Picking one player in the entire NFL and anointing him as the most valuable player in the league is a ridiculous task. Football is a team sport that requires all 11 players on each side of the ball to do their jobs for the team to win. A single player can have a significant impact, but he can’t win the game alone.
So why does any single player deserve the title of NFL MVP? Is he really more valuable than the rest? Does he not need a quality cast of players around him? Without them is he more than the best player on a mediocre team?
That is why the NFL MVP tends to come from one of the better teams in the league. In today’s NFL, that usually means a team whose offense is the best or at least among the best. How is that decided? By whoever scores the most, of course.
The team whose offense scores the most is the best (that is if the defense doesn’t allow more). Since quarterbacks are in charge of making their respective offense work, they often get the lion’s share of the credit.
So—this season, that would mean either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz are destined to be the MVP. The Eagles and Rams have been trading the top spot back and forth this season. But with the Eagles losing Wentz for the remainder of the season, the Rams will likely retake the top spot as the highest scoring offense in the league.
Six of the last seven MVPs were quarterbacks. Of those quarterbacks, all six QBs ran the highest scoring offense in the league. With Wentz missing the team’s final three games, the Eagles will probably fall back a few spots leaving Goff and the Rams as the top scoring offense in the NFL this season.
Does that mean Jared Goff should be named NFL MVP?
Historically speaking, yes. But Goff hasn’t really been included in many conversations for the award. New head coach Sean McVay has received most of the credit for the Rams (and Goff’s) turnaround.
So, if the MVP is not Goff, maybe it will go to one of these guys (stats are through Week 15):
Todd Gurley, running back, Los Angeles Rams: Someone from the Rams should be in contention considering how well their offense has played this season. If it isn’t Goff then it must be Gurley (McVay will undoubtedly be in Coach of the Year conversations).
The case for Gurley is a pretty good one—currently third in rushing yards (257 carries for 1187 yards and 13 touchdowns; 54 receptions for 630 yards and three touchdowns) heading into Week 16 (14 yards behind Kareem Hunt and 35 behind Le’Veon Bell).
Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks: The Seattle defense was already slipping before all of the injuries. But the Seahawks managed to win games early on in the season and as the personnel losses began to add up because of one player—Russell Wilson.
Despite the lack of a running game and a weak offensive line, Wilson (3,669 yards, 30 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; 81 carries for 521 yards and three touchdowns) has kept the Seattle offense moving and scoring points. He has a knack for doing his best work when the team needs him the most, in the fourth quarter. Heading into Week 15’s game against the Rams he had 17 touchdowns and just one interception in the fourth quarter.
Case Keenum, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings: If there was an award for biggest surprise, Keenum would win. Guys working on their third team in five seasons don’t have much expected of them. Reserves are not expected to step in and guide the team as Keenum has (3,219 yards, 20 touchdowns, seven interceptions).
It’s not like he’s had a reliable running game helping him out for most of the season either. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have done an admirable job, but they are far from reliable.
Antonio Brown, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers: No wide receiver has ever won the AP MVP. But Jerry rice did win the Pro Football Writer’s nod back in 1987. The award typically goes to a quarterback or running back. But with how he’s playing (101 receptions, 1,533 yards, nine touchdowns), he must be in the conversation, even whilst missing Week 16 due to injury.
However, just like every other worthy receiver candidate, most of the credit will go to his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. But Brown will not just lose votes to his QB; he’ll lose some to his running back as well.
Le’Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers: You would think that the most productive running back in the NFL (307 carries for 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns; 80 receptions for 627 yards and two touchdowns) would have better odds than he does. But when you play with arguably the best wide receivers and quarterbacks in the game, you share the credit.
If there was a triplet award, the Steelers trio of Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, and Bell would get it. But there isn’t one. So in the meantime, each one will steal MVP votes from the other keeping any of them from winning MVP.
Tom Brady, quarterback, New England Patriots: His defense has been awful for a good part of the season. He lost his best wide receiver early in the year. Brady doesn’t have a reliable running game. He has also had to make do without his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, on occasion. Somehow Brady still manages to produce some of the best numbers in the NFL (4,163 yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions). Most importantly, he wins games.
His candidacy will get some extra attention because of his age, but that shouldn’t be a factor. It’s not like his candidacy needs help; the numbers and New England’s record (as usual) speak for themselves.