Over the past few weeks, we've gone through our 2015 Bengals yearly awards known as "The CJ's". Thank you to everyone who read our nominations and casted their votes. In bittersweet fashion, we have come to the final award in this year's series.
If you haven't voted for one/some of these awards, go back and have your voice heard. Let's take a look at our contributor nominations for the biggest award of them all: Team MVP. Cast your vote and share your opinions in the comments section.
Alberto Luque (AKA muertasdeatenas): I have to go with Geno Atkins. Whenever he was on the field there was hope, and he sure made Carlos Dunlap's life easy. Without him on the line and despite a bounce-back campaign from Domata Peko, as well as a very good stat line for Carlos Dunlap, the defense was vulnerable.
Alex Healey: This team is 100% Andy Dalton's and it goes as he does. Going from Dalton to AJ McCarron, the Bengals averaged 6.83 less points per game. Forget the Bengals MVP, Dalton was a legitimate contender to be the NFL MVP thanks to his superb play and the tailing off of both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. For the record, I am not saying Dalton is better than either of those guys. Through 13 games, Dalton had a 66.1 completion percentage, 3,250 yards, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and 8.4 yards per attempt. That's more than I could've ever imagined asking from Andy.
Kyle Phelps: No disrespect to AJ McCarron because, to tell the truth, he played better than anyone could have expected coming in for Andy Dalton. But, Dalton had the Bengals at 10-2 when he went out with an injury and the team finished 2-3 without him. That included two close wins against bottom-end teams and a playoff loss due to an extremely poor first three quarters that Dalton probably would have fixed earlier.
Dalton threw seven interceptions in 12 games and had the top passer rating of the season when he went down (106.2). Had it not been for a late resurgence from Russell Wilson, he would have finished with the top passer rating at the end of the season, too. McCarron's passer rating was good (97.9), but he was much less attuned to playing against the pass rush, which Dalton performed extremely well against this season. There's really no point, for any reason other than curiosity, to speculate whether the Bengals could have finally won a playoff game with a healthy Andy Dalton. Given the way the Wild Card game played out, it seemed like exactly the kind of game that Dalton thrived in this year.
Scott Schulze: Even though Andy Dalton only played in just over 12 games, his contributions in those games had the biggest impact among anyone on the team. He did everything you want a great quarterback to do - move the offense and limit turnovers. Dalton was very efficient with his passing, completing 25 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. His loss was very noticeable, as the team went 10-2 with him in there, and faltered to a 2-3 finish without him.
Rebecca Toback: Andy Dalton hands down gets my vote for MVP. What a year from Dalton! We're left with tons of what ifs, but Dalton was on pace to break many of his own franchise records and we saw a player this season who was completely in control of his team. In the game against Seattle, Dalton was able to lead his team back from a 17-point deficit to actually win and do what seemed to be impossible at the time. The Dalton haters are gone (right, I hope!) and now, we're left to look forward to continued success from Dalton in his sixth season.
Scott Bantel: Silly as the talk was going into the season, there were a lot of fans and media wondering if Andy Dalton could hold on to the starting job in 2015, and whether or not the Bengals would cut him after the season. No one – Dalton included – would have expected the season he put together. Before being injured in Week 14, Dalton was 10-2 with 25 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, and was a legitimate MVP candidate. If not for the broken thumb, Dalton was likely to break the franchise record for touchdowns, yards, quarterback rating and wins. With Dalton, the Bengals ranked fourth in the league in average points per game with 28.1. Without him, they averaged just 20.2 points per game.
Jason Marcum: Not only did Andy Dalton have an amazing season, but it was painfully obvious how important he was when he went down late in the year. The offense was nonexistent too often during those final five games, and it really showed why Bengals fans need to appreciate what Dalton brings to the team.
Anthony Cosenza: I'm not going to dispute the contributions of Dalton or Atkins this year and they were two of the team's best players all season long. I just want to point out the difference in Dalton's play with healthy weapons around him, namely A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. The two combined to receive 20 of Dalton's 25 touchdowns on the year (12 from Eifert and eight from Green before Dalton's injury), and were immense lifts to Dalton's MVP-like campaign. I'm not saying they deserve to get the award over Dalton or Atkins, per se, but I think we should at least include them in the conversation.
Dadio McDuck: Geno Atkins.
Cody Tewmey: Geno Atkins.