The Kansas City Chiefs claimed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and their regular-season success is reflected in the division awards handed out by ESPN reporters Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders), Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos), Adam Teicher (Kansas City Chiefs) and Eric Williams (Los Angeles Chargers).
Coach of the Year -- Chiefs' Andy Reid: The Chiefs' offseason decision to trade quarterback Alex Smith, the NFL's top-rated passer in 2017, seemed at the time like a risky one, at least in the short term. The Chiefs turned to the untested Patrick Mahomes as his replacement. But with Mahomes under the steady guidance of Reid, the Chiefs beat the Chargers in the season opener to immediately establish themselves as the team to beat in the AFC West race.
The Chiefs kept control of the division race to the end of the season, and their victory over the Chargers, which featured four Mahomes touchdown passes, was the key to it all. Reid showed no hesitation in altering Kansas City's offense to Mahomes' uncommon talents. The Chiefs made liberal use of college concepts like jet motion, read-options and others to wind up as the top-scoring team in the league. In doing so, Reid reinvented himself as more than the proprietor of the West Coast offense. He tailored the offense to the talents of Mahomes and benefited from the change. -- Adam Teicher
Offensive MVP -- Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes might have clinched this award in Week 1, when he threw four touchdown passes against the Chargers. Or perhaps it was Week 2, when he threw six TD passes against the Steelers, or the following week, when he had three scoring throws against the 49ers.
No matter. The point is that Mahomes got off to such a fast start that nobody was ever a serious consideration to steal the honor from him. The Chiefs faltered some down the stretch, but Mahomes didn't. He had at least two touchdown passes in 14 of the 16 games and finished with 50, which tied him for second with New England's Tom Brady on the NFL's single-season list.
Mahomes completed passes in several unconventional ways, including no-look, across his body while on the move to the left or right, and left-handed. The Chiefs needed just about all of his magic to win 12 games, earn their third consecutive AFC West title and get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. -- Adam Teicher
Defensive MVP -- Chiefs pass-rusher Chris Jones: It might seem strange that a defensive MVP would come from a rotten defensive team, as the Chiefs have.
But the Chiefs, despite their defense, still won the AFC West, and Jones was so good that it's reasonable to wonder just how miserable Kansas City would have been defensively without him.
Jones led the Chiefs, one of the NFL's best pass-rushing teams, with 15.5 sacks. It's remarkable that Jones, playing on a team with top edge rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston, would lead the Chiefs in sacks, particularly considering he didn't often come from an edge-rush position. Jones was held without a sack in each of the season's first four games, but then had at least one in an NFL-record 11 straight games. To illustrate his consistency over this stretch, Jones' single-game season high for sacks was 2.5, coming in Week 15 against the Chargers. -- Adam Teicher
Rookie of the Year -- Chargers safety Derwin James: The Florida State product led the Chargers in tackles with 105, recorded 3.5 sacks and had three interceptions.
For his effort, James earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound hybrid safety also is a front-runner for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
What stood out about James this season for the Chargers was his versatility, as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley used him all over the field, including at free safety, strong safety, cornerback, defensive end and linebacker. Along with his unique skill set, one of the things Chargers coaches have praised James for is the energy he brings to the team on a daily basis, which helps the entire defense. "This guy genuinely loves the game and has a passion for it," Bradley said. "I think that filters to our players, as well." -- Eric Williams