Starting with these preseason predictions, Bucky Brooks will follow the top five candidates for the following awards on a weekly basis throughout the season: Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
The following parameters will be used to determine the candidates for each award.
The focus for the Most Valuable Player award will be on consistent impact. MVPs should play at such a high level that their teams win primarily as a result of their efforts. While the award typically goes to the league's top offensive performer, exceptional defenders will garner serious consideration if they drive their team's performance.
In searching for an Offensive Player of the Year, production will serve as a key factor. Unlike the MVP award, where team success factors significantly in assessing a candidate, the Offensive Player of the Year is based purely on the numbers. Those who post big games will routinely find their names mentioned at the top of the list.
Defensive Player of the Year nominees will be evaluated on the contribution that they make for their respective squads. Impact plays (sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles) will get guys noticed.
Speaking of impact, the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year will be based heavily on their immediate contributions. It goes beyond the stat sheet and recognizes players who jump off the tape.
The final award is the Coach of the Year. Naturally, coaches who orchestrate dramatic turnarounds will receive special attention, but coaches from the league's elite will also receive serious consideration. Oftentimes, these leaders are not given credit for the outstanding job that they do in getting their talent-laden squads to fulfill their potential.
Now, that the standards have been established, here are the preseason nominees:
Most Valuable Player
1. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: Rivers put together an MVP-caliber performance a season ago, but failed to wrestle the award away from Peyton Manning. If he is able to lead the Chargers to the top of the AFC without the services of Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill, Rivers will be worthy of the league's top honor.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: The four-time league MVP is always a serious candidate to win the award based on his leadership and production. With the Colts set to feature one of the league's most explosive attacks, Manning could take the honor for a fifth time.
3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: Rodgers became the first quarterback in league history to post back-to-back 4,000-yard campaigns in his first two seasons as a starter, but he has taken his game to a new level during the preseason. Rodgers has terrorized opponents with pinpoint passes to the NFL's most explosive receiving corps, and the offense is set to run roughshod over the competition under his direction.
5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Peterson played a complementary role in the offense a season ago, but still finished as the league's fifth-leading rusher. Brett Favre is unlikely to replicate his sensational 2009 season, so Peterson could re-emerge as the offensive centerpiece and make a run at Eric Dickerson's hallowed rushing mark.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: The electrifying speedster surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark a season ago and is seeking to become the first runner to accomplish the feat twice in a career. He is quite capable of pulling it off given his big-play ability.
2. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: The Ravens have taken the training wheels off their young starter by installing some no-huddle elements and upgrading his cast of receivers. Though the Ravens will retain their smash-mouth persona, a more potent aerial attack could lead to big numbers from Flacco.
3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: The former league MVP looks at ease in the pocket after fully recovering from the knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. He was sharp during the preseason and enters the year with both of his Pro Bowl receivers (Randy Moss and Wes Welker) motivated to prove their worth. Given the chip that always sits on Brady's shoulder, the offense could light up scoreboards across the league.
4. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: Schaub quietly finished as the NFL's leading passer a season ago, but has shown there's room for improvement this preseason. He has been deadly accurate, and teams with Andre Johnson to form one of the league's most feared aerial connections. Throw in Gary Kubiak's willingness to lean on the passing game, and Schaub could be in for another productive season.
5. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: The three-time Pro Bowler has been spectacular since becoming a starter, but could have a career year with a dynamic set of options at his disposal. Although the unit has struggled during the preseason, the addition of rookie wideout Dez Bryant to a mix that includes fellow receivers Roy Williams and Miles Austin, along with tight end Jason Witten, ensures that Romo will fill up the stat sheet.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys: Despite being one of the league's most dominant forces off the edge, his remarkable sack production has inexplicably flown under the radar. Wade Phillips' willingness to unleash Ware from multiple spots along the front could lead to him making a serious run at Michael Strahan's sack record.
2. Julius Peppers, DE, Bears: Peppers spearheads a unit that has the potential to rank among the NFL's best. Although he has posted double-digit sack totals in six of his eight seasons, he remains an underappreciated pass rusher. A huge season on a big stage in Chicago could result in high praise for Peppers.
3. Nnamdi Asomugha,CB, Raiders: Asomugha will get every chance to reclaim his spot as the league's top corner. Coach Tom Cable is granting Asomugha the opportunity to cover the opponent's top receiver, so the aggressive corner will finally see more passes head in his direction. If he can continue to blanket elite wideouts, he will deserve to be recognized.
4. Jared Allen, DE, Vikings: Allen routinely wreaks havoc with his relentless motor and dizzying array of rush moves. He has 29 sacks in his two seasons in Minnesota and provided numerous impact plays while pursuing from the backside. On a defense that routinely turns up the heat when given a lead, Allen will get plenty of chances to batter opposing quarterbacks.
*5. Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets: Revis' inclusion on the list is accompanied by an asterisk due to his ongoing holdout, but his skills make him a viable candidate for the award. He routinely shut down star wideouts a year ago and will rejoin a defense that looks even better in Rex Ryan's second season. Given the improved pass rush in front of him, receivers will be unlikely to escape "Revis Island."
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills: Spiller has shown glimpses of being the league's next electrifying runner. Although the Bills don't figure to be contenders in the AFC East, Spiller's presence in the backfield makes them must-see TV.
2. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers: Mathews replaces L.T. in the Chargers' backfield and provides coach Norv Turner with the explosive all-around weapon that he covets. Given his impressive preseason output as a runner and receiver, Mathews looks poised to have a significant impact.
3. Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers: Williams has made an immediate splash in Tampa Bay with his sensational receiving skills. The rookie has emerged as the team's No. 1 wideout and looks like a future Pro Bowler.
4. Jahvid Best, RB, Lions: He adds a dynamic dimension to an offense poised to terrorize foes. As a legitimate threat to score from anywhere on the field, Best will not only produce highlights, but also put up big numbers this season.
5. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: Bryant has missed the preseason while nursing an ankle injury, but he dazzled team officials during summer workouts. Although he will start as the No. 3 receiver, Bryant has the talent to be an immediate difference-maker.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks: Thomas has already shown an impressive knack for making big plays this preseason. He always seems to be around the ball. Given the effect of takeaways, Thomas will remain on the inside track to winning the honor.
2. Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles: The high-motor rusher will rack up sacks in the Eagles' blitz-happy system. With opponents sure to direct their protection towards Pro Bowler Trent Cole, Graham should get -- and win -- plenty of one-on-one matchups.
3. Rolando McClain, LB, Raiders: McClain should have a big season in the middle of the Raiders' resurgent defense. An instinctive player with outstanding tools, he has shown glimpses of being a tackling machine.
4. Eric Berry, S, Chiefs: Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel hasn't fully unleashed Berry during the preseason, but the team's top pick is expected to play a significant role. As a versatile defender with the skills to rush or cover, Berry will be in position to produce quickly.
5. Brandon Spikes, LB, Patriots: Spikes might rank as one of the draft's biggest steals after watching him fly all over the field during the preseason. He is an instinctive player and can find the football in traffic. Although he might not be a three-down player as a rookie, he will make his fair share of plays.
Coach of the Year
1. Norv Turner, Chargers: Turner will deserve the league's highest coaching honor if he can guide his team to a division title after dealing with holdouts from two starters (Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill), and incessant chirping from disgruntled OLB Shawne Merriman.
2. John Harbaugh, Ravens: The energetic coach will be worthy of praise if he is able to get one of the league's most talented rosters to play up to its potential. Baltimore has been outstanding during the preseason, but maintaining that momentum through a rigorous regular-season schedule will present a huge challenge.
3. Marvin Lewis, Bengals: Lewis has taken on the task of adding a few big egos to his roster in hopes of building a championship squad. While he has successfully navigated rough waters with other character risks, Lewis must overcome the T.O. factor to guide his Bengals to another AFC North crown.
4. Mike Singletary, 49ers: He has successfully changed the culture of the franchise, but the postseason has eluded his grasp. However, if Singletary can end the 49ers' playoff drought, he should be a major factor for the award.