Photo: Greg Hester, USA TODAY Sports
Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ezekiel Elliot.
Take a long hard look at those five names right there. Baring a huge surprise, one of those five men is going to be the National Football League’s most valuable player.
I think it is safe to say nobody really knows for sure what’s going to happen in the MVP voting this season. Last year was a sure thing for Cam Newton after playing lights out all season and leading the Carolina Panthers to an impressive 15-1 record and clinching a Super Bowl appearance along the way. This year you can make a case for almost any of them but I’m going to break it down to show you who I believe is the most deserving of the award.
Why it shouldn’t be:
Ezekiel Elliot: Hands down, Elliot is the best running back in the NFL even as a rookie. He rushed for an incredible 1,631 yards, 318 yards more than the second leading rusher, Jordan Howard of the Bears. Aside from that, he averaged over 5 yards per carry - with 322 rushing attempts that’s an astounding YPC average. Oh and lets not forget he found the end zone 15 times. His skills are second to none and he runs downhill just about as hard as I’ve seen but I think that the reason he is a great player opposed to a very good player is because of the strength of the offensive line that he runs behind. They are the best offensive line in the game and they could make a very average running back look really, really, really good. (Take for example Darren McFadden last season.) There is no doubt he is going to be a force in this league for many years to come but if I’m being honest, there are just other players much more deserving of the award this season.
Why it might be:
Aaron Rodgers: Okay. If I hear one more time that Rodgers is the most deserving player for the award I think my head is going to explode. NO. HE. IS. NOT. The media is absolutely obsessed with him because he has the most raw skill and throwing ability of any QB in the NFL – maybe even ever, but that doesn’t mean reporters and analysts can keep giving him passes when he plays poorly. Also, there is no denying that over the course of the last 6 weeks he has been unbelievable but does that mean that the first half of the season doesn’t count? Nope. It does. When the Packers started 4-6 with losses to teams like the Colts and the Titans things weren’t good. You know what else wasn’t good? Aaron Rodgers' play in the first 10 games. He was extremely pedestrian and just because he had a great last 6 weeks doesn’t make up for the first part of the season. With that being said, I could see him winning the award because of what I said earlier; he has every media outlet in the palm of his hand.
Derek Carr: Before getting injured against the Colts just a couple weeks back, Derek Carr was certainly making a run for MVP. He was putting up impressive numbers and was leading the Raiders to a place they hadn’t been in a very long time – the playoffs. It was because of Carr’s play and extremely poised decision-making that Oakland was staring at a top-two seed in the AFC and an upcoming bye week. He left them in a great position but in the end the rest of the team couldn't make it work and ultimately fell to the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs. His numbers don’t jump out at you when you compare them to the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan or even Aaron Rodgers, but after watching the Raiders play the Broncos last weekend, it was so blatantly obvious how much he means to that team. Carr makes that offense go. He leads long, methodical sustained drives that most of the time ends in points. Last week the Raiders were barely able to scrap together a first down vs. Denver, but when Carr faced them in November he was able to put up 30 points. I don’t think that Carr is going to win the MVP but it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to me if he did.
Who the MVP should be:
Tom Brady: Yeah I know, you think I’m just being a homer and saying Brady because I’m a Patriots fans. Yes, I may be a little bit biased but I truly and honestly believe he is the most deserving player for the award. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady was the highest rated QB this season with a grade of 98.5 (Ryan 92.1, Luck 92.0, Rodgers 91.9, Brees 88.4). Aside from that incredible number, Tom Brady broke another NFL record this season, finishing with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the history of the NFL (14-to-1). As we are all aware, thanks to that fun little thing called Deflategate, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season and ultimately I think that will be the reason he doesn’t win the award. With that being said, missing the first four games meant Brady was going to play 12 games, and in those contests Brady finished 11-1. Matt Ryan played a full 16 game season and finished with the same amount of wins at 11-5. Brady on the road this season was also lights out and wouldn’t you know it, he broke another record. TB threw a record 254 passes on the road this year with zero interceptions. Here are more stats that prove Brady should be the MVP:
-#1 In the NFL vs. Blitz
-#1 In the NFL vs. No Blitz
-#1 In the NFL vs. Pressure
-#1 In the NFL vs. No Pressure
-Brady threw 2 INTs in 12 games. 41 other QB’s threw 2 INT’s in a single quarter.
-Brady just had the best season of ever of a 39-year-old QB and it really wasn’t even close. (Manning at 39 threw 9 Touchdowns and 17 INT’s)
In the end, I think that voters just take what the Patriots do for granted and expect that kind of season out of Brady – but that sure as hell doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it – he does.
Who the MVP will be:
Matt Ryan: What Matty Ice did down in Atlanta this year was fun to watch. He put up great numbers on the way to the #2 seed in the NFC. What impressed me so much about Ryan this year was how much more mature he looked. He didn’t make the big mistake that we have been so accustomed to seeing from him. With that being said, I don’t think he had too many “MVP-like moments”, but that’s leaps and bounds better than what he had been. Take a look below at the following pictures courtesy of ESPN's statistics page:
That is a pretty telling picture for Ryan with #1 rankings in QB rating, Defensive-adjusted yards above replacement, and QBR. Brady is obviously not far behind but those are some incredible ratings for Ryan.
These stats show that while not beating out Brady by much, he does outnumber him in these statistical categories as well. If you adjust the yards to yards/game seeing as Brady only played in 12, Ryan threw for 309 yards/game and Brady threw for 296 yards/game. Both quarterbacks had exceptional seasons for their respective teams and their stats are so incredibly close, but in the end I believe that the majority of voters will lean more towards Matt Ryan over Tom Brady in an extrmely narrow MVP race.