We have reached the start of the current century on NFL Thursday (second miniseries) this week with our assessments of the Super Bowl MVP and ROTY awards: So far, we’ve confirmed only 15 of 34 vote winners from Super Sunday matchups. As for the Rookie of the Year awards, we’ve confirmed 26 of 43 NFL rookie vote winners (along with 4 of 10 AFL ROTYs). What holds for the future here?

Only time will tell, so read on and enjoy …

Super Bowl XXXV MVP: Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore (original); Duane Starks, CB, Baltimore (revised)

The Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants combined for just 396 total yards, with the Ravens winning, 34-7, as the Giants only scored on special teams. Watching this game was somewhat painful, actually, especially when Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis was named the MVP just one year after being at the center of a murder investigation. Yeah, this was a super dud as far as NFL title games go.

Lewis made 5 tackles and had 4 PDs, but the team effort on defense was huge: defensive end Michael McCrary had two sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 FF, while cornerback Duane Starks added 5 tackles, 2 PDs, and 1 interception return for a touchdown. In fact, with the Ravens offense scoring just 2 TDs itself, Starks’ effort seems to be a lot more valuable than the symbolic “leadership” provided by Lewis.

In fact, with Baltimore holding just a 10-0 lead with under 20 minutes left in the game, it was Starks’ INT return that broke the game open late in the third quarter. Sure, we don’t like Lewis at all as a human being, but the reality is that Starks made the biggest defensive play in a close-at-the-time game, and Lewis was merely the perceived “leader” of the overall defensive effort. Starks is our pick here.

2000 NFL ROTY: Mike Anderson, RB, Denver & Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago (original); Darren Howard, DE, New Orleans (revised)

The Denver Broncos rode their rookie running back to 11 wins and a playoff spot, while the Chicago Bears won just 5 times with their rookie LB. Advantage, Anderson, in the early race for our ROTY nod here. His 1,656 yards and 15 TDs will be hard to top for any other rookie player contributing to a playoff team. Who are the other contenders here?

Well, Baltimore RB Jamal Lewis, for one: His 1,660 yards and 6 TDs surely made a difference for the Ravens, who finished 12-4. We also have New Orleans Saints DE Darren Howard (11 sacks, 1 INT) and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Corey Simon (9.5 sacks). The Saints won 10 games to top the NFC West, and the Eagles had 11 victories to snag a wild-card slot.

All four of these players are worthy: Which one had the biggest impact? Looking back a year, Baltimore (+4 wins) and Denver (+5) both benefitted from their rookie RBs, while Philly (+6) and New Orleans (+7) also got a lot of mileage out of their first-year defensive linemen. Wow! We know a single player doesn’t change it all, but we have to be consistent here and go with Howard for value. Surprising, for sure!