As the first quarter of the 2012 NFL season is all wrapped up, naturally, it’s time to start handing out the hardware.
Surprises, disappointments and invaluable performances are the lay of the land in the National Football League, and 2012′s landscape is no different.
Some of these trophies are bound to switch hands by the mid-way point of the season, but here is the first edition of Sportsnet’s Quarterly NFL awards:
Most Valuable Player – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan has been the driving force of Atlanta’s undefeated start this season. Matty Ice has completed 69.4 per cent of his passes, has thrown 11 touchdowns and leads the league in passer rating. Ryan still needs to prove he can perform well in January, but the Boston College product couldn’t ask for a better start in 2012.
Honourable mention: Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Best Defensive Player – J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Watt’s performance has been off the charts with 7.5 sacks already in 2012, which is an astounding number for 3-4 defensive end. The Texans’ blooming star has been just as impressive against the run, recording 20 tackles and two recovered fumbles in four games.
Honourable mention: Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
Rookie of the year – Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
RG3 has lived up to the hype plus some, taking the NFL by storm with an incredible display of running and passing prowess in Mike Shanahan’s offence. Griffin doesn’t look like a typical rookie, as he’s compiled eight total touchdowns and has already led the Redskins on a game-winning drive.
Honourable mention: Greg Zuerlein, St Louis Rams
Coach of the year — Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
The Texans have looked dominant on both sides of the ball and have blown out three of their first four opponents. Kubiak’s squad is the NFL’s most balanced team and looks like a Super Bowl-calibre squad at this point of the season. Honourable mention: Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Surprise team — Minnesota Vikings
Coming into the season, the Vikings appeared to be a club in the early stages of rebuilding but Leslie Frazier’s team has vastly improved in all three phases of the game. The win over highly-favoured 49ers was as impressive of a performance as we’ve seen this season and Christian Ponder has improved significantly in his sophomore season. Honourable mention: Arizona Cardinals
Disappointing team – New Orleans Saints
The Saints were bound to struggle after the bounty scandal but no one saw this train wreck coming. Without Sean Payton the offence has struggled to get into a rhythm, but it’s the Saints’ defence that has been an utter disaster. Joe Vitt couldn’t come back any sooner.
Honourable mention: Detroit Lions
Most improved player – Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Many believed the Bengals would regress from their 2011 playoff form this season, but as a sophomore Dalton has been the catalyst of his team’s 3-1 start. Dalton isn’t just a game manager, as the Red Rifle has thrown eight touchdowns and 890 yards in the past three contests.
Honourable mention: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Least valuable player — Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Rex Ryan is running out of excuses for the USC product, as Sanchez continues to look overwhelmed at the NFL level. Without an effective running game, Sanchez has taken a few steps backwards and could be replaced in the coming weeks. It’s never a good sign when people would rather see Tim Tebow play quarterback, but the former Bronco may give the Jets the boost that Sanchez simply can’t.
Honourable mention: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Candidate for No. 1 pick in 2013 — Cleveland Browns
The Browns haven’t looked like your typical bottom-feeder team, as they’ve been competitive in all four of their losses. With new ownership taking over, the Browns are expected to make sweeping changes across the board. Browns fans would agree that West Virginia standout quarterback Geno Smith would look pretty good in brown and orange.