Through 12 weeks of the NFL, there have been many leaders at the top of the MVP ladder. Early on, Matt Ryan looked unstoppable and was the early favorite. Tom Brady has had a triumphant return from his four game suspension, while Von Miller has been the best defensive player on the best defense in the league. But who leads the MVP race following week 13?
- DeMarco Murray- Tennessee Titans
Along with quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Titans have an absolutely dynamic backfield. Mariota deserves credit for his breakout year, but it doesn’t happen without DeMarco Murray. Acquired in the offseason from the Philadelphia Eagles, Murray is back to his old self. He is already over 1,000 rushing yards on the season, and ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards.
While he may not break his career high of 1,845 yards, set in 2014, Murray should finish north of 1,500 yards. With eight rushing touchdowns on the year and another three receiving through the air, Murray is the top weapon for Tennessee.
The Titans have already doubled their win total from last year, and are in the AFC South race. A lot of that credit should go to their horse out of the backfield.
- Tom Brady- New England Patriots
Tom Brady’s revenge tour has gone about as good as advertised. He’s had one hiccup against a great Seattle Seahawks secondary, but outside of that, he’s been pretty much lights out. He didn’t exactly torch the New York Jets, but he’s 6-1 this year with 18 touchdowns to just one interception. Having an embarrassment of weapons at each skill position doesn’t hurt either. Brady leads the NFL in QBR, at 116.7 and is throwing for 314 yards a game.
He keeps getting better with age, and with a rather favorable schedule down the stretch, he could garner serious MVP consideration despite missing a quarter of the season. His work to this point in the season, however, has been absolutely spectacular.
- Von Miller- Denver Broncos
Von Miller just continues to get better. He’s one of the best pure pass rushers in the game, and has been since day one. After 11 sacks last year, Miller already has 12.5 through 11 games for Denver. He’s the best defensive player on the most complete defensive unit in the NFL. Without him on that defense, the Broncos are a .500 team at best.
He’s virtually unstoppable off the edge, where he can kill you with his speed and bend around the corner and follow that up with a bull rush or spin move. The Broncos have needed each and every ounce of his defensive impact with a middle-of-the-road offense. There is always one defender that rises above the rest, and this year, it has been Von Miller.
- Matt Ryan- Atlanta Falcons
This should go down as the best year of Matt Ryan’s career up to this point. He’s been lights out all year, and has his Falcons in first place in the NFC South. Of course, having Julio Jones doesn’t hurt whatsoever.
He’s been more decisive and hasn’t forced many throws. Ryan is letting the game come to him instead of forcing the issue, and the results have certainly showed. With 26 touchdowns to just six picks, Ryan is on pace to shatter his career high of 32 TD’s in 2012 and should finish with his lowest interceptions since 2010 (nine). His 3,516 passing yards is good for third in the NFL, as is his 68.9 completion percentage. All of this in spite of the fact that he’s been sacked 27 times, which is tied for fifth most in the NFL.
If he had a better line in front of him, he could be close to 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. However, Ryan has had a history of failing down the stretch, and if he does, he can wave goodbye to MVP hopes.
- Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders
How ‘bout them Raiders?! Derek Carr looks like the next superstar quarterback in the league. He dislocated his finger taking a snap on Sunday, but he’s tough as nails. He has an elite wide receiver in Amari Cooper and the best offensive line in the NFL.
Carr is fifth in the NFL in passing yards with 3,115 and although he only has 22 touchdown passes, he has only thrown five interceptions. He’s been smart and clutch throughout this entire year. Carr is the biggest reason why his team is 9-2 and in the drivers seat in tough AFC West. The Raiders are so close to returning to the playoffs, and if they get their they’ll rely on #4 to carry them like he has all year long.
- Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints
It’s a shame New Orleans has a JV level defense, or else what Drew Brees is doing this year would be a much bigger story. He’s currently leading the NFL in completion percentage (71.5%), yards (3.587) and touchdowns (30), which is essentially the Triple Crown for quarterbacks. All of this while having no defense and an inconsistent rushing attack. The fact that he’s been able to throw the ball with such precision for so long is an absolute miracle.
He’s elite on and off the field and is the heart and soul of the Saints. This team being 5-6 and close to playoff contention is absolutely mind blowing. With burners Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks on the outside, Willie Snead in the slot and Coby Fleener as a solid pass catching option at tight end, Brees has a good collection of talent. If only Sean Payton could figure out that defense…
- Ezekiel Elliott- Dallas Cowboys
To me, if the season ended today, Ezekiel Elliott would be the MVP of the league as a rookie running back. That sounds crazy to say in the pass-happy NFL. An insanely good offensive line that loves to run block has obviously helped him adjust to the NFL. There were critics who didn’t like Dallas picking Zeke at #4 overall with questions on defense, but those critics have been quieted by Elliott’s potentially historic rookie campaign.
Elliott paces the NFL in rushing yards with 1,199. Elliott has found the end zone 12 times (11 rushing, one receiving) and has shown the ability to be a three down running back. He is powerful between the tackles and has enough speed to beat corners to the edge. Elliott has shown soft hands with 303 yards on 24 catches out of the backfield.
Could he get to 2,000 yards? Doubtful, but there is a shot. He needs to average 160.2 yards per game in his final five games to reach a plateau that only six other running backs have achieved. The message to the Cowboys is clear: FEED ZEKE!
Cover Photo via The Columbus Dispatch