Awards Watch: Week 3
Matt Ryan still leads the MVP race, but J.J. Watt and Joe Flacco are catching up
Despite tough coverage and little help, Calvin Johnson is excelling again this year
Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck will be locked in rookie of the year race all season
The pulse of the NFL season changes weekly. Every Tuesday, SI.com will break down the front-runners for the major NFL awards.
1. Matt Ryan, Falcons (last week: 1). He quarterbacks one of only three unbeaten teams, ranks No. 1 among passers in rating (114.0), completion percentage (72.0) and touchdowns (8), and has thrown only one pick. Has been mind-numbingly good.
2. J.J. Watt, Texans (NR). The second-year defensive end has been the league's most disruptive player through three games. He has 5.5 sacks, 15 tackles and a recovered fumble. He has also increased the demand for Advil in every QB meeting room.
3. Joe Flacco, Ravens (NR). After appearing to level off last season, the fifth-year QB has raised his game this year. He ranks second in yards passing, is tied for fifth in touchdowns and has Baltimore two points from being undefeated. Coach John Harbaugh has put more responsibility on his shoulders, and Flacco has responded.
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions (NR). The monster wideout leads the league with 369 yards receiving and ranks first with nine receptions of at least 20 yards. He's doing it despite constant double coverage and, the first two weeks, an injury-depleted running game to keep defenses honest.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (NR). The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback has thrown for eight touchdowns with only one interception. He ranks No. 2 with a 109.2 passer rating, and is almost single-handedly keeping Pittsburgh in games, considering its struggling running game.
3. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons (NR). This is a sentimental pick for the older guys. The ageless tight end is still getting it done in his 16th season. His three touchdowns and 17 first downs are tied for second-most in the league.
1. Tim Jennings, Bears (NR). He may be only 5-foot-8, but he's playing big for Chicago. The under-appreciated cornerback has intercepted at least one pass in every game and leads the league with four overall.
2. Clay Matthews, Packers (1). He didn't have a great game against Seattle, but he remains a disruptive force against the pass with a league-leading six sacks.
3. Thomas DeCoud, Falcons (NR). The fifth-year pro is having a strong start to the season with three interceptions, a fumble recovery and four passes defensed. He has shown great range for Atlanta is among the key reasons the Falcons are undefeated.
1. Robert Griffin III, Redskins (1). The former Baylor QB could be mentioned as a league MVP candidate. Among first-year passers, he ranks second in yards and first in rating. He's also third among all rookies with 209 yards rushing, and his three rushing scores are tied for first.
2. Andrew Luck , Colts (2). It's going to be a two-player race all season between Luck and Griffin, so get used to the names. Luck ranks first in rookie passing yards and touchdowns, but his four picks are worrisome, although three came in the opener.
3. Alfred Morris, Redskins (3). The seventh-round pick leads all rookies in rushing with 263 yards and is tied for first in rushing scores (3) and first downs (13).
1. Bruce Irvin, Seahawks (NR). The first-round pick from West Virginia has just 2.5 sacks, but that doesn't begin to tell the problems he presents for opposing blockers in passing situations. Fast, long-armed and relentless, he should be a force for years to come.
2. Chandler Jones, Patriots (2). The defensive end has two forced fumbles, a sack and 12 tackles. He consistently flashes from week to week. Once he figures it out, look out.
3. Jayron Hosley, Giants (NR). The third-round pick has been solid since being forced into the starting lineup in Week 2 because of injuries. He has one interception, but more importantly has been victimized by offenses seeking to capitalize on his inexperience.
1. Mike Smith, Falcons (2). His players gave him credit for their win in San Diego Sunday, saying he reduced their reps and kept them out of pads during week because they played on Monday and had to travel across the country to face the Chargers. Little things like that, coupled with outstanding work by his coordinators, add up to an undefeated record.
2. Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals (3). Raise your hand if you had Arizona being 3-0 to start the season. If your hand is in the air, you're lying. No one had them beating Seattle, New England and Philly in consecutive weeks, including those in their locker room. Props to Whisenhunt and his staff, particularly defensive coordinator Ray Horton, whose unit has the fewest points in the league.
3. Leslie Frazier, Vikings (NR). Predicted to be among the dregs in the league, Minnesota is 2-1 and four points from being unbeaten thanks in part to Frazier's steady ways. The win over San Francisco on Sunday may have been close on the scoreboard, but the Vikings dominated on the field.