Handing Out Quarter-Season NFL Awards

MVP: Patrick Mahomes — Kansas City Chiefs

Goff made this a bit of a debate after his outstanding 400-yard, five touchdown performance against Minnesota last Thursday, but this remains Mahomes’ race to lose. The Kansas City gunslinger has been lights out through four games, pacing the league in passing touchdowns (14), and ranks fourth in yards per attempt (8.70) and second in passer rating (126.5). A Chiefs offense that features Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreke Hill, and Kareem Hunt have blitzed defenses to the tune of 36.3 points per game.

Runner-up: Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams — Goff’s performance against Minnesota on Thursday Night Football was a spectacle. He rightfully belongs on the shortlist of top, young quarterbacks. 

OPOY: Todd Gurley — Los Angeles Rams

Nobody seems to have found a recipe for slowing down this Rams offense after leading the league in points scored last season. Gurley, the league’s premier back (with apologies to Dallas’ lead rusher whom we will get to in a moment), has been near unstoppable thus far. Gurley has scored in all of LA’s games, including a three-score performance against Arizona in a 34-0 laugher. A balanced offensive attack ensures that teams can’t solely focus on Gurley, and the workhorse has reaped the benefits.

Runner-up: Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys — Zeke has sprinted to a career-high 5.8 yard per carry average with a usage rate as high as ever (22 touches per game). The only thing holding Elliott back is Dallas’ offense limiting his scoring opportunities. The Cowboys haven’t posted a 30-point game since October of 2017. 

DPOY: Khalil Mack — Chicago Bears

Chicago’s MVP this season has been Oakland head coach Jon Gruden, but Mack comes in a close second. The former Raider hasn’t wasted much time adjusting to his new team. Mack has recorded a sack and a forced fumble in each of Chicago’s first four games, and has been a difference maker in run support. Chicago’s improved defense ranks sixth in yards allowed, third in opponent’s scoring, and second in takeaways, thanks in large part to Mack’s presence and production. The Bears are rolling, and Mack has been absolutely balling.

Runner-up: Von Miller – Denver Broncos — Miller remains a havoc-wrecker well into his eighth season. Denver’s defense isn’t quite as potent as they were a few years ago, but Miller forces offenses to gameplan for the speedy edge-rusher on a consistent basis. 

Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel — Tennessee Titans

Nobody would have faulted the Titans for starting 0-4. Their Week 1 game against Miami was delayed twice, and took over seven hours to complete. Tennessee ended up losing Marcus Mariota to injury in that game, forcing Blaine Gabbert to make starts against two division rivals in Houston and Jacksonville. They lost their most dependable receiver, Delanie Walker, for the year, and have zero rushing game to speak off. Despite all of that, Vrabel, a rookie head coach, has his team in prime position to contend in a shallow AFC.

Runner-up: Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams — The boy genius in Los Angeles continues to find new, innovative ways to fool defenses and get his playmakers the ball. 16-0 is a stretch with the schedule getting increasingly difficult in the next couple of weeks, but McVay’s Rams look like a lock for the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC Playoffs. 

Comeback Player: Aaron Rodgers — Green Bay Packers

It hasn’t been a prototypical start for Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense. The two-time NFL MVP is completing just 63 percent of his passes, and has yet to record a 300-yard passing day. Green Bay hasn’t even reached the 30-point mark in a game yet. Nonetheless, Rodgers’ ability to carry a lesser roster remains unparalleled in today’s game. His gusty Week 1 comeback against the Chicago Bears looks more and more impressive with each passing week, and he remains one of the most efficient passers in all of football having thrown just one interception in 156 attempts.

Runner-up: J.J. Watt – Houston Texans — With 5.0 sacks and four forced fumbles, Watt has found himself not only in the Comeback Player of the Year race, but also in the hunt for a fourth Defensive Player of the Year trophy.

Offensive Rookie: Saquon Barkley — New York Giants

With none of the rookie QB’s having separated themselves from the pack, the early favorite still looks to be Barkley. While he hasn’t been as explosive in the run game as New York would have hoped, Barkley has been a monster as a pass-catcher with the second most receptions of any RB (27). The Giants’ putrid offensive line hasn’t produced many running lanes, though a 106-yard performance against Jacksonville is nothing to scoff at.

Runner-up: Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons No. 2 wide-out has been on fire since Week 2. Ridley leads all receivers in touchdowns (6) even though he has nearly half (15) as many catches as his teammate Julio Jones (29). 

Defensive Rookie: Derwin James — Los Angeles Chargers

A struggling Chargers defense has found a bright spot in their first-round pick. While James still has a ways to go with his coverage skills, he’s already one of the best blitzing safeties in the game. The list of players James has more sacks than (3.0) includes Aaron Donald, Jadeveon Clowney, and teammate Melvin Ingram. Athletically gifted with an innate ability to get downhill and wreck havoc on opposing backfields, James looks to be a perfect fit in LA.

Runner-up: Darius Leonard – Indianapolis Colts — Leonard’s 54 tackles paces the league and the inside linebacker has also added 4.0 sacks as well. The Colts have been far more competitive on defense than many envisioned, and young, talented players like Leonard have been a major key in the unit’s improvement.

Sources: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports