October's arrival means only one thing: We no longer feel guilty talking about this season's MVP race.
There is no rational argument against Manning, so it's a battle for No. 2 on the list. It was a tough decision on whether to put Brees or Graham higher. Graham isn't just the best tight end in the league; he's the most dominant receiver period.
Jamaal Charles is the Mariano Rivera of the NFL. The Chiefs practically have no offensive weapons with Dwayne Bowe not at his best, and Charles finds a way to close every game out with a huge clock-killing drive. He's second in the league in yards from scrimmage; LeSean McCoy is first. Even though the Eagles are 1-3, McCoy's return from injury against Kansas City was a signature performance.
Defensive Player of the Year
I wondered aloud before the season on the "Around The League Podcast" if Watt could keep up his ridiculous pace from a year ago. He's done it. There has been no discernible drop-off in his play. He's the most dominant defensive player since Lawrence Taylor and the most fun defensive player to watch of my lifetime.
It's hard for a cornerback to win this award, but Sherman has a legitimate chance if he mixes in a few big plays like his interception of Matt Schaub last week. Jordan, Suh and Hatcher have been the most consistent quarterback disrupters this year. Suh was getting it done even before his two-sack game against Chicago. Hatcher makes big plays every week. Jordan is showing off previously unseen pash-rush skills.
Coach of the Year
This is a tough award to prematurely hand out. Reid and Payton get extra credit for the moves they made in the offseason at defensive coordinator. Reid is doing his best to make a lot out of a little on offense in Kansas City. If he turns a two-win team into a playoff squad, he could be tough to beat out for this award. Fox deserves a lot of credit for the work he's done with the Broncos' defense without Von Miller and Champ Bailey.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
I'm limiting the candidates to three for now. Bernard is the only running back in the NFL to have at least half of his carries go for at least five yards. Hopkins is on pace for over 1,000 yards and essentially took over the game in Houston's win over Tennessee. Manuel has suffered through ups and downs like any rookie quarterback, but he gets credit for making a handful of tough throws to win games.