“With Adrian Peterson, from the very first game it looked like he was back to 100 percent,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “You’ve seen none of the effects of that ACL with anything. He’s better than he’s ever been. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got great instincts.”
Other standouts so far: QBs Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Manning; RBs Frank Gore of San Francisco and Arian Foster of Houston; WRs Harvin, Reggie Wayne of Indianapolis, A.J. Green of Cincinnati and Brandon Marshall of Chicago; and tight ends Rob Gronkowski of New England and Tony Gonzalez of Atlanta.
Here’s something unprecedented: an interim coach could get the nod.
If the Colts continue their turnaround, Bruce Arians will receive strong consideration for the honor. Arians took over for Game 4 when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Indy has gone 4-1 since then, including a victory over Green Bay, and Luck has taken huge strides in his development. A split vote for Pagano and Arians also might be considered should the Colts surge all the way into the playoffs.
Of course, should the Falcons replicate their 8-0 record with another eight victories, well, coaches of undefeated teams (Don Shula in 1972, Bill Belichick in 2007) have been impossible to ignore.
Other solid candidates thus far: Leslie Frazier in Minnesota, Pete Carroll in Seattle, Joe Philbin in Miami, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay, and Lovie Smith in Chicago.
A two-man race thus far between Manning and Peterson. In fact, barring more injuries or a totally unexpected drop-off in production, this figures to be between these two perennial stars and no one else.
“In his case, every time he goes out there, he’s got a chance to do something special,” Broncos coach John Fox said of Manning.
As for Peterson: “I don’t know if words can describe how impressed myself and everyone is with what Adrian has accomplished,” Frazier said. “He’s just an amazing athlete, a guy with so much determination.”
Quarterbacks never won this award until Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, when the Steelers went 15-1. Indy’s Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson are the signal-callers who have made their freshmen seasons special already. For any of them to win it, getting their teams to a winning record or into the playoffs could be the decider, which gives Luck and Wilson and edge on RG3.
For excitement, though, it’s hard to match what Griffin does for the Redskins.
Same thing for Martin, who comes off two sensational games for the Bucs: 135 yards rushing, 79 receiving in a win at Minnesota, then 251 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a victory Oakland.