The Associated Press will hand out its NFL honors such as MVP, Coach of the Year and Comeback Player in a nationally televised show the night before the Super Bowl.
Here are some very unofficial, offbeat awards.
Ravens 29, Vikings 26, Dec. 8.
A record-setting conclusion in which the teams combined for five touchdowns in the last 125 seconds. In the snow. With Baltimore scoring the winning TD with 4 seconds remaining. The first game in NFL history with six lead changes in the fourth quarter.
Runner-up: Denver’s scintillating 51-48 win at Dallas in Week 5 as the Broncos barely stayed unbeaten.
Giants 23, Vikings 7, Oct. 21.
New York was 0-6 and Minnesota was 1-4. The Vikings had just signed QB Josh Freeman, cut by Tampa Bay in an ugly dismissal, and coach Leslie Frazier started him. He was clearly not ready, going 20 for 53 for 190 yards and an interception in a game that set back “Monday Night Football.”
Runner-up: Jacksonville’s 13-6 yawner at Houston that was duller than a Bill Belichick soliloquy.
BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR
Have to go with Megatron. Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson leaped in the end zone over three Cincinnati Bengals to make a 50-yard catch for a tying score. But Cincinnati won 27-24.
Runner-up: Rams rookie Tavon Austin’s 98-yard punt return against Indianapolis on which he retreated to his 2, eluded a tackler and then sped down the sideline.
WORST PLAY OF THE YEAR
Could have been the best play, except Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown couldn’t stay in-bounds.
On a desperation final play against Miami, a series of laterals led to the Steelers’ speedy receiver having the ball and pretty much no opponents in the way. But as Dolphins cornerback Chris Clemons chased Brown — he wouldn’t have caught him — the left side of Brown’s left foot stepped ever so slightly out of bounds at the Miami 12.
Runner-up: Tennessee’s Darius Reynaud took the opening kickoff of the season just outside the goal line and shuffled back a few inches to down the ball. Officials stopped play and put the ball at the Pittsburgh 20 before referee Jerome Boger reversed it and called a safety. It was the first safety on an opening kickoff since 1988.
BIGGEST SURPRISE (PLAYER)
Eagles QB Nick Foles seemed destined to back up Michael Vick and maybe even be a misfit for Chip Kelly’s offense. Instead, Foles passed for seven touchdowns in a game, threw 19 TDs before being intercepted, and has Philadelphia in position to win the NFC East.
Runner-up: Titans DT Jurrell Casey has 10½ sacks and warrants All-Pro consideration.
BIGGEST SURPRISE (TEAM)
Carolina Panthers. This was close because of how well the Chiefs and Cardinals have done, but, really, how can we ignore the superb turnaround in Charlotte? Not only is Carolina a defensive power, but it’s displaying enough big-play offense to be a Super Bowl contender.
Runner-up: Kansas City from 2-14 to AFC wild-card berth.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (PLAYER)
Wonder why the defending champion Ravens will be hard-pressed to get back into the playoffs, let alone win another Super Bowl? Try these numbers for perennial Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice: 645 yards rushing on 208 carries (3.1 average), four TDs; 51 receptions for 286 yards (5.6) and no scores.
Runner-up: Eli Manning, whose 26 interceptions lead the league and are a major contributor to a 6-9 record.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (TEAM)
Texans. From two-time AFC South champs to 13 straight defeats, a fired coach, and maybe the top overall draft pick.
Runner-up: Atlanta, which was one successful play from making Super Bowl last year, and fell to the bottom of its division.
BEST COACHING DECISION
Panthers coach Ron Rivera early in the season, with his team at 1-3, began gambling on offense. He went on fourth down twice against Minnesota on the game’s first drive and hasn’t backed off on the aggressiveness. A bit odd, perhaps, for a defense-oriented head coach, but very successful.
Runner-up: Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly adjusting his offense to fit the skills of Nick Foles when it became clear he was the right quarterback for the Eagles.
WORST COACHING DECISION
Mike Tomlin getting lost on the sideline in a defeat against Baltimore and wandering too close to the path of Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones. Tomlin wound up with a $100,000 fine, the Steelers might lose a draft pick, and the distractions didn’t help his team’s chase for a playoff spot.
Runner-up: Washington coordinator Keith Burns, whose special teams were almost historically inept, getting too close to the field and in the way of an official against Dallas, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
BEST PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER (TV)
Mike Tirico. Time to retire this award; no one is even close. Tirico is the best-prepared announcer, from understanding the rules to finding great tidbits about the game. He also offers strong and enlightened opinions on the action — nothing bland about ESPN’s top guy.
BEST ANALYST (TV)
Fox needs to start giving higher-profile assignments to former NFL defensive lineman Tim Ryan. He explains the game in terms every fan can fathom, has a nice needle when needed, and simply makes his telecasts fun.