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Quarterly Report: Foster, Mendenhall carry MVP honors


We have no dominant NFL teams, right? So who the heck is the NFL MVP after four weeks?

I have been doing quarterly reports for most of my time here at and I can't remember picking a quarter MVP being any tougher than it is this season.

The easy choice would be Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. But his team is .500, which isn't exactly where we thought they would be.

Peyton Manning is putting up incredible stats, but the Colts are off to an unusual 2-2 start. (Getty Images)  
Peyton Manning is putting up incredible stats, but the Colts are off to an unusual 2-2 start. (Getty Images)  
The Chargers and Philip Rivers, another candidate, are 2-2 as well. Michael Vick? He has really only played two games for a .500 team.

So my pick isn't a quarterback. It's actually two running backs from two 3-1 teams. I've decided to split the award, going with the NFL's two leading rushers, Arian Foster of the Houston Texans and Rashard Mendenhall of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Foster leads the NFL in rushing with 531 yards and is averaging 6.1 per carry. He didn't start last week at Oakland because he was late for two meetings, but he made an immediate impact when he went into the game. He also has four touchdowns and five 20-plus runs this season. His 231 yards in the season opener against the Colts is the high game for any back so far.

Not too bad for a guy who was in a three-way battle for the starting job when training camp opened.

As for Mendenhall, he has carried the Pittsburgh offense. With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games, the running game and defense had to key the Steelers. The defense has come up huge and Mendenhall has done his part.

Mendenhall has rushed for 411 yards, a 4.6 average and four touchdowns. His 50-yard touchdown run in overtime of the season opener gave the Steelers a 15-9 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He has two 100-yard games and ran for 143 against the Bucs in Week 3.

So those two split the vote. I would just give it to Foster, based on better numbers, but Mendenhall has played on an offense that has used three different quarterbacks, none being the starter. That means teams know the Steelers will run him.

It's rare to see a non-quarterback taking a quarter MVP or an MVP of any sort. For now, though, these two backs deserve the honor.

Here's the rest of the quarterly report:

MVP: Foster and Mendenhall (tie). Can you make a case for somebody else? Go ahead and try. Runners-up: Manning; Rivers; Vick; Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets.

Offensive player: Manning. He is having one of his best seasons. He's on pace to throw for 5,460 yards and 44 touchdown passes. He's playing out of his mind. Runners-up: Rivers; Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos; Foster; Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts; Vick; Mendenhall.

Quarterly Grades
Arizona Cardinals C-
Atlanta Falcons B
Baltimore Ravens B
Buffalo Bills F
Carolina Panthers D
Chicago Bears B-
Cincinnati Bengals C
Cleveland Browns C-
Dallas Cowboys D
Denver Broncos B-
Detroit Lions D
Green Bay Packers C+
Houston Texans B+
Indianapolis Colts C+
Jacksonville Jaguars C
Kansas City Chiefs A
Miami Dolphins C
Minnesota Vikings C-
New England Patriots B-
New Orleans Saints B-
New York Giants C
New York Jets B+
Oakland Raiders D
Philadelphia Eagles C
Pittsburgh Steelers A
St. Louis Rams A
San Diego Chargers C
San Francisco 49ers F
Seattle Seahawks C-
Tampa Bay Buccaneers B-
Tennessee Titans C
Washington Redskins C

Defensive player: Clay Matthews, OLB, Packers. He leads the NFL in sacks with seven, but he has also played the run well. He has become an all-round linebacker who plays a marquee spot in the Packers' 3-4 defense. Runners-up: Leon Hall, CB, Bengals; James Laurinaitis, LB, Rams; Mario Williams, DE, Texans; Charles Woodson, CB, Packers; Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers; Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs; DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys.

Coach: Mike Tomlin, Steelers. He has his team at 3-1 without Roethlisberger. That means something. I still think he botched the end of last week's game against the Ravens by not trying to get a first down. But he's the choice anyway. Runners-up: Todd Haley, Chiefs; Rex Ryan, Jets; Steve Spagnuolo, Rams; Gary Kubiak, Texans.

Assistant coach: Romeo Crennel, Chiefs defensive coordinator. His unit is allowing just 12.7 points a game. That's an amazing turnaround from last season's bad defense. Runners-up: Dick LeBeau, Steelers defensive coordinator; Ken Flajole, Rams defensive coordinator; Rick Dennison, Texans offensive coordinator.

Offensive rookie: Sam Bradford, QB, Rams. He's averaging 236 passing yards per game. He has brought a different feeling to a team that needed it. Runners-up: Jahvid Best, RB, Lions; Mike Williams, WR, Bucs; Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots; Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers; J.D. Walton, C, Broncos.

Defensive rookie: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions. He has been every bit as good as expected. He's strong and quick. Runners-up: Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks; Nate Allen, S, Eagles; T.J. Ward, S, Browns; Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Falcons.

Best trend: More trades. It's good for the fans to see this. It makes for much more barstool talk. Runner-up: Seeing so many passers on pace for 5,000 yards. Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 yards might fall.

Perplexing trend: Bad offensive line play. I know defenses are faster, but this is an epidemic. Runner-up: Why so many returns for scores on special teams? We're on a record pace.

Best free-agent pickup: Julius Peppers, DE, Bears. I wasn't sure about paying him, but he has been a force for the Bears. He seems like a changed man in Chicago. Runners-up: Dunta Robinson, CB, Falcons; Thomas Jones, RB, Chiefs; LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets; Aaron Kampman, DE, Jaguars.

Biggest disappointment (team): 49ers. They were the chic pick to win the NFC West and now they're 0-4. The good news is they still have a chance to rally and win a bad division. Runners-up: Vikings; Cowboys.

Biggest disappointment (player): Brett Favre, QB, Vikings. He has thrown two touchdown passes and six interceptions. His passer rating of 60.4 is 26th in the league and behind players like Alex Smith and Bruce Gradkowski. Ouch. Runners-up: Ray Rice, RB, Ravens; Anthony Spencer, OLB, Cowboys; Chris Johnson, RB, Titans; Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys.

Most-improved player: Foster. He flashed late last season, but he went to camp in a battle for the starting job. Now he's leading the league in rushing. Runners-up: Sanchez; Cameron Wake, OLB, Dolphins; Lawrence Timmons, ILB, Steelers; Antoine Cason, CB, Chargers; Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers; Carl Nicks, G, Saints; Doug Free, OT, Cowboys; Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns.

Mulligan time: I picked the Raiders to make the playoffs. What? Runners-up: Jets not making it. Again, what was I thinking?; Orton not being a good quarterback. I'm starting to believe.

Surprise team: Kansas City Chiefs. This is an easy one. They're the last of the unbeaten teams. The Chiefs? Runner-up: Rams. They are tied for the NFC West lead after winning one game last season.

Surprise player: Vick. Did anyone see this coming? He has been a different player than the one we saw in Atlanta. It's called dedication. Runners-up: Orton; Tolbert; Austin Collie, WR, Colts; Dave Ball, DE, Titans.

Best game: Falcons 27, Saints 24 (OT) in Week 3. The Saints missed a chip-shot field goal to win it and the Falcons nailed one on the next drive in overtime to pull off the upset. Runners-up: Texans 30, Redskins 27 (OT) in Week 2; Saints 25, 49ers 22 in Week 2; Cardinals 24, Raiders 23 in Week 3; Jaguars 31, Colts 28 in Week 4; Ravens 17, Steelers 14 in Week 4.

Strangest moment: Patriots trading Randy Moss to the Vikings for a third-round pick. I don't care how much of a distraction he can be. He's also their deep threat. Deal with it. Instead, he's traded? Wow.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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