OAKLAND’S win against the Chargers to kick off Week 10 with a win means we are rounding the corner and heading for home in season 2019. The best team in the NFC remains unclear and as the two AFC West teams on TNF showed, every game down the stretch is crucial as the race for playoff seeding heats up. The quest for postseason spots isn’t the only thing heating up, with the MVP battle one to closely keep your eye on in the back half of the year. A handful of candidates have separated themselves from the pack thus far, but there’s no reason why someone couldn’t get hot for a month or two and swoop in, claiming the league’s highest individual honour.
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WHEN it comes to annually awarding an MVP in the NFL, quarterbacks dominate the votes. This year isn’t any different with most of the candidates squarely in the mix for the award featured under center. However, there are a few players from other positions who have impressed during the first half of the year and if they erupt in the back end of the season, anything is possible. Hailing from the undefeated 49ers rookie DE Nick Bosa is likely leading the charge for defenders, pushing his case forward as the best player on San Fran’s roster and thriving during their 8-0 start.
A lot of other defensive threats for the award find themselves trailing the field due to their team’s average/poor record. A few quarterbacks also fall into that category with Dak Prescott one of the first names that springs to mind. A few inconsistencies from the Cowboys have left him on the outside looking in, along with reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes. If Mahomes had have been healthy and played in every game he’d probably be higher on this list and he looms as the biggest threat to the top-5 over the rest of the year.
I’M grouping Minnesota duo Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins together because they are both half responsible for the Vikings’ current success. Cook helped buoy the team early keeping them in contests, but Cousins has found his mojo putting up huge numbers lately albeit against some lacklustre opponents. If Minnesota can charge towards and NFC North title, either Cook or Cousins could see votes come their way if they’re the main reason for the division crown. Of course, I can’t go through an MVP discussion without mentioning Tom Brady, who has helped steer the Pats to an 8-1 record and the odds on favourites to claim Super Bowl LIV. The main reason New England only has one loss on their resume is due to their stellar defense and while Brady deserves credit, a 4th MVP trophy is unlikely this year.
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5. Aaron Rodgers
Noteworthy Numbers: 7-2 record, 2,485 passing yards, (17 TD’s, 2 INT’s), 102 rushing yards (1 TD)
AARON Rodgers’ name has been circulating in the MVP discussion for the better part of a decade now with the two-time winner firmly in the mix for another victory this year. His 7-2 Packers squad is in the box seat to win their division if they can overcome upcoming tests on their schedule. The Giants and the Redskins probably won’t put up too much of a fight, but their three NFC North rivals are far from easybeats, all of whom they still have to face one more time.
THROW in tough battles against the Panthers and the 49ers and there are still roadblocks in front of the Packers, however, this team is talented enough to overcome them. The defense has stepped it up to aid their push for another Super Bowl ring, but if they can finish the year without dropping more than one or two games, then Rodgers will be the one garnering the voters’ attention.
4. Christian McCaffrey
Noteworthy Numbers: 5-3 record, 881 rushing yards, (10 TD’s), 363 receiving yards (3 TD’s)
THE only non-QB who stands a chance of winning this year’s award in my eyes is Christian McCaffrey. Here are his numbers through his first eight games of the year compared to Ladainian Thomlinson’s 2006 year when he won the MVP:
CMC: 881 rushing yards, 363 receiving yards, 13 total touchdowns
LT: 828 rushing yards, 323 receiving yards, 14 total touchdowns
SHOULD the Panthers continue to feed CMC and he accumulates scrimmage yards at this historic rate it’ll be hard to ignore his candidacy for the award. The biggest factor that could work against McCaffrey is Carolina’s record, with five games still to come against teams who are multiple games over .500 this season. Adrian Peterson was the last non-quarterback to claim the MVP back in 2012 and considering we are due for another position to take home the trophy, this could be McCaffrey’s year if everything breaks right. Unfortunately for the Panthers star, that’s a big if.
3. Lamar Jackson
Noteworthy Numbers: 6-2 record, 1,813 passing yards, (12 TD’s, 5 INT’s), 637 rushing yards (5 TD’s)
NOBODY saw this coming and if you’re trying to claim it, you’re lying. Sure, you could claim that you thought the Ravens would take a leap in Year 2 with Lamar under center, but Jackson’s growth from his rookie to sophomore season has been nothing short of spectacular. Baltimore is the only team to defeat New England this year, with Jackson’s talents on full display accounting for one passing and two running touchdowns. Questions over his passing ability and rushing workload have been put to bed leading to some declaring the former Heisman winner as the frontrunner for the award at the mid-way point of the year.
JACKSON is on pace to break Michael Vick’s record for rushing yards in a single season by a quarterback, needing just 363 more to become the second QB ever to gain 1,000 yards on the ground. For all the flack he copped due to his subpar passing ability, the second-year pro has performed admirably in that area, on pace for 3,626 yards, 24 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions should he play all 16 games. The Most Improved award seems like the trophy Jackson’s name will end up on, but he deserves to be squarely in the conversation for the MVP after his first half of the season.
Lamar Jackson and the #Ravens handed New England their first loss since December of 2018 last night, snapping a 13 game winning streak for the #Patriots. New England still has a lead on the rest of the AFC, but the Ravens, are coming for that No. 1 seed! 😈 #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/3aPEuq7GVj
— SportsbyFry (@sportsbyfry) November 4, 2019
2. Deshaun Watson
Noteworthy Numbers: 6-3 record, 2,432 passing yards, (18 TD’s, 5 INT’s), 279 rushing yards (5 TD’s)
GIVING up multiple first-round picks in a trade is deemed as a lot in today’s NFL. If you have to sacrifice those selections to keep your superstar quarterback upright more often, then it’s a price well worth paying. With Laremy Tunsil bolstering Houston’s O-line, Watson has finally been able to showcase his MVP-level talents, steering the Texans to a 6-3 record heading into their bye week. Following the retirement of Andrew Luck, the AFC South was seemingly Houston’s to lose and after initially stumbling, Watson has this group on the right track.
WHETHER it’s throwing game-winning touchdown’s after being kicked in the face or avoiding defensive pressure to make another improbabble play, Watson has taken his game to another level in 2019. In just nine games he has the same number of rushing TD’s as he did a full 16-game season a year ago (5) while posting career-best numbers passing the ball too. The impressive numbers Watson has been compiling has led to lofty praise from opposing coaches, with Raider HC Jon Gruden likening him to Michael Jordan. It wasn’t the first time his name has been linked to the former Chicago Bulls G.O.A.T and if Watson can keep posting wins and guide the Texans to one of the best records in the AFC, he’ll be hard to ignore as this year’s MVP.
1. Russell Wilson
Noteworthy Numbers: 7-2 record, 2,505 passing yards, (22 TD’s, 1 INT), 203 rushing yards (3 TD’s)
IF you ask me, Russell Wilson has firm residence as the top overall player in the current MVP power rankings. That doesn’t mean he can’t be overtaken by another contender, but through eight contests, Wilson has been purely magical. With just one interception to his name, Wilson has done it all for Seattle controlling the tempo of games while allowing their running game to feast when necessary or airing it out and throwing deep bombs to Tyler Lockett. No player has impressed more than Wilson thus far, which has seen him lead the NFL in a lot of crucial passing metrics.
THOSE digits certainly strengthen Wilson’s case, but it’s some of the lesser-known stats that deserve more recognition and help to highlight just how good Russ has been. Right now the Seahawks play-caller has successfully led the charge on four game-winning drives, with 7.5% of his passes leading to a touchdown – a league-best. Wilson’s box scores have caught the attention of football fans, with more up his sleeve I’m sure. Look no further than the 1-point win in Week 5 against the Rams where Russell completed 17/23 passes for 268 yards and four scores, or most recently, going 29/43 while accumulating 378 passing yards and 5 TD’s in an OT triumph against Tampa Bay.
THESE are just two examples of Wilson’s brilliance in the first two months of the 2019 season and with a mouthwatering clash against San Fransisco’s defense coming up on Monday night, I have no doubt he’ll step up and deliver another memorable performance. That San Fran game is just one of the tough seven games left in Seattle’s regular season, with a match against Arizona the only easy opponent still on their schedule. Wilson has done enough to cement himself as the favourite for this year’s MVP, but his true test comes in the second half of the fixture. If he plays as well as I expect him too, then even an 11-5 or 10-6 record won’t stop the Seahawks quarterback from winning the award for 2019.
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