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NFL Award Watch at Season's Quarter Mark

Russell S. BaxterContributor IOctober 2, 2013

NFL Award Watch at Season's Quarter Mark

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    Is San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers a candidate for comeback player of the year?
    Is San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers a candidate for comeback player of the year?Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

    Four weeks into NFL 2013 and we are seeing some great performances.

    We are also seeing some great starts by a handful of teams. Five clubs have opened the season at 4-0, two more than at this time last season.

    There’s also a player who has begun the season 16 and zero. And we all know who that is.

    So once again here are the projected leaders for the each of the league’s seven major awards handed out at the end of the regular season.

    Let the discussions begin.

Most Valuable Player: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Consistent? Remarkable?

    Monotonous?

    Call it what you will. But Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning continues to get the call on a weekly basis.

    The four-time league MVP continues to light up opposing defenses, completing 75.0 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards and 16 scores without an interception.

    John Fox’s team is off to a 4-0 start this season, winning each game by at least 16 points. The Broncos have also scored a league-high 179 points.

    Keep in mind that a year ago at this time, Denver was a 2-2 football team and their quarterback was just getting warmed up. The Broncos had scored 114 points in their first four games and Manning had thrown eight touchdown passes compared to three interceptions.

    It’s safe to say he’s been at least twice as good so far in 2013.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots

    3. QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

     

     

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

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    Since this is an offensive player of the year award, the numbers being put up by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning are really the focal point here.

    First things first and that’s Manning’s remarkable consistency throughout his career. He has never thrown fewer than 26 touchdown passes in any season he has played and he would have to fall off the map badly not to achieve that feat this season.

    The NFL record for touchdown passes in a season is 50, set by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2007. Manning has already thrown for 16 scores in four games so let the discussion begin. But what made Brady’s season equally remarkable that year was the fact that he threw only eight interceptions. To date, Manning has not been picked off in 2013.

    San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is also off to a strong start this season. And it’s hard to ignore what New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (27 receptions for 458 yards and six touchdowns in four games) has done so far as well.

    For now, Manning is still the front-runner as we begin October football.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

    3. TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Player of the Year: SS Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    It was hard to ignore the way the New York Giants receivers were being covered this past Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

    And while it wasn’t the product of just one player, it was hard to ignore what we saw and have seen from Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry as of late.

    Why the switch for this honor from Berry’s teammate outside linebacker Justin Houston, who was the leader in the clubhouse here last week? And why is Berry the choice ahead of other candidates such as Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman?

    Over the last two weeks, the former first-round draft choice has been all over the field, knocking down four passes, recovering a fumble and returning an interception for a touchdown in the team’s Week 3 win at Philadelphia.

    Is Berry’s selection a result of the eye test? Why not? But we are also keeping a close eye on a number of other candidates as well.

    In The Discussion

    2. DT Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions

    3. CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    For the third time in as many weeks, there’s a new leading candidate for the honor.

    Yes, Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel did help lead his team to a 23-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. But the victory was as much a product of the Buffalo defense and Manuel was not necessarily at his best.

    But after an eye-opening preseason followed by an erratic start in 2013, New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is starting to catch on…literally.

    In his first two games this season, the undrafted free agent was targeted 21 times and caught six passes for a total of 89 yards. In his last two outings, Thompkins has been thrown to 18 times and he’s totaled nine receptions for 168 yards and three scores. And the best may be yet to come.

    We are still keeping an eye on a number of candidates but so far after four weeks of play, no offensive rookie has really taken the bull by the horns…or the football by the laces.

    In The Discussion

    2. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

    3. QB EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills

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

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    On Sunday versus the Baltimore Ravens, it was business as usual for Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Kiko Alonso.

    Business as in remaining the leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year honors.

    Last Sunday, Alonso had two of the five interceptions of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. The Bills’ second second-round pick is now tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions.

    For the season, Alonso remains the leader for the Bills with 32 tackles. He’s also tied for second on the team with four passes defensed.

    Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu added six more solo tackles in his team’s 13-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Alonso has clearly established himself as the leading candidate for defensive rookie honors after four weeks of play.

    In The Discussion

    2. FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

    3. SS Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints

Coach of the Year: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    There are five teams sporting 4-0 records in 2013.

    But only one of the clubs can say that it was literally impossible for their head coach to have opened with that same mark a season ago.

    A year ago at this time, the New Orleans Saints were without Sean Payton and were also without a win. The Super Bowl champion sideline leader was serving a one-year suspension due to the ramifications of “Bounty Gate.”

    Now the Saints look like the Saints team we have gotten to know in recent seasons, especially the last two weeks at home. The Arizona Cardinals (31-7) and Miami Dolphins (38-17) have been rolled by Payton’s club by a combined 69-24 score.

    More importantly, the Saints have four wins and the remainder of the NFC South is a combined 2-9. It is early but there is nothing like a big early lead in the division standings to give you a good feeling about the season.

    By the way, Payton’s Saints head to Chicago this week to face the Bears and head coach Marc Trestman, who has also done an excellent job so far in 2013.

    In The Discussion

    2. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

    3. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Comeback Player of the Year: MLB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had held this spot previously but it’s time to throw out another worthy candidate.

    Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee missed 10 games last season and watched the Dallas defense fade into the sunset.

    After four games in 2013, the former Penn State product is making up for lost time. Lee leads the team with 34 tackles and on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, he was in the right place at the right time and wound up taking back an interception 52 yards for a score.

    But Lee also had a tough time keeping up with the Chargers’ Antonio Gates on occasion, most notably on a 56-yard touchdown reception by the star tight end as San Diego rallied for a 30-21 win.

    Smith is still certainly in the discussion as his team won again and raised its record to 4-0. But Lee bears a closer watch, especially if the Dallas defense starts playing consistent football.

    By the way, the name Philip Rivers has come up when it comes to this category. It will be interesting to see if voters would consider the former Pro Bowl quarterback a candidate simply because he’s coming off a pair of erratic seasons.

    In The Discussion

    2. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

    3. RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

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