Predicting Team Awards: AFC North

The NFL kickoff is a little over a month away and fans all over the world are eager to see their teams play. Predicting awards has always been a tough ask from anyone since there is no accurate algorithm to help. Here at The Sports Wave we decided to start a series in which we all predict awards for each team per division. I will be starting in the AFC in it’s Northern Division, with quality players like the reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and double defensive All Pro TJ Watt. These predictions are based on how players looked last year along with a projection on how they’ll play this year. (No players will be listed twice for awards)

All Divisions:

AFC

NFC

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Steelers LB T.J. Watt is in very rare company through three years

MVP: TJ Watt. This one is pretty unanimous. TJ Watt is a generational talent who is coming off a 14.5 sack, 8 forced fumbles, and 2 pick season where he was named to 2 All-Pro teams. He is only 25 and can easily be a DPOY candidate this season if he continues to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

OPOY: JuJu Smith-Schuster: JuJu had a rough year last year without Ben Roethlisberger as his QB1. He had only 42 catches for 552 yards opposed to his Pro Bowl year in 2018 where he had 111 catches for over 1400 yards. Expect a huge production year for JuJu who looks to regain his form and game-changing ability which he lacked in 2019.

DPOY: Minkah Fitzpatrick: TJ should be the DPOY for the Steelers but the MVP honor seemed more fitting for him. Minkah is coming off a Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro season. He had 9 pass deflections and 5 picks with the Steelers and Dolphins. He is one of the best safeties in the league and should really pick up where he left off in his first full season with Pittsburgh.

ROY: Chase Claypool: Having JuJu as your WR1 is great because he is so young. Adding a stud like Chase Claypool (1000+ receiving yards and 13 TDs) in the second round of the draft should really bolster that offensive threat. Expect Claypool to overtake James Washington in the depth chart and get ready for an exciting receiving duo.

CPOY: Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben is finally set to return after missing the 2019 season with an elbow injury. In 2018 he threw for 5000+ yards and had 35 TDs and 16 picks. He is well rested and is reportedly looking his best (according to Vance McDonald and David DeCastro). Many analysts are writing Big Ben off saying he isn’t going to make any type of noise but the former SuperBowl champ is definitely going to have a great season.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2020 Cincinnati Bengals Fantasy Team Preview: In Joe Burrow We Trust! - Sports Illustrated

MVP: Carlos Dunlap: I know a lot of people expect to see the number 1 overall pick as the MVP but overlooking Carlos Dunlap and his consistent production is absurd. He had 9 sacks as well as 8 passes defended with 2 forced fumbles. He maintains his level of play across the board almost every season and his leadership on defense should help the Bengals out a lot.

OPOY: Tyler Boyd: Easily one of the most overlooked receivers in the league, Boyd has been super important for Cincy. He has had back to back 1000 yard seasons and 2020 looks to be no different. With AJ Green and newly drafted Tee Higgins people may expect a dip in Boyd’s production but he is easily the receiver with the most momentum for this season for the Bengals. I expect him to have an outstanding level of play and be one of the best receivers in the division.

DPOY: Shawn Williams: Not one of the flashiest safeties in the game or biggest name in the league, but make no mistake about it Shawn Williams can ball. The former Georgia Bulldog led the entire team in tackles (114, 6 TFL) to go with a pick and 3 passes defended. He is ranked 7th in the NFL is receptions allowed and ranked 10th in targets allowed by PFF. If he can make himself into a multi dimensional player stopping offenses on any level he can easily blow up as a top safety in the AFC North and finally get some respect.

ROY: Joe Burrow: The Heisman winner and number 1 pick has a lot of work to do to make a splash in the league. He had arguably the greatest college football season of all time with over 5500 passing yards and 60 TDs to only 6 picks. He has 2 veteran receivers and a young fellow rookie in Tee Higgins to throw to. He has everything (aside a great offensive line) and is already regarded as a ROY favourite in the NFL.

CPOY: AJ Green: Green did not play last year due to injury and even looked like he was going to be traded this offseason. A franchise tag later and he sticks with Cincy for another year and hopefully ups his numbers. His last Pro Bowl was in 2017 and it was also the last season he played healthy. 2018 saw Green play in only 9 games but he was able to haul in over 600 yards and 6 TDs. The Bengals have missed the receiver dearly and hopefully this season can prove AJ still has a lot to offer.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Myles Garrett and David Njoku: Cleveland Browns to exercise contract options on duo | NFL News | Sky Sports

MVP: Myles Garrett: Garrett played only 10 games since he was suspended for his brawl with the Steelers. In 10 games he was able to hit 10 sacks (13 TFL) and force 2 fumbles. He is without a doubt the best defensive piece the Browns have and can easily be one of the best lineman in the whole league. I expect him to use all his rest and anger from his suspension to torment other teams and carry Cleveland defensively. Cleveland has a lot of talent, but Garrett really is a freak of nature whose stats can only improve from great to amazing.

OPOY: Nick Chubb: With all the talent the Browns have on offense, this choice was fairly easy in my opinion. Nick Chubb was the bright spot on this side of the ball even when everyone else seem to dip in production. He peaked at 1494 rushing yards and 278 receiving yards with 8 TDs on the year. Although Kareem Hunt may get more snaps he definitely won’t have the splash that Chubb unleashed last season. Chubb is easily a top 10 back in the league and his resume should build up after hopefully a strong season this year.

DPOY: Denzel Ward: Obviously Myles Garrett should be here but since we aren’t doubling awards it goes to the next big star on the defense. Denzel Ward had a shaky season last year getting only 2 interceptions and allowing 31 receptions. He did however have 11 passes deflected and score a TD off of one of his picks. He is seen as a lockdown corner who doesn’t shy away from a challenge at all. The combo of him and Greedy Williams is definitely an up and coming duo but for now Denzel Ward is definitely a future star and this season can prove what many think he is capable of.

ROY: Jedrick Wills Jr: Wills has everything you want in an offensive lineman and is set to be the starter in Cleveland at left tackle. He is consistently healthy and showed that by finishing his college career with 28 straight starts. He allowed only ONE sack his junior year and only 3 QB hurries. He earned All America and All SEC honors. Jedrick can buy Mayfield time on the left side as a pass protector but can also open space for running (helped Alabama gain 5.5 yards a carry last season). He is looking to fill the void Browns legend Joe Thomas left since his retirement in 2018. Wills was the 10th overall pick in the 2020 Draft.

CPOY: Baker Mayfield: Baker struggled A LOT last year. He had 21 picks (2nd in the league) to only 22 TDs and was sacked 40 times. On top of that, his QBR was 49 ranking towards the bottom in the NFL. He had a decent completion percentage at just under 60 percent but for the most part he seemed out of touch with his teammates. The 2020 season with his offensive weapons and stronger O-Line should propel Mayfield to a better season than last year.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

49ers know they've never seen anyone like Ravens QB Lamar Jackson - SFChronicle.com

MVP: Lamar Jackson: It is no surprise that the reigning MVP is the man to lead the Ravens yet again. Baltimore enjoyed Lamar as he had 36 TDs and 6 picks with a QBR of 81 (Led the NFL). Lamar also led the team in rushing yards with 1200 yards (6th in the NFL) and 7 TDs and was nominated to the Pro Bowl and First Team All Pro. The Ravens are looking forward to what Lamar can do again this season and he is the biggest name in this entire division.

OPOY: Mark Andrews: Andrews earned himself a Pro Bowl selection after a solid second season in the NFL. He broke a Ravens record for most TDs by a tight end with 10 last season with only 4 starts. He had 800+ yards receiving and also was a huge bail out for Lamar. He is responsible for a lot of the Ravens big plays and can easily be their go-to guy this season.

DPOY: Marcus Peters: Peters absolutely soaked up his new home in Baltimore after his trade from the Rams. Out of his 5 picks he took 3 to the house for a score. His overall PFF grade is 83 yet he still doesn’t get a lot of respect for what he accomplished last season. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as well as first team All-Pro. He has suddenly changed the way teams plan against him. Many called him washed after being traded but he only used this as motivation on his way to becoming the best corner on his team and a top corner in the league. This year should be no different as he gets to play a full season in the Ravens scheme and prove just why he shouldn’t have been overlooked.

ROY: JK Dobbins: The offensive scheme under Lamar Jackson should get JK Dobbins a nice stat-line for the 2020 season. He accumulated over 4400 yards rushing (38 TDs) and 645 receiving yards (5 TDs) at Ohio State and is keen to earn his wings in Baltimore. He can compliment Mark Ingram as a one-two punch behind Lamar Jackson and is already receiving hype as the highest rated rookie back in the upcoming Madden.

CPOY: Marquise Brown: “Hollywood” Brown started his season with a 4 reception,147 yard and 2 TD game to own the Dolphins defense. Aside that, his only other 100 yard game was in the postseason loss to the Titans. He had 7 TDs all together and over 500 yards, but this seems to just be a glimpse into the talent of Brown. He can easily get more targets since defenses will scheme against the running threat the Ravens pose and this can certainly help him cement his status as a talented receiver in the league. He is coming into the season on a surgery he had in the offseason to remove a screw in his foot. If Brown can give the Ravens what they saw in their first and last games of the season, Hollywood can emerge as a legitimate WR1.

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