With one week left to go in regular season play, fans usually fall into one of two categories at this juncture.
There is either increased intensity because of an imminent postseason run, or there is a malaise due to unmet expectations.
The fantasy component or monetary wagers can assist in making the games relevant for some. I have decided to hand out my honors a week early, so the winners don’t have to wait on pins and needles for the accolades. I wouldn’t want it to affect their play in the final week.
Plus, those on teams with nothing to play for might see limited time and therefore, mediocre statistics affecting their overall yearly numbers.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers recently garnered the AP male athlete of the year award. If I see his insurance commercial one more time, I will take out my holiday jeer on whoever is near me. That aside, it is impossible to defend in the NFL at the same efficiency as the past. The league seems intent on fining any borderline defensive hit, so Rodgers has capitalized with his weekly aerial assault. He has accomplished all of this in the NFL’s worst climate.
Running Back: Maurice Jones-Drew is playing almost anonymously in Jacksonville. He has a disinterested fan base, a new coach, and a rookie quarterback that seems lost. The defense knows that he is usually getting the ball and they still can’t stop him. He is averaging four and a half yards per carry despite his diminutive stature. This doesn’t allow him the extra yard or two at the end of the play that a Matt Forte or Brandon Jacobs can attain.
Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald has had to play with multiple quarterbacks this season down in the desert. His eighteen yards per catch and eight touchdowns have been a consistent bright spot for the Arizona Cardinals. He is definitely not playing up to his contract, but it’s impossible to do so at his position. The professionalism and work ethic that he brings to the table is reminiscent of Jerry Rice.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham is leading the NFL in receptions from this position even before the Saints game against the Falcons on Monday Night Football. There are many at this position who either are specialists at catching the rock or blocking. He is the rare breed who can do both at a Pro Bowl level. Graham is just one of the many weapons at the disposal of Drew Brees. At only twenty-five, Graham seems to be in the prime of his career with an unlimited ceiling.
Kicker: Mike Nugent and David Akers have had tremendous seasons for their respective teams of the Bengals and 49ers. They are the only two kickers who are in the top ten of field goal kicking and kickoffs. I will choose the former because he is doing so in a colder climate. For those of you former athletes or wannabes like myself, you know how tough it is to get and stay limber in low temperatures. It takes a constant stretching regiment, much like a half inning of Ichiro Suzuki in the outfield.