In the NFL, there’s no personal award greater than wining MVP. It’s the greatest individual honor in the game and has been won by some of the greatest legends to ever step foot on a football field.
This season, there are a handful of players vying to take home the hardware. The usual suspects – Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers – are among them, but there’s a serious youth movement when it comes to MVP. A rookie and a third-year pro have erupted onto the scene and are among the favorites to win it.
Beyond that, there aren’t many. Here are the only six players who have a legitimate shot at winning NFL MVP.
Getty ImagesDylan Buell
Last week’s debacle against the Chiefs may have cost Carr the MVP award. The Raiders were 10-2 and vying for win No. 11 in a statement game against a division rival, but Carr laid an egg. His finger almost certainly had something to do with it, as did the weather, but MVPs don’t typically recover from ugly games like that. His 2.9 yards per attempt was one of the lowest of all time as he completed just 17 of 41 passes for 117 yards.
I hate to harp on one game, because Carr has been unbelievable this season, but this one outing could derail his chances. He needs to rebound in a big way down the stretch in what’s a moderately difficult schedule. How the Raiders finish the year – as well as how the Cowboys, Patriots and Falcons end up – will have a big impact on his chances. Regardless of whether he wins MVP, everyone around Raider Nation should be excited about the future.
Aaron Rodgers? An MVP candidate? After the supposedly disastrous start he had? Yep, it’s no error. He’s still a dark horse in the race, but he could come out of nowhere to steal it from Tom Brady or Matt Ryan’s grasp. He has the fourth-best passer rating, leads the league with 32 touchdown passes and is averaging a respectable 271 yards per game. He’s doing this with a receiving core that’s struggled to get open and a revolving door at running back.
There was an overwhelming overreaction to Rodgers’ lackluster start, but he’s turned it on of late with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past four games. He’s had a passer rating north of 100 in each of those starts with the Packers winning all four behind his out-of-this-world numbers. It’ll take a remarkable finish for him to steal the MVP award, but if anyone can do it, it’s Aaron Rodgers.
Matthew Stafford doesn’t get nearly as much love as he should when it comes to the MVP race. He has the most fourth-quarter comebacks in a single season in NFL history, he’s carrying the Lions without a glimmer of a ground game and only gets better as the game goes on. He won’t win Offensive Player of the Year, but that holds different standards than “Most Valuable Player.”
Yeah, he’s absolutely among the most valuable guys to his team in the NFL today.
Stafford is ninth in yards (3,447), 12th in touchdowns (22) and 10th with a passer rating of (97.8). Those rankings aren’t particularly impressive on the surface, but when you take into account what he has around him, and the obvious lack of a running game, it’s hard to discredit him for what he’s done.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsDerick E. Hingle
The wild card of the group also happens to be the only non-quarterback. Ezekiel Elliott has put together a fantastic season for the NFL-leading Cowboys, and while Dak Prescott has faltered a bit, Elliott has remained consistent and hasn’t missed a beat all year. He’s first in rushing (1,932), tied for second in touchdowns (12) and has 82 first downs – 21 more than the next-closest running back.
Outside of the offensive line, Elliott is definitely the most important player to the Cowboys. Prescott has played well, but MVPs don’t come in danger of losing their jobs at the end of the season – and that’s what’s happening to Dak. Without Elliott, Dallas would have a few more losses and definitely wouldn’t be at the top in terms of rushing. He has a legitimate shot at winning the award if he continues to average over 100 yards and about a touchdown per game.
Matt Ryan is having a remarkable season for the Falcons. He’s second in passer rating (113.2), third in yards per game (312) and is tied for second with 30 touchdowns. He’s one of three quarterbacks over the 4,000-yard mark and has a legitimate shot at surpassing 5,000 yards for the first time in his career. At this rate, he’s almost a lock to finish among the top two when looking at this incredible statistic.
The biggest caveat will be whether his Falcons get into the playoffs and win the NFC South or not. The MVP will almost certainly come from a playoff team, and if the Falcons falter down the stretch, surrendering the division title to Tampa Bay, it’ll hurt his chances greatly. I don’t expect that to happen, but it would definitely hurt his chances at winning the award greatly.
Tom Brady is one of the favorites to win MVP this season, and his odds will only increase as the year goes on. That’s because with the incredible rate that he’s racking up huge numbers, he’s gaining ground on leaders like Matt Ryan and Derek Carr. He’s only eight touchdowns behind Ryan and two back of Carr with the highest passer rating and second-most yards per game in the league.
If he continues his current pace, he’ll wind up with 3,834 yards, 29 touchdowns and two or three interceptions. His numbers are astronomical for a guy who’s played only nine games and they’ll look even more impressive after he plays his final three. The Patriots’ success paired with his stats make him a front-runner despite playing four fewer games than everyone else.