The 2021 NFL Season is upon us and the Music City Drive In has you covered. We’ll be previewing all 32 teams, as well as our picks for award winners and playoff participants each day through Monday, September 6. Check back daily at 4 p.m. EST for each new piece in our preview series.
The 2021 NFL Season is almost upon us and our preview series is coming in for a landing. In this penultimate piece, our staff will offer our fearless predictions for who will win the big hardware this season. We’ll make our picks for NFL MVP, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Fantasy MVP.
Jason Astarita (@astaritajason)
NFL MVP: Dak Prescott—Look for Dak to be healthy and threading passes to ample targets for a defenseless Dallas Cowboys. The question will be whether the voters look at team performance versus individual performance as Dallas may still struggle to squeeze into the playoff picture.
Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan—Shanahan rides the wave of good health and a QB hand-picked to fit the offensive scheme. It will seem like a much greater accomplishment, but it will mostly be owed to health and QB versatility, which have been the only pieces missing from a Super Bowl contender.
Rookie of the Year: Trey Lance—Lance settles in with the most completely built franchise of all the rookie QBs. He can fit in immediately with a run-versus-risk focused approach, along with skill players that can generate YAC in a simplified transition to the NFL passing attack.
Fantasy MVP: Tee Higgins—Imagine getting CeeDee Lamb in the Fourth or Fifth Round of your 12-team re-draft league. Thrilling. Higgins had similar targets, more TDs, and better yards per catch with only a slightly reduced catch-percentage. Did I mention Higgins was eased-into the offense to start the season? I am all-in on Higgins.
Matthew Fox (@knighthawk7734)
NFL MVP: Matthew Stafford, Rams—There are a few options I considered. I thought Josh Allen should have won last year and could again, and Patrick Mahomes seems to be in the mix annually, but I went with Stafford. He’s an under-rated guy who I expect to have a big season in taking the Rams to the top in the NFC West and the playoffs.
Coach of the Year: Sean McDermott, Bills—McDermott should have received recognition before now, but I think the Bills have a big year. Not to give too much away for tomorrow, but I see them taking another step forward in 2021.
Rookie of the Year: Kyle Pitts, Falcons—Look, I know this award usually goes to quarterbacks and could again. But I like Pitts’ talent and I think he’s going put up big numbers in this offense.
Fantasy MVP: Curtis Samuel, Washington Football Team—My take on this award is a guy who you get at value that helps lead you to a championship. Samuel was WR24 in 2020 and a big target in 2019 whose quarterback couldn’t get the ball to him. He’s going as WR47 right now and he’s playing with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in that 2019 offensive scheme. I like him to outplay his draft position this year.
Timmy Rever (@coachrever)
NFL MVP: Ryan Tannehill—Does Derrick Henry help Tannehill or does Tannehill help Henry? A case can be made for either question, but when discussing value to the Titans, Tannehill is undoubtedly the greatest factor in their success when looking at his efficiency and rankings in stats such as YPA, QBR and Completion percentage. Henry may very well lead the league in rushing, but elite production from Tannehill will propel the Titans to another AFC South crown and deep playoff run.
Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera—Despite ineptitude at the top of Washington’s organization, Rivera’s character and coaching will propel the Football Team to an NFC East crown. The re-build will yield results this year and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a coach do more with less this year than Ron Rivera.
Rookie of the Year: Trevor Lawrence—There’s no need to overthink this one. Lawrence is a truly generational talent and will win the Jaguars games in spite of other deficiencies. There may be growing pains but he will cement himself as a Top-10 QB in the league by January.
Fantasy MVP: Patrick Mahomes—Again, no need to get cute here. Mahomes is a prior fantasy MVP and I predict he will repeat this year. The Chiefs will be the top team in the AFC, but they’ll take some lumps and force Mahomes to come back late in games. Volume plus opportunity equals fantasy magic for QB1 in Kansas City.
NFL MVP: Kyler Murray—Last year during the first half of the season, Murray showed up briefly in MVP talks. This year I feel he has better offensive players surrounding him with offensive line upgrades and better receiving options. I think Murray makes a big third year jump solidifying his future payday with the Cardinals and winning his 1st MVP award.
Coach of the Year: Robert Saleh—I mean the Jets luck has to turn around at some point, right? Ad this is the year if you ask me. Saleh took inherited a 49ers defense that was near last in the league for his first year as Defensive Coordinator and he turned them into a top tier defensive unit. I believe he accomplished this because of football intelligence and it will directly result in a much-improved season for the Jets.
Rookie of the Year: Mac Jones—This is not what I want, not because I am a Mac Jones hater, but because the Patriots dominated for 20 years. To balance out the football universe it is only fair they experience some stretch of time where they are irrelevant. Yet, Jones beat out Cam Newton for the starting job and has Bill Belichick as his coach. Now add in all the Patriot starters that opted out last year, I think that makes it very easy for Jones to succeed and secure the Rookie of the Year title.
Fantasy MVP: Derrick Henry—The Titans offense only got better this off-season. I think the Titans passing game will be something to be feared with Julio Jones as the second wide receiver, making it easier for Henry to move the offense up the field.
Ricky Valero (@rickyvalero_)
NFL MVP: Josh Allen, Bills
Coach of the Year: Sean McDermott, Bills
Rookie of the Year: Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
Fantasy MVP: Saquon Barkley, Giants
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.