Tonight, on New Year’s Eve, Seattle and San Francisco will be preparing for the playoffs. Arizona and St. Louis, on the other hand, will already be looking ahead to next season.
Overall, it was a great season for the NFC West. No longer will it be nicknamed the “NFC Worst.” With the regular season now over, let’s look back at the 2012 NFC West season and dish out some awards:
MVP: Russell Wilson
There was a time when we didn’t even think Wilson was the best quarterback in the division. Guess that’s why they play all 16 games.
Wilson was spectacular in the second half of the season, posting a quarterback rating of more than 100 in seven of his final eight games. In that same stretch he threw 16 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions as the Seahawks went 7-1.
Fourth quarter comeback wins? Yes. Nationally-televised prime-time games? No problem. Wilson has the demeanor of a veteran, an uncompromising will to win and a skill-set that stacks up against every quarterback in the NFL.
How did this guy slip to the third round of last April’s NFL Draft?
Breakout Player of the Year 1: Michael Crabtree
There was never any doubt about Crabtree’s talent. There were questions about his attitude and work ethic, but those are gone now.
While San Francisco’s other receiving threats went down with injury or were ineffective down the stretch, Crabtree flat out balled.
Sunday, against Arizona Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson, Crabtree went off for 172 yards and two scores. The former first round pick finished the season 11th in the NFL in receptions (85) and 14th in receiving yards (1,105) to go along with his nine touchdowns.
Breakout Player of the Year 2: Richard Sherman
The great thing about creating your own list is that when you can’t decide who to give an award to, you just give it out twice.
Sherman transformed into one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks this season, finishing second in the league with eight interceptions. His ability to lockdown an opponents’ best receiver allowed Seattle’s defense to bring more heat on opposing quarterbacks.
Shermand had a solid rookie season in 2011, but took his game to a whole new level this year. What’s more impressive is that he’s only been playing the position since 2009, so there’s still plenty of room for growth.
WTF Moment of the Year:
Hey, at least it helped bring back the real refs.
Biggest Joke: Cardinals Quarterback Situation
Kevin Kolb was sidelined for the season in Week 7 with a rib injury. In the nine games since, Arizona’s quarterbacks—John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer—have thrown two touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
Again, that’s two touchdowns and sixteen interceptions.
Lindley’s quarterback rating was 46.7. Skelton barely beat him, finishing the year at 55.4. Hoyer, who was signed on Dec. 10 and started Week 17, had a rating of 65.8.
It is truly amazing that in a quarterback-driven league, the Cardinals were this atrocious under center.
Best Position: Inside Linebacker
Patrick Willis. NaVorro Bowman. Daryl Washington. James Laurinaitis.
And what’s really scary is that Willis, at age 27, is the old man of this group. None of the players are going anywhere, either; their respective teams have locked up their young, talented backers for the foreseeable future.
Bowman, Washington and Laurinaitis finished the year top-10 in tackles. And while Willis’ numbers were down by his standards, he is still, without question, one of the best in the business.
Worst Position: Tight End
Arizona’s Rob Housler led all NFC West tight ends with 45 receptions. That is all.
Stephen Jackson Award: Larry Fitzgerald
Stephen Jackson is a beast, but the prime of his career was wasted away on bottom-feeding St. Louis teams.
We already looked at the Arizona quarterback situation, so it should be no surprise that Fitzgerald had a sub-par season. He finished the year with 798 yards and four touchdowns, but is arguably a top-three wide receiver in terms of talent.
Fitzgerald recently re-upped with the Cardinals to stay with the team through 2018. He better hope they can find someone halfway decent to throw the ball to him.
Best Facial Hair: Jeff Fisher
This one wasn’t even close. I mean, he was nominated for the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award.
Look at this thing, it’s perfect. And then combine it with his hockey flow—an unbeatable combo.
In fact, it’s so good, the Rams honored Fisher’s lip hat with its own day.