MVP race is wide open
The race for the NFL's most prestigious individual honor usually is a no-brainer. With rare exceptions, one player invariably rises to the top as the consensus choice for the coveted Associated Press Most Valuable Player. But not this year.
With Peyton Manning, who has a record five MVP trophies to his credit, struggling down the stretch, there's a crowded field of players in the hunt. Aaron Rodgers looked like the consensus choice to win the award, but his stumble in Buffalo two weeks ago might have opened the door to others. It looks as though he still has a nose in front, but there is one more game to be played, and how he performs in an NFC North-deciding matchup against Detroit could sway the voting.
Also in the mix: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.
Caldwell for Coach of the Year?
There have been several notable coaching jobs this season, including Bruce Arians of the Cardinals, who is 11-4 despite playing three quarterbacks; Bill Belichick, whose Patriots overcame a tenuous start to earn the AFC's top overall seed, and Mike Tomlin, whose Steelers are back in the playoffs. But the choice here is Jim Caldwell, who has taken the perennially underachieving Lions to the playoffs in his first season.
Caldwell, who previously coached the Colts after taking over for Tony Dungy, has done a remarkable job getting the best out of a Lions team that was undisciplined under his predecessor, Jim Schwartz. Regardless of the outcome of the season-ending game against the Packers, the winner of which will capture the NFC North title, Caldwell has the Lions headed in the right direction with a calming influence and a no-nonsense approach that have gotten the most out of a talented roster.