There is a huge amount of talent in the NFC West. Here we predict who we believe are MVP candidates for the division.
Often underrated by many due to being hidden away in St Louis, Aaron Donald has been battling JJ Watt for defensive player of the year honours. Donald has incredible talent and given the Rams move to Los Angeles is almost certain to garner more widespread attention due to increased media coverage of the team as a whole. The only downside to his run at the MVP title would be the performance of the rest of his side in a strong division, but anyone who watches Hard Knock will be aware how keen the coach is not to finish 7 and 9 this year.
Carson Palmer looked neck and neck with Cam Newton last season until a finger injury hampered Palmer’s throwing hand lead to a slight drop off in his personal performance. The Cardinals roster looks as stacked as ever and we are all expecting more of the same from Palmer. Having signed an extension to his deal this month Palmer finally seems to be in a happy place, “I didn’t hesitate (but sign), I’ve been playing my whole career to be in a situation like this.” How much will the health of coach Bruce Arians affect the team is a big question at this stage.
With Marshawn Lynch out most of last season and his replacement Thomas Rawls banged up, Russell Wilson took the team on his shoulders and played the second half of 2015 with a flourish. The Seahawks backfield has been retooled, the offensive lined juggled and star tight end Jimmy Graham heading back from injury things look good for the Pro Bowl MVP to pick up where he left off in Hawaii. Wilson sits at number 2 in the all-time regular season Quarterback Ratings at 101.8, just behind Aaron Rodgers at 104.1.
Along with Frostee Rucker and Justin Bethal, Tyrann Mathieu had his name wiped from the PUP list this week and is getting ready for the new season. The Safety-come-corner-come-linebacker plays such a unique role for the Cardinals defence and does it beautifully. Mathieu has already had his big contract this off season, all that remains is for him to earn it, if he does, expect his name to be in the conversation for MVP.
Bobby Wagner may have already earned an MVP nomination from Tony Dungy, and Richard Sherman is certainly the face of the group, but in Earl Thomas you have a play who is the heart and mind of the operation. His play speaks for itself, I dare even the most hardened 49ers fan to not rate Thomas in their top 3 safeties in the league. It is more than that though, his desire and need to make every single play matter, he leaves everything on the field – or indeed off it as he lead the wild celebrations from the Chiefs touchline after a comeback win in just the first game of pre-season. If the Seahawks defence plays well then Earl Thomas is playing well, and if the team is up there again this season he will be hard to ignore. Richard Sherman certainly thinks so, “I’ve seen him blend blades of grass, I’ve seen him catch footballs by looking at them, the list is long of things Earl Thomas has done – I’ve seen him beat Chuck Norris up.”
Photo copyright: Michael Thomas.