NFL Predictions: Week 3 Awards Watch

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor ISeptember 18, 2013

NFL Predictions: Week 3 Awards Watch

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    We are now two weeks into the NFL’s 94th season, and a few things are becoming very clear.

    Then again, there are far more other things that are not.

    But we are seeing players get off to some impressive starts this season on both sides of the football.

    For the second straight week, as will be the case every Wednesday morning during the season, we will take a look at the front-runners for the NFL’s seven major awards.

    There are a few changes from a week agohardly a surprise, and it’s likely that there could be a few more following Week 3.


Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    No matter how you break it down, it has been a remarkable start for the four-time league MVP.

    Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are a perfect 2-0, and that resume includes a pair of wins over the last two Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens (XLVII) and the New York Giants (XLVI), by a combined 90-50 score.

    Those 50 points by the opposition is worth noting. Denver trailed the Baltimore Ravens at halftime in Week 1 (17-14) and led the Giants by a single point (10-9) at intermission. But Manning and company have exploded in the second half, scoring 66 of their 90 points in the games’ final 30 minutes.

    It’s also amazing to consider that John Fox’s club has put that many points on the board in two weeks and none of them have come in the first quarter.

    And until defenders such as outside linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Champ Bailey return from suspension and injury, respectively, the Broncos are likely going to need all the points that they can get.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    It is still amazing to consider the season Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning enjoyed in 2012.

    One year after not playing the entire season due to multiple neck surgeries, Manning threw 37 touchdown passes, the second-highest total of his incredible career.

    Of course, his best performance in that regard came in 2004 while he was with the Indianapolis Colts, where his 49 scores through the air still ranks second in NFL history in terms of a single-season performance.

    This season, Manning has completed 67.1 percent of his throws for 769 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. He’s the first player in league annals to throw for that many scores without being picked off in the first two games of a season.

    It’s worth noting that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is off to a terrific start as well in 2013. The 2011 NFL MVP has thrown for a league-high 813 yards and seven scores, with only one interception.

Defensive Player of the Year: ILB Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

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    While he certainly remains in the discussion for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing could be in line for some other honors as well.

    Two games into the season, the fifth-year defender has already made a handful of significant plays for the 2-0 Texans. On Sunday against the improving Tennessee Titans, Cushing led the team with 11 tackles, and he and defensive end J.J. Watt each had a pair of sacks. Cushing totaled four tackles for losses on the afternoon.

    In two games, the Texans standout has totaled 16 stops, including 15 solo tackles. And on opening week, let’s not forget his diving 18-yard interception return for a score which aided Houston’s comeback cause against the San Diego Chargers.

    Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams is certainly in the mix following 4.5 sacks in a win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. And it’s hard to ignore Kansas City Chiefs second-year nose tackle Dontari Poe and the dramatic improvement he has made in one year.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills

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    Off Sunday’s action, there’s little doubt that Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins opened some eyes via his seven-catch, 117-yard performance against the Tennessee Titans.

    That included the game-winning three-yard touchdown reception in overtime in his team’s 30-24 victory.

    But one week after a narrow home loss to the New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills got just what they needed from rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. One week after being solid, the team’s first-round pick was spectacular when the club needed him most.

    In what proved to be a terrific back-and-forth contest with the Carolina Panthers, it was Manuel’s late comeback that sealed the deal for his team’s 24-23 win. The rookie signal-caller orchestrated a nine-play, 80-yard drive in just 1:36 that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stevie Johnson with two seconds to play.

    In two games this season, Manuel has completed 45 of 66 throws (68.2 percent) for 446 yards and three touchdowns, with only one interception.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: MLB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

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    Two weeks at home for the Buffalo Bills and two nail-biting results, the first a negative and the second a positive.

    Talk about making yourself at home. Rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso continues to do that in Mike Pettine’s defense.

    The former second-round pick ranks second on the team with 19 tackles. Alonso has also totaled a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. On Sunday, he amassed 10 stops one week after recording nine tackles. And in each of the Bills’ first two games, Alonso has come up with a takeaway.

    Elsewhere, St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree leads his club with 15 stops (all solo) in 2013.

    Speaking of the NFC West, Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu has totaled 13 tackles and made several key plays in his team’s first two games this season.

Coach of the Year: Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears

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    Is anyone shocked that the Chicago Bears are 2-0 this season?

    Is anyone surprised on how the Bears and new head coach Marc Trestman have done it this season?

    Perhaps a little surprised. But in two games, quarterback Jay Cutler and company have rallied in the fourth quarter for victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings. Chicago has given up a very un-Bears-like 51 points in two games. But Cutler and company have managed to come up with 55 points.

    This offseason, the priority in the Windy City was to protect and assist the quarterbacks. That’s why there are four new starters on the offensive line, including a pair of rookies. And it is also why tight end Martellus Bennett was one of the team’s key free-agent acquisitions.

    Credit should also go to general manager Phil Emery for adding some key components to the Chicago roster. But so far so good for Trestman in his first NFL head-coaching stop.

    Both Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks) and Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs) deserve the nod as well.

Comeback Player of the Year: QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

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    There were certainly a few eyebrows raised when the Kansas City Chiefs gave up a second-round pick in April (and another selection in 2014) to acquire quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers.

    But with raised eyebrows come open eyes. And when you consider that the Chiefs have already equaled last season’s win total of two in only two weeks, perhaps one of those eyes is winking.

    Smith was brought in to cure one of the things that ailed those Chiefs in 2012: ball security. Kansas City totaled 37 turnovers, tied for the most in the league.

    Of course, the fact that the Chiefs have zero turnovers in two games shouldn’t be that surprising when you consider Smith’s play the last few years.

    Dating back to the start of the 2011 season and including a pair of postseason games, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has played in 30 games, making 29 starts. His record as a starter in those contests is an impressive 22-6-1. Even more significant is the fact that Smith has only committed 14 turnovers in those 30 outings.

    We shall see if that continues versus the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. In any case, it’s nice to see Smith come back to his recent form.

    Keep an eye on San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal as well. Limited to 10 games in 2012, the speedy wide receiver has already caught five touchdown passes in two games, tying his career high for a season.