By Jim Trotter
October 16, 2012

The pulse of the NFL season changes weekly. Every Tuesday, will break down the front-runners for the major NFL awards.

1. Matt Ryan, Falcons (last week: 1). He wasn't at his best Sunday against Oakland, but he did rally his team to victory. And because MVP awards are based on the totality of the season, and not a single game, he remains my clear front-runner.

2. Robert Griffin III, Redskins (NR). Forget that he's a rookie. RGIII is one of the game's most dynamic players. He's so poised, so polished, that you shake your head about the possibilities that await him.

3. J.J. Watt, Texans (3). The second-year defensive end has 9.5 sacks through six games, which puts him on pace for a league-record 25. Will he get there? I don't think so, but it will be fun watching him try.

1. Peyton Manning, Broncos (NR). Perception is a funny thing. Entering Monday night, people talked as if Manning were a shell of his former self. Never mind that in each of his previous two games he had thrown for 300+ yards with three scores and no picks. He added another 309 yards and three TDs, with one pick, Monday night.

2. Arian Foster, Texans (3). He's proving that workhorse backs are not extinct. He leads all backs with an average of 24.8 carries a game and ranks No. 1 in touchdowns and No. 2 in yards.

3. Eli Manning, Giants (NR). Eleven touchdowns to go with 1,772 yards and a 4-2 record.

1. J.J. Watt, Texans (1). See MVP.

2. Charles Tillman, Bears (2). His position is cornerback. His role is playmaker. He has returned two interceptions for scores and has forced a fumble. He and Tim Jennings comprise one of the game's top cornerback tandems.

3. Ray Lewis, Ravens (3). No, he has not been among the league's best, but after sustaining a season-ending -- and potentially career-ending -- torn triceps last week, it's a way to give a nod to one of the true giants in the league's history.

1. Robert Griffin III, Redskins (1). See MVP.

2. Andrew Luck , Colts (2). Did you really think he was going to make every week look as spectacular as his fourth quarter against the Packers?

3. Alfred Morris, Redskins (3). The sixth-round pick ranks fourth in the league in rushing and third in ground scores. He does his work quietly and consistently.

1. Chandler Jones, Patriots (1). Steady and productive. Not a bad combination for any player. Leads all rookies with five sacks and three forced fumbles.

2. Bruce Irvin, Seahawks (2). The first-round pick from West Virginia is only a half sack behind Jones and has a forced fumble. He's having an impact on one of the league's top units.

3. Janoris Jenkins, Rams (3). The cornerback has only one interception, but has eight passes defensed and upgraded a position that was a black hole for the Rams last season.

1. Mike Smith, Falcons (1). His is the league's only undefeated team. .

2. Tom Coughlin, Giants (NR). The Giants have won four of their last five and dominated a 49ers">49ers team that many thought was the best in the league.

3. John Harbaugh, Ravens (NR). He keeps losing players, but not games. Very underrated.

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