With the NFL already at the halfway point, it’s time to start talking about who could take home the MVP.
The field is wide open, and obviously the second half will narrow things a bit. But the fact that it is hard to pinpoint a frontrunner at all means the first half of the season has produced some of the most exciting football in recent memory.
Here, TGH will give you (in no particular order) a rundown of five of the most likely candidates to win the NFL MVP award at the NFL Honors in February.
The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback seems to be gunning for another trophy to add to his mantle. Going back to his first NFL start in Week 10 of last year, he is 12-3 as a starter for the Baltimore Ravens.
Regardless of that record, he collected what will be remembered as his first marquee win in Week 9 of 2019 against the undefeated Patriots. In that game he rushed 16 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns. His passing performance was no less impressive, throwing for 163 yards and one touchdown.
The Ravens dismantled the vaunted Patriots defense 37-20 despite two turnovers that both led to scores. Jackson was not responsible for either one (a muffed punt and a Mark Ingram fumble).
NFL pundits questioned if Jackson was too one-dimensional coming into the 2019 season. Just as they did before he was drafted, they wondered if he could throw the ball with accuracy, consistency and power.
While it was true that he was more of a runner than a passer in 2018 (he set records for QB rush attempts in only 8 games), he seems determined to break that mold in 2019. Out of the gate in Week 1, he became the youngest quarterback in the history of the NFL to post a perfect passer rating.
Jackson has 12 touchdowns and only five interceptions through eight games this season. With a completion rate of 64.3 percent and 1,813 yards he has already surpassed his yardage total from last year, even though he appeared in all 16 games (again, starting in eight of those contests).
Not to be too “one-dimensional” on the opposite end of the spectrum, he has not left the rushing game behind either. Already rushing a total of 99 times for 637 yards and five touchdowns, he seems poised to shatter last year’s numbers in that category, too. While ball security became an issue last year, fumbling 12 times, he has cleaned that up as well, only fumbling four times in 2019.
With improvements in every conceivable area, leading his division with ease and a big win over a team that had rumblings of an undefeated season, Jackson is hard to ignore and even harder to stop.
As he said after the Ravens’ Week 1 victory, “Not bad for a running back.”
The two-time MVP clearly is not done yet.
Despite the Packers’ abysmal performance against the Chargers in Week 9, Rodgers is doing more with less than he has ever had. His number one receiver, Davante Adams missed four weeks with a turf toe injury. Seemingly in spite of that, and the lack of a true number two option, he put up the first and only perfect passer rating of his career against the Raiders.
Rodgers is famously protective of the football. He only has two interceptions on the season, and both of those were tipped before falling into the arms of the opposition. To make that stat even more impressive, 318 pass attempts and 17 touchdowns.
Through nine weeks, he is putting up a completion percentage of over 65 percent for the seventh time in his 12-year career as a starter. With 2,485 yards, he is well on his way to a 5,000+ yard season. He is doing all of this while making starters of undrafted free agents like Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow.
Could a case be made for all of this being due to a new offense under head coach Matt LaFleur? Absolutely. But that only makes these numbers even scarier for the rest of the NFL, because it has to be assumed they will only get better the longer they work together.
All of this is without mentioning that Rodgers turns 36 soon. His prime has extended past the point that most would expect. With a newly revamped offensive attack and an accuracy level that seems to be just as high as it has ever been, Rodgers is squarely in the MVP race.
McCaffrey has exploded in his third year as a pro. His 10 rushing touchdowns through eight games eclipse the total from his two previous seasons combined.
In 2018, he rushed for 1,098 yards. He has 881 yards on the ground in the first half of 2019. In Cam Newton’s absence and the below-average play that preceded it, the Panthers offense has become centered around him. He has shouldered the load and then some.
The only stat that may need to improve to push him toward an MVP-winning season come in the passing game. He has not been utilized as much in the Kyle Allen-led passing attack, but that may just be because he is so incredibly effective on the ground.
It is unlikely that Carolina can eclipse New Orleans to win the division. But they are in contention to secure a Wild Card berth. While there are some great defenses in the NFC, not all of them are prepared to stop the run. If they can sneak into the playoffs, McCaffrey and the Panthers can rip off a couple wins.
A playoff berth would be due to McCaffrey’s incredible play and an extremely solid defense. Look for McCaffrey to become the frontrunner if the Panthers find themselves in the postseason.
Rodgers is playing excellently with next to nothing. But Wilson may have a leg up on him in that specific category.
His receiving core is questionable at best. Tyler Lockett has proven to be pretty reliable over the years, and DK Metcalf is an offensive rookie of the year candidate. But that is really about it. Wilson managed to turn a blocking tight end, Will Dissly into a legitimate threat before losing him to IR.
Doug Baldwin, his number one receiver retired early. Jaron Brown and David Moore are little more than bodies to ensure that the Seahawks have 11 men on the field. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Jacob Hollister are on IR and questionable for Week 11, respectively
In spite of all of this, the Seahawks are 7-2. Their only losses coming to Super Bowl contenders in New Orleans and Baltimore.
Incredibly, Wilson has 22 touchdowns to one interception. He has also rushed for 203 yards and two more touchdowns. These are no doubt MVP numbers through nine games.
The real knock against Wilson is the Seahawks strength of schedule in the first half. They have played some bad teams, and had to squeak out wins against a couple of them. Regardless, a win is a win in the NFL.
His MVP will be won in their shockingly back-loaded schedule. Seattle has to play the undefeated (at time of writing) 49ers twice, the Eagles, who play best when desperate, the Rams one more time and the Panthers, who are not an easy out.
Even still, if the Seahawks come out of this rough second half with a playoff berth still in tact, then they will have Russell Wilson to thank. And he may a league MVP to show for it.
During Week 8 in a game against the Raiders, Deshaun Watson got kicked in the eye, adjusted his helmet mid-play and still threw a touchdown pass. That sentence alone could end the argument for him winning MVP but we will dive a bit deeper than that anyway.
Through nine games, Watson has a completion percentage over 70. He has 18 touchdowns to only five interceptions. The Texans are finally figuring out what he can do when they manage to keep him upright.
Houston’s offensive line has been a problem since the Texans became a team. A trade for Laramie Tunsil just before the season began went a long way in fixing that issue. Now that his protection is better than it ever has been, he is playing at his highest level yet.
Sure, it helps to have receivers like Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller. But the best quarterbacks are elevated by good wide outs, not bailed out by them. That has been the story of his season. He has been clutch, and all three of Houston’s losses have been by seven points or less. It could also be argued that those losses are on the extremely questionable pass defense.
But good numbers alone do not an MVP make. Much like Wilson, Watson faces tougher challenges ahead. And already with three losses in a tight race with the Colts for the AFC South, he will have to elevate his play further to beat teams like Baltimore and New England.
If he does it, however, then the Bears will have no choice but to kick themselves even harder for picking Trubisky over two MVP-level quarterbacks.
Featured Image courtesy of Nick Wass/Associated Press
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