Is Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman an NFL MVP candidate?
By Mike Ferguson
Five weeks into the 2015 season and there’s perhaps no bigger surprise than the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is off to a 5-0 start after winning just six games a season ago. One of the biggest reasons for the Falcons’ surprising start is second-year running back Devonta Freeman.
The Falcons finished just 24th in the NFL in rushing last season and had big concerns at the running back position heading into 2015. Early on, Freeman looks to be well on his way to winning the league’s Most Improved Player award, but winning the league MVP award is not out of the realm of possibility for Freeman.
Through five games, Freeman is tied for second in the NFL with 405 yards rushing on the year while leading the league with 645 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns.
Freeman’s numbers are particularly intriguing considering he totaled only 43 yards rushing on 22 carries in his first two games this season. Since then, Freeman has averaged almost 180 yards per game from scrimmage and has come through when his team needed him late.
In a Sept. 27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Freeman put the Falcons ahead for good with a 7-yard touchdown with 11:25 to play. On Sunday, Freeman again scored from seven yards out to give Atlanta a 19-16 lead over the Washington Redskins with 24 seconds left in regulation. Washington forced overtime, but the Falcons won the game on an interception return for a touchdown by Robert Alford.
Traditionally, MVP awards go to players on winning teams, and the Falcons are shaping up to be that. Atlanta is one of only four 5-0 teams in the NFL and one of five remaining undefeated squads.
Unfortunately for Freeman, seven of the last eight MVP winners have been quarterbacks, but Adrian Peterson proved in 2013 that with a big season, it’s still a goal running backs can attain.
Freeman is currently on pace for nearly 2,100 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns. Although it’s unlikely that Freeman can keep this pace, only four players in NFL history have scored 26 or more touchdowns in a season. Three of them (Marshall Faulk in 2000, Shaun Alexander in 2005, LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006) went on to be the league’s MVP.
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