By Sava Savkovic
The first several weeks of the National Football League have been ones to remember. We have witnessed many unexpected results, along with surprises and plot-twists. Headline stories have included blowouts, upsets, sloppy starts, and a great amount of rookie dominance. But before I get into those headlines, here’s a quick overview of how the beginning stages of the 2017 NFL season have unfolded.
The New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, have got off to a slow start and are not showing any resemblance to what they were last year, especially with their defence. On the same side, the Dallas Cowboys, favoured by Vegas OddsMakers to represent the NFC in the 2018 Super Bowl, have been a shell of their former selves. They haven’t been dominating the run game like usual and their defense is looking average. With that said of both teams, there is still a lot of football to be played and expect both of them to bounce back simply because of the foundations these teams are built on. For the Cowboys, it’s their dominant run game game which will improve as the season goes on, and for the Patriots, it’s the simple fact that they have the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady leading them. On the other side, the Kansas City Chiefs are looking like the best team in football. Their defence can stop anybody, and their offence is loaded with weapons. Expect them to make a deep playoff run.
Last but not least, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have looked great and Carson Wentz is playing amazingly, but don’t get your hopes up, it's Philadephia. Last season had the same situation: a great start, but a horrible finish.
That’s all you need to know to catch up on some football news.
Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, and Malik Hooker. If you are not an avid NFL fan, you might not have recognized some of those names. But if you have watched a drive with any of these guys on the field, you saw them jump out of the screen.
Beginning with Hunt and Fournette, these two have been dominating yard totals among all NFL running backs. They have over 1000 rushing yards combined in the first 5 games of the season(Hunt 609; Fournette 466). For Hunt, his speed, elusiveness, slippery running, and obscure strength for his size has got him at the top of the NFL and is a huge reason why the Kansas City Chiefs are 5-0. Fournette’s power, contact greediness, and his general “get out of my way or I will run you over” attitude has earned him second among the best NFL running backs in terms of yardage. These two young players are atop the NFL because of their constant tenacious ferocity and desire to win games.
Let's take a moment to remember that these guys have only played 5 NFL games. Yeah, let that one sink in…
Next up: Deshaun Watson and Malik Hooker. First, Deshaun Watson, who plays for the Houston Texans. Watson has been, by far, the most impressive rookie quarterback while the others have simply fallen flat. He has an incredible big play-making ability and has a great feel in and outside of the pocket. Watson has tremendous potential and what makes him great are his intangibles. His leadership and motivation abilities in college have transferred over to the NFL and are a major reason to why he has had success in Houston.
Last but not least, Malik Hooker, safety for the Indianapolis Colts. Hooker has shown that he has been the standout defensive rookie of the year. He already has three interceptions on the year and expect many more to come. Hooker is a ball-hawk and is as good as they come. His explosiveness to the ball is unseen in this rookie class of defensive backs and he is set to be a great safety for quite a while.
Sloppy starts and Excelling Underdogs
As previously mentioned, the two teams who were highly favoured to reach the Super Bowl this year are off to sloppy starts. The Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots have both had their fair share of struggles this year. For the Cowboys, it is their struggling run game which was previously dominant, as well as the inexperience of their defence. For the Patriots, it is simply their defence. One that was dominant last season is now one of the worst in the NFL and has shocked many viewers. But despite these struggles, both teams should be able to bounce back on the simple fact that are both fundamentally sound. Barring any major injuries, both of these teams should still make the playoffs. On the other side of the table, we have teams who were expected to be average or below average, but have shocked the football world. These teams are the Los Angeles Rams, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills. The common denominator between all of these teams has been excellent quarterback play. If these quarterbacks can stay consistent, which can be a tough task for younger QBs, these teams will succeed.
In this final part of the sports column, I will give some of predictions for the NFL and NBA awards, as well as championship predictions.
2018 Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots
The Patriots have everything in line to repeat another championship run. Their only downfall could be their weak defence.
MVP: Tom Brady, New England Patriots QB
Even without a great start, Tom Brady is my front runner for MVP because of the weapons he has in his offence, along with his coaching staff which is among the best.
Defensive Player of the Year: Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys DE
Lawrence already has 8.5 sacks on the year and is on pace to demolish the single-season sack record. If Lawrence can keep this dominance up, he will surely win the DPOY for 2018.
Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers WR
Brown has been on a tear so far in the first several weeks and he should be able to keep it up as long as the Steelers continue to abuse their dominant passing game with Brown leading it.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs RB
This one is a coin toss between Hunt, Fournette, and Watson but it is going to come down to who has impacted their team the most in the “Win” column and so far, that has been Hunt.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Malik Hooker, Indianapolis Colts S
Hooker has been outstanding with 3 interceptions on the season already. Unless another rookie such as Myles Garrett explodes for 10 or more sacks, Hooker has this award secured.
Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots TE
With Tom Brady as his quarterback and Gronkowski being one of the most dominant players in the league, he should win this award as he was injured for the most of last season.
With the NBA season coming upon us, there is quite a bit to speculate on. Will the Warriors still be as dominant as they were last year? Who will win the MVP? Which underdog team will unexpectedly make the playoffs? Many questions need answers, but as of now, we may only predict and speculate.
NBA Finals Winner + Finals MVP: Golden State Warriors and Kevin Durant
The Warriors have shown that they are simply unstoppable. Even with new additions to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, no team can match the sharpshooting juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. They will win the 2018 NBA championship and Kevin Durant will lead them in the Finals, grabbing his second Finals MVP.
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers SF
Simmons was the 1st overall pick in last year’s NBA draft but was injured the whole season. It seems the NBA world has forgot about him, but his ability to lead a team and get players involved is amazing. Moreover, he has an advantage over other rookies as he already has NBA experience by being drafted last year and is familiar with his teammates. For these reasons, Simmons should be the clear cut winner of the 2018 ROTY award.
MVP: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs SF
From previous years, we know that the NBA prefers giving MVP awards to players who have not yet received one. LeBron James could win the MVP every year simply because of how valuable he is to his team and could be to any team for that matter. However, for the NBA favouring first time winners, as well as Kawhi’s dominance on defence and excellence on offence, he should get the MVP award for the 2018 season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz C
Gobert was a candidate for last year’s DPOY award but he came short. This year, he is looking for revenge and should be able to achieve it with his incredible in-the-paint-defence, shot-blocking ability, and general defensive dominance.