It appears Ben Roethlisberger has quickly shaken off the rust following a four-game suspension and is performing at a high level.
Roethlisberger has guided his team to two victories, and has directed an offense that was pedestrian in his absence.
In two starts, Roethlisberger has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes with five touchdown passes and only one interception. His 122.4 passer rating would blow the doors off the league leaders if he had enough attempts to qualify.
That sampling of numbers would make him a worthy Most Valuable Player candidate at anytime, but it has been his impact on the offense as a whole that has him on the radar. Roethlisberger has added a big-play element that had been missing. The Steelers only connected on 12 passes over 20 yards during their first four games, but have completed 14 passes of 20-plus yards since the two-time Super Bowl winner returned.
Some would argue that Roethlisberger is only a controversial call away from having a .500 record in his return. Still, that officiating error can't take away from his production.
While his play can't completely remove the stain that Roethlisberger's behavior cast on the Steelers' organization and the league, it has thrust him into a pool of MVP contenders.
Most Valuable Player
1. Peyton Manning, Colts, QB (Week 6 ranking: 1): He has already nabbed four MVP awards, but it will be hard to deny him his fifth if he continues at this level. With Manning among the league's passing leaders and the Colts sitting near the top of the AFC South, he will once again be in the MVP conversation at season's end.
4. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers, QB (NR): If you want to know how the Buccaneers have quietly become one of the NFC's top teams, then you should look closely at Freeman's play. The second-year pro notched the fifth come-from-behind win of his career by engineering a 16-play, 81-yard drive to beat the Rams that showcased his poise and ability.
Offensive Player of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
5. Michael Griffin, Titans, S (NR): Several of you will raise your eyebrows at the sight of Griffin on this list, but a close look at the tape will reveal that he is arguably the Titans' biggest difference-maker. With a four-game streak with at least one interception, the NFL is starting to take notice of Griffin's remarkable skills.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
4. Mike Williams, Bucs, WR (3): While the football world is singing Freeman's praises, it has been the emergence of Williams as a legitimate No. 1 receiver that has keyed the Bucs' aerial attack.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Coach of the Year
5. Raheem Morris, Bucs (NR): Some might snicker at Morris' proclamation that the Bucs are the best team in the NFC, but his young squad is serving notice that it will not take a backseat to the conference's so-called elites.