The highlight of the first quarter of the NFL season? Easy. Field-goal attempts, particularly on Monday night.
The stars?Just look at the winning teams.
So, a few premature awards:
MVP - If you think this award belongs to quarterbacks (and it usually does), then it's a tossup between Drew Bledsoe and John Elway. Make it Bledsoe - 12 TD passes in four games is a pace that would tie Dan Marino's mark of 48. Brett Favre? He's playing more like Brett Favre the loose cannon of 1992-94 than the MVP the past two seasons.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER - If New England gets one for Bledsoe, give this to Denver's Terrell Davis over the Patriots' Curtis Martin. Honorable mention: Mike Alstott, Tampa Bay (winning teams, you know), not for his running and catching but for his blocking. Honorable mention II: Terry Allen, Washington, with the proviso that he carried 36 times on Sunday and last year got tired in the second half. Also: Brad Johnson, Minnesota.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER - Stop looking at sack and interception totals. How many sacks are caused when one guy chases a quarterback into the arms of someone else standing there? How many interceptions are tipped to a player? And how many guys who have a lot of them get beaten often?
That said, the winner is Darren Woodson, Dallas. He makes up for the team's lack of experience at linebacker by playing linebacker and safety. And who's carrying the Cowboys? Not an offense that can't score touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay; Ken Norton, San Francisco; Michael Strahan, New York Giants (losing teams also have good players).
COACH OF THE QUARTER - Tony Dungy, Tampa Bay. Anyone want to argue, Tuna?
Runners-up: Bill Parcells, New York Jets, who's tripled a whole year's wins in one month; Marty Schottenheimer, Kansas City, who's never had a losing season; Ted Marchibroda, Baltimore (age discrimination in Indy didn't work); and Norv Turner, Washington, a quiet coach who's quietly built a contender.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE - Warrick Dunn, Tampa Bay. No argument, although Reidel Anthony, his fellow first-rounder with the Bucs, isn't bad either. Antowain Smith, Buffalo, is coming on fast and so is Freddie Jones, San Diego's rookie TE. Keep an eye on Byron Hanspard, RB Atlanta, and WR-KR Will Blackwell, Pittsburgh. Two might-have-beens, now injured: RB Tiki Barber and WR Ike Hilliard of the Giants.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE - Jimmy Johnson's speed guy. No, the other one - LB Derrick Rodgers, Miami's second third-round choice over DE Jason Taylor, their first in that round. No wonder Jimmy likes to trade down.
This one's really much too early. Others: LB Peter Boulware, Baltimore, who may win it - he's just getting started because of a holdout. Plus LB Jamie Sharper, Boulware's Baltimore bookend; CB Tom Knight, Arizona; DL Darrell Russell Oakland (the team is underachieving, he isn't); Dexter Coakley, Dallas, and Derek Smith, Washington (third-round LBs); and S Sam Garnes, Giants, a sixth-rounder.