With just five weeks to go in the NFL season, the race for Most Valuable Player is heating up and the field has been narrowed down to just a handful of players. There’s a seasoned vet, a couple of rookie sensations and players no one even thought of as MVP contenders.
Traditionally, the award has been dominated by quarterbacks and running backs. Only three times since the award’s inception in 1957 has the winner come from outside of those two positions, so don’t expect this year to be any different.
So, who’s taking home the MVP this year?
After starting season by serving a four-game suspension, Tom Brady has come back with a vengeance. Everybody recognises that Brady is a first-ballot hall-of-famer, but the form that he’s been in this season has some pundits even considering him in the conversation for best quarterback ever.
In the six games the 39-year-old has played this season, the Patriots are 5-1 with the only loss coming at home to Seattle. Understandably, his totals are down but his averages are well above any of his previous seasons. Brady’s completing a career-best 70.4% of passes (145-206), 6% above his last two seasons and 7% above his career average, for 9.3 yards per attempt, another career-best and two yards better than his average.
At 39, most quarterbacks are on their last legs, but Brady has come back with renewed vigour and reclaimed his throne as the best quarterback in football. The only thing is, he’s going to play just 12 of 16 games at most and the Pats were already 3-1 when he came back from suspension. Is his reduced schedule going to hold him back from his winning his third MVP or is his form so good that it outweighs the lack of games?
Cowboys sensation Dak Prescott has impressed everyone in his rookie season with a legitimate case not only for Rookie of the Year, but also for MVP. After starting the season as quarterback in place of the injured Tony Romo, Prescott has been crucial in guiding the Cowboys to their 9-1 record and has earned the position of Dallas’ permanent starting QB.
The fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State is completing 67.7% of passes, good for sixth in the league, for 8.35 yards per attempt and a QBR of 108.6, both third in the league. He’s also thrown 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Those stats are ridiculous for the rookie quarterback playing under the pressure that Dak has.
The thing about Prescott is that he’s not the focal point of the Cowboys’ offense and that’s taken a toll on his yardage. The 23-year-old is in the middle of the pack for total yards (2640, 16th in the NFL) and yards per game (264, 17th in the NFL), where other MVP contenders are in the top ten in those categories.
This is the guy that’s been stealing the spotlight from Dak Prescott and has become the focal point of the Dallas Cowboys’ offence. The rookie running back has lit the NFL on fire this season, leading the league in yards (1,102), rushing attempts (223), yards per game (110.2) and first downs (64).
Not only has Elliot’s production been great on paper, he’s also been clutch for the Cowboys, coming up with clutch plays when they’ve needed it most.
That phenomenal production has pretty much made the fourth-overall pick a lock for Rookie of the Year, but can he become join Adrian Peterson as just the second running back in almost a decade to be named MVP?
The biggest hurdle facing the former Ohio State Buckeye’s MVP chances is also the closest to home. The combination of Elliot and Prescott has come up trumps for the Cowboys, but the fact that they’re both performing at such a high level means that they’re likely going to take votes off each other and reduce each other’s chances.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Derek Carr has guided the Oakland Raiders to an 8-2 record and a one-game lead in the AFC West. Prior to the start of the season, no one really rated the Raiders as team that would make any noise in the AFC but the 25-year-old’s improvement has sparked a resurgence in Oakland that’s made the Raiders relevant again.
Carr’s up there with the elite of the QB position, posting numbers that are in the top ten in just about every category. He’s completing 66.2% of passes for 2,800 yards, with a QBR of 100.6 (all good for 6th in the NFL) at an average of 820 yards per game (9th). He’s also thrown 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions. While those are all elite numbers, it’s Carr’s improvement that’s been the most impressive.
The second-round pick out of Fresno State has improved across the board, his completion rate up five percentage points from both last season and his career average and his QBR is up 10 points. He’s done this with little assistance on the ground as the Raiders’ primary rushing option, Latavius Murray has only run for 426 yards and the team is averaging 118 rushing yards per game.
Carr’s essentially carried the team to its position atop the AFC West and will have to maintain that form to take home the MVP honours.