The NFL season is officially a quarter of the way over (sadly) and with a new season comes new household names that pop up out of nowhere and also familiar names that add to their legacies or bring them down.
Defensive Player of the Year
Starting with the defense, so far through four weeks this one is an absolute no-brainer: Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Shaquil Barrett. Barrett has put up unheard of numbers, even by “Madden” video game standards.
In just the first four games Barrett has sacked opposing quarterbacks nine times, forced three fumbles and intercepted Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff this past weekend to help lead Tampa Bay to the most points the franchise has ever scored in a 55-40 win over the Rams.
Barrett spent the first five years of his career backing up Von Miller on the Denver Broncos and accumulated only 13 sacks in those five years. Barrett is on pace for 36 sacks which would blow New York Giant Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks completely out of the water.
Runners up for Defensive Player of the Year include Green Bay Packer Preston Smith whom the Packers snagged in free agency and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end TJ Watt who is brother of three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner JJ Watt.
Offensive Player of the Year
Moving on to the offense, I have to go with the easy choice of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is on pace to throw for more than 6,000 yards this year and would be the first quarterback to do so in the 100th year of the NFL.
The 24-year-old has 10 touchdowns with zero interceptions and has led his team to an undefeated record against some stiff competition in the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions. Mahomes leads the NFL in nearly every statistical category, including passing yards, passer rating and touchdowns.
As far as runners up, I give Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey a close second. McCaffrey is arguably one of the most underappreciated players in the league, and leading the NFL in rushing is always sure to get you on this list.
Third I would go with Baltimore Raven Lamar Jackson because, frankly, the tape doesn’t lie. Jackson and Mahomes are the new NFL and the direction the league is going.
Coach of the Year
When it comes to coaches, it’s hard not to go with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and what he is doing defensively, but I’m going outside the box. My Coach of the Year goes to Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints.
Losing Drew Brees in Week 2 along with losing to the Rams, the Saints were 1-1 when they had to turn to backup Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints are now 3-1 and beat the Dallas Cowboys this past weekend, proving they have a talented roster where it matters most — on the offensive and defensive lines.
My first runner up maybe hasn’t been earned like others because strength of schedule, but it’s San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. Outside of Kansas City, Shanahan’s offense is the most exciting to watch with big, down-the-field plays.
My third choice is a tough one because I wanted to go with Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott, but I’m going with first-year head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers.
LaFleur is the only first-year coach with a winning record to balance the sometimes-moody Aaron Rodgers and a young defensive roster which has shown up big time for the green and gold.
The Most Valuable Player easily goes to Mahomes. Will he be able to lead this Chiefs’ team to a championship despite their mediocre defense? I doubt it while the second most valuable player is still playing — New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady is still playing at a high level, manipulating defenses and taking what they give him in the short passing game.
The last person I give the nod of MVP consideration to is Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson. Despite having a below-average roster, Wilson has carried the Seahawks week after week to a now 3-1 record. Wilson signed a huge deal this offseason and is living up to every dime while dropping dimes, leading the league in completion percentage.
Ryne Gallacher is a regular correspondent and columnist for The Outlook.