The current NFL season is still young, but it’s never too early to look at potential MVP candidates. With no teams looking overly dominant, it could be a tight race up until Week 17.
Players like Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson are usually in the running, but they won’t get the necessary votes this season. J.J. Watt has made a case to be considered among the top candidates, but only two defensive players have ever won the award.
Below is a look at the top NFL MVP candidates, through the first five weeks of the 2014 NFL season.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
In his 11th career season, Rivers has been as good as any player in the league. He ranks first in passer rating (116.3), completion percentage (70.3) and yards per attempts (8.75). Rivers has been among the best signal callers at securing the ball, completing 12 touchdown passes and just two picks.
While he’s put up impressive numbers, the success of the Chargers might be what ends up winning Rivers the award. San Diego is tied for the NFL’s best record at 4-1, and they’ve played as well as any of the league’s one-loss teams. Their only defeat came by one point in Arizona against the first-place Cardinals. The rest of the Chargers’ victories, including one over the defending champion Seahawks, have come by an average of nearly 18 points.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
The 2014 season has been just one more in a long line of MVP-caliber years for Manning. His 323 passing yards per game rank second, while his three touchdown passes per contest have him at No.1. Manning didn’t miss a beat in the first two games without wide receiver Wes Welker, and he looks as good as he ever has, at 38 years old.
When the season is done, it might be hard to deny Manning his sixth MVP award. He led the Broncos to the NFL’s best record during his first two seasons with Denver, and there’s a good chance he’ll do the same this year, with Denver’s only loss in four games coming in overtime to the defending champs.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Only one running back in the last seven years has been named the MVP, but Murray has made himself a legitimate candidate. Not only is he the league’s leading rusher, but no other player is even close. The running back began Week 6 with 670 rushing yards, giving him 210 yards more than Le’Veon Bell at No.2.
Murray has helped the Cowboys become the most surprising team of the early season, as Dallas is tied with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East. He has carried the Dallas offense, which sports the No.16 passing attack. Murray has been given the burden of carrying the ball a league-leading 130 times, but thrived under the workload, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The former No.1 overall pick made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons, but 2014 looks to be his true breakout season. He ranks No.1 in passing yards, touchdowns and completions, and could approach multiple quarterback records by the end of the regular season.
The pass-happy Colts offense should give Luck the opportunity to continue putting up big numbers, and Indianapolis has a chance to land one of the top seeds in the conference. The bottom three teams in the AFC South might be the worst in football, and the Colts could easily go undefeated in the division. Setting a few quarterback marks and leading a 12-win team would give Luck a chance to be named the NFL MVP at just 25 years old.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson’s passing totals don’t compare to those of the other candidates, but his numbers are still worthy of an MVP award. He ranks just 27th in pass attempts, but he makes his throws count, tying Rivers with a 70.3 completion percentage, and ranking ahead of Manning and Luck with a 112.9 passer rating. Wilson’s ability to make plays with his legs will also score him votes, totaling 209 yards on the ground and leading all rushers with 7.2 yards per carry.
The Seahawks are best-known for their defense and the “Legion of Boom,” but Wilson has been vital to the team’s success. After the Seattle defense blew a fourth quarter lead to the Broncos, he led the offense on an 80-yard, game-winning drive in overtime. Against the Washington Redskins, Wilson made key plays down the stretch to close out the road victory, giving the Seahawks a share of first place.