Let’s look back at the best and worst moments of the regular season.
First, the basic awards…
Most Valuable Player: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
We’ve never seen a quarterback quite like Lamar Jackson. The Ravens’ quarterback is at least two inches taller than Michael Vick, who was charitably listed at 6’0″. Jackson is also far more accurate. He’s the first player in NFL history to have at least 3,000 (3,127) passing yards and at least 1,000 (1,206) rushing yards in a single season. Jackson led the league in touchdown passes (36). was third in passer rating (113.3), and was the key cog in the league’s highest-scoring offense (33.2). He should be a unanimous choice for MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Carolina (5-11) wasted a landmark performance. McCaffrey became just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing (1,387) and 1,000 yards receiving (1,005) in the same year. When Roger Craig did it in 1985, the San Francisco 49ers went 10-6. When Marshall Faulk did it in 1999, the St. Louis Rams went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. McCaffrey was a positive in a lost season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick might be the greatest defensive mind ever. However, during his two decades with the Patriots, he has never had a player win this award (Belichick was the New York Giants’ defensive assistant when Lawrence Taylor won in 1981, ‘82, and ‘86). Gilmore tied for the league in interceptions (6), returning two for scores. The cornerback didn’t allow a touchdown for a Patriots defense that surrendered a league-low 14.1 points per game.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
This is a three-person race between Josh Jacobs, Tennessee receiver A.J. Brown, and Washington receiver Terry McLaurin. The slight edge goes to Jacobs, who led all rookies in rushing (1,150) while fumbling only once. According to Pro Football Focus, Josh Jacobs forced 69 missed tackles – the most by rookie since 2006.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bosa has been one of the most consistent pass rushers we’ve seen come into the league. He was second among rookies in sacks (9). But that doesn’t tell the full story of his impact. According to Pro Football Focus, Bosa’s 80 pressures were the most by a first-year player. He’s been a key addition for an elite pass-rushing defensive line.
Comeback Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp, L.A. Rams
The Rams were a colossal disappointment, but don’t blame Cooper Kupp. He suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through last year. He returned to enjoy a career-best season, setting bests in catches (94), yards (1,161), and touchdowns (10) while playing every game.
Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
The best coaches adapt. Harbaugh revamped his offense to suit Jackson – a totally different player than lead-footed Joe Flacco. There were some questions after Jackson’s poor playoff start against the Chargers. There were absolutely no questions after Jackson’s season debut against the Dolphins. Harbaugh guided his team to the No. 1 overall seed.
And now, the fun awards…
A somewhat surprising shootout. Drew Brees passed for 349 yards, accounted for six touchdowns (five throwing, one rushing). Jimmy Garoppolo also passed for 349 yards and added four TDs. Garoppolo hooked up with tight end George Kittle for a 39-yard on fourth down to set up Robbie Gould’s winning 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Best game between bad teams: Miami Dolphins 38, Cincinnati Bengals 35 in overtime
This was crazy. The Dolphins were cruising, up 35-12 late in the fourth quarter. But the Bengals scored three TDs over the last 6:11 of regulation — two in the final 30 seconds — to force overtime. Jason Sanders booted a 37-yard field goal for the win.
Wildest finish: Tennessee Titans 23, L.A. Chargers 20
The Chargers appeared to have won this game. L.A. had the ball at the Tennessee 1on first-and-goal with 34 seconds left. The Chargers thought Melvin Gordon scored, but upon review it was ruled he was short of the goal line. On second-and-goal, Gordon was stuffed again and fumbled. Tennessee recovered for a touchback with 15 seconds left. Game over.
Most shocking upset: Miami Dolphins 27, New England Patriots 24
Quite possibly the stunner of the decade. The Patriots were a 17.5-point favorite, which means this loss was the biggest betting shocker since 1995. New England won the earlier meeting 43-0, and needed a victory to secure a first-round playoff bye and the No. 2 overall seed. And yet, the Patriots let AFC East journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick torch their vaunted defense for 320 passing yards, including the game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds left.
Worst coaching performance: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas had enough talent to make a Super Bowl run. The Cowboys couldn’t even win the worst division in football. They were sixth in the league in scoring margin (+113) and outgained their opponents by 1,672 yards. They have star players at quarterback (Dak Prescott), running back (Ezekiel Elliott), and wide receiver (Amari Cooper). Yes, Jerry Jones is meddlesome. But it’s a results-based business and the buck stops with Garrett.
Best Mohamed Sanu imitation: Emmanuel Sanders, San Francisco 49ers
New England wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is famous for being perhaps the best non-quarterback passer in the game. For his career, he’s 7-for-8 for 233 yards and four touchdowns. In the San Francisco-New Orleans game, the most stunning TD wasn’t thrown by either quarterback. On a trick play, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders delivered a 35-yard strike to running back Raheem Mostert.
Best touchdown celebration: Jaron Brown, Seattle Seahawks
When it comes to end zone celebrations, the Seahawks’ wide receivers have no peers. Against the Cleveland Browns, Brown hauled in a 17-yard TD and danced in the end zone with fellow wideouts Tyler Lockett, David Moore, and DK Metcalf. They hilariously recreated NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” dance that everyone noticed. Even the band.
Best touchdown celebration that didn’t count: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts
Usually when an offensive lineman scores, it’s on a tackle-eligible play. The Colts fooled the Jacksonville Jaguars by lining up their Pro Bowl guard at fullback. Nelson surged ahead on third-and-goal for what was originally ruled a 1-yard TD. He rejoiced by doing a keg stand. But upon further review, officials said Nelson didn’t break the plane of the goal line. The score was nullified. The keg stand lives on.
Worst touchdown celebration: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins is the most confusing quarterback of our time. Some games he looks great. Some games he looks awful. There’s no debate about his dancing. Cousins looked ridiculous and rigid with his Bankhead Bounce moves after a one-yard touchdown dive.
Best fake punt: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona lost to Tampa Bay 30-27, but this trick play was a thing of beauty. On a direct snap, linebacker Ezekiel Turner ran left and then flipped the ball to wide receiver Trent Sherfield, who tossed it back to punter Andy Lee. Lee fired deep to Pharoh Cooper for a 26-yard completion. Plus, Tampa Bay got called for a pass interference penalty. Awesome.
Worst fake punt: Pittsburgh Steelers
This disaster almost cost the Steelers. Pittsburgh was up 20-10 at Arizona with just over eight minutes to play. Punter Jordan Berry tried to run on the fake, but was immediately greeted by two Arizona defenders. Berry fumbled and the Cardinals recovered at near the Steelers 30. Berry blamed the snafu on a miscommunication error.
Best fake field goal: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins pulled off one of the weirdest special teams plays of the season. Instead of booting a short kick, Miami didn’t play it safe. In the second quarter, punter/holder Matt Haack took a direct snap on fourth-and-goal from the 1. He scrambled and then tossed the ball to a wide-open receiver: kicker Jason Sanders. Miami won in an upset 37-31.
Worst fake field goal: Tennessee Titans
Sometimes it’s not a necessarily a bad decision, but rather a bad playcall. The Titans were up 27-23 at home against Tampa Bay with 3:47 left to play. They lined up for a 47-yard try. But punter/hunter Brett Kern tried to run for the first down on fourth-and-2. He was easily stopped short. Kern appeared to fumble, and Tampa returned it for a touchdown. However, the whistle blew early, negating the score. Tennessee hung on for the win.
Best touchdown pass: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s a small miracle that Carson Wentz passed for 4,039 considering his wide receiver kept getting hurt. In fact, no quarterback has ever thrown for that many yards without a wide receiver having 500 yards. Against Washington, a scrambling Wentz fired a rocket to rookie running back Miles Sanders in the back corner of the end zone. The ball zoomed past three defenders into the arms of a falling Sanders. Incredible.
Best touchdown run: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson is a human highlight factory, producing amazing plays every week. He’ll astound you with his arm and legs. This 47-yard run against the Cincinnati Bengals was jaw-dropping. The spin to evade a tackle was something out of a video game. You felt sorry for Cincinnati linebacker Nick Vigil, who had no chance to stop Jackson’s 360-degree move.
Best touchdown catch: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
We all know that Russell Wilson uses his legs to keep plays alive. Trailing 6-0 to the L.A. Rams, Wilson once again was flushed out of the pocket. But give the credit to Tyler Lockett, who had a sensational catch against perfect coverage. Lockett made a diving grab in the back of the end zone and somehow was able to keep his feet in bounds.
Best interception: Miami Dolphins safety Steven Parker
The second-year pro Steven Parker made his first career interception a memorable one. It looked like the Indianapolis Colts had a first-quarter touchdown when Brian Hoyer fired the ball into the endzone to tight end Eric Ebron. But Parker snatched the pass out of Ebron’s hands for a pick and touchback.
Worst quarterback performance: Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers
If the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph helmet incident didn’t happen, the focus would have been on how terrible the second-year QB was. Rudolph was 23-of-44 for 221 yards, with a touchdown and four interceptions. He was sacked four times in a 21-7 loss.
Worst 5,000-yard passer: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston was exciting. He could throw for 400 yards (three times), or he could throw four interceptions (five times). His 5,109 passing yards were the eighth-most in league history. He also became the first quarterback ever to pass for 30 touchdowns (33) AND 30 interceptions (30). Plus, he set a record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns (7) on his final throw.
Worst offensive line performance: Garett Bolles, Denver Broncos
The left tackle was whistled for four (4!) holding penalties against Chicago. Three came in the first half of the 16-14 home loss. By the fourth penalty, the Empower Field booed.
Worst goal-line offense: Cleveland Browns
Yes, the Buffalo Bills have a great defense. However, there’s no excuse for this. The Browns had eight shots at a touchdown and failed. During that stretch, there were two runs for no gain, two tackles for a loss, three incomplete passes, and two pass interference penalties. The final insult: Nick Chubb being stuffed. The Browns did win 19-16.
Browns had eight chances to score from the goal line…
Bills stopped them ALL EIGHT TIMES 🚫
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 10, 2019
Best quote: Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears:
“A dog that poop fast don’t poop for long, man.”
Best fans: Pittsburgh Steelers
The season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger nuked their season. However, it didn’t stop Steelers fans from coming out in full force for two road games. Thousands of Terrible Towel-wavers took over the Chargers stadium (Dignity Health Sports Park) and the Cardinals stadium (State Farm Stadium). Pittsburgh won both games.
— SteelersKillerB (@SteelersKillerB) December 8, 2019
Best hungry fan: Chicago Bears pie smuggler
Security at NFL games is supposed to be tight. Yet somehow, someway this Bears fan managed to get an entire pie AND whipped cream into Soldier Field. Kudos to you, sir!
This fan snuck an ENTIRE pumpkin pie into the game 😂🥧
— ESPN (@espn) November 24, 2019