Danny Kelly: Let's just cut to the chase and discuss the MVP award. I think we're going to see a lot of the usual suspects in this race -- namely Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Tom Brady in New England. I think if we end up having someone other than those two, it will be an upset. But here are a few players who come to mind after four weeks: 1) Andy Dalton. I know, it sounds insane, but the way that Dalton has been balling out in Cincy has them looking like potential Super Bowl contenders. Another name to keep in mind might be Matt Ryan for what he's done in Atlanta, and the extreme dark horse here could be Julio Jones, who is on a record-pace for receiving this year.
Who are a few names you've got in mind for league MVP?
Stephen White: I think without question Rodgers and Brady have been on fire to start this season. In addition to Dalton and Ryan, I would add another quarterback to that dark horse list for MVP: Carson Palmer, who is second only to Brady in touchdowns thrown so far.
However, I don't think any quarterback has meant as much to their's team's success as Cam Newton has meant to the 4-0 Panthers. Yeah, they haven't played a team with a winning record yet ... duh, it's early. What you can't deny is that Newton is doing the most with the least. Even with Jordy Nelson's injury, Rodgers still has Randall Cobb and a rejuvenated James Jones who hadn't really fallen off in the first place. Cam's No. 1 is Ted Ginn.
TED FREAKING GINN!
Yet, somehow Cam has lead his team to four straight wins to start the year while accounting for all of the team's offensive touchdowns along the way. I don't think he would win without the Panthers securing the No. 1 seed in the NFC. So, while I do not endorse the idea of quarterback "wins" as a viable statistic, the reality here is Cam's stats are never going to match up to Brady or Rodgers, but winning is the great equalizer in a lot of eyes. Now, whether the Panthers can continue winning with Ted Ginn as their No. 1 receiver remains to be seen.
One more name I will throw out there before we move on to Offensive Player of the Year, because I expect there to be a lot of overlap, Adrian Peterson. Quietly or not so quietly, he is right back atop the rushing charts after four weeks like he never left. The last two weeks, I feel like I am seeing the AD of old when I watch his film. Very explosive. Very very powerful. Intimidating even. It will be interesting to see if people will forgive him enough to vote for him as MVP. Or put another way, if enough people will forgive him to vote for him as league MVP.
Those names also include most of who would be my candidates for OPOY. Is there anybody else that we haven't talked about yet who you think will get serious consideration for OPOY if they continue to play like they have in the first four games?
Danny: I think you have to consider both Antonio Brown and Julio Jones if either one of them continue at the pace they've set early on this season.
They're both on pace for 1,912 yards receiving on the year -- just off of Calvin Johnson's all-time mark of 1,964 and both would finish second all-time if they can keep it up. That's ridiculous and significant, even if it's more of a passing game now than ever. Jones is on pace for the all-time record in receptions (152) and Brown's pace for 136 catches isn't far off of Marvin Harrison's all time mark of 142.
Of course, Brown has to get by with Michael Vick for the time being, but if Matt Ryan stays healthy and Julio continues dominating, it could be a lot of fun to see him challenge for that record. If he gets it, I think he could be in the running for that award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Danny: On the other side of the ball, there are a few guys that could give J.J. Watt a run for his money. First off, Aaron Donald already has 3.5 sacks, only a half-sack behind Watt, and he's ridiculously disruptive on the inside, getting hits and hurries regularly. He's not leading the NFL in those categories but he has the type of motor that makes me think he could even get better as the season goes on.
Geno Atkins in Cincy is having an underrated, but dominating start, as well. Atkins has two sacks but has racked up three QB hits and nine hurries and is currently leading all interior linemen in pressures, per PFF.
Who do you have your eyes on for DPOY?
Stephen: As things stand right now, I think Broncos' OLB DeMarcus Ware would be my front runner for Defensive Player of the Year, and if he stays healthy, he may just run away with it. That is a big if as we know he's had neck issues in the past that could come up again at any point.
Today, he is averaging more than a sack a game, with 4.5 through the first four games. Just absurd. And its not like he just had one big game or something. Ware has been getting a ton of pressure pretty much every game. I don't know if he found the fountain of youth or what, but he is exploding off the ball again like he's 10 years younger. Being reunited with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has done wonders for his production.
I also believe if Panthers cornerback Josh Norman comes close to keeping up his torrid play he will be in the mix for DPOY at the end of the season as well. If 4.5 sacks is absurd in the first four games then four interceptions which include two pick-sixes is absolutely nuts.
When you watch on film, Norman is the real deal, too. He hasn't been beaten much through the first four weeks and has had some excellent breaks to get his hands on a lot of balls. In addition to the picks, he is second in the league in pass breakups (12).
Because Norman isn't a big name yet I do think he will need the Panthers to keep winning for folks to really take him seriously.
So those are two guys who I think have distinguished themselves so far, in addition to the guys you named. I'm a huge fan of Aaron Donald, as most people know, and it would definitely be kinda fun to see a second-year defensive tackle take home the honors.
I will say you can't count out some of the older guys who are playing well, but not necessarily at the top of the stat sheet right now. Guys like Darrelle Revis, Justin Houston and Von Miller are all playing at a high level right now, and it should only be a matter of time before their production shoots up. I would also keep a close eye on them, as well.
Ok, those are our wayyyy too early predictions for the major end of the year league awards. Is there anybody else who is playing at a high level on either side of the ball that we failed to mention? I can't think of anyone right now.
Danny: If there's one more guy that's flown under the radar a bit it might be DeAndre Hopkins, and that's mostly due to the Texans being a disaster this year. Hopkins is just off of Antonio Brown and Julio Jones' pace, and if he keeps it up, he'd finish with 134 catches for 1,849 yards and about 10 touchdowns. That's pretty remarkable considering he's been catching passes from Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett off and on. Imagine Hopkins with Matt Ryan or Ben Roethlisberger.