Some early frontrunners for key NFL awards
With plenty of help around him, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, according to Bob LeGere.
Players often say the only award they're interested in winning is the Vince Lombardi Trophy that goes to the Super Bowl champion.
But rarely does a team win the ultimate game without superior individual performances.
And, by Thanksgiving, probably half of the 32 teams won't have a realistic chance at Super Bowl XLVII.
Here is an early look at some individuals who could compile memorable seasons. Some of them might even help their team win it all.
Offensive MVP: WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
The obvious choice is a quarterback, given that the NFL has become predominantly a passing league. But someone has to catch all those throws, and "Megatron" has the ability to catch anything in his ZIP code.
He caught 96 passes for a league-best 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, just 1 less than Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski.
Another year together with supremely talented QB Matthew Stafford will only make Johnson more dangerous.
If any receiver has the ability to crack the 2,000-yard mark, it's the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson, who presents a whole different set of problems once he has the ball in his hands and must be tackled. That's usually more than one man can handle.
Defensive MVP: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants
The kid is only 23 years old and is already close to unblockable.
He had 16½ sacks last season and seems like one of those special guys who can elevate his game when it's most important.
Another factor in Pierre-Paul's favor is his talented linemates. With Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck around, teams can't always allocate the necessary attention to Pierre-Paul.
Twenty sacks isn't out of the question, and this is no one-trick pony. The 6-foot-5, 278-pounder is also a major force against the run.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB Andrew Luck, Colts
He might struggle against the Bears' veteran defense on Sunday, but Luck has too much talent and is too hardworking and well-prepared not to succeed, even with a supporting cast that is a long way from playoff caliber.
But he will benefit from the presence of seasoned veteran Reggie Wayne, who is still capable of putting up big numbers, and Austin Collie will help, too, as long as he can stay healthy.
Expectations are high because he was the first overall draft pick, but they should be tempered considering this was a 2-14 team last season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: LB Luke Kuechly, Panthers
Kuechly was a tackling machine at Boston College and has already shown the ability to perform at the same level on the weak side in head coach Ron Rivera's 4-3 defense in Carolina.
If veteran linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis can stay healthy this season, Kuechly will have two talented role models to learn from.
Coach of the Year: Gary Kubiak, Texans
Kubiak's team had Super Bowl written all over it last year before the season-ending Lisfranc (foot) injury to QB Matt Schaub and the nagging hamstring problems of Pro Bowl WR Andre Johnson. The Texans still made their first playoff appearance, and Kubiak was rewarded with a long-term contract extension.
This year he'll prove that he's worth it, and the Texans could make it all the way to the Big Game.
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