Awards Watch: Week 12
Peyton Manning has cooled off by his standards, but is still playing at a high level
The Steelers' performance without Big Ben is enough to prove his offensive talent
Jim Harbaugh's move to Colin Kaepernick gets him in the coach of the year race
The pulse of the NFL season changes weekly. Every Tuesday, SI.com will break down the front-runners for the major NFL awards.
1. Tom Brady, Patriots (last week: NR). New England has won five in a row and seven of eight, and Brady is a major reason. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in six consecutive games and seven of his last eight. Overall, he has passed for 24 scores with just three interceptions. His 105.0 rating is less than a point behind league-leader Aaron Rodgers.
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (1). The veteran running back leads the league in rushing and has carried for at least 100 yards in five consecutive games -- less than a year after major knee surgery and despite a Vikings passing game that has been held under 160 yards in three of the last five outings.
3. Peyton Manning, Broncos (3). The veteran QB has started to cool off, but will figure in the MVP race. After completing at least 70 percent of his passes in six consecutive games, including five in which he threw for three scores, Manning has been under 60 percent in each of his last two outings and had a rating under 93.0 in both of them. It says something that his "struggles" would be considered cause for celebration on most teams.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (1). Rodgers' statistics won't be as good this season as they were a year ago when he won the MVP award, but in some respects he's having a better year. Think about it: He has virtually no running game and his receiving corps has been riddled with injuries, yet he continues to carry the Packers. Sunday was the first time in the last eight games that he wasn't on the plus side in touchdown-to-interception ratio.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (2). Yeah, I know he's out injured, but look at what Pittsburgh was doing with him in the lineup: It had won four consecutive games and five of six overall, and he had thrown for 16 touchdowns with only four picks. In the two games he has missed, the offense has scored a total of two TDs.
3. A.J. Green, Bengals (3). The second-year wideout had his streak of nine consecutive games with at least one TD catch snapped on Sunday, but he still put up 111 yards on three catches. He quietly is becoming a force in a deep pool of elite receivers.
1. Aldon Smith, 49ers (1). The outside linebacker has at least one sack in every game but three. In six of them he has multiple sacks, including 1.5 Sunday against the Saints. Overall he leads the league with 16.5.
2. J.J. Watt, Texans (NR). After hitting a lull for a couple of weeks, the second-year pro came back in a big way with three sacks Sunday. He ranks second in the league with 14.5 and has 13 batted passes. Houston is going to need him to play big, because injuries are depleting the linebacking corps.
3. Von Miller, Broncos (2). The second-year outside linebacker has at least one sack in four straight games and six of seven. He ranks third overall with 14 sacks and is virtually unblockable one-on-one.
1. Robert Griffin III, Redskins (3). The former Baylor star is The Truth. Lethal as a passer, dangerous as a runner, and mature beyond his years in the pocket and off the field, Griffin is simply an incredible talent.
2. Andrew Luck, Colts (2). Over the last three games he has thrown five picks and only three touchdowns, but in the only statistic that matters his team is contending for a playoff spot with five wins in its last six games.
3. Doug Martin, Buccaneers (1). The compactly built running back leads all rookies and is fourth overall with 1,050 yards rushing. He also is second overall with nine rushing scores. Martin is a talented receiver as well, making him one of the game's dynamic young players at the position.
1. Bobby Wagner, Seahawks (1). The middle linebacker ranks third among rookies with 90 tackles and has two sacks, an interception and three passes defensed. He has been a bright spot on one of the league's best defenses.
2. Lavonte David, Bucs (2). The most impressive thing about him is not that he has been a starter since Week 1, but that he also makes all the defensive calls and consistently shows up when big plays need to be made. David also is second among all rookies with 98 tackles.
3. Janoris Jenkins, Rams (NR). A starter from Week 1, the cagey cornerback returned two picks for scores on Sunday. He has three picks overall and is second among rookies with 15 pass breakups.
1. Gary Kubiak, Texans (1). His team not only is tied for the fewest losses, but won two OT games in five days, the latter on the road against a desperate Detroit team.
2. John Harbaugh, Ravens (2). He tends to get overshadowed by his brother, Jim, the 49ers' coach, but John continues to keep Baltimore among the league's best despite injuries and incredible odds -- like 4th-and-29 with the clock winding down and the Ravens trailing by three at the end of regulation.
3. Jim Harbaugh, 49ers (NR). He makes the bold move to replace incumbent QB Alex Smith with second-year pro Colin Kaepernick. The move was panned on the outside, but Kaepernick has been a revelation on the field, playing at an elite level far beyond his years.