This is a fascinating MVP race in the NFL. Most years by now it is pretty clear who is likely to win it. This year it is wide open, with media members taking stands and making strong cases for at least five different players. Every week things shift around, so the race could come right down to the final games of the season. Here's how the race breaks down now heading into Week 15 ( odds are from Bovada).
Ezekiel Elliott (+250): Off the top there are two big reasons to be skeptical of Elliott's chances - especially at a price like this. First, over the last nine years the only running back, or non-quarterback for that matter, to win the MVP is Adrian Peterson. Peterson ran for 2,097 yards and 6 yards per carry that year - numbers that Elliott isn't going to come even remotely close to threatening. Elliott's top performance this year was 157 yards. Peterson eclipsed that five times in his MVP year, including two games above 200. Elliott's numbers, though impressive, just won't stack up. Second, no rookie has won the award since Jim Brown in 1957.
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Don't get me wrong, I have tremendous respect for Elliott and the season he is having. I just don't think it stands the test of time as an MVP season, and I don't think he has done enough ultimately to break voters out of their habit of honoring quarterbacks. I wouldn't dream of betting him at this price.
Tom Brady (+275): Brady has won the award only twice - compared to five times for Peyton Manning, for example - and he hasn't won it since 2010. There will be those voters who will vote for him because they will think he is due and those that will never vote for him because he is Tom Brady. A vote for him will obviously be politically charged, too, as voters can make a clear statement about the farce of Deflategate by honoring him. Brady is coming off his best game of the season, and he has made the most of the nine games he has played - he is 8-1, and he is averaging 312 yards per game and just short of 2.5 TDs per outing.
A couple of things really stand out, as well. First of all he is throwing deeper more and better than ever before, and despite the gambling he is doing he has only two interceptions all year. As the saying goes, it's not gambling if you know you are going to win. Second, he already has 22 touchdowns through nine games, and he is 39 years old. Only two other quarterbacks in the entire history of the league - Brett Favre and Warren Moon -- have had 20 touchdowns at 39 or older. Favre had 33 in his excellent 2009 season with the Vikings at 39. Brady is on pace for 39.
The Patriots are the best team in the AFC - at least - and the strong favorites right now to win the Super Bowl, and that is despite not having Rob Gronkowski and not having the best talent they have had by any means. It's all about Brady - this team is not much without him. Best player on best team - that's an MVP to me.
Matthew Stafford (+400): If it weren't for what Brady is doing I would be all over Stafford this year. He is having his most consistent and trustworthy season, and he is doing it without Calvin Johnson and with a cast of receivers that isn't exactly Canton-bound. He has the Lions in the driver's seat in the NFC North in a year when they were supposed to be an afterthought. He has always had a big arm, and he won't have the yardage this year that he has in the past, but he is playing so much smarter that it's almost hard to believe that it is the same guy. He also has led plenty of fourth-quarter comebacks, and voters love clutch play.
There are a couple of factors against him, though. First of all, he absolutely has to win his division - there is zero chance of him winning if he doesn't. Second, he injured a finger last time out, and we don't know what effect that will have on his game. I like him a lot, but if I had one vote it couldn't be for him.
Matt Ryan (+450): Ryan has had a strong season but not an MVP one. His numbers are fine, but he has lacked some consistency and some brain-dead plays - like that interception that lost the game against Kansas City - that are costly to him. His team is also struggling to win a division which, if they were as good as they should be, they should be running away with. A good year for sure, but not enough.
Aaron Rodgers (+750): This one is just silly in my eyes. He will perhaps have the second highest TD total of his career if his current injury doesn't prove serious, but all you have to do is watch to see that he isn't the stone-cold assassin this year that he has been. As just one indicator, his yards per attempt this year are 7.03. You need to be at seven just to be decent, In his two MVP seasons his YPA were 9.25 and 8.43. That is a massive difference. And his teams were 15-1 and 12-4 those years. This year 10-6 is his best-case scenario, and his team, which was among the preseason favorites to win it all, is more likely to miss the playoffs than make them. I see no chance.
Derek Carr (+900): Carr suffered a big fall from grace with a disastrous outing against the Chiefs - last week he was the co-favorite; this week he has no real chance. He is having a great year for a very good team, but he still isn't consistent enough to win this award against the veteran competition he is up against. He is completely capable of winning an MVP - in fact, I expect him to - but not yet.
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