Gladly, Hampton. Let's start with the Jack Welch/Bill Simmons "CONSPIRACIES ABOUND" Award, which of course goes to the NFL. After a three-week replacement refs debacle that culminated in the Inaccurate Reception (or, if you prefer, the Fail Mary) on that infamous Monday night in Seattle, the regular refs came back and promptly got accused of quasi-fixing a game. The charge came after the Saints beat the Chargers 31-24 in a Sunday night game marred by questionable fourth-quarter calls that went New Orleans' way. San Diego fans fumed that the league was throwing the Saints a bone after suspending coach Sean Payton and defensive leader Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season because of BountyGate.
The conspiracy theorists rabble-roused again after a questionable call went the Giants' way in their game last Sunday against the Steelers (this play was called a fumble). "The league just wants a New York team to win after Hurricane Sandy!" people moaned, though the whining subsided after the Steelers won the game 24-20. In my opinion, the conspiracy theorists give the regular refs far too much credit—in reality, bad calls are most likely just bad calls.
Next we have the Joe Biden "This is a big f-cking deal" Award, going to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Patrick, you mentioned the strong play of all rookie quarterbacks this season, but I don't think you gave Luck and RGIII their full due. The last time the NFL had two great QBs come into the league at the same time was 2004 (Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger). And that duo didn't dominate in Year 1 the way Luck and Griffin have. Put it this way: RGIII is the most exciting player in the league by a wide margin, and I'd still rather have Luck as my QB for the long-term.
Finally, we have the Mitch McConnell Failed Bloviating Award, which to my delight goes to the Philadelphia Eagles. You'll recall that McConnell said in 2009 that his biggest legislative priority was "making Barack Obama a one-term president." Whoops. Back in August 2011, the Eagles boasted about their "Dream Team" after a busy offseason that brought elite defensive players Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie to the team. Since then, the Eagles are a combined 11-13 over two seasons, Michael Vick has cooled off from his sensational 2010 season, and Andy Reid is still Andy Reid. The Eagles are now a team in disarray, scapegoating defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and falling flat in a must-win Monday night game against the Saints. Dream Team? More like the 2004 U.S. men's basketball team.
Three quickie predictions: First, Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watt will finish in the top three of the MVP voting but will not win because of the voters' bias to pick a quarterback. Second, the Falcons will lose at least three games this season, including this Sunday against the Saints. Finally, the Texans will beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.