kooiman, LWOS Writer: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys offensive line is the best. Ezekiel Elliott is in the right place at the right time, and the result will be special to watch. With Tony Romo sidelined, Dallas will rely heavily on their ground game this season, with Zeke being the beneficiary. With a bruising running style, the physical running back is going to run away with the award. It’s interesting that Dallas could potentially have the two top rookies in Elliott and Dak Prescott.

Chris Voloschuk, LWOS Writer: Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans.

Henry has drawn rave reviews throughout the preseason for his combination of size, strength, and speed. At 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, and with a 4.54 40-yard dash time, the Alabama product is quickly proving that he can run through a defense or right past it, and will play in a run-first offense in Tennessee. Though DeMarco Murray is currently the Titans’ starting running back, Henry will still see his fair share of touches and should get plenty of opportunity in goal line situations, where he can bully his way into the end zone. He led all AFC backs in rushing yards this preseason with 216, and tied for third with three touchdowns.

2. Who Wins the Rushing Title?

Garcia: Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

Love the Vikings defense giving the ball back to Peterson. Hate the seven-man fronts. Love Todd Gurley in spite of seven-man fronts. Don’t like his defense as much. Love Elliott’s potential behind the Dallas offensive line. Turned off by the defense and Jason Garrett’s checkers football thinking. Love Houston’s defense. Love their potential passing game taking pressure off the run game. I’ll take Lamar Miller even at plus-1200 odds/seventh overall.

Kooiman: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Todd Gurley has the potential to rewrite the history books, but that day won’t come this season. When Minnesota lost Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings instantly became a run heavy offense again, and Adrian Peterson is more than capable of shouldering the load. Yes, they nabbed Sam Bradford, but that is fool’s gold until mid-season at best. Expect to see Peterson handed the rock early and often, going for 1,600-plus yards this season.

Voloschuk: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson’s considerable talent isn’t the only factor here. A number of teams across the NFL split touches among two or more running backs, and most rely more on the passing game. In Minnesota, Peterson remains an every-down back that can carry his offense each week, regardless of the opponent. He led the league in rushing last year with 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. Ever the workhorse, he also totaled 327 carries and started all 16 games for the Vikings. With starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out for the season, the 31-year-old Peterson may be relied upon even more, if that’s possible.

3. Who Wins the Receiving Title?

Garcia: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Let’s see, rave reviews for the offensive line? Check. Good good preseason outings from his starting quarterback? Check. Good second receiver to take some pressure off him? Check. Just finished last year as the top wideout? Huge check. That’s right, Julio Jones.

Kooiman: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Early bets were on Dez Bryant, but then Tony Romo went down and the Cowboys watched their season change in an instant. Although it can be argued that Julio Jones could be this year’s receiving leader, does anyone trust Matt Ryan to get him there? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Antonio Brown can torch any defense, has a chip on his shoulder after how last season ended, and catches everything. That is a recipe for a phenomenal season, and 1,600-plus yards in the air. When it comes to pitch and catch, Ben Roethlisberger and Brown have it down to a science.

Voloschuk: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good luck topping Brown’s last three seasons, where he didn’t miss a game, caught no fewer than 110 passes and surpassed 1,400 yards each time. Last season, he hauled in 136 passes for 1.834 yards and 10 touchdowns. There’s no reason to believe he’s going to slip from his insane production, currently. He plays in a pass-heavy offense in Pittsburgh with one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, and will be targeted early and often each game. An injury is all that could derail him at this point.

4. Who Wins the 2016 Most Valuable Player Award?

Garcia: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Isn’t it stupefying that Aaron Rodgers only has TWO MVP awards? He’s quickly becoming the LeBron James of football – super dominant player, always worthy of MVP, but wont end up with enough hardware. Anyway, has there ever been anyone Rodgers has missed more than Jordy Nelson? Maybe in-shape Eddie Lacy, who by the way is in terrific shape this season. Working in favor of Rodgers also, is the easiest schedule in the League.

Kooiman: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

It is difficult to go against Cam Newton, especially with Kelvin Benjamin returning, but there will be a new MVP this season. Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley both are intriguing choices as well, both capable of running away with the award if they were on more stable teams. However, Ben Roethlisberger is the choice here. Big Ben has become Old Faithful in the Steelers system, and this is the season where those efforts will be rewarded.

Voloschuk: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

There are only four players that have won back-to-back MVP awards, but Newton has the ability to become the fifth, joining the likes of quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Brett Favre. At age 27, Newton appears to be entering his prime and is still captaining a Super Bowl contender in Charlotte. It could prove tough to equal last year’s 3,837 passing yards and 35 touchdowns, but Newton can certainly come close. He also rushed for over 600 yards, and remains the best dual-threat quarterback in the league. The return of top wideout Kelvin Benjamin will give him a big downfield target to play with.

5. Who Wins the Super Bowl?

Garcia: The Seattle Seahawks

You know what I love? The process of elimination. Questionable quarterbacks in Denver, lack of a pass rush in New England, no Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota, Josh Norman absent from Carolina’s defense, super-shaky Carson Palmer in pressure situations. I like Green Bay, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. Bring on the parade in Seattle.

Kooiman: The Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be NFL Champions come February 2017. In a league that almost seems scripted for late season, James Harrison will dance in front of Roger Goodell before he announces his retirement, inviting everyone to meet him at his house for a Super Bowl celebration. Goodell will no show, but Pittsburgh will avenge the title that was stolen from them by Vontaze Burfict last season.

Voloschuk: The New England Patriots

The last time this team had a big chip on its shoulder, it nearly completed an undefeated season. Even though he’s fast-approaching 40 years of age, Brady will likely try to take out his “Deflategate” frustrations on the rest of the league when he returns from his suspension Week Five in Cleveland. He won’t be devoid of help, as his receiving corps has remained in tact, and added another talented target in tight end Martellus Bennett in the off-season. The defense should be good enough to hold its own, and if the pass-catching group of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Bennett can remain relatively healthy, the Patriots can make a major push at the end of the year.

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