By Dan Strayer

5th November 2019

The 10 Top Players In The NFL MVP Race

The NFL MVP race is in high gear, and it faces up to an intriguing situation.

The NFL MVP award has not seen a back-to-back winner since 2009. That year, a Super Bowl-bound Peyton Manning made it two straight wins for the second time in his career. The first to do it was Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown.

The incumbent this season, Patrick Mahomes, is easily the leader out of the gate. But his struggles in Weeks 4 & 5, coupled with the emergence of a bevy of other NFL MVP candidates, mean the NFL MVP race is by no means a done deal.

Rankings For The NFL MVP Race

As the midway point for the 100th season of the NFL approaches, The Daily Feed tackles the race in full. We lay out the 10 best candidates fighting for the Most Valuable Player Award in the National Football League. We’ll also throw out something of a Pro and Con for each player’s candidacy, factors that will make or break them in the NFL MVP race.

10. Lamar Jackson, QB – Ravens

Lamar Jackson of Baltimore has inserted himself into the NFL MVP conversation

Much is asked each week of the second-year signal caller. Fortunately for Baltimore fans, much has been delivered.

The sophomore jinx has not been a problem for Jackson, as the dual-threat and former Heisman Trophy winner has led the Ravens to the top of a wide-open, diminished AFC North Division. Leading the offense to 59 points in a week 1 laugher against the Dolphins (followed by a 120 yard rushing game in a Week 2 win over Arizona) served notice that he was in the running.

NFL MVP RACE FACTORS

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Jackson is currently second amongst quarterbacks in touchdown passes with 11 through five games.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Whether you judge him on QBR (63.6) or traditional Passer Rating (99.1), Jackson doesn’t break into the Top 5 amongst his peers. This doesn’t bode well historically.

9. Dak Prescott, QB – Cowboys

Dak Prescott has had a good start to his 2019 season, but will it be enough to stay in the hunt for the NFL MVP
Source: Wikipedia

Much like Jackson, Prescott started strong, but has hit some snags at the quarter pole of the season. Prescott is in a contract season, which usually means a great statistical season for a top performer. Although two straight below average performances in losses hurt, there’s time for the Mississippi State product to turn it around.

Prescott is buoyed by having the top rated QBR at 80.6. Moreover, the Cowboys stout offensive line keeps him on his feet: Prescott has been sacked the least of any Top 10 QBR rated quarterback. With more chances to stay upright, that’s more chances to get the big numbers.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Prescott is at or near the top in a variety of key statistics, including:

  • Yards per Pass Attempt
  • Completion Pct.
  • Touchdown Passes
  • Passing Yards

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Due in part to a sub-par outing in last week’s loss at home to Green Bay, he also ranks among the league leaders in interceptions with 6. With more chances to stay upright, it could mean this figure stays high.

8. Jimmy Garropolo, QB – 49ers

Jimmy Garropolo has been stellar for the 49ers, inserting his name in the NFL MVP race
Source: Wikipedia

Garropolo is a clear favourite for another award this season in addition to his entry into the NFL MVP race. An injury shortened 2018 campaign means the 49ers’ 4-0 start has cleared a pathway for Garropolo as Comeback Player of the Year.

Suffice to say that this is the version of Garropolo (4-0 record, 69% completion rate) that Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was banking on. The unbeaten record looms large in a competitive division, with Seattle (4-1) and the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams (3-2) on San Francisco’s tail.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Wins and a low sack total (just four in four games). Don’t underestimate the Niners schedule, either: there are plenty of high quality division opponents awaiting. Good performances in those circumstances buoy Garropolo’s candidacy.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Jimmy G’s comparatively pedestrian statistics (7-4 TD-INTs, 51.6 QBR) in a quarterback driven sport will need to improve.

7. Carson Wentz, QB – Eagles

Philadelphia's Carson Wentz is another candidate for the NFL MVP award
Source: Wikipedia

Here’s another of a late bloomer (well, for quarter point of the season, at least). Fans in Wentzylvania are gearing up for another postseason run behind the North Dakota quarterback.

He’s sixth in QBR, has produced scoring drives without mistakes (10:2 TD:Interception Ratio), and has the recent Super Bowl champions trending in the right direction with a 3-2 record. With Alshon Jeffrey back from injury, Wentz’s cadre of supporting skill players remains solid.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Unlike in years’ past, the spectre (for Wentz) of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles looking over his shoulder is gone. Eagles brass are behind Wentz, much as they were before he got hurt in 2017 en route to that amazing championship season. As a result, a viable candidacy in the NFL MVP race can come from such motivation.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

The middle third of the season is a brutal stretch for the Eagles. Phily faces a rare three straight away game stretch in Minnesota, Dallas and Buffalo. That’s followed by home dates with two defensively stellar teams (Chicago and New England) that sandwich a bye week.

In all, those teams are a combined 18-7. Realistically, anything less than a 4-1 stretch with an improvement on his completion percentage and yards per game totals in that space might torpedo his hopes.

6. Tom Brady, QB – Patriots

Tom Brady is one of several NFL MVP Award candidates
Source: Wikipedia

New England’s offense has become the inferior squad to its shutdown defense, but it’s putting up points and fueling an unbeaten record thanks to Brady. And consider this: if it continues down the 2007 16-0 path, no defender for the Patriots will stand out as much as Brady.

All that being said, projected numbers like 4500 yards and 32 touchdown passes are solid if not spectacular. Still, it suggests that 14 or more wins will be needed for a real NFL MVP candidacy.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Brady is as steady as it gets. Amidst the coming and going of the Antonio Brown train wreck and Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, Brady has been reliable and productive as ever. A 10:2 TD:Interception ratio suggests things are running as smooth as ever in Foxborough.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Despite topping Buffalo, the Bills defense exposed Brady’s age and dearth of weapons in the post-Gronk era. Teams will pick up on what the Bills did, knocking the 42-year old down a peg in the NFL MVP race.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB – Packers

Aaron Rodgers has had help from teammates, but the Green Bay QB is a leading candidate from his 4-1 team for the NFL MVP Award
Source: Wikipedia

The Packers’ 4-1 start owes to the running game and defensive prowess under new head coach Matt LeFleur. Rodgers is outside the top 10 in the most important stats, like QBR, Passer Rating and Touchdown Passes.

But Rodgers has experience at winning the award, and no NFL player has benefited more from a new regime. Aside from the winning record, Rodgers has avoided mistakes (just one interception) and averaged 260 passing yards per game to go with a 63% completion percentage.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

There’s simply no telling how much better things can go for the former league and Super Bowl MVP. Green Bay’s scoring output has gone up each week of the season thus far. If that trend continues, Rodgers will be in a position to peak as the season reaches a climax and votes are submitted.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Nine of the final 11 opponents on the Packers schedule have winning records as of Week 5. So there’s work to be done.

4. DeShaun Watson, QB – Texans

Shown here against the Redskins in 2018, Houston's DeShaun Watson is battling streaky play to catch eyes of NFL MVP voters.
Source: Wikipedia

The Clemson graduate is second in Passer Rating, second in touchdown passes, fourth in QBR, fourth in yards per attempt. He’s scored three touchdowns on the ground, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

In short, Watson is the talisman for the Texans. For all the touchdowns he’s accounted for, he’s been mistake free: just one interception and a nearly 70% completion rate.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Watson has been brilliant in road games thus far. Six touchdown passes, over 100 passer rating, 629 passing yards. This can bode well as division competition heats up.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Watson has been far too streaky to vault the next three in the NFL MVP race. In the odd weeks, he’s throw at least three touchdown passes and averaged well over 300 passing yards. Conversely, in the even numbered weeks, he didn’t even crack 160 yards or throw for a score.

3. Christian McCaffrey, RB – Panthers

Shown here in college at Stanford, Carolina'sChristian McCaffrey is rushing toward the NFL MVP Award as the lone non-quarterback.
Source: Wikipedia

Finally, a running back in the NFL MVP race!

But not just any running back churning out rushing yards. As fantasy football players worldwide will attest, the son of Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos wide out Ed McCaffrey is a game changer both through the air and on the ground.

The Stanford standout accounts for 187 yards per game and scored 7 touchdowns in five games. All but 1 of his receiving yards are being made after the catch, meaning he is making as much as you can of low percentage gain situations. Without Cam Newton, Carolina fans are grateful.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

The focus on McCaffrey might be seen as a negative, and it can be. But consider this: backup Reggie Bonnafon has averaged 12.1 yards per carry as a result of opposing defenses’ struggle to contain the Panther running game. That’s a testament to McCaffrey and his success getting yards from scrimmage (first in the NFL).

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

It’s not reasonable to expect McCaffrey will maintain a 5.6 yards per carry average. When that number tails off, his production (or the Carolina’s desire to protect their biggest asset) may follow.

2. Russell Wilson, QB – Seahawks

Pictured at the ESPYs with wife Ciara, Seattle's Russell Wilson is in the running for the 2019 NFL MVP award
Source: Flickr

Yes, those pesky quarterbacks again. And yes, the onslaught of “Russell Wilson doesn’t get enough credit” crowd. It’s warranted in pro football’s most competitive division, the NFC West.

The 4-1 Seahawks are rolling thanks to the former Super Bowl winner, boosted by sound running attack and the deep threat of receiver D.K. Metcalf. Wilson is first in TD:Interception Ratio (12:0), first in Passer Rating, first in completion percentage, third in QBR.

In short, Ciara’s husband has been remarkable, a key player in the NFL MVP race.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

For Wilson’s candidacy in the NFL MVP race, the next four weeks come against teams that are collective 8-12. Wilson could elevate his numbers even more. In turn, that could put a lot of pressure on the big man in front of him, as well as the teams in his division.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

As mentioned, Seattle plays in a brutal division right now, and it can be argued they could just as easily be 1-4. The Seahawks barely escaped lowly Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with wins, and barely eked out a win at home against the Rams.

1. Patrick Mahomes, QB – Chiefs

A standout in any crowd, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the clear frontrunner for the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player Award.
Source: Wikipedia

Yes, we know what we said at the top. But if you want to lay down money, just tell yourself: Mahomes Where My Heart Is.

The Texas Tech graduate is at the top on the NFL MVP race until fate, injury or a new Alpha Dog comes along. Mahomes combines a truly ridiculous arm with great decision making. Consequently, many say that it’s Mahomes award to lose, but caution isn’t always a bad thing. Yes, Mahomes has seemed human in the last two weeks. No, he didn’t throw a touchdown pass in a high scoring win in Detroit. Yes, he put up only 13 points in a loss to the Colts at home.

These belie transcendent numbers: 11 touchdown passes, no interceptions, 366 yards per game, 9.4 yards per completion, third in QBR, third in Passer Rating. Put simply, if he and Lamar Jackson switched places, two things would be certain:

  • Baltimore would be better than 3-2.
  • Kansas City would be worse than 4-1.

MOST HELPFUL FACTOR

Two factors here, in addition to his gaudy statistics.

  • Mahomes stays on his feet, having been sacked just seven times in five games. Ultimately Mahomes is the best testament to what a good offensive line can lead to.
  • Mahomes is a must-watch player, which you can’t underestimate in the human factor of an MVP vote. His arm strength and capabilities, even when a play breaks down, ensure the play is never over.

LEAST HELPFUL FACTOR

Just as we did in the preceding section, some things to think about.

  • A week 14 showdown in New England will loom large, especially if the Patriots stay hot.
  • Several contenders (Brady, Watson and Rodgers, namely) will face Kansas City. They’re likely to want to not only win, but outshine Mahomes as their own personal motivation. It’s the little challenges that athletes love to use that add motivation.
  • Exciting as Mahomes is, he can just easily be a victim of the lofty expectations his skill set engenders. 60 touchdown passes? 6,000 passing yards? People can get carried away dreaming about the possibilities this third-year veteran provokes.

NFL MVP RACE: CONCLUSION

If Mahomes continues as is, but doesn’t meet our unrealistic expectations, it will still be enough. He’s at the top of the MVP power rankings for this NFL season.

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