Prior to the season I wrote about possible MVP candidates from the NFC West, little did I know at the time that the division was about to suffer a falloff in its performance and back to the dark days of a solitary team dominating. The upside being that they shouldn’t be sending a team to the play offs with a losing record as in 2011.
So it transpires of course that most of my predictions were incorrect – Russell Wilson being the only player to feature in that article and this – here are the 10 leading candidates for 2016 NFL MVP.
Tom Brady – A year ago I would have told you that there is no chance Cam Newton or Carson Palmer would win MVP because their names aren’t Rodgers, Brady or Manning, well he is back! Having missed the first 4 games of the season Brady started out in storming fashion, accumulating a QB Rating of 133.0 in his first 4 games. Recent performance has dropped off but only slightly – it couldn’t remain that high forever – but Brady and the Patriots offence are still the class of the AFC.
Matt Ryan – Matt Ryan is having a renaissance season having been good but not spectacular since being drafted 3rd in 2006 just behind Chris and Jake Long. If a quarterback who has played the whole season is what you are looking for then look no further. The Falcons offence has been a great strength under Kyle Shanahan with Julio Jones the main target for Matt Ryan. They have the league’s highest scoring offence with Ryan on pace for over 5000 yards.
Ezekiel Elliott – Last Sunday Elliott broke the Cowboys rookie rushing record held by Tony Dorsett, he now has his sights set on the NFL rookie rushing record of 1808 yards set in 1983 by Eric Dickerson. Simply put, if Elliott continues on this trajectory and breaks the record, he should be a heavy favourite to win the league MVP. Yes he may be a rookie, but if not now then when? What would a rookie have to do to win the title? There should be consideration too for his rookie compatriot Dak Prescott, who just today outranks Elliott in a fan vote for most likely league MVP, but if it was to be a quarterback there are others who are outperforming him.
Russell Wilson – Had Russell Wilson maintained form from the second half of last season, which also saw him names Pro Bowl MVP, the contest would be over right now. Unfortunately for the diminutive play caller he had both legs rolled upon by opposing defenders which led to the offence struggling for the first half of the season. Strained MCL and all Wilson hardly missed a snap let alone a game and has demonstrated his ability to play from the pocket as well as being one of the most elusive throwers outside the numbers. As his injury has improved so has the Seahawks offence and the Seahawks now have a 3 game lead in the NFC West and current number 2 seed in the playoffs.
David Johnson – Probably more likely the Fantasy MVP than League MVP, David Johnson together with the ageless Larry Fitzgerald is the bright spot of a surprisingly off colour Cardinals offense. With 863 rushing yards so far this season, Johnson is being asked to make plays over 30 times a game. If he keeps this up he will have earned a well-earned rest and no one would argue with any awards that may be sent his way.
Derek Carr – The Oakland Raiders are just about one of the most fun teams to watch in what has been a slightly down year for the NFL. Be it all the flags, penalties for celebrations or simply the Bears dominating Prime Time we are all feeling just slightly underwhelmed. Enter Derek Carr, in his 3rd year and now making the Raiders offence his own, Derek Carr is sitting at the top of one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. Carr is 5th in the league in passing yards, boasts 20 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions and is 5-0 away from home, not including their away day to Mexico. This may not be the year for awards for Derek Carr but expect plenty to come in future seasons.
Matt Stafford – Until Sam Bradford decided to stay in college for an extra year it was a 2-way contest for number one pick in the draft in 2009 draft. Since then Stafford has proven to be a consistent if unspectacular signal caller. The irony being that this season Stafford has really shown what he is capable of, this being the first season without All-Pro receiver Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson. What Stafford has done well, while his defence has been somewhat porous is keep his team in the game. The Lions have been in a losing position in the 4th quarter of every game so far this season, yet sit 2 games ahead of the rest of the NFC North – a division which includes the Green Bay Packers and the previously 5-0 Minnesota Vikings. Stafford has been special this year.
It’s been 29 years since Jerry Rice won NFL MVP and with that the last time the award was won by a non-Quarterback or Running Back. Many, including myself, think that JJ Watt was more deserving than Aaron Rodgers just a few seasons ago, but what do we know.
With that, here are the leading defensive candidates who despite being at the heart of their team’s success this season will not win the award for MVP.
Von Miller – Fans of Von Miller may admit if pushed that their player is in contention partially due to his Play off and Superbowl performance at the end of last season, which of course counts for very little now but it is simply too hard to forget. He started the season in much the same fashion and has not so much fallen off the pace as much as his team have, meaning much less attention for the outstanding line-backer.
Bobby Wagner – In 2014 Bobby Wagner received an MVP vote from Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, Wagner is arguably having an even better season. The league’s leading tackler along with Earl Thomas is the absolute heart of everything good on the Seahawks defence. The Legion of Boom secondary may get recognition for their play and the likes of Michael Bennett is prominent in the media, but it is arguable that Wagner is the real star. He is the pre-play organiser of the defence, constantly seen in the backfield making tackles for loss, and even saved a field goal in the tightly contested draw against the Cardinals by leaping over the linemen for a block.
Landon Collins – In the off season the New York Giants went about improving their pass rush, signing players such as Olivier Vernon from Miami, and while it may not appear to have worked if you study the stats of the defensive line, it is the secondary who have benefitted. Players such as Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins make the team really fun to watch. Landon Collins has been on fire since his int touchdown against the L.A Rams in London and has become the connoisseurs pick for 2016 MVP.