Some offbeat awards for NFL season

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 27 2011 3:06 p.m. MST

Since ESPN put together its Monday night trio of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski, this has been no contest. Tirico is the smoothest of play-by-play announcers who also offers some insight and raises controversial issues. He brings out the best in his highly opinionated and insightful partners, and their sense of humor isn't forced.

Gruden's best moment: toying with crutches in the booth and threatening Jaworski with them as Gruden tried to figure out how Sean Payton could coach while using them.

BEST NFL STUDIO SHOW

NBC's "Football Night in America," in part because it's no yukfest, as are nearly all the other shows, but mainly for its willingness to tackle tough topics. Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison have no peers as commentators about the games and the sport itself.

UNDER-THE-RADAR STARS

Every one of these guys was a major contributor this year, even without much fanfare. In alphabetical order: PK David Akers, 49ers; T Jeff Backus, Lions; WR Doug Baldwin, Seahawks; TE Jake Ballard, Giants; LB Connor Barwin, Texans; WR Antonio Brown, Steelers;

CB Brandon Browner, Seahawks; G Chris Kuper, Broncos; P Andy Lee, 49ers;

DE Chris Long, Rams; RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers; LB Jerod Mayo, Patriots; PK-RB Joe McKnight, Jets; C Chris Myers, Texans; C Dominic Raiola, Lions; WR Nate Washington, Titans.

BEST QUOTE

"It's chaos out there. A lot is going on more than you see. It's like 'The Matrix' out there with a little bit of 'Inception.' It's a little bit crazy." — Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, a movie buff, describing the action after he had three sacks in a 24-10 win over Indianapolis.

AP Sports Writer Richard Rosenblatt in New York and Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this story.

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