By Jim Trotter
November 20, 2012

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

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (last week: 1). The veteran running back had a bye last week, but let's not forget what he has done. Less than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery, he has gone over 100 yards in four straight games and leads the league in rushing with 1,128 yards. More noteworthy, he has done it despite a Vikings passing game that has been held to 63 yards or fewer in two of its last four games.

2. Drew Brees, Saints (NR). He leads the league with 28 touchdown passes and has thrown for at least one score in a league-record 53 consecutive games. He also is just 6 yards off the lead for yards passing. But most impressive is that he has rallied New Orleans from an 0-4 start to playoff relevancy.

3. Peyton Manning, Broncos (3). The veteran QB is No. 2 in passer rating, No. 3 in touchdowns and No. 6 in yards. He also has his team with a three-game lead in the AFC West and looking like it won't lose another game before the playoffs.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (1). The reigning MVP continues to carry his team. With no consistent run game, the load is almost entirely on his shoulders and he simply responds, week after week, ranking No. 1 in rating and No. 2 in touchdown passes. The late-game drive against the Lions last week was MVP worthy.

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 17 touchdown passes and only four picks.

3. A.J. Green, Bengals (NR). The second-year pro leads all receivers with 10 touchdown catches despite not having a credible complement on the other side. His five catches of at least 40 yards also are tied for the league lead.

1. Aldon Smith, 49ers">49ers (NR). The outside linebacker has at least one sack in all but three games -- including five in which he had multiple sacks -- and leads the league overall with 15. His 5.5-sack outing Monday against the Bears was almost laughable, he made it look so easy. He also has three forced fumbles.

2. Von Miller, Broncos (NR). The second-year outside linebacker is second in the league with 13 sacks and also has at least one in all but three games. He has multiple sacks in four games, along with four forced fumbles.

3. Charles Tillman, Bears (2). He did not have a great outing Monday night against the 49ers, but that should not take away from his body of work over the course of the season.

1. Doug Martin, Bucs (3). He leads the league in yards from scrimmage, has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of his last four games, and is drawing so much attention from defenses that it's creating opportunities in the pass game, like on the two-point conversion from Josh Freeman to Vincent Jackson to force overtime on Sunday.

2. Andrew Luck, Colts (1). He's coming off a tough week, but the former Cardinal is going to be a force for years to come.

3.Robert Griffin III, Redskins (2). The Baylor standout has a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio, along with the mobility to escape pressure. Along with Luck, Griffin will be a force for the next decade and beyond.

1. Bobby Wagner, Seahawks (2). The first-year linebacker has started nine games and is averaging 10 tackles over the last three games. He also has two sacks and has been a steady performer on one of the league's top defenses.

2. Bruce Irvin, Seahawks (3). If the end could play all his games at home, he might challenge for Player of the Year for all defensive players. Irvin has at least a half sack in every home game but one and overall leads all rookies with seven sacks to go with one forced fumble.

3. Lavonte David, Bucs (1). 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 tied for second among all rookies with 90 tackles.

1. Gary Kubiak, Texans (1). It wasn't pretty on Sunday against Jacksonville, but Houston avoided the hangover from a big win at Chicago the previous week.

2. John Harbaugh, Ravens (NR). He tends to get overshadowed by his brother, but he continues to keep Baltimore among the league's best despite injuries (and an upcoming suspension to Ed Reed).

3. Joe Vitt, Saints (NR). Maybe this is a sentimental pick considering all the Saints have been through, but Vitt has provided the team with a sense of calm since returning from his suspension. New Orleans has now won three in a row with a big game against San Francisco looming.

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