In a season where the league has been as topsy-turvy as ever, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish candidates for the NFL's top individual honor.
While we know that the Most Valuable Player award typically goes to a quarterback or running back from a title contender, the growing parity in the league has made it tough to tab a frontrunner.
Tom Brady will also garner serious consideration, but the departure of Randy Moss has the potential diminish the quarterback's statistics while also hurting the Patriots' chances at reaching the postseason. However, the recent addition of Deion Branch could help the Patriots' recreate some of the magic of their championship runs.
Foster, who is the league's current rushing leader, is on track to finish with over 2,200 yards from scrimmage. Though that isn't on pace to surpass Johnson's record (2,509) from a season ago, it would place him in the conversation if the Texans are able to finish with a division crown or postseason berth.
Johnson was snubbed a season ago after becoming the sixth player in league history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, but is a viable contender. Though he is not on pace to post back-to-back record-breaking years, the Titans are tied for first in the AFC South and he is a threat to reel off a few big games that could put him back into serious contention to make a run at the record book.
Although a defensive candidate hasn't won the award since Lawrence Taylor claimed the honor in 1986, it is not out of the realm of possibility in a year where an offensive player has failed to step to the forefront. Of course, it would take an exceptional effort to accomplish the feat. Taylor won the award after tallying 20.5 sacks on the way to leading the New York Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XXI.
Clay Matthews' sizzling start has thrust him into contention. He has 8.5 sacks, which is tied for the fourth-highest total after five games since 1982. While he must maintain that torrid pace to remain a candidate, Matthews has a legitimate shot to end the string of offensive players winning the award.
With five weeks in the books, the race for the MVP award remains wide open. Given the unpredictable nature of this season, it will be interesting to see which contenders remain for the long haul.
Most Valuable Player
Brady on offense minus Moss
Offensive Player of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
5. Rolando McClain, Raiders, LB (NR): The defense has played better in recent weeks due to McClain's emergence as a force in the middle.