Originally posted on In The Neutral Zone  |  Last updated 1/10/14
These are the third annual TD Awards! If you’re not familiar, the TD Awards (TD being my initials) are awards I give out to teams in the NFL for various categories. However, unlike most award ceremonies, not all of these awards are positive. While I love to look at the best of the best in the NFL, I cannot ignore teams and players that fail to perform. One important note to point out is that these awards only take the regular season into account. I know some playoff games have already been played, but those results will not factor in the decision-making at all. Awards will go out to eight teams, two divisions, one conference, and one player in categories such as “Best Team,” “Worst Defense,” and “Best Division.” To see previous years’ winners, you can go to the TD Awards tab on the left or just click here. Best Team of 2013 The first award for the 2013 regular season also happens to be the most prestigious. It goes to the overall best team in the NFL after 17 weeks. In the playoffs, who knows? The past two winners for Best Team (2011: Packers, 2012: Broncos) did not make it to their respective conference championships, nevermind the Super Bowl. This year there were two teams that stood out and arguments could be made for either team, but one key stat gave the winning team the edge. Winner: Seattle Seahawks The Seattle Seahawks edged out the Denver Broncos for the NFL’s best team. Both teams went 13-3 (7-1 home, 6-2 road), won their conferences, and now hold the 1-seeds in the playoffs. However, each team is pretty different from the other. Seattle boasts an incredible defense, holding opposing QBs to just 172 yards a game (best in NFL) and running backs to just over 100 yards (7th in NFL). With a fantastic mobile QB in Russell Wilson and a physical running back in Marshawn Lynch, they own one of the best rushing attacks and will pound it down other teams’ throats to win. Russell Wilson may not throw for a ton of yards (29th in NFL), but he knows how to make smart plays with the ball, moving around in the pocket and throwing few interceptions. Wilson has a great cast around him, but he is a vital part of Seattle’s success. In contrast, Peyton Manning is the heart and soul of the Denver Broncos. He led the NFL in nearly every major QB category and I don’t mean just this season. He broke the NFL records for most TD passes and passing yards in a single season. He has a good defense to back him up, but not nearly the caliber that Seattle puts on the field. While Seattle is stingy and wins by allowing few points, Denver does the opposite and will put as many on the board as it takes to win (e.g. Denver beat Dallas 51-48). So with strengths in different places, how can I tell who’s better? It sure is close, but Seattle holds a major edge in turnover differential. Not only does Seattle have the most takeaways in the NFL (39) but they have the 4th-fewest giveaways (19), giving them a +20 differential. Denver gives and takes the exact same amount (26), balancing their differential at 0. Creating and capitalizing off turnovers can be the difference in close playoff games and Seattle is the best in the NFL in that department. With this edge, Seattle rightfully deserves the TD Award for Best Team. Runner-Up: Denver Broncos Honorable Mentions: Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots Worst Team For every great team in the NFL, there’s a bad one. And in some cases, just plain terrible. A lot of teams did their best to win this award by getting crushed week after week, throwing interceptions, blowing late leads, etc. but one team outdid (or outdidn’t) them all. Winner: Houston Texans The Houston Texans started off the season 2-0, about as well as anyone expected. They then dropped their next 14. Two sentences don’t do justice to how bad Houston looked at times, but their 2-14 record is what they deserve. Some may say, “Hey cut them some slack, they lost in a lot of close games.” This is true, many of their games were decided by a touchdown or less. After 14 losses, however, I’ve run out of slack. Their two wins were also decided by a touchdown or less, so what am I supposed to do? Houston did not know how to win games this season, plain and simple. Even against the lowly Jaguars, who many expected to own the top pick in the 2014 draft, the Texans failed to win (twice). On the bright side, Houston will have that top pick and hopefully can find their way out of embarrassment. Runner-Up: Washington Redskins Honorable Mentions: Jacksonville Jaguars Biggest Surprise Team This award is my personal favorite because it epitomizes what the NFL is all about; you never really know what will happen year to year. Teams with under four wins making the playoffs the following year is becoming more and more common. Just last year, for example, the Minnesota Vikings made it to the playoffs after winning just three games the year before. Two teams in particular had major rebounds in 2013. Winner: Kansas City Chiefs The Kansas City Chiefs, winners of just two games in 2012, did more than just make it to the playoffs in 2013. KC won their first nine games of the season, led the AFC in takeaways, held opponents to less than 20 points a game, and owned one of the NFL’s best running backs. With new coach Andy Reid and new QB Alex Smith, improvements were expected, but an 11-win season was optimistic by anybody’s estimation. Kansas City shocked the NFL with their success and showed us first-hand that any team has a chance in any given year. Carolina followed closely behind in second, winning their division–when only Atlanta and New Orleans were expected to contend–and representing the 2nd-seed in the NFC. Runner-Up: Carolina Panthers Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Eagles Biggest Disappointment  While some teams will shatter expectations, others will crack under the pressure. This award is obviously the opposite of Biggest Surprise and goes to the team that did the least with the most. They show us that all the projections for division winners, playoff clinchers, and Super Bowl contenders mean nothing until games are actually won. Underachievers, flops, duds, etc. However you want to put it, this is not an award you want your team to win. Winner: Houston Texans Houston already won our award for worst team and deserve this one just as much. At best, the Texans were expected to contend for the Super Bowl. Coming off a 12-win, division-winning season, with a solid QB, star RB, and top-10 defense, Houston looked ready to make a serious run. At the very least, they were expected to clinch a playoff spot. In a weak AFC, where nine wins was enough to make it, many (including myself) didn’t even entertain the thought that Houston could miss out. Well, if only it turned out that bad and nothing worse. Houston not only missed the playoffs, but lost every single game after September 15. No fall was farther than the Texans’ this season. Runner-Up: Atlanta Falcons Honorable Mention: Washington Redskins Best Offense These next few awards are pretty simple; we take a look at the best and worst offenses and defenses of the NFL. While having the best offense isn’t everything, it sure helped the team that won become one of the best teams in the NFL. The race for Best Offense was no contest this year. Winner: Denver Broncos This should be a no-brainer to everyone. With playmakers all over the field, Denver scorched defenses with their passing attack and kept the opposition honest with a solid run game. Denver picked up 7317 offensive yards this season, 641 more than the next team. Their passing game collected 5444 yards (best in NFL), backed up by their running game with 1873 yards (8th in AFC). My favorite stat out of everything, however, is their staggering 37.9 points per game. That’s an average. When Denver is scoring 40+ points on most days, it’s no wonder why they are Super Bowl favorites. Runner-Up: Philadelphia Eagles Honorable Mentions: New England Patriots Worst Offense Nothing is worse than watching a slow offense. You’ve seen them. I’m talking about the ones that go three-and-out drive after drive, turn the ball over constantly, settle for field goals, etc. It gets really hard to watch and one team in particular was unbearable. Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars While some aspects of Jacksonville’s offense weren’t the worst in the NFL, they were still collectively the worst of the worst. Even with a new logo and new uniforms, the Jags couldn’t find a solution to their offensive woes. They picked up 4701 yards (31st in NFL) and rushed for 1260 (31st). To their credit, their passing offense was better than 11 other teams’ and didn’t giveaway the ball that much (27 turnovers, one more than Denver). However, like with Denver, the most telling stat is the ability to put points on the board. In that department, Jacksonville ranked dead last with just 15.4 points a game. Runner-Up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Honorable Mentions: New York Giants Best Defense A good defense can take major pressure off the offense. Knowing that the other team will have trouble scoring, an offensive coordinator doesn’t have to take as many risks and can spend his time wearing down the other team. Just like in Best Offense, this award was an easy pick. Winner: Seattle Seahawks Seattle’s physical defense made it easy on me this year. The Seahawks allowed the least total yards in the NFL (4378), the least passing yards (2752), and least points per game (14.4). To top that all off, they forced the most turnovers in the NFL (39). They’ve held powerful offenses like Carolina, San Francisco, and New Orleans to seven points or less. I can’t wait to see how this defense performs in the playoffs. Runner-Up: Carolina Panthers Honorable Mentions: San Francisco 49ers Worst Defense Handing out the award for Worst Defense was a little tougher than the rest. I found that a lot of defenses suffered in different ways. Some couldn’t force a turnover to save their lives, some allowed touchdown after touchdown, and others simply allowed large chunks of yardage. Winner: Minnesota Vikings Minnesota was the only team in the NFL to allow 30 points per game and that was ultimately the deciding factor when picking the league’s worst defense. They also ranked 31st in passing yards allowed, an aspect of defense that is becoming more and more important as QBs throw for more yards year after year. Lastly, they only managed to force 20 turnovers, which ranks 15th in the NFC. They may not have a terrible running D, but the other stats are enough to convince me that Minnesota was the worst at getting offenses off the field. Runner-Up: Jacksonville Jaguars Honorable Mention: Atlanta Falcons Best Division There was only one division that sent three teams to the playoffs, but there was another that yielded three 10+ win teams. These two divisions stood out in 2013, but for me there was a clear winner.  Winner: NFC West The NFC West won Best Division last year and followed it up with an even better showing in 2013. Seattle won the division at 13-3 and already holds the award for Best Team. The second place finisher, San Francisco, was not far behind at 12-4. The Arizona Cardinals, 10-6, were as good a third team as we’ve seen. And in last place, St. Louis finished at 7-9, better than any other last place team and earning quality wins over Indy and New Orleans. This was an all-around fantastic division and each of the four teams proved to be difficult opponents throughout the season. The runner-up was the AFC West, who sent three teams to the postseason. While that’s impressive, the overall strength of the NFC West cannot be matched. Runner-Up: AFC West Honorable Mention: AFC East Worst Division Determining the NFL’s worst division was actually more challenging than determining the best. Is a division as bad as its worst team? Or does its winner show us a better representation? I tried to weigh all the teams somewhat equally and picked a winner, though an argument could be made for the runner-up.  Winner: AFC South In the division where four-win Jacksonville finished third, the AFC South isn’t doing itself any favors. The worst team in the NFL, Houston, owned the bottom and seven-win Tennessee managed to hold second after an up-and-down season. The winner was Indianapolis, who won 11-games but dropped games to Arizona, Miami, and St. Louis by a total of 63 points. While Indy is still a strong playoff team, the rest of the division suffered and gave opponents something to look forward to when facing the AFC South. Runner-Up: NFC North Honorable Mention: NFC East Best Conference In this brand new category, I crown a definitive winner for the NFL’s best conference. Of course, there are only two eligible nominees but the conference clash has always interested me nonetheless. Which conference is king? Winner: NFC The NFC won the head-to-head this year 34-30, though it was the strength of the conference’s playoff field that stood out to me. The NFC boasts three teams with 12 wins or more–compared to two from the AFC–and the first team to miss out on the postseason was 10-win Arizona, compared to 8-8 Pittsburgh. Green Bay sticks out like a sore thumb at 8-7-1 among the better NFC records but with Aaron Rodgers back, Green Bay is better than their record indicates. Overall, the NFC proved to be the superior conference with multiple Super Bowl contenders in Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco, and New Orleans. MVP The only player award I give out is for league MVP. There are tons of stars in the NFL today, but who’s the best of the best? Some years it’s a tough choice. Not this time. Peyton’s 2013 regular season showed us why he’s one of the best QBs in history. Winner: Peyton Manning If you don’t know why Peyton Manning should win MVP, you haven’t been watching him enough. He’s the leader of the best offense in football, earning the most passing yards and passing TDs in 2013. He’s been deadly accurate and has only thrown 10 interceptions out of 659 throws. Need more evidence? Well, all that is nothing compared to how some of his numbers rank in the NFL record books. With his 5,477 passing yards and 55 TDs in a single season, he is now the top QB of both categories. At 37, he gave Denver one of his best seasons of his long career and coming off four surgeries just a couple of years ago, it is truly unbelievable what he has been able to do. Peyton Manning is your NFL MVP by far. 4 total views, 4 views today
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