We’re officially at the quarter-mark of the NFL season.
Four weeks in we’ve taken stock of the early runners and riders in the league, with Neil Reynolds and Shaun Gayle dishing out some early awards live on Facebook – click here to watch the video.
Here’s a look at their picks…
Shaun Gayle: Hard to believe, but I’m going with the youth – how about a running back? Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. It’s hard to even fathom – a third-round draft choice that comes out of nowhere and he has just set the league on fire!
Neil Reynolds: They never win that award, the running backs, do they? It’s a quarterback’s award normally, but Hunt has been outstanding, I agree.
But I’m also going to give a mention to a quarterback, Alex Smith. He has opened up his game, he has definitely benefited from having Hunt in the backfield as well, and a certain Tom Brady geezer is not doing too badly either.
SG: I’m going for Vonn Miller. When you watch the Denver Broncos play, you see how his presence changes an offence’s philosophy – they have to change what they’re doing just for this one guy. To me, that’s amazing.
NR: Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars. We were very fortunate to watch him from the sidelines at Wembley a couple of weeks ago – he has 5.5 sacks on the year so far. He just destroys people! Destroys everything you’ve planned to do along the line of scrimmage.
SG: Hunt. He takes home two trophies.
NR: I’ll add Deshaun Watson into the mix. He has been impressive with the Houston Texans – last week he became the first rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw four touchdowns and rush for one in the same game. He looks like he has grown more comfortable with every week.
SG: He has that poise we talk about that is very rare to find in a young quarterback – he is a bigger version of Russell Wilson, to me. He can run if he wants to, and just the way he moves to avoid the pass rush to be able to continue to throw the ball down the field, he does that so well.
SG: That has got to be the Los Angeles Rams. I thought they were going to get run out of town, but now they’re throwing parades and embracing those guys in the city, and so they should. It’s incredible the way they’ve gone from such a horrible showing last year, to leading the league in some categories this year.
NR: I have the Rams too. And from a player’s perspective, their QB Jared Goff too. He didn’t win a game as a rookie last year – he went 0-7, and I started to wonder whether he had that ‘it’ factor or not. He has been really good. But also, what about the New England Patriots? Their defence has given up 60 yards per game more than any other team in the NFL. I don’t think we saw that coming.
SG: No, we didn’t. I’d like to be in one of their team meetings right now. It will be fire and brimstone in there right now – their coach Bill Bilichick is so accustomed to being ahead of everyone else, and they’re struggling.
Top head coach
SG: You’ve got to give it to Sean McVay at the Rams. He has taken an offence that was terrible last season and are now doing so well. He is obviously doing something right and the players are invested in what he is talking about, his coaching. He is 31 years old, but it seems he has found a way to relate to the guys which doesn’t always work with young head coaches. Plus, a shout out for Vance Joseph with the Denver Broncos.
NR: McVay is the obvious choice. The Rams also started 3-1 last season, but it feels different this time. It feels like there is a great vibe to that team. But, again, I’m going to throw another into the mix, Sean McDermott – he has the Buffalo Bills at 3-1, playing very well on defence.
On the hot seat?
SG: At the New York Giants, there is a Ben McAdoo, and a McAdon’t. He is not alone though, there is also John Fox, head coach of the Chicago Bears. He is feeling the heat.
NR: I’d also say McAdoo. But on the field, there’s also Younghoe Koo, the rookie kicker for the Los Angeles Chargers – he’ll be fearful of his job. On the internet, there are all of these videos of him kicking, then doing all the backflips, but in a game he’s found things a bit more difficult. The Chargers could have won a couple of games if he had nailed his kicks, and instead they’re 0-4.
Super Bowl teams?
SG: It’s very difficult at this point of the season, so much can change. I can tell you who won’t be there… the Giants!
NR: In the AFC, I still think it comes down to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chiefs, and I still won’t write off the Patriots. Like you say, there is still such a long way to go, and Belichick has turned his team around in the past. I think he’ll find a way. In the NFC, it literally is a lucky dip! I’d maybe say the Green Bay Packers, purely because of Aaron Rodgers. It’s a tough question to answer at this stage because it feels more wide open than ever before.
SG: There will be the usual suspects there – teams that have a philosophy that has always worked for them, that play well consistently through the season. From the other teams that are a bit more up and down, I think the Carolina Panthers are starting to maybe get back into their rhythm form when they went to the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. I like the look of the Chiefs, and the Broncos.