NFL MVP Race is Under Way

-originally posted on ESPN-


Previous polls: Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13


1. Tom Brady, QB | New England Patriots

Regular-season passing: 249-for-372 (66.9 percent); 3,064 yards; 22 TDS; 2 INTs; 80.6 Total QBR

Case for Brady: As long as you don’t mind the fact that he has played 10 games and the other candidates have played 14, Brady is your guy. His numbers projected over 16 games would end up at 4,902 yards, 35 touchdowns and three interceptions — and he’s 9-1.

Case against Brady: He has played only 10 games, and the other candidates have played 14.


T2. Derek Carr, QB | Oakland Raiders

Regular-season passing: 336-for-529 (63.5 percent); 3,705 yards; 25 TDs; 6 INTs; 60.8 Total QBR

Case for Carr: He is the quarterback of an 11-3 team that has made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, and his fourth-quarter performances have been sterling. Carr fits what the Raiders seem to be: an upstart, gunslinger-type squad that’s fun to imagine as even better than it is right now.

Case against Carr: He’s middle-of-the pack in QBR and several other key stats, and he was 0-2 this year against the Chiefs, the Raiders’ closest AFC West competitors. Carr’s performance in those big games could end up costing him votes.


T2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB | Dallas Cowboys

Regular-season rushing: 310 carries; 1,551 yards; 13 TDs
Regular-season receiving: 31 receptions; 351 yards; 1 TD

Case for Elliott: The Cowboys’ offense is built around the run, and Elliott has 327 more rushing yards than any other player in the league. He just cut through one of the league’s hottest defenses to the tune of 159 rushing yards, and he stayed on the field for a few third downs and made a big catch or two in that game. To borrow a timely catchphrase, he’s the MVP candidate doing the most good.

Case against Elliott: Quarterbacks tend to win this award, so it’s an uphill battle for anyone who plays Elliott’s position, no matter how well he might be playing it. And there are some who feel (unjustifiably) that Elliott’s performance is more a reflection of his offensive line’s performance than of anything special about Elliott himself.


4. Matt Ryan, QB | Atlanta Falcons

Regular-season passing: 319-for-465 (68.6); 4,336 yards; 32 TDs; 7 INTs; 81.8 Total QBR

Case for Ryan: No one matches Ryan on the raw numbers. He leads in Total QBR, ranks second in yards, first in yards per attempt, second in touchdown passes and third in completion percentage. Counting only those who have played the whole season, Ryan has been the best quarterback in the league this year. And he has a team with a shaky defense sitting there at 9-5 and in first place.

Case against Ryan: That 9-5 record is nice, but it’s not the 12-2 or 11-3 that some of the other candidates are rocking. And in a race this good, that can be held against you. Ryan also has a star running back helping him out in Devonta Freeman, so maybe that’s it. But honestly, I can’t figure out why he’s so low on this list.


5. Aaron Rodgers, QB | Green Bay Packers

Regular-season passing: 346-for-533 (64.9); 3,781 yards; 32 TDs; 7 INTs; 75.5 Total QBR

Case for Rodgers: Even after his much-publicized rough start, Rodgers is fourth in the NFL in QBR for the season. He is completing 70.7 percent of his passes and averaging 8.29 yards per attempt, and he has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions during the Packers’ current four-game winning streak. He’s also working with a third-string running back and a shaky defense.

Case against Rodgers: The Packers are only 8-6, and while they’ll win the NFC North with wins in their final two games, it took them way too long to get into gear. Rodgers’ early-season performance drags down his overall numbers and, likely, his overall case in the eyes of voters.

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