As every new NFL season is about to unfold, the various NFL analysts and media will come out with their fearless predictions of who will wind up winning the major NFL awards at the end of the season.
Rather than kick around the opening-game performance of the preseason favorites, in this presentation, we want to look at the performances of the players who actually played like they deserve the award, based on their Week 1 play.
Today, we will break down each major NFL award and look at who should be deserving consideration based on their play in Week 1.
Robert Griffin celebrates touchdown pass.
Week 1 of the 2012 NFL regular season was going to be special because the league was going to witness the official starting debut of five different rookie starting quarterbacks, something that hasn't happened in the last 50 years in the NFL.
Out of the five quarterbacks in question, only one of them stepped up on opening day. The other four wound up being ranked in the bottom 10 of the quarterback rankings.
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III had a magical day to start out his NFL career. After the first week of action around the league, Griffin sits atop the leaderboard of all NFL quarterbacks with a QB passer rating of 139.9.
Griffin completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) for 320 yards, which is an amazing average of 12.3 yards per attempt. He threw for two touchdowns, had no interceptions and threw for the longest passing play of any quarterback, which was an 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon.
Not only did Griffin lead his team to a win on the road, but Griffin defeated Drew Brees in his NFL debut. Griffin also rushed 10 times for 42 yards and was only sacked once. RG3 clearly has the early lead in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His main competition for the award, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, threw three interceptions in his debut.
As for other rookies around the league, New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill came up with five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns, removing some of the doubts from the preseason that he was too raw.
Chicago Bears rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery caught three passes for 80 yards and one touchdown. Jeffery averaged a huge 26.7 yards per catch and is looking like a great complement to Brandon Marshall.
Another solid debut was turned in by Indianapolis Colts rookie tight end Coby Fleener, who came up with six receptions for 82 yards. He didn't have any touchdowns, but continues to be a favorite target of college teammate Andrew Luck, as he was targeted 10 times in the game.
Dont'a Hightower scores a TD in his first NFL game.
The New England Patriots weren't very pleased with their overall defense in 2011, so Bill Belichick invested his first three draft picks on defensive talent, hoping they could upgrade the unit.
In Week 1, all three Patriots rookies made a positive contribution to New England's win over the Tennessee Titans.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower recovered a fumble by quarterback Jake Locker and returned it six yards for a touchdown. Hightower also made five tackles in the game.
Defensive end Chandler Jones was credited with a sack, forced the Locker fumble and also came up with five tackles.
Safety Tavon Wilson made four tackles, deflected two passes and came up with his first career interception. All in all, it was a solid day for the Patriots' top rookie defenders.
In Green Bay, Packers rookie linebacker Nick Perry made eight tackles against San Francisco.
Peyton Manning delivered on Sunday.
This is one instance when all of the preseason hype actually lived up to the billing, as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning made a positive first step toward winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Since Manning had to sit out the 2011 season due to injury, he was considered the odds-on favorite to win the award this year.
Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning was sacked twice and took some other big hits, but physically, he held up fine, which was a relief to Broncos fans and the coaches. His QB passer rating was 129.2.
He was intense throughout the game, played a very business-like game and ran a very potent attach against the typically solid Steelers defense.
As for other comeback candidates, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss caught all four passes that were thrown his way for 47 yards and a touchdown reception. As such, it would not be a surprise to see the number of targets increasing over the upcoming weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles ran the ball 16 times for 87 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Charles didn't score a touchdown, but he did have a long run of 46 yards in the game.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason came up with 10 tackles in a solid return from missing the entire 2011 season.
Jim Harbaugh led his San Francisco 49ers to an impressive win on the road versus the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Packers were riding a 13-game winning streak at home in the regular season.
Other coaches that turned in a strong performance in Week 1
-Mike Shanahan (Washington Redskins) won on the road at New Orleans, defeating an emotionally-charged Saints team led by veteran Drew Brees. He won the game with a rookie quarterback and came up with a game plan that allowed the Redskins to hold the ball for over 39 minutes in time of possession.
Shanahan was aggressive in the game, going for it on several fourth-down situations, even going deep on a fourth down. The Saints had won all eight home games in 2011, but that streak was snapped on Sunday.
-John Fox (Denver Broncos) for holding the Pittsburgh Steelers to less than 300 yards of offense and keeping them under 20 points.
-Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) for snapping the Bucs' long losing streak and holding the ball for more than 37 minutes. And for also holding Cam Newton and the Panthers to only 10 points. Very impressive debut.
-Jason Garrett (Dallas Cowboys) ignored all of the "window is closing" noise from owner Jerry Jones, and led his Cowboys team to a key NFC East division win on the road, defeating the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants, 24-17.
I realize that we are going a little nuts on Robert Griffin III with the accolades so far, but frankly, no other player on offense turned in a better Week 1 performance than did RG3.
Griffin was brilliant. He took the Redskins on four straight scoring drives to open up the game, starting out by completing his first eight pass attempts. Doing this in your NFL debut is one thing, but doing it in New Orleans, and against all of the blitzing pressure they were sending, is something else.
RG3 used his legs to extend plays and give his receivers time to get open. He delivered passes crisply and allowed the receivers to gain yards after the catch by hitting them in stride. He sure didn't look like a rookie. You also have to appreciate that the kid was having fun.
In a losing effort, Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller stepped in for an injured Fred Jackson and wound up leading the NFL in rushing Week 1 by gaining 169 yards on 14 carries, good for an average of 12.1 yards per rush. Spiller scored one touchdown and inadvertently led to Darrelle Revis' concussion when Revis tackled him to save a second touchdown run. Spiller had 194 yards from scrimmage on Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne appears content in his decision to return to the Colts, as he was by far the No. 1 target of quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck threw the ball 18 times to Wayne in the loss, who wound up catching nine passes for 135 yards, which led the NFL for Week 1. Wayne had three catches of 20 yards or longer but didn't have a score.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and was the only QB in Week 1 who was able to throw as many as three touchdown passes without throwing a single interception. Very good start of the season for Ryan as the Falcons attempt to make a run with their hurry-up offense.
An honorable mention has to go to New York Jets tackle Austin Howard, who kept the $100 million man, Mario Williams, safely away from Mark Sanchez all day. The Jets didn't allow a single sack, and Williams only registered one tackle for the entire game. That might be the last time I single out an offensive lineman this year for the Offensive Player of the Year award.
Clay Matthews collected 2.5 sacks on Alex Smith.
For the Defensive Player of the Year award, we had a number of strong Week 1 performances to review. With five rookie quarterbacks starting their first NFL game, you can be quite sure that there were a number of wily NFL veterans that were well-positioned to take advantage of their inexperience.
In Cleveland, there were two Philadelphia Eagles that helped ruin the debut of Brandon Weeden, as safety Kurt Coleman and corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie each came up with a pair of interceptions on the road.
They were tied by Chicago Bears corner Tim Jennings, who intercepted two passes from rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Elsewhere, there are a pair of Green Bay Packers linebackers to acknowledge. Clay Matthews was the week's sack leader, as he came up with 2.5 sacks on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
Fellow Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk looked like he was possessed on Sunday, as he flew all over the field against the 49ers and wound up being credited with 14 tackles, which leads the NFL after one week.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware turned in a strong game with two sacks of Eli Manning, helping the Cowboys to defeat the New York Giants on the road.
In the Monday Night Football game, two defensive linemen came up with big games. Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins and Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata each came up with two sacks in the game.
If Robert Griffin III wins the NFL Rookie of the Year award, the Offensive Player of the Year award and the NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year award, will that be enough to finally prove that he should have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft?
Of course, we are fully aware that one game is not an entire NFL season. We also realize that it will be extremely difficult for Griffin to keep performing at the same level all season long.
NFL teams will be studying the tape and game-planning against him. How well he adjusts to those schemes will dictate how much hardware he truly is able to command at the end of the year.
But, as we stated in our opening slide, we are searching for actual star performances, so let's see who else turned in a game that was MVP-worthy.
New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley pulled off a two-touchdown performance against the Buffalo Bills. Kerley scored on a 12-yard pass from Mark Sanchez and on a 68-yard punt return. It was the first time in Jets team history that somebody had scored on a punt return and touchdown reception in the same game. It was also the second-longest punt return in team history.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looked like the Manning of old, and we all know how much the voters like him for the NFL MVP award. He will be very difficult to beat out for the award if he keeps this up.
As for the San Francisco 49ers' big win over Green Bay, one could argue for quarterback Alex Smith or running back Frank Gore. I suspect that one will begin to separate himself over the next few weeks, but both veterans were solid in Week 1.
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had a very solid game, as did the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco. They put the league on notice that they are taking their game up a notch this year, so we have a number of early-season candidates who are playing at a high level already.
Let's see who can continue the pace in Week 2. Thanks for checking out the presentation.