By Jason Feiner
Sitting with two weeks left in the NFL regular season, it is only a matter of time before a player is crowned 2017 MVP. The race is usually settled by this time of year; however, the 2017 season has been marred with injuries, upsets, and stretches of unspectacular play.
A lot happened in week 15 to help paint a picture of the possible MVP candidates left standing. More injuries, and a catch called “no catch.” Gronkowski actually turning into the Hulk, and a backup quarterback tossing four touchdowns to zero interceptions. However, a former year in and year out contender allowing thirty-four unanswered points in the first half of their divisional matchup, may have been the most astonishing.
The MVP award signifies greatness. It is the highest quality of individual awards in the NFL and symbolizes the player who has been the best each time they stepped on the field. The Most Valuable Player award shows how impactful the individual player was to their team each week and in guiding them to victory.
Now, with that in mind, how many players actually want the MVP award? Since the 1999–2000 season when Kurt Warner quarterbacked the Greatest Show on Turf, the NFL’s regular season MVP has gone through an ugly Super Bowl drought. No player has won both trophies in the same season. Even when seeing these numbers, the drought will have to end at some point, and the players in the running for this year’s honors are in great position to make a Super Bowl run.
Nine of the last ten MVP awards have been given to quarterbacks with the lone award going to Adrian Peterson in 2012 after his 2097 yard rushing performance; finishing nine yards short of the single season rushing record. This was truly greatness, as All Day brought his team to a 10–6 record and a playoff appearance (losing in the divisional round). How much of a chance does a non-quarterback have of winning the award this year?
Now, let’s get to it! Does your team MVP have what it takes to take home the league’s honors?
The Front-Runner: Tom Brady: New England Patriots
2017 season statistics: 14 Games
Passing Yards: 4,163
Yards Per Attempt: 8.1
Yards Per game: 297.4
Completion Percentage: 67.1
Passing Touchdowns: 28
Tom Brady has had a spectacular age forty season. Brady may have outlasted each player this season, as he is the last quarterback firmly in the running for the Most Valuable Player Award. He has been the most consistent quarterback year in and year out; Tom Brady once again sits at the top of the league. He has just locked up the AFC East for the 15th time in his coveted 17 year career with his win over Pittsburg, and took control of the AFC playoff picture. NEW England sits atop the AFC with a 11–3 record and a head-head lead over the second place team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. This AFC showdown showcased two MVP candidates, and although one left the game in the first half, Tom Brady came away with his 52nd fourth quarter or, overtime game winning drive. He displayed assassin-like precision on three consecutive strikes to Rob Gronkowski to set up Dion Lewis’ seven-yard TD run. (Helpful Hint: Steelers, COVER GRONKOWSKI.)
Brady has not looked as good through the three games prior to the AFC showdown, throwing four interceptions to the Dolphins, Bills and Dolphins, and a fifth in the Steelers game; however, he played much better in this game than in the past three. Tom Brady has played one of the best seasons of his career, and has brought his team from a 2–2 start to an AFC leading 11–3.
Brady leads the league in passing yards, Yards per attempt, is third in TD passes, and second in passer rating. He is having an unbelievable statistical year leading New England to the first seed in the AFC. Brady has taken firm control of the race as the soul quarterback left standing. Does he have what it takes to take home his third MVP award? He has been unstoppable during his age forty campaign.
The Dark Horse: Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams
2017 Season Statistics: 14 Games
Rushing Yards: 1,187
Yards Per Attempt: 4.6
Yards Per Game: 84.8
Rushing TDs: 13
Receiving Yards: 630
Yards Per reception: 11.7
Receiving TDs: 4
Touches per game: 22.2
All Purpose Yards: 1,817
All Purpose TDs: 17
Los Angeles’s resurgence cannot be attributed to just one player but, the team thrives and dies on the play of running back Todd Gurley. He has made a complete 360 degree turnaround when compared to his sophomore slump season, and created joy in the hearts of many fantasy owners with his 180 combined yards, four TD performance against the “former juggernaut” Seattle Seahawks (three coming in the first half). The LA Rams sit in first place in the NFC West with a record of 10–4, and are the third seed in the NFC playoff picture.
Gurley has led the Rams offense to a league leading 31.3 points per game. On route to his lead leading 17 total touchdowns on the season. These numbers may not scream NFL MVP, but Gurley is the main reason for the Rams’ success. His numbers are scaled back; in four separate games Gurley was benched at half time because the Rams were winning by so much. He has an opportunity to reach 2000 all-purpose yards but will need help from other teams in order to secure a bye as a top two seed in the NFC playoffs.
What scares me the most about the Rams is Age; Todd Gurley is 23 years old, and cemented himself in the MVP conversation, Jared Goff is 23 years old, and has shown that he can be a franchise quarterback, Aaron Donald is 26 years old, and has a case for defensive player of the year, but along with the player’s head coach, Sean Mcvay, is 31 years old and the youngest coach in NFL history. Mcvay has placed himself in the race for Coach of the Year.
Can Gurley be the next non-quarterback to win the MVP Award? He has been virtually unstoppable, and the Rams will keep winning as long as his legs keep turning. This offense could become the next installment of the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
Unstoppable Production: Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks
2017 Season Statistics: 14 Games
Passing Yards: 3,669
Yards Per Attempt: 7.3
Yards Per game: 262.1
Completion Percentage: 61.0
Passing Touchdowns: 30
Rushing yards: 521
Yards Per Attempt: 6.4
Yards Per Game: 37.2
Rushing TDs: 3
In this case, the Seahawks overall play and record may keep Russell Wilson from winning this year’s MVP award. This is an unfortunate situation for maybe the most electric player in the NFL this year. Wilson is on the verge of missing the playoffs altogether, and will need help from other teams around the league. They were in a great spot two weeks ago, and Wilson was the front-runner for the award at that point, but with two difficult losses in a row, Seattle has fallen from glory.
Russell Wilson has been outstanding to this point this year. He has placed himself in the Elite category, but Wilson cannot win each game on his own. He has been running for his life on each play due to the worst rated offensive line in the league. His defense has lost key contributors in the secondary, and the front seven is fighting through injuries as well; however, even with these hindrances, Russell Wilson has been absolutely electric. Going into week 16, Russell Wilson has totaled 33 TDs, which accounts for 97% of Seattle’s scores. He has 4,190 all purpose yards, which accounts for 86% of Seattle’s total yards. These stats are unreal, they are almost not human, the entire team has revolved around the arm and legs of Wilson; however, Seattle has lost six games, two straight and has all but fallen from playoff contention.
Russell Wilson may have been the best overall player to grace the field in 2017, but it wasn’t enough and may end up being forgotten. This is a truly unfortunate situation for Seattle, the NFL and for Wilson. His only hope lies with the other teams around the league, as Wilson searches for a sixth consecutive playoff birth and MVP bid.
The First Receiver: Antonio Brown: Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 Season Statistics: 14 Games
Receiving Yards: 1,533
Yards Per Game: 109.5
Yards per Reception: 15.2
Receiving TDs: 9
This may have been the most disappointing part of week fifteen. Antonio Brown left the game with a partially torn calf and will miss the remainder of the season. He does not require surgery and there is hope he will be back in time for the Steelers playoff run. Fans of the game hate to see the premiere players of the league go down, especially when they are in the thick of the MVP race. The Steelers players will need to fill the shoes of Antonio Brown, an impossible proposition.
With his first reception of week fifteen AB hit 100 receptions for his fifth consecutive season; a new NFL record that was previously held by Marvin Harrison at four consecutive 100-catch seasons. He has been magical, pulling off remarkable receptions at the end of the games for winning touchdowns or to put them in position to win. He has been mister clutch, all year.
AB has over 200 more yards than the next receiver, is the only receiver with 100 receptions up to this point, and has been the brightest spot of the Steelers offense that also boasts the best running back and a Hall of Fame quarterback. AB has been the engine that has made this unit run.
Unfortunately, his season is over until his potential return in the playoffs, by which time the voting will have concluded. Has AB made enough of a case to be the first Receiver in history to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award? It doesn’t look like it, but it certainly would have made for an incredible story. It’s a heartbreaking loss to the Steelers offense, and to AB’s case as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Star-studded Heartbreak: Carson Wentz: Philadelphia Eagles
2017 Season Statistics: 13 games
Passing Yards: 3,296
Yards Per Attempt: 7.5
Yards Per game: 253.5
Completion Percentage: 60.2
Passing Touchdowns: 33
This was the biggest and most heartbreaking moment this season that has been highlighted by injuries and upsets. Carson Wentz was electric, and the moment he was taken out of the game was heart stopping. Each fan and viewer that witnessed the touchdown (which was called back) took a breath, but it isn’t like he got carted off the field; Wentz got up after tearing his ACL and followed up the play with a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery. The Injury was noticeable, Wentz’s knee was bending, and he wasn’t as mobile as usual. Wentz tore his ACL, and his unbelievable 2017 season came to an end.
Carson Wentz took a big jump from his rookie to his sophomore season and led the MVP conversation for most of the season. He was the driving force of the NFL’s top ranked team and league leading record. He led the league with 33 touchdown passes before he went down with an injury, and still leads by three after missing the week 15 matchup vs. the New York Giants. Wentz was the leader for the Eagles, and led the Eagles to the first seed in the NFC. He was the front-runner for the NFL MVP award, but as Bill Parcells stated, “the best ability is availability.”
The Eagles Fighting for their injured leader, fought hard against the Giants, and led by Nick Foles’ four touchdown pass night, the Eagles still seem to be in good shape atop the NFC.
A Collective Unit: Jaguars Defense: Jacksonville Jaguars
2017 Season Statistics: 14 Games
Points Allowed: 209
Points Per Game: 14.9
Passing Yards Allowed: 2,364
Passing Yards Per Game Allowed: 168.9
Opposing Completion Percentage: 55.9
Opposing Passing Yards Per Attempt: 5.9
Opposing Passing TDs: 14
Opposing Passer Rating: 65.2
Defensive TDs: 6
With their victory over the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars secured a playoff berth for the first time in a decade. The Jaguars won in convincing fashion: pitching a shutout until late in the third quarter when DeAndre Hopkins beat Jalen Ramsey on a go route.
Their last playoff appearance was back in 2007, when they lost in the divisional round to the dreaded New England Patriots. Although Blake Bortles has been playing at a similar level to his 2015 campaign over the past four weeks, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ true success lies in the play of their defense.
The Jaguars have been so dangerous on the defensive side of the ball; they have become the team nobody wants to play, come January. YES, this is the same team that has been at the bottom of the barrel, one of the laughing stocks of the league, a team in absolute purgatory. The play of their defense has resembled that of the 2000 Ravens, 2013 Seahawks, and 2015 Broncos, all of which won the Super Bowl in their respective seasons.
The Jaguars led the league in turnovers (31), sacks (51), points allowed per game (14.9: just over two touchdowns), passing yards allowed per game (168.9), opposing completion percentage (55.9) and passer rating (65.2). These statistics are mind-boggling. They have an elite pass rush led by free agent acquisition Calais Campbell, and are sporting the number one cornerback tandem in second year man, Jalen Ramsey, and free agent acquisition, AJ Bouye.
Multiple players on this defense have a case for defensive player of the year, most notably Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles).
The Jaguars defense may be the scariest unit in football. Yes, possibly scarier than the Steelers’ Killer B’s or the Brady-Gronkowski connection. This unit has put the Jaguars back on the map, and is only one Steeler and Patriot loss away from securing Home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Jaguars and Patriots finish with the same record, the Jaguars would win the tiebreaker with a better conference record and have the head to head tiebreaker over the Steelers after defeating Pittsburgh in week five by a score of 30–9.
Although a defensive unit cannot win the coveted MVP award, they have certainly been the most dominant force on any team in the league. This defensive unit has made the Jaguars the most feared team in the AFC, and put them right in the mix for a first round bye and possibly, but not too likely, home field throughout.
Will a forty year-old win his third MVP award, or will a third year running back take home his first. If the Seahawks can squeak their way into the postseason, the voting may become tight; we will have to wait and see how the rest of these final weeks turn out.
It will certainly make for an interesting ending to the 2017 season.