The new year is underway, which means playoff football and awards season are upon us. This Sunday is always circled on my calendar well in advance; a glorious afternoon and evening spent on the couch flipping between Golden Globes coverage and the wild-card games. The gowns and tuxes, the touchdowns and tackles. Enough takeout food to feed a family of five. Doesn't get much better than that.
A win on Sunday earns the stars of film and television a five-pound statuette and the right to enter the afterparty with maximum swag. A win earns the football stars a spot in the divisional round, but they'll have to wait until the annual NFL Honors in February to get their hands on any trophies. So in the spirit of awards season, I thought I'd hand out a few honors of my own to the most (and least) deserving in the National Football League.
Best man in a lead role: Bill Belichick
I know the guy's already got enough hardware, what with the six Super Bowl rings and all, but he's done another masterful job leading the Patriots this season. When starting quarterback Tom Brady was suspended, Belichick guided first Jimmy Garoppolo and then Jacoby Brissett to victories. His team powered through losses of key members like Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski and, despite trading away two of his best defensive players, his team still held opponents to a league-best 15.6 points per game in the regular season.
Best screenplay: Aaron Rodgers
With his Packers sitting at 4-6, mired in a four-game losing skid, the Green Bay signal-caller said he thought his team could "run the table." After uttering those words on Nov. 23, Rodgers led his team to six straight wins, including a division-clinching 31-24 win over the Lions in the regular-season finale Sunday. Over the course of those six victories, Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdowns and no interceptions, and he's sitting at a career-high 223 straight passes without a pick. It's the stuff Globe-winning movies are made of.
Best sound editing: NFL Films
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was mic'd up during his team's victory over the Colts on Dec. 24. The audio gives fans a glimpse into how Carr motivates his teammates, what he's like on the sidelines and, most notably, how he reacts to adversity. Late in the clip you can watch his impossibly subdued and stoic reaction to breaking his fibula in the fourth quarter.
Best drama: The Cowboys' QB conundrum
Many thought the Cowboys were doomed after Tony Romo went down with a serious back injury in the preseason, but fourth-round pick Dak Prescott emerged as a more than capable replacement. As Romo healed, Jerry Jones fed the rumor mill by talking up a potential return to the starting role, feeding weeks of debate over which QB would give Dallas the best chance to make a run at the Super Bowl. Now that it's clear Prescott is their man, the drama continues as talking heads debate which team Romo might end up on next season.
Best location scout: Tom Brady
Rather than spend his four week suspension at home studying film, the Patriots quarterback jetted off to the seaside Italian town of Positano with his supermodel wife, where he was photographed tanning on a balcony in his birthday suit. Sure beats a cold tub in Foxborough.
Breakout star in a lead role: Colin Kaepernick
It wasn't the best season of Kaepernick's NFL career, but it was the season in which he took on a powerful leadership role within football and sports as a whole. He proved himself to be a flawed messenger at times, but nonetheless succeeded at achieving his larger purpose, to start a conversation about police brutality in our country and spur people into action working to solve the problem.
Breakout failure in a lead role: The Rams
The teams competing in Monday night's Rose Bowl scored more combined points in that one game in Pasadena than the Rams did all season at home in Los Angeles. Enough said.
Worst play: Bills allow Jets to recover own kickoff for TD
It's right up there with the "butt fumble" as most embarrassing plays we've seen in recent NFL history -- except this time the Jets were on the right side of the play. With just over three minutes left in their season finale Sunday, Buffalo's Mike Gillislee blanked on the kickoff, letting the football bounce into the end zone, where Jets safety Doug Middleton dove on it for perhaps the easiest touchdown in pro football history.
Worst win: Browns over the Chargers
If you're going to make your fans suffer through a 1-15 season, why not just fully commit to your awfulness and go 0-16? Not only did the Browns briefly jeopardize their position in line for the No. 1 pick in the draft (don't worry, they still got it), they ultimately denied the good citizens of Cleveland the opportunity to celebrate history with an already-planned 0-16 parade. The Browns blew their chance to tie the 2008 Lions for the worst team ever -- something forever etched in the history books -- settling instead for just super-duper, uber-wuber terrible. You're even bad at being bad, Cleveland.