With a quarter of the NFL season in the books, it's time to take a look at how the awards races are shaping up:
Most Valuable Player
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans: It would be easy to tab Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers for the honor, but no one expected Hasselbeck to perform this well or lead the 3-1 Titans to the top of the AFC South at this point. The 12-year veteran, however, has been superb during the first quarter of the season, completing 66.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and only three interceptions. His 104.7 passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL, and his five completions of 40-plus yards are tied with Rodgers for the league lead. What makes Hasselbeck's success so remarkable has been the fact that Chris Johnson has yet to hit his stride and his top target, Kenny Britt, is out for the remainder of the year with a knee injury.
Offensive Player of the Year
Wes Welker, Patriots: His numbers and sheer dominance as the Patriots' No. 1 receiver merit the nod here. Welker has evolved from being just a slot receiver in New England's spread offense to functioning as an all-around threat. From running underneath crossing routes to hauling in deep balls, he has expanded his game to the point that defensive coordinators have seemingly no answer for slowing him down. As a result, he already has three games with 150-plus yards receiving and leads the league with 28 receptions for first downs.
Defensive Player of the Year
Terrell Suggs, Ravens: Some would argue that defense has been noticeably absent during the first quarter of the season, but those who have closely watched the Ravens would suggest otherwise based on the spectacular play of Suggs. He has been an absolute terror with four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. More importantly, he has been the catalyst to the Ravens' defensive resurgence, which has sparked Baltimore to the top of the AFC North.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Cam Newton, Panthers: Newton was viewed as a risky pick for the Panthers due to his inexperience in a conventional offense and character concerns. However, he has shattered those notions by performing exceedingly well. He has three 300-yard games in his first four starts, including back-to-back 400-yard games. While his physical talent has certainly created a buzz, it has been his leadership, poise and confidence that has been most impressive. He has surpassed all expectations and looks like everything the Panthers hoped for as their franchise quarterback.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Von Miller, Broncos: Miller has been as good as advertised as a pass rusher. His explosive first-step quickness and closing burst is reminiscent of the late Derrick Thomas, and Miller has quickly developed into a disruptive force. He leads all rookies with four sacks and has two forced fumbles. The fact that he has done it while acclimating to a new position makes his performance even more impressive.
Coach of the Year
Jim Schwartz, Lions: Even though the Lions were a popular sleeper pick, no one expected them to finish the first quarter of the season 4-0. They have overwhelmed opponents with their explosive offense led by Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best. While the offense certainly deserves credit, it has been the defense that has allowed the Lions to win despite facing early deficits. Their perseverance, toughness and swagger are a direct reflection of their coach, which is why he is deserving of the award at this point.
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