The NFL's hand may have been forced. Who else other than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could have been named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month?
The Patriots announced on Thursday that Brady had received the award for the eighth time in his career after leading the Patriots to a 3-0 record in September. He last received the honor in October of last year.
Brady would have been suspended for the first four games of the season had the NFL won its case against Brady in federal court. Instead, judge Richard Berman vacated the suspension, and Brady was allowed to being the season with his teammates.
In the three victories -- over the Steelers, Bills and Jaguars -- Brady threw for 1,112 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions on 96-of-133 passing. His 96 completions through the first three games of the season gave Brady an NFL record. When he completed a second-quarter touchdown pass to Danny Amendola against the Jaguars on Sunday, Brady became the fourth quarterback in the history of the league to reach 400 touchdowns for his career.
There was some debate sparked when Brady was not given the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week award last week after throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns against the Bills in Buffalo. It was instead handed to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns at home against the 49ers.
This time around, there were no true contenders for the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month award other than the Patriots quarterback. Roethlisberger, who was injured last weekend against the Rams, trails Brady in passing yards by exactly 200. The Steelers top receiver, Antonio Brown, has 436 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Brady's teammate Rob Gronkowski has found the end zone four times and may be the most valuable non-quarterback offensive weapon in the conference.
But, whether those in the league offices liked it or not, there was only one real choice for Player of the Month, and they got it right.