There’s more than half a season still to go, and a lot can obviously change, but the NFL MVP race is shaping up to be an interesting one so far. Peyton Manning is clearly vying for his sixth MVP award and second straight. Meanwhile there’s already a groundswell of support for J.J. Watt to become the first defensive player to win the award in 28 seasons.
Chances are that in the end the award chase will settle out as it always does, with an offensive player taking home the hardware – and likely a quarterback for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. But at the moment, not even two months in, it’s a wide open race.
Here’s an early look at some of the contenders.
QB Peyton Manning, Denver
His numbers are ridiculous for everyone, but when you factor in that he’s 38 years old, the neck surgeries, the fact that he’s with his second team, they become other-worldly. He’s thrown for 19 touchdowns already with just three interceptions. That puts him on pace for a second straight 50-touchdown season (last year he threw 55). If he hits that mark, he’ll win this going away.
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
His yards are down a little, which is the only thing keeping him behind the leaders in this chase, because he’s also thrown 18 touchdowns and just one interception. It’s a different type of offense than Manning runs, but some scouts say he’s playing his position as well as anyone in the game right now.
QB Philip Rivers, San Diego
His numbers are right up there with Manning and Rodgers, including the 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. Most importantly, he’s the clear driving force behind the revival of a Chargers team that could give the Broncos a run for their money in the AFC West. He’s on pace for a lot of career-best numbers. But his fate might be tied to that of his team, and whether they can upend the Broncos as division champs.
QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
His interceptions are a little high for this race (seven) but he also throws the ball more than anyone and arguably has the least to work with around him. If the Colts go on a run, he could become the favorite since he’s clearly the most talented player on that roster. A slow start (0-2) didn’t help, but he’s in a weak division and will have a lot of opportunities to pile up points and yards.
RB DeMarco Murray
Why are the Cowboys suddenly good? Because they’ve rediscovered their rushing attack. Much of that is because of their strong offensive line, but don’t ignore the impact of Murray. It will help his cause if he makes a run at the NFL’s rushing record. There’s a long way to go, but he’s currently on pace after becoming the first back in NFL history to open a season with seven straight 100-yard rushing games.
DE J.J. Watt, Houston
He became a fan favorite with what was viewed as a dominant prime-time performance against the Indianapolis Colts a few weeks ago. And he was terrific. But here’s what hurt his candidacy: The Texans lost anyway, and Luck was clearly the best player on the field that night. With three touchdowns and a lot of attention, Watt may be the runaway leader for Defensive Player of the Year. But he'll need better numbers to really hang in the MVP chase. Right now, he has just five sacks – good for 12th in the NFL.
by Ralph Vacchiano