Awards Watch (cont.)
Defensive Player of the Year
1. James Harrison, LB, Steelers (2): The Steelers' star is the league's top stat stuffer off the edge. Harrison has 14 sacks, six forced fumbles, an interception and a safety. He is the only player in the league to register a stat in each of those respective categories.
2. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans (1): He continues to dominate the middle with his size and strength. Haynesworth leads all defensive tackles in sacks (8.5) and has three forced fumbles.
3. Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers (5): The three-time Pro Bowl safety has terrorized the opponents in the middle of the field. Polamalu has a league-high six interceptions and has made 15 breakups for the league's top-ranked pass defense.
4. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys (NR): The league leader in sacks (15) has been instrumental in the Cowboys' improved defensive play. Ware has sacks in all but one of the Cowboys' games, including three-sack performances against the Rams and Seahawks.
5. Justin Tuck, DT, Giants (NR): The Giants' top playmaker spearheads a defense that routinely pummels quarterbacks into submission. Tuck's 11.5 sacks lead the team and rank fifth highest in the league.
Coach of the Year
1. Tom Coughlin, Giants (2): The Giants maintain their winning ways amid the intense scrutiny of the Plaxico Burress' saga. The defending champs' dominance has the possibility of "back-to-back" titles looking like a reality in New York.
2. Jeff Fisher, Titans (1): The Titans are still not regarded at serious title contenders by some, but critics should not underestimate their potent combination of a punishing defense and smash mouth running game. Fisher rode the combination to an AFC Championship in 1999, and he appears to be up to his old tricks with this year's team.
3. Mike Smith, Falcons (3): No one expected this team to enter December with a division title within reach.
4. John Harbaugh, Ravens (4): The Ravens are not only winning games, but also dominating opponents on both sides of the ball. Though their final stretch of the season is littered with heavyweights (Redskins, Steelers, and Cowboys), they have a legitimate shot to enter the postseason in Harbaugh's first year.
5. Tony Sparano, Dolphins (NR): While many will cite Bill Parcells' influence as the reason for the Dolphins' dramatic turnaround, the rookie head coach deserves kudos for helping transform the 1-15 squad into winners.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (1): His play has been so exceptional this season that he should garner some consideration as the league MVP.
2. Matt Forte, RB, Bears (3): The Bears' star is one of the most complete backs to enter the league in recent years. Forte is the league's fifth-leading rusher (1,012 yards) and his 48 receptions are the most of any running back.
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (2): The electrifying runner broke out of his recent slump with his big performance against the Lions (16 carries, 125 rushing yards). Johnson is second in the AFC with 958 rushing yards.
4. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (4): He is maturing from game manager to playmaker in the Ravens' offense. Flacco has thrown at least one touchdown in the Ravens' past seven games and only two interceptions during that span.
5. Steve Slaton, RB, Texans (5): The sensational playmaker has come on strong during the past few weeks. He has topped the century mark in two of the last three games and is averaging five yards per carry.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots (1): The Patriots' leading tackler continues to set the standard for rookies with his stellar play. Mayo has racked up 96 total stops and is ninth best in the league in tackles.
2. Curtis Lofton, LB, Falcons (2): He has keyed the Falcons' unheralded defense. Lofton ranks as the team's third-leading tackler and is second among all rookies.
3. Chris Horton, S, Redskins (4): The 'Skins' dynamite safety has shown an unbelievable knack for getting to the ball. Horton is one of the team's top tacklers, and leads Washington with three interceptions.
4. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Cards (3): The Cards' top pick has upgraded the team's inconsistent secondary. Though the team has suffered back-to-back losses, Rodgers-Cromartie's play has been solid in both contests.
5. Kenny Phillips, S, Giants (NR): The Giants have slowly integrated Phillips into the lineup, but that hasn't stopped him from making an impact as a punishing tackler. Phillips is the team's second-leading tackler and is starting to be the difference-maker New York envisioned when it picked him in the first round.