Going into this Sunday's block of games, there are five rookies that stand out in my mind as possible rookie of the year candidates.
5. Joe Flacco - QB - Baltimore Ravens
Flacco has had a so-so season thus far, completing 183 of his 302 passes and scoring ten touchdowns through the air and scoring two more with his legs. He's also had his problems this season, throwing nine interceptions and fumbling the ball seven times.
Still he has managed to lead a team who, last year, ended their season with a pitiful 5-11 record. Now, the Ravens are 7-4 with five games to go in the regular season. They're well on their way to finding a spot in the playoffs, trailing only the 8-3 Steelers in their division.
I say Joe Flacco can lead this Ravens team past three of their next five games, and they will find themselves in the playoffs.
4. Eddie Royal - WR - Denver Broncos
Royal has had an outstanding season so far with Broncos, with 58 catches for 673 yards and four touchdowns in passing game that is ranked third in third in the NFL. Three of Denver's final five games are against teams with a pass defense ranked 26th or worse. Look for Royal(and Brandon Marshall) to have big games with only five to go in the regular season.
3. Matt Forte - RB - Chicago Bears
Forte has been a major part of the Bears success this year, rushing for 916 yards on 226 carries and 35 receptions for 227 yards. He has been the strongest component of the Bears offense week in and week out, mainly due to Chicago's inability to get jump started through the air.
Forte is only going to get better in the final five games, facing no rush defense, other than the Vikings, ranked inside the top 10. I see Forte rushing for a grand total of at least 1300 yards on the season. Look for the Bears to use him to keep their top spot in the NFC North, securing that hard-earned playoff berth.
2. Chris Johnson - RB - Tennessee Titans
Critics at last year's NFL Draft slammed the Titans for their decision to draft Chris Johnson, giving the Titans very low draft grades, and little hope of improvement.
Seven months later, they're eating their words, as Chris Johnson has almost 1200 all-purpose-yards and scored eight touchdowns, all while splitting the load with power-back LenDale White, who has a league-high 13 touchdowns on the season.
With the Titans schedule looking forward to teams with a lackluster run defense(aside from the Steelers), I expect Johnson to get well over 1,000 yards rushing this season, making him my No. 2 pick for Rookie of the Year Honors (and possibly Super Bowl MVP.)
1. Matt Ryan - QB - Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta's need for a QB rose as they dealt with the issues surrounding Michael Vick and the need for stability within the franchise, the took a gamble and chose Matt Ryan as the third overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Expectations were low for him and the Falcons as they entered the '08 season, and those expectations have now been met and surpassed as he has thrown for 2418 yards, 11 touchdowns, only six picks, and Michael Turner has been a big help with over a thousand yards so far this season.
With only their division rival,Tampa Bay,with a defense looking to be the only challenge Matt Ryan and his Falcon's have to face the rest of the season, I look for him to put up big numbers, with or without a 10-6 playoff berth.