Matthew Stafford remains a top-three candidate, but a different Matt is atop the rankings this week.
With just three weeks (and one more game) to be played in the NFL regular season, it’s time to start talking seriously about the MVP race and Matthew Stafford’s place among it. The Lions are closing in on a playoff spot and doing so with dazzling finishes. Stafford had an up-and-down performance against the Chicago Bears, but so did most of the other MVP candidates.
So without further ado, here are my top-five MVP candidates, in order.
1 - Matt Ryan
This week: 18-28, 237 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs vs. Rams
Matt Ryan jumps to the top of the list after putting a hurting on what was once a good Rams defense. Ryan was helped by five forced turnovers by the Falcons defense, but he was nearly perfect in taking those opportunities and turning them into points.
Statistically speaking, Ryan is an easy choice for MVP. He leads the league in Passer Rating (113.2) and yards per attempt (9.2), and is second only to Aaron Rodgers in passing touchdowns (30).
2 - Matthew Stafford
This week: 21-35, 223 yards, 1 TD (1 rushing), 2 INTs vs. Bears
Most Valuable Player is all about which player is most essential to a team’s success. That seems like an obvious point to make, but it needs to be repeated, as Matthew Stafford is clearly the key to the Lions’ success.
His game this week started out very impressive. But as the game wore on, Stafford started to become less efficient. His pick-six was inexcusable and, for many teams, would have cost his team the game. But Stafford was resilient and followed up that interception by going 3-for-3 the rest of the way for 29 yards and adding the game-winning seven-yard touchdown scramble.
3 - Tom Brady
This week: Plays on Monday Night Football vs. Ravens
Many will argue that Brady doesn’t deserve the MVP award because his team excelled without him for four games, but Brady’s play has been undeniably brilliant since his return. They’ve gone 7-1 with Brady under center, and Touchdown Tom is already second in passer rating in the league (113.1), second in Y/A (8.2) and third in completion percentage (68.9). His touchdown to interception ratio of 19:1 is untouchable. He’s essentially playing like he’s in his prime despite the fact that he’s 39 years old. That’s impressive.
4 - Ezekiel Elliott
This week: 24 rushes, 107 yards vs. Giants
By Elliott’s standards, this was a down week for him. He was held without a touchdown for just the second time in six games. However, Elliott’s 107 rushing yards at 4.5 yards per carry were pretty impressive against a very good Giants run defense.
But there’s a big conundrum with voting for Elliott as the MVP. First and foremost is the inherent reliance on the play of the offensive line. There’s nothing Elliott can do about this, but his offensive line is undeniably the best in the league and his performance is highly dependent upon it. That’s why you’ve only seen two running backs win the award in the past 10 years. Also, there’s the fact that Elliott is a rookie. That shouldn’t have any impact on voting for him, but it likely will.
5 - Derek Carr
This week: 17-41, 117 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs vs. Chiefs
No one hurt their MVP chances more than Derek Carr in Week 14. His performance against the Chiefs was absolutely abysmal and it may have cost the Raiders a chance at the division. As pointed out last week, Carr’s performance may have been statistically his worst game of his career and it couldn’t have come at a worse time: a nationally televised game against a division rival.
Carr is now out of the top 10 in passer rating (11th), yards per attempt (20th) and completion percentage (18th). At this point, his teammate Khalil Mack (11.0 sacks, 5 forced fumbles) may have a better case for MVP.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Rodgers, Khalil Mack, Von Miller