It’s simple math, as Bill Clinton might explain it in a convention speech. NFL teams play 16 regular-season games, and right now almost every team (well, 30 of 32) has played four games. Anybody have a calculator? It is time for our King Sport First Quarter Awards!
• MVP — Matt Ryan, Falcons QB: History tells us the league MVP usually is found at the intersection of Great Team and Quarterback With Great Stats. Right now, Atlanta is one of three remaining unbeatens (assuming Arizona won Thursday night) and Ryan leads the NFL with a 112.1 passer rating and already has 11 TD passes. Not an overwhelming front-runner, but he’s out the gate first.
• Offensive Player of the Year — Ryan, Falcons: I almost feel like this award should be vacated for the first quarter. Player of the Year is purely a statistics awards, but Ryan sort of leads by default because no one is going crazy either passing, running or catching in terms of any pace that would invite you to check the record books. That’s a bit ironic considering scoring is at an all-time high.
• Defensive POY — J.J. Watt, Texans DE: Watt does more than bat down Ryan Tannehill’s passes at the line. He leads a great defense for an unbeaten team by being the first defender since Kevin Greene in 1998 with at least 1.5 sacks in each of his first four games, for a league-leading 7.5 overall.
• Offensive rookie — Robert Griffin III, Redskins QB: Not by rote do I pick RGIII. He leads all rookie arms with 1,070 yards and a 103.2 passer rating, and also has 234 yards rushing.
• Defensive rookie — Chandler Jones, Patriots DE: Nobody jumps out, but Chandler has been solid, with 19 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles already, representing the youth movement on what had become an aging New England defense.
• Coach of the Year — Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals: Arizona began 4-0 for the first time in 25 years in the desert, and with a QB combo of John Skelton and Kevin Kolb. That’ll get you a first-quarter King Sporty.
• Dolphins MVP — Reggie Bush, RB: Our Dolphins MVP pick at the quarter mark last season was Brandon Fields. Seriously. The punter! This is called progress. Because this year we give it to Bush — 369 yards rushing, 5.5 average — narrowly over a pretty strong field of challengers. Could have been Brian Hartline, improbably (no, stunningly) leading the NFL in receiving yards with 455. Could have been rookie QB Tannehill, with 1,046 passing yards in four games. Could have been Karlos Dansby or somebody out of that stout run defense. Bush has been the catalyst, though, for a Dolphins offense that has transformed from dull to at times pretty exciting.
Scatter-shooting the league:
• Now tied at 47 with Johnny Unitas, Drew Brees on Sunday could break the record with a TD pass in a 48th consecutive game. Quietly lurking: Tom Brady’s current streak is now at 36 games.
• This week’s Peyton Manning-Brady matchup is about as big as a QB duel gets from a historical vantage. It is the first-ever meeting between two men with 300-plus career TD passes, and the first meeting of men with 125-plus career wins since Dan Marino/John Elway on Dec. 21, 1998.
• Fans of slow-starting teams, take heart. Since 1990, 94 of 264 playoff teams (35.6percent) began 2-2 or worse, including four last season.
• Los Angeles approving a new stadium all but ensures a team there by 2016. With expansion less likely, best bets are relocation by (based on common speculation) the Jaguars, Rams, Raiders, Chargers or Bills.
• League scoring remains on record pace. Imagine if the Jets were contributing!