Awards Watch (cont.)
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans (1): He sets the table for his teammates by dominating the line of scrimmage. Though teams attempt to slow the ferocious playmaker with countless double teams, Haynesworth has proven to be an immovable force in the middle.
2. John Abraham, DE, Falcons (2): The Falcons' one-man pass rush continues to terrorize quarterbacks in the pocket. Abraham has seven of the team's nine sacks and is currently the league leader.
3. James Harrison, LB, Steelers (3): The pass-rushing wizard ranks second in the league in sacks (6.5) and continues to be a dominant force off the edge. His three-tackle, one-sack day against the Jaguars included a critical forced fumble during the late stages of the game.
4. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins (4): The unheralded linebacker spearheads a 'Skins defense that pummels opponents with its brutish approach.
5. Joey Porter, OLB, Dolphins (NR): It's not a coincidence that the Dolphins defense has dramatically improved as the loquacious pass rusher has regained his Pro Bowl form. Porter has 5.5 sacks on the season, including four in upset wins over the Patriots and Chargers.
Coach of the Year
1. Jeff Fisher, Titans (2): The team is positioned to become the new "Kings of the South" with a three-game lead within the division after only five games. With a nasty defense and tough running game, the Titans have emerged as the team to beat in the AFC.
2. Tom Coughlin, Giants (3): It's time to recognize the defending world champions as the class of the NFC. Their 44-6 drubbing of the Seahawks was the team's fourth consecutive dominant performance, and they are showing no signs of complacency during the first quarter of the season.
3. Jim Zorn, Redskins (4): The rookie coach has surprised many by guiding the 'Skins to tough road wins over the Eagles and Cowboys. With a soft upcoming schedule, the team could be 7-1 heading into a showdown with the Steelers.
4. John Fox, Panthers (5): The swagger is back in Charlotte after the team bludgeoned the Chiefs in front of the home crowd. The combination of a smash-mouth running game and ferocious defense has the Panthers squarely atop the NFC South.
5. Tony Sparano, Dolphins (NR): While the team has used the "Wildcat" formation to befuddle its last two opponents, the rookie head coach deserves recognition for developing a team that is surprisingly solid in all three phases.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Matt Forte, RB, Bears (1): Although the rookie sensation has been unable to find running room in recent weeks, he continues to anchor the Bears' offense with his uncanny ability to find the end zone as a runner or receiver.
2. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (2): After torching defenses for the first month of the season, Johnson is finding it increasingly difficult to be productive against teams geared up to stop him.
3. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles (3): The flamboyant playmaker continues to provide a weekly highlight as a receiver/returner. His 68-yard punt return touchdown is his fourth play over 40 yards, and his second touchdown on the season.
4. Steve Slaton, RB, Texans (5): The dynamic multi-purpose threat has stepped his game up since landing in the starting lineup. With 93 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, Slaton is averaging 112 yards from scrimmage over the past three weeks.
5. Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys (NR): In only nine carries against the Bengals, Jones tallied 96 rushing yards and scored on a 33-yard burst on fourth down. With production like that, it makes you wonder why he isn't a bigger part of the Cowboys offense.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Keith Rivers, LB, Bengals (2): The explosive linebacker is showing off the playmaking skills that made him such a coveted prospect in the draft. His 39-yard interception return against the Cowboys gave the Bengals an opportunity to pull off an unlikely upset in Big D.
2. Curtis Lofton, LB, Falcons (3): The Falcons have unleashed a tackling machine by placing Lofton in the middle. The rookie makes plays all over the field, and leads all rookies in tackles (31).
3. Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots (1): The steady force at the center of the Patriots defense continues to gobble up ball carriers between the tackles.
4. Chris Horton, S, Redskins (5): The ballhawking rookie is becoming a key contributor to a stingy 'Skins defense. Horton's versatility is allowing defensive coordinator Greg Blache to use a variety of exotic schemes in the back end.
5. Antoine Cason, CB, Chargers (4): The Chargers' top pick has performed admirably as a nickel back. He has knack for getting around the football, and is a solid tackler in space.