The 2022-23 National Football League season was wild. The script couldn’t have been more entertaining for football fans. Many players had outstanding seasons worthy of recognition. Here are some players who I believe should earn awards that may or may not exist.
Most Valuable Player — Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was by far the most impressive player in the NFL this season. He led his team to a 14-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Chiefs are also headed to the Super Bowl for the third time in the last four years.
Perhaps the most impressive feat of Mahomes’ incredible season is that he accomplished so much with depleted talent on the roster. After having superstar receiver Tyreek Hill out wide Mahomes’ entire career, the Chiefs traded him to the Miami Dolphins after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension.
Instead, Mahomes’ go-to receiver this season other than tight end Travis Kelce, was JuJu Smith-Schuster. While Kelce is a superstar and arguably the best tight end in the league, the Chiefs failed to provide high quality talent around Kelce and Mahomes.
Smith-Schuster is a solid receiver but should not be the primary option out wide for any team in the league.
Despite the lack of talent around him, Mahomes was the only quarterback to record over 5,000 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes.
Mahomes is the engine that runs the best offense in the league — the best player on the best team in football.
Most Improved Player — Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence might have had the best second half of the season than any other player in the league.
Starting in Week 9, the Jaguars went on a tear and won seven of their last nine games en route to a playoff berth. Lawrence also had a 15:2 touchdown to interception ratio during that time span.
The Jaguars were underdogs heading into their Wildcard matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, and the first half of the game seemed to reaffirm what critics thought heading into the matchup. At one point in the first half, the Chargers were leading the Jaguars 27-0.
Then, as Chargers fans know all too well, Lawrence led one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. After throwing four first-half interceptions, Lawrence threw four touchdowns and the Jaguars ended up winning the game.
Coming out of college, Lawrence was widely considered one of the best quarterback prospects in a long time. A disappointing rookie season might have been a blessing in disguise for Lawrence. He’s now turning a historically bad Jacksonville franchise into a potential AFC contender.
Role Player of the Year — Samaje Perine
Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine is a name fantasy football players know well. As the No. 2 running back on the Bengals, there have been times when Perine had to fill in for starter Joe Mixon.
And when Perine stepped in, he did not disappoint.
In two games as a starter, Perine racked up 248 total yards from scrimmage. Although his overall stats might not seem impressive, he anchored the Bengals running game when Mixon was on the sideline.
Perine is the definition of a quality role player. When the starter is injured or taking a breather between plays, Perine steps in and the offense doesn’t lose a step. The duo of Perine and Mixon in the backfield was the perfect complement to Cincinnati’s elite passing game led by superstar Joe Burrow.
Perine will likely never make a Pro-Bowl appearance, but his role on the Bengals offense is vital to their success.
Worst performance of the year — NFL Refs
The 2022-23 season, while wildly entertaining, was one of the worst officiated NFL seasons in recent history. The referees missed many obvious calls and threw some unnecessary flags in critical moments.
One of the worst calls came in Week 15 when the Washington Commanders faced off against the New York Giants. Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin was called for an illegal formation after he confirmed with the referee that he was in a legal pre-snap position.
Two plays later, on the last play of the game, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw the ball to receiver Curtis Samuel. Samuel had a defender giving him a cocaine-bear hug and the pass was incomplete. There was obvious pass interference on the play and the refs failed to make a call that cost Washington a crucial win.
That same week, when the Las Vegas Raiders hosted the New England Patriots, the refs made another blatant mistake that cost the Patriots a win.
With under a minute left in the game, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw a bomb to receiver Keelan Cole. Cole caught the ball for a touchdown to tie the game.
However, Cole never got the required second foot inbounds for a catch to be deemed complete. Despite the replay review that, in my opinion, clearly showed an incomplete pass, the refs upheld the ruling on the field, and the Raiders went on to win a game that they shouldn’t have won.
These calls are two egregious examples of missed calls, but they weren’t the only poor decisions made by refs. The controversy surrounding the refs had led to many jokes regarding the league being ruled by an all-powerful script.
While it has made for some great memes, there is no hard evidence that the league is scripted. Regardless, the NFL needs to take a hard look at how referees operate in-game for the following season.
Originally Published by The Daily Free Press on February 8, 2023
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