The NFL season is coming to an end and the MVP race is beginning to become clearer. Two of the best quarterbacks of the last decade find themselves as the betting favorites, but the race may be more open than even Vegas can predict. The race is so close, that Aaron Rodgers needed to play in a meaningless game against the Detroit Lions with the #1 seed already locked up. Is it really to remain the odds on favorite to win the NFL’s biggest award? If it was, would you think less of Rodgers?
Regardless, the race has been fascinating this season, with a litany of names spending time in the spotlight. If Derrick Henry never got injured and the Titans took home the top seed in the conference (as they did without him), it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t find himself squarely in this discussion as well (even if his “value” was somewhat disproven by the Titans success without him). Even still, there’s a number of players putting together stellar seasons to pick from. Here are our staff’s choices to take home the hardware.
Anastasios Kilimos: Joe Burrow
Recency bias might be having an impact on me here, but I think Burrow has been an absolute rock star this year. Coming off of a bad knee injury in his rookie season, Burrow has bounced back and officially entered “elite” status. Statistically, he has been one of the best QB’s this year, currently posting a season stat line of 4,611 yards with 34 TDs and 14 INTs. He currently leads the league in completion percentage (70.4%) and is second in QB Rating (108.3). In just his second year in the league, he’s gotten the city of Cincinnati their first AFC North title since 2015. I know the INTs don’t look great on paper, but do understand that he’s had this great season behind a still less than stellar offensive line. Burrow has been the most sacked QB this year, getting sacked 51 times in 16 games. He’s taken this poor franchise and brought them up to a level we haven’t really seen from them in a long time. Maybe ever. As great of seasons as Rodgers and Brady are having, Burrow’s numbers are right on par with theirs, and he’s done it with a rebuilding team with a poor offensive line. He’s earned it 110%.
Andrew Nason: Joe Burrow
It’s not how you start (which was also more than fine), but how you finish. We have literally never had a QB go back-to-back games with 400+ yards and 4 touchdowns. Burrow has lifted this Cincinnati franchise from mediocrity and given an edge and swagger to this team. Bengals coach Zac Taylor has babied Burrow for most of the season, running on early downs more than most teams to protect him, but now we are seeing what Burrow can do with his arm and he has been an absolute howitzer! The former Heisman winner has been one of the best quarterbacks against pressure this season, and despite a swiss cheese offensive line, has delivered an AFC North title way ahead of schedule to Cincinnati and moved himself into the conversation as a top 5 QB in the league!
Reneé Smith: Aaron Rodgers
Yes, he has some questionable stances and has publicly been kind of a diva this year. However, there’s one thing I believe everyone can agree on: The Packers wouldn’t be where they are without him. He has had to deal with losing a lot of key players throughout the season from injuries and despite the roster hits, he was still able to bring the team the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC for the second season in a row. No, this isn’t exactly an all-star stat year for hi, but if we focused solely on stats for this award, I think Drew Brees would have way more MVPs under his belt… objectively speaking. With everything he and his team have had to deal with this season, still leading them to the top is what earns him the MVP title.
Shawn Palmer: Jonathan Taylor
Without Jonathan Taylor, the Colts are not even close to making the playoffs. Up until the matchup against the Raiders, the Colts were undefeated when Taylor rushed for 100+ yards. Making him the most important player on the field.
Brandon Daniels: Jonathan Taylor
Taylor doesn’t have an MVP Competitor throwing for 48 touchdowns like Henry dealt with last year. Despite being a running back, despite having just a 9-7 record, Jonathan Taylor should still win MVP. The stats show it, the 9 wins in 13 games show it, and his pure ability to take over a game against some of the best teams in the NFL shows it.
KJ Doyle: Tom Brady
Let’s not overthink this, people! The leader in touchdowns? The leader in passing yards? The reigning Super Bowl champion? The greatest player of all-time? I get it, Aaron Rodgers has had a great season, but he won it last year. He quite frankly just doesn’t deserve to win it two years in a row. In the grand scheme of things, does he deserve more MVP awards than Tom Brady? No. Should he really have the same number of MVPs as Johnny Unitas and Brett Favre? No. Just give this one to Brady. I get it, that’s not how you’re supposed to decide MVP awards, but when it’s this close and you’re splitting hairs, maybe these are the things that should serve as the deciding factors. The counting stats are there, the team record is there while dealing with drama and injuries, and we know how valuable he’s been to a Tampa Bay franchise that might as well have been considered “Loserville” before he showed up and led them to the promise land. Oh, and all at age 44. That’s what I call MVP worthy stuff.
Photo: (Shawn Palmer – Guy Boston Sports Illustration x SP Designs)
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