Posted by Jack Tumen
Believe it or not, the NFL season is 25% complete. After the first month of play, it’s time to hand out some awards and evaluate who’s up and who’s down.
All-First Quarter Team: Through the first four games, there are some clear standouts. Players that sat out on the week four bye are eliminated from consideration, so keep in mind that these stats will only reflect players who started all four September games. Consider this a fantasy team of sorts.
QB – Philip Rivers: The savvy gunslinger completed 70.1% of his passes in September, only behind Drew Brees. His 1,155 passing yards were good for sixth while his 8.43 yards per attempt led all QBs. He and Aaron Rodgers are the only passers to own a 9:1 touchdown-interception ratio this season. Most importantly, he’s led his team to a 3-1 start while taking down the defending champs in the process. Rivers has been revived.
RB – DeMarco Murray: This Cowboy is currently on pace for 2,408 yards and 20 touchdowns; 303 more yards than Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. His 99 rushing attempts lead the league as Dallas is truly committed to running the ball behind that stout offensive line. 534 rushing yards through four games is pretty unheard of. Murray is clearly the best back in football.
WR – Antonio Brown: With his 7/131/2 performance on Sunday, Brown completed his 20th consecutive game with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards – an NFL record. He’s tied for first with five receiving touchdowns and is fourth with 427 yards. Out of all the top wideouts in the league, Brown is the only guy without a proven compliment playing across from him, making the volume of his production that much more impressive. He’s clearly the top option in Pittsburgh’s offense and is one of the best weapons in the league.
WR – Jordy Nelson: He leads the league in receptions and yards. Even with the dangerous Randall Cobb playing across from him, Nelson continues to be the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers. He won’t be slowing down any time soon.
TE – Martellus Bennett: It’s easy to go with Jimmy Graham here; he leads all tight ends with receptions and yards and is clearly the top weapon for New Orleans. But what makes Bennett so impressive is the fact that he’s really the fourth best offensive option for Chicago behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte. Bennett has one more touchdown than Graham and has been unstoppable in the red zone. For a journeyman, he’s doing quite well for himself.
O-Line – Bengals: This is the only bye week exception I’m making in this post. It’s noteworthy that Andy Dalton has been sacked zero times through his first three games. Every other team has surrendered at least three sacks thus far.
K – Dan Bailey: He hasn’t missed a kick in his last 29 attempts, a Cowboys’ record. Kickers like Bailey are hard to come by. He’s the definition of automatic.
Front Seven – Jets: Despite being 1-3, the Jets allow the fewest rushing yards in the NFL and lead the league in sacks with 14. They’re undeniably elite.
Secondary – None: There haven’t been any shutdown secondaries through the first four games; you can pretty much throw the ball on anyone. The Patriots allow the fewest passing yards per game, but after Monday’s performance, that stat is pretty fluky. Detroit’s notable as well.
Offensive ROY – Kelvin Benjamin: The former Seminole is a top-10 receiver through the first quarter of the season, amassing 329 yards and three TDs. He’s a matchup nightmare for defenses and is clearly the best offensive weapon for the Panthers right now; and yes, by that I mean better than Cam Newton.
Defensive ROY – Kyle Fuller: He’s currently tied for a league-high three interceptions and has forced two fumbles. His football instincts are off the charts and his presence is huge for a reeling Chicago secondary. Fuller is a star in the making.
Breakout Player – Larry Donnell: The Giants once again produce a quality tight end that no one has ever heard of before. Donnell’s three touchdown performance last Thursday put him squarely on the map. He’s currently top-10 in receptions league-wide and should become Eli’s security blanket going forward.
Surprise Teams – San Diego, Dallas and Houston: The Chargers are the hottest team in football right now and it’s fun watching Philip Rivers slice up defenses week in and week out. Mike McCoy has done a great job of turning around Rivers’ career just as it was tailing off; The Cowboys’ defense has held up much better than most anticipated. After they stifled Drew Brees in primetime, you have to imagine that if they play decently, their offense can ultimately act as the defense. I mention Houston mainly because of record. Their schedule is pathetically easy but they could be a problem for the Colts in that division as Houston takes care of it’s patty-cake opponents.
Letdown Teams – The Entire NFC South + New England: Atlanta is predictably 2-2 with a great offense and shoddy defense. Carolina’s offense continues to sputter and its defense just isn’t the same elite unit it was a year ago. Tampa Bay finally clawed out its first win but I thought this Lovie Smith team would be better; Mike Glennon is clearly the better option at quarterback. But the Saints – what is going on with the Saints, man? I still believe in Drew Brees but the fact that they couldn’t figure out the Cowboy’s swiss-cheese defense is disturbing. As for the Patriots, that Logan Mankins trade may turn out to be the move that ended the Brady-Belichick era
League MVP – DeMarco Murray: Now that he’s finally staying healthy for an extended period of time (knock on wood) we’re finally being treated to the “real” DeMarco. This kid is one special player and the Cowboys are doing a great job of featuring him on offense even with guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten around. With that offensive line bullying its opponents, it’ll be fun to kick back and watch DeMarco run wild. No player means more to his team’s success right now than Murray.
We’ll reassess again at halftime.
Coming Up: Week 5 Picks