Remember when the NFL was boring in 2017? The excitement level has picked up in the past two weeks with numerous upsets (looking at you, Buffalo) and thrilling shootouts (thank you, Rams).
The rookie running backs dominated the early headlines with spectacular play from the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt and the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook before his torn ACL.
Not surprising, the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers continue to play like the best quarterbacks in the league (make room for the Chiefs’ Alex Smith).
The Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese two weeks into the season (A.J. Green’s prayers were answered).
The Browns are still the Browns, but they’re not alone in the winless department. The no-one-wants-you-here Chargers, the Brian Hoyer-led 49ers and Odell Beckham’s team from New York are also 0-4.
Kickers not named Jake Elliott continue to miss potential game-winning field goals (Nick Folk, Younghoe Koo). The Raiders, Ravens and Dolphins forgot how to score. The Saints miraculously learned to play defense in their past two games.
It’s been a wild first quarter to the NFL season. Here are a few awards and takeaways from the first month:
MVP: Alex Smith, Chiefs
It started out as a joke, but Smith’s gun-slinging ways are here to stay. He caught the Patriots by surprise on opening night with many deep-ball completions, including one for 78 yards. Football fans and pundits made jokes on social media: When did the game manager learn to throw deep?
It’s better late than never, and Smith’s aggressiveness has the Chiefs as the league’s only undefeated team. He’s completing 76 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Smith had an MVP-type performance against the Redskins on Monday night with a clutch game-winning drive that included a memorable 37-yard strike on the run to Albert Wilson.
Offensive player of the year: Hunt. In his first game, he rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown and caught five passes for 98 yards and two TDs as the Chiefs ruined the Super Bowl celebration for the Patriots. He leads the NFL in rushing with 502 yards and a 7.4 average per carry. He also has scored an AFC-high six TDs.
Defensive player of the year: DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys
This one was tough. The usual suspects — Von Miller, Justin Houston and Khalil Mack — are off to hot starts. Calais Campbell has ignited the Jaguars defense. Chandler Jones is back to playing at a high level. Everson Griffen is dominating offensive linemen.
But no one is doing more for his team than Lawrence, who leads the league in sacks with 7.5. The Dallas defensive end doesn’t have a reliable secondary to fall back on like Miller, Houston, Campbell and Griffen.
Lawrence has kept the Cowboys in games with his constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Coach of the year: Sean McVay, Rams
The Rams went from the worst offense of the past three years to the highest-scoring team in the league this season with 35.5 points per game.
McVay, an offensive-minded guru, has gotten the best from quarterback Jared Goff, who had a dreadful rookie year under Jeff Fisher.
It’s amazing what McVay has done in the first month with so many new faces on offense.
Best team: Chiefs
Andy Reid was a close second for the coaching award. He has coached in the NFL for 25 years, and his offensive playbook continues to evolve.
He’s added new formations and plays with the addition of Hunt, arguably the best rookie of the first month. Tight end Travis Kelce does a lot more than run routes across the middle. Reid is finding creative ways to give the ball to Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
On defense, the Chiefs lost safety Eric Berry, but Houston and Marcus Peters have picked up the slack. The Chiefs are clearly in a class of their own to start the season.
Surprise team: Bills
Not many had the Bills in first place with a 3-1 record after four games. Buffalo seemed destined to enter the Josh Rosen sweepstakes after trading Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby in August. The Bills also let Stephon Gilmore walk to New England, and he has been awful.
The Bills have two signature victories over the Broncos at home and the Falcons on the road. Buffalo’s defense is allowing 13.5 points per game, the best in the league.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White is playing like the defensive rookie of the year.
Most disappointing team: Giants
Raise your hand if you had the Giants winning the NFC East? C’mon, own it.
The Giants have been a disaster. New York’s offensive line can’t protect quarterback Eli Manning, who is starting to throw ducks. Brandon Marshall is dropping balls, and Beckham is dealing with an ankle injury. The Giants can’t run the ball, and the defense has been average.