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Predicting the 2013 NFL Award Winners

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Predicting 2013 NFL Award Winners

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NFL season is officially in the books. Super Bowl XLVIII is just around the corner, and it's time to get the season-award predictions and playoff projections out in the open before the new year rolls around.

In 2013, NFL fans saw teams like the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears lead their respective divisions early on but go on to fail to reach the playoffs. Fans also saw teams such as the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs race out to commanding starts only to wind up starting the postseason on the road instead of at the comforts of their home venues.

Besides the team stories, every NFL season a few players break out of nowhere and catch fans by surprise, such as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (pictured above), who compiled an NFL-best 119.2 passer rating while throwing 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions after leading the Eagles to their first NFC East division title since 2010.

Foles, who didn't become the Eagles' regular starting quarterback until Week 5, got a delayed start to the season like Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. After sitting out the first two games of the season due to a suspension, Gordon caught 87 passes for an NFL-best 1,646 yards and scored nine touchdowns. From Weeks 11 through 14, Gordon caught 36 passes for 774 yards and scored five touchdowns, the most yardage in any four-game span in NFL history.

Gordon, who has a past which makes some fans shake their heads, brings up another terrific surprise from the 2013 season: Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. A "knucklehead" at Arizona State, Burfict left the Sun Devils one year early and was undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft because of consistent off-field issues and undisciplined play on the football field. In his second NFL season, Burfict led the Bengals' third-ranked defensive unit with an NFL-best 171 tackles while recording three sacks, defending eight passes, forcing one fumble and intercepting one pass.

Foles, Gordon and Burfict are classic examples of why the NFL is arguably the greatest professional sports league in the world. The parody is outstanding and the future is absolutely unpredictable to forecast.

Cheers to another great season of NFL football and many more to come in the foreseeable future. Click through the slideshow to see the projected winners of the NFL's most coveted awards of the 2013 season.

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NFL Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Runner-Up: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

In what will be likely one of the closest NFL award races, "Riverboat Ron" Rivera edges out Andy Reid because of how dominant a team the Panthers became after a rough 1-3 start to the 2013 season. Rivera's ability to coach the team through adversity was incredible, especially after stealing the NFC South division title away from the New Orleans Saints and helping the Panthers clinch their first playoff berth since 2008.

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NFL Comeback Player of the Year: QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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Runner-Up: RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos

The veteran San Diego Chargers quarterback was on the winding road to nowhere after his disappointing performances over the previous two seasons, but 2013 was quite refreshing for Philip Rivers. After throwing for 3,606 yards and 15 interceptions while compiling a 88.6 passer rating in 2012, Rivers improved in 2013 by completing 69.5 percent of his passes (1st in NFL) for 4,478 yards (5th) and 32 touchdowns (4th) while compiling a 105.5 passer rating (4th) and helping lead the Chargers to their first playoff berth since 2009.

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NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: LB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

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Runner-Up: DL Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets

Linebacker Kiko Alonso, a second-round pick out of Oregon in April's NFL Draft, was outstanding in his inaugural NFL season. Despite the Bills missing the playoffs and winning only six games, Alonso registered 159 total tackles (3rd in NFL), four interceptions (T-11th), two sacks, one forced fumble and defended five passes. Last year's winner, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, recorded five more total tackles, one less sack and two fewer interceptions in 2012 compared to Alonso's 2013 season.

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NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Runner-Up: RB Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Green Bay Packers had the worst injury luck of any team in 2013 as 15 players landed on the season-ending injured-reserve list and the team was also without MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers for seven-plus games. Thankfully for running back Eddie Lacy, the Packers won their third consecutive NFC North division title as Lacy led the Packers and all rookies in rushing (1,178 yards), yards from scrimmage (1,435) and touchdowns (11) while becoming the Packers' first 1,000 yard single-season rusher since 2009 (Ryan Grant).

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NFL Defensive Player of the Year: OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

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Runner-Up: DE Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

The Indianapolis Colts won the AFC South division title for the first time since 2010 thanks in large part to veteran outside linebacker Robert Mathis. Mathis, an 11-year veteran, enjoyed his finest NFL season, registering 19.5 sacks (1st in NFL) and forcing eight fumbles (1st). If the St. Louis Rams would've reached the playoffs this season, this award race would be much closer between Mathis and Robert Quinn (Quinn recorded 19 sacks and forced seven fumbles, both 2nd-best to Mathis).

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NFL Offensive Player and MVP: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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Runner-Up: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

In 2012, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award after finishing second in the Offensive Player of the Year and MVP race to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, but there is no question Manning deserves to win both the Offensive Player and MVP awards in 2013. Manning led the Broncos to an AFC-best 13-3 record while (as of December 31, 2013) throwing for an NFL-best 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes. Manning is the best player on the NFL's best regular season team and certainly earned his fifth career MVP award only two years after neck surgery threatened his football career.