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Philip Rivers, J.J. Watt headline award races at the quarter pole

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We've reached the quarter mark of the 2014 NFL season -- and this is the perfect time to recognize the standouts from the first four weeks. While things will certainly change going forward, and while it's true that the six teams with a Week 4 bye have played just three games, we've gotten a good enough sample size to put together an early ballot for the top individual honors in the league.

Here's a look at how I see things shaping up right now:

Most Valuable Player: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Credit Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Frank Reich for helping Rivers become a more efficient player in the pocket, a transformation that began when McCoy took over in 2013. In guiding San Diego to a 3-1 start this year, the Pro Bowler has completed more than 70 percent of his passes while compiling a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9:1. He also leads the NFL with a 114.5 passer rating and averages an impressive 8.4 yards per attempt. Given his overall efficiency and effectiveness running one of the league's most dynamic offenses, Rivers deserves to be considered the current front-runner for the MVP award.

Top contenders: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys; J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans.

Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have finally unleashed their young franchise quarterback, to spectacular results. As the director of a high-flying offense built around his strength as a pinpoint pocket passer, Luck is currently on pace (with 41.8 pass attempts per game) to notch a 5,000-yard campaign and make a run at Peyton Manning's single-season touchdown record (55). In his past two games, the red-hot third-year pro has connected on 75 percent of his throws while tallying an impressive 8:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. On the season, Luck has a passer rating of 108.0 and a completion rate of 68.9 percent -- making it tough to knock his efficiency or performance as a quintessential playmaker for the Colts.

Top contenders: Rivers, Murray.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

Watt has been a wrecking ball at the point of attack, completely disrupting the game plans of three of Houston's first four opponents while displaying a playing style and non-stop motor that make him nearly impossible to contain. The fourth-year pro has posted the kind of production (15 tackles, two sacks, three passes defensed, one fumble recovery and a pick-six) that suggests he's the most dominant defender in the game -- and that's despite constantly facing double-teams along the line. Oh, and he also caught a touchdown pass as a tight end in a Week 2 win for the 3-1 Texans. At this point, he deserves serious consideration as a candidate to become the first defensive player to win the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

Top contenders: DeAndre Levy, OLB, Detroit Lions; Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman compared Benjamin to Plaxico Burress prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, due to Benjamin's imposing size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and potential impact. The big-bodied rookie has certainly lived up to expectations, quickly developing into a dominant force on the perimeter. Benjamin leads all rookies with six receptions of 20-plus yards; he also has 17 first-down receptions, tied for seventh-most among all receivers. Benjamin remains a work in progress as a route runner, but he's already become quarterback Cam Newton's favorite red-zone target while showing flashes of excelling as the Panthers' No. 1 option in the passing game. With Ron Rivera recently saying the time to "unleash" Newton is "coming," it's easy to see how Benjamin's numbers and impact could reach ridiculous levels by season's end.

Top contenders: Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints; Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears

Fuller has quickly become one of the Bears' top defenders, exhibiting remarkable instincts, awareness and anticipation on the perimeter. He's also been a ball magnet in coverage, recording three picks (tied for most in the NFL), four passes defensed and two forced fumbles in four games. While Chicago's zone-heavy scheme limits his exposure in one-on-one coverage, Fuller has already shown a knack for big plays that makes him one of the most intriguing young defenders to watch in the secondary. If he continues to build on a sizzling start, the Bears will have a star with "Peanut" Tillman-like traits to build around in the back end.

Top contenders: Anthony Barr, OLB, Minnesota Vikings; C.J. Mosley, ILB, Baltimore Ravens.

Comeback Player of the Year: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

It's no surprise to see Jones ripping up the league with his spectacular playmaking skills on the perimeter. He has consistently flashed big-time talent and potential as the Falcons' designated home-run threat in the passing game -- but a foot injury kept him out of all but five games last season, and Atlanta finished 4-12. This season, the fourth-year pro is fully healthy and playing like a Pro Bowler on the outside, collecting 29 receptions for 447 yards (15.4 yards per catch) and three scores in four games. Quarterback Matt Ryan is making a point to feature Jones prominently in the game plan on early downs, meaning Jones could conceivably top the 100-catch mark and make a run at finishing as the league's receiving leader.

Top contenders: Devin Hester, WR, Atlanta Falcons; Brian Cushing, ILB, Houston Texans.

Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Arians, who received this honor in 2012 for his masterful work as the interim coach in Indianapolis while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia, could boast another award on his mantle by season's end. The wily coaching veteran is surpassing his previous efforts with what he's done in the desert this season, dealing with multiple absences (Karlos Dansby left via free agency; Daryl Washington was suspended) and injuries to a pair of key players (quarterback Carson Palmer and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett). Four weeks in, the Cardinals are one of just two unbeaten squads in the NFL. Arians is a no-brainer to top the list of candidates for this award at the quarter pole of the season.

Top contenders: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals; Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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