If the first quarter of the NFL season were a Halloween skit, it would go something like this … Scene 1: Tom Brady, dressed as Dorothy, and Bill Belichick, dressed as Oscar from “The Odd Couple,” are skipping toward the Emerald City for a fifth crown in 16 years. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, dressed as the Wicked Witch, appears out of nowhere, points at Brady and screeches, “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little Bill, too!” Scene 2: Brady’s lawyers throw water on Goodell, who melts below 12.5 PSIs, deflated, so to speak, until his appeals hearing begins the week before Super Bowl 50. With that in mind, we sit at the NFL’s quarter pole with no reason not to believe the Patriots and Packers will meet in the Super Bowl in Santa Clara in four months. All they have to do is stay healthy, sidestep 17 other teams that are 2-2 or better, including four more that are undefeated, and survive weekly results that make no sense. Now, on to our quarter-season awards …
Most Valuable Player
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
The guy who won it last year looks as good if not better on a 4-0 team this year. He leads the league with a 125.9 passer rating while completing 72.4 percent of his passes (fourth-best) with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, Rodgers is the NFL’s version of golf’s Iron Byron swing machine.
Coach of the Year
Bill Belichick, Patriots
Not only has he kept the Patriots sharply focused through yet another controversy, but he also has rebuilt the secondary that won him a Super Bowl last year, and is once again bucking traditional thinking by rotating offensive linemen — regularly, on purpose and with success. He’s also undefeated, naturally.
Best Unit in Football
The Broncos have the best edge rushers and the best trio of cover corners. They’re No. 1 in overall defense, pass defense and third-down conversions. And just in case you think there’s an exploitable weakness like maybe being able to run the ball on running downs, they’re also allowing a league-low 2.67 yards per carry on first downs.
Most Regrettable Loss
Vikings’ debacle at San Francisco
Since beating the Vikings 20-3 in the opener, the 49ers have gone 0-3 while being outscored 107-28. The lesson: Be ready for whatever the NFL schedule-maker throws at you, including a season-opening road trip across two time zones to play a prime-time West Coast game that doesn’t end until 1:20 a.m. on the East Coast.
Matt Hasselbeck outplaying Andrew Luck as Colts QB
The first guy is 40 and was forgotten. The other guy is a rising star leading the next generation of great QBs. Hasselbeck is 2-0 with a Thursday night road win while fighting a bacterial infection. Luck went 1-2 while looking uncharacteristically rattled by blitzes before suffering a shoulder injury.
Assistant of the Year
Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator for the Bengals
Quarterback Andy Dalton leads the league with 20 completions of 20 yards or more. He’s second in passer rating (123.0), has nine touchdowns and only one interception on a 4-0 team. The key? A well-balanced attack that runs the ball more than 51 percent of the time.
Worst Unit in Football
Detroit’s offensive line
Which came first: the Lions’ inability to run the ball or the Lions’ unwillingness to run the ball? Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who will be lucky to survive the season, is running the ball 29 percent of the time. The Lions have 69 rushes for 188 yards (2.7) in four games. Everything is out of whack for the league’s only winless team.
Comeback player of the year
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
He’s 30 years old and didn’t play the final 15 games a year ago. People once again tried to wedge him into a box of averages based on what others have done before him. Will people never learn? Peterson leads the NFL in rushing (372) while averaging 5.0 yards per carry.