Predictions! That's right. The NFL season is mere days away, which means it's time to zip ahead four months and tell you what will happen in 2017 so you don't have to go to the trouble of waiting to find out.
Many players, coaches and rookies will have great years, but you're wondering which ones will have the best years. And we're here to tell you.
A crack panel of our experts pulled their minds together to try to predict who will win the league's end-of-season awards. Below are the top picks for everything except MVP, which we'll reveal in the preseason edition of our NFL MVP Poll on Wednesday. For now, you can whet your appetite with these tasty morsels.
Methodology: We tabbed the panel of 12 experts who will vote in this season's NFL MVP poll. Each nominated their top three candidates for the six awards included below. First-place votes are worth three points, second-place votes are worth two, and third-place votes are worth one. Reminder: These are just predictions.
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: The Patriots in the regular season are the safest bet in sports. Belichick has won at least 12 regular-season games seven seasons in a row, at least 10 regular-season games 14 seasons in a row, eight straight AFC East titles and 13 of the past 14. You can't count on much when you make predictions, but the Patriots winning (and likely dominating) the division feels pretty sound. Some chatter this offseason has been about whether this team could go 16-0, the way the 2007 Randy Moss version did. If that happens, yeah, you probably have to give the scowling genius in the ratty sweatshirt the hardware.
2. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers: Truth be told, McCarthy has almost no chance to win this award unless the Packers put up a monster 14-2 or 15-1 season; we expect the Packers to be good, and Coach of the Year voters don't generally award coaches on teams they expect to be good. That could apply to Belichick, too.
3. Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders: Del Rio was a strong candidate for this award last year, when the Raiders were surprisingly great. The way he has built this team's winning attitude in a short period of time deserves some recognition. He'll be a popular candidate if the Raiders go 12-4 again, though he'd likely lose to someone we didn't see coming.
Also received votes: Sean McVay, Rams; Anthony Lynn, Chargers; Doug Pederson, Eagles; Bill O'Brien, Texans; Mike Tomlin, Steelers; Mike Mularkey, Titans; Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers; Kyle Shanahan, Falcons; Adam Gase, Dolphins; Pete Carroll, Seahawks
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
T1. Aaron Rodgers, QB | Green Bay Packers: If Green Bay's offense can get out of the gate hot and avoid the troubles it had in the first half of the 2016 season, its mustachioed, tape-recorder-carrying, superstar signal-caller could run away with awards such as this. We'll find out tomorrow, but I'm guessing he did all right in our preseason MVP poll, too.
T1. Le'Veon Bell, RB | Pittsburgh Steelers: Fresh off his holdout, Bell generates absolutely no skepticism from our panel. Perhaps that's because his mere availability for Week 1 is close to unprecedented. This will be Bell's fifth season in the NFL but only the second in which he is neither injured nor suspended to start the season. The one season he played all 16 games was 2014, when he rushed for 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 85 passes for another 845 yards and three touchdowns. To imagine a full Bell season is to imagine, basically, all of the yards. The only weird thing is that Arizona's David Johnson, another all-purpose yardage monster, didn't crack our top three.
3. Tom Brady, QB | New England Patriots: Sure, Tom Terrific will miss Julian Edelman. But they can still text (which they couldn't do at this time last year). Even at 40, Brady looks like a good bet to repeat last year's performance, which probably would have delivered him an MVP award if he hadn't been suspended for the first four games. Expect no Super Bowl letdown from New England, and with Jimmy Garoppolo nipping at his heels, expect no late-career letdown from the quarterback, either.
Also received votes: David Johnson, RB (Cardinals); Matt Ryan, QB (Falcons); Julio Jones, WR (Falcons); Brandin Cooks, WR (Patriots); Marcus Mariota, QB (Titans); Christian McCaffrey, RB (Panthers); Odell Beckham Jr., WR (Giants); Antonio Brown, WR (Steelers); Devonta Freeman, RB (Falcons); Russell Wilson, QB (Seahawks)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Khalil Mack, DE | Oakland Raiders: Mack is thought to be the next Von Miller, and our panel seems to think this will be the season it happens. The Raiders have some question marks on defense, but there's no question about Mack's ability to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. He has 30 sacks in his three NFL seasons, including 26 in the past two, and he's looking for a new contract that could make him the league's highest-paid defensive player. Go get 'em, young man.
T2. J.J. Watt, DE | Houston Texans: Who? Pittsburgh's rookie, T.J. Watt? Come on, preseason games don't mean anything. Oh, right. Big brother J.J. is back from an injury that cost him all but three games in 2016, and he said during training camp that the team's plan for his recovery should have him playing better than ever. Which is terrifying, especially now that Jadeveon Clowney has emerged and Whitney Mercilus is looking for some attention of his own. If you forgot how good the older Watt is, our panel thinks it won't be long before you remember.
T2. Von Miller, OLB | Denver Broncos: The current Von Miller might have something to say about Mack's attempt to claim his throne. He has 38.5 sacks the past three seasons (43.5 if you count the postseason) and, at 28 years old, shows no signs of slowing down. More than just a pure pass-rusher, Miller is the engine for a Broncos defense that once again appears as if it will have to carry the team.
Also received votes: Joey Bosa, DE (Chargers); Aaron Donald, DE (Rams); Landon Collins, SS (Giants); Jason Pierre Paul, DE (Giants); Kwon Alexander, LB (Buccaneers); Danielle Hunter, DE (Vikings); Luke Kuechly, LB (Panthers)
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB | Carolina Panthers: He can run between the tackles. He can pick up the blitz. He can run pass routes and catch the ball in traffic. I heard he even cleans up the cafeteria after the players eat lunch and helps old ladies cross the street. McCaffrey does it all, and the expansive role the Panthers have planned for him in 2017 makes him the leading candidate for this award.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB | Jacksonville Jaguars: There's an old coach saying that the rare running backs are the ones who "bring their own blocking." Given the state of the Jaguars' offensive line, Fournette might find himself having to be such a back as a rookie. The Jags would love to lean on him, and if they can block well enough up front, his workhorse role should make him a contender here. But that's a big "if."
3. Dalvin Cook, RB | Minnesota Vikings: Starting to think he shouldn't have dropped that far in the draft? Yeah, me too. The Vikings sure aren't going to ask Sam Bradford to throw it downfield. Cook can run, can catch and can handle whatever he needs to handle, and the offseason injury to Latavius Murray means Cook has basically been working as the starter since he got there. Which rookie RB do you like? There are a lot to choose from this season.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Myles Garrett, DE | Cleveland Browns: We aren't sure how much help he can expect to get from the rest of Cleveland's rebuilding defense, but Garrett's raw talent alone makes him a candidate to be a terror from the get-go. Look, barring an unlikely Joey Bosa-style, double-digit sack season from someone, the winner of this award is likely to be the rookie defensive back who comes up with some crazy number of interceptions. But because we can't predict whom that'll be, it makes sense to predict the guy who was the clear-cut choice as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
2. Jamal Adams, S | New York Jets: Hey, maybe this is that defensive back to whom we refer. He's going to play Jay Cutler twice, after all. Seriously, the Jets are already in love with Adams as a player and a leader. It might be hard for him to deliver numbers that merit an award such as this, given what's around him on the field and how much pressure the Jets' defense will be under to shut teams out. But Adams is perhaps the most polished of this year's defensive rookies, and he has a chance to be great early.
3. Derek Barnett, DE | Philadelphia Eagles: The rookie pass-rusher was earning praise in camp for his "motor," impressing coaches and teammates with how hard he goes on every single play. What remains to be seen is what kind of role the Eagles have for him and how much they'll be able to just send him after opposing quarterbacks while he refines the rest of his craft. Philly's defensive line and scheme play to Barnett's strengths, and he could lead all rookies in sacks if he gets on the field enough.
Also received votes: T.J. Watt, LB (Steelers); Reuben Foster, LB (49ers); Jarrad Davis, LB (Lions); Jonathan Allen, DE (Washington); Jabrill Peppers, S (Browns): Marcus Maye, S (Jets); Adoree' Jackson, CB (Titans); Marlon Humphrey, CB (Ravens); Takkarist McKinley, DE (Falcons)
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. J.J. Watt, DE | Houston Texans: We addressed Watt in an earlier blurb, so let's use this one to press pause on the jokes for a bit and commend Watt for his incredible efforts at hurricane relief fundraising over the past week in Houston. Ideally, if he wins Comeback Player of the Year, his city will come right along with him.
2. Rob Gronkowski, TE | New England Patriots: This offense is built to be a monster, and there's no player more monstrous in his matchups than Gronk when he's healthy. He appears to be, and with Brandin Cooks in town to stretch the field and all those pass-catching running backs to account for, Gronk should be in a prime position to have one of his more dominant seasons.
3. Earl Thomas, S | Seattle Seahawks: 3. This could be the last fling for the Legion of Boom, and it is entirely possible that Thomas could be the first one out the door next offseason. In the meantime, it's clear that the Seahawks' defense wasn't the same after he got hurt, so a return to its former brilliance might easily be assigned to Thomas' return when all is said and done.
Also received votes: Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers); Jay Cutler, QB (Dolphins); Danny Woodhead, RB (Ravens); Adrian Peterson, RB (Saints); Justin Houston, LB (Chiefs); Luke Kuechly, LB (Panthers); Jason Verrett, CB (Chargers); Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals); Marshawn Lynch, RB (Raiders); Robert Quinn, LB (Rams)