We spent probably too much time over the second half of the season debating the NFL's MVP award, which Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to win during a televised ceremony Saturday night. But what about arguably the NFL's second-most prestigious annual award? Will Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen win NFL Defensive Player of the Year?
We here in the NFC North are no strangers to the DPOY. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson won in 2009, beating down East Coast support for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews finished a close second last season to Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Allen led the NFL with 22 sacks this season, one shy of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record. He said late in the season that the Vikings' poor season would probably eliminate him from DPOY consideration, but I'm not sure if that will be the case.
This season, at least, I wouldn't say there is an obvious or runaway winner for the award. We discussed maybe a half-dozen credible names Wednesday morning over on Twitter. Below are four of them, for which I've identified some pros and cons.
Pros: Wasn't far behind Allen in the sack department with 19.5, a number that would catch anyone's attention.
Cons: Could be viewed as a one-dimensional pass-rusher. Forced two fumbles and defended two passes as an outside linebacker.
Pros: Career-high 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Took over leadership role of a dominant defense when middle linebacker Ray Lewis was injured.
Cons: Perception, fair or otherwise, that Suggs is a secondary player to Lewis and safety Ed Reed on the Ravens' defense.
San Francisco defensive lineman Justin Smith
Pros: Tremendous production for a 3-4 defensive end with 7.5 sacks, and his intensity set a tone for one of the NFL's best defenses.
Cons: Smith might not be the best defensive player on his own team. Linebacker Patrick Willis is one of the NFL's top overall players, but he missed three games and was limited in others by injury
Pros: Recorded 16.5 sacks, anchoring one of the NFL's most disruptive defensive lines.
Cons: Is only in his second season, and critics could point out the Giants' defensive line is too talented for offensive lines to double-team Pierre-Paul often.