Now that the 2015 regular season is almost here, it’s time to start making predictions for what is going to unfold. Which teams will win and who will shine individually are always the best things to forecast. And in one instance, they go hand in hand.
The NFL’s biggest prize — other than the Lombardi Trophy — is its Most Valuable Player Award; it’s the holy grail, the individual honor that everybody in the NFL strives to receive.
This season, there is no shortage of candidates, as plenty of players are poised for great seasons and will help carry their teams to great heights.
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Who falls into this category? Here are 10 NFL players who could win MVP honors in 2015:
If he proves he wasn’t just a byproduct of the Cowboys‘ great offensive line, that will win over a lot of voters; it’ll show that his rushing title last year was as much about him as it was the system in Dallas. Plus, he’ll help people in Philadelphia get over the fact that Chip Kelly traded away LeSean McCoy — something that will only happen if the Eagles are winning a lot of games. Murray could be the workhorse to make that happen.
The Patriots quarterback has won it twice before, so he’s always in the mix. And given that the Patriots figure to be a contender again this year, he’s worthy of a mention. That said, New England lost a lot of talent during the offseason, especially on defense, so Brady will have to carry an even bigger load than normal. If that happens, amid all of the Deflategate nonsense, the four-time Super Bowl winner will be hard to ignore.
Brown is a giant part of the Steelers offense, evidenced by his league-leading 129 catches and 1,698 receiving yards last season. Those are simply monster numbers. If he approaches those totals again, and Pittsburgh is near the top of the AFC, he’ll get some consideration. The question will be if voters can determine who was more vital to the success in the Steel City — Brown, Ben Roethlisberger or Le’Veon Bell.
When a player has already won MVP honors five times, it’d be downright silly not to consider him a favorite to win a sixth; obviously, Manning has those kinds of seasons in him. This time around, however, there are a lot of people counting him out. The Broncos have a shaky offensive line, something that new head coach Gary Kubiak is going to have to fix with smoke and mirrors. So the challenge for Manning will be great in 2015.
6. Le’Veon Bell
In 2014, Bell amassed a grand total of 2,215 yards in Pittsburgh’s offense, chalking up 1,361 on the ground and another 854 receiving. That’s not just being productive; that’s being a huge chunk of the Steelers offense. If he posts similar numbers this time around and helps Mike Tomlin’s team become a legit contender in the AFC, then he’ll get consideration for some hardware. It’s all about which Steeler shines the most, however.
Bryant has his big contract. Now, he has to prove that he’s worth that kind of money. That should provide plenty of motivation in 2015. In terms of opportunity, that will arise by the departure of DeMarco Murray during the offseason. Without last year’s rushing champ in the fold, the Cowboys figure to throw the ball more in 2015; that means Bryant could top his 1,320 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns from a season ago.
It’s hard for a defensive player to win the MVP, but Watt is all about breaking new ground; recently, he became the first player on that side of the ball to top the NFL Network’s list of the best 100 players in the league today. In other words, he’s making that kind of impact as a defender. That’s what comes from topping 20 sacks, forcing four fumbles and picking off a pass. Watt seems to be everywhere for the Texans.
3. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben has always been thought of as a winner (two Super Bowl trophies help on that front) and a playmaker (he’s the modern version of John Elway when it comes to pulling a rabbit out of his hat). But last year, he entered into the conversation of best overall QBs, something that comes with leading the NFL in passing yards. If he does that again, and the Steelers are good, he’ll be in the mix for MVP honors.
The torch is about to be passed as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady move into the twilight of their careers and Luck heads squarely into his prime. At least that’s the storyline the NFL is hoping for, having a new star QB ready to become the face of the league. If Luck has a big statistical season, and the Colts are a top-two seed in the AFC, an individual award this big would help anoint Luck as the heir apparent.
The Packers quarterback ran away with the award last year, on the heels of an incredibly efficient passing season. Rodgers threw 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2014, which is just staggering. And there’s no reason to think this year will be any different, as the Packers return intact on offense. Once again, Rodgers will have Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to throw to, setting up for a huge season.