Halfway though the season, a few of the NFL’s best players have separated themselves as the top contenders to win this year’s MVP award. The list features a few names that appear almost every season, but a couple of notable players have taken a leap after being slightly above average performers in the first few years of their career.
A quarterback has won the award in 11 of the last 14 seasons, and that trend is likely to continue this year. Multiple future Hall of Famer signal callers are among the favorites to win the award, though a few top playmakers are putting up incredible numbers.
Below is a look at the top MVP candidates through the first eight weeks of the 2015 NFL season.
If the season ended in Week 8, Brady might be the unanimous choice for MVP. He and the defending Super Bowl champions have the biggest targets on their backs in the NFL, but the New England Patriots have a perfect record and Brady is playing as well as he has since he led his team to a 16-0 regular season.
Brady’s 115.8 passer rating is first in the NFL, and the quarterback is tied for first with 20 touchdowns and 344 passing yards per game. The quarterback has only been picked off once, and his 68.9 completion percentage ties his career high. New England has been dominant, beating every team on their schedule by at least one touchdown. Perhaps the only way he doesn’t win the award is if the next player on this list helps his team get the No.1 seed in the AFC.
After a strong start to the season, it appeared inevitable that Dalton would come back to earth and the Cincinnati Bengals would start to lose some games. But the quarterback’s numbers remain impeccable, and his team hasn’t lost yet, heading into Week 9.
Dalton is easily putting up the best numbers of his career, throwing for 1,992 yards, 15 touchdown passes and four interceptions. His 107.6 passer rating is good for fourth in the NFL, and he’s been incredibly consistent, posting a rating of less than 115.9 in just two games and having one rating worse than 95.9. Despite there being so many mediocre teams in the NFL, the Bengals have multiple quality wins, having defeated the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers. Dalton has also led a few game-winning drives, which will garner him some votes.
As long as he stays healthy, Rodgers is always in the MVP discussion. Rodgers is probably the best overall quarterback in the NFL, and he’s in the middle of yet another great statistical season.
Rodgers trails only Brady with a 115.8 passer rating and a 15:2 touchdown to interception radio. He’s led the Green Bay Packers to a 6-1 record, only losing on the road against the undefeated Denver Broncos. Rodgers was neck-and-neck with Brady through seven weeks, but his Week 8 performance drops him down on the list. The quarterback threw for just 77 yards in Denver, giving him a second game with a passer rating worse than 83.0.
Strictly looking at his passing numbers, Newton doesn’t look like anything close to resembling an MVP candidate. The Carolina Panthers quarterback ranks 29th in passer rating (78.1), falling behind signal callers like Colin Kaepernick and Kirk Cousins. He also comes in sixth in interceptions (eight) and he's tied for 27th in passing yards per game. But a closer look at Newton’s 2015 season shows a player that’s been more important to his team’s success than most.
Newton somehow has the Panthers at 7-0, making them the only undefeated NFC team left. He’s done so with one of the worst group of playmakers in the NFL, having to rely on Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey Brown as his leading wide receivers. Still, only three teams score more points per game than the Panthers, and Newton’s 15 combined passing and rushing touchdowns tie him for sixth in the league. If Newton and Carolina can beat Green Bay on Sunday, the quarterback’s candidacy will be even more viable.
It’s almost a guarantee that a quarterback will win the award this season, but if a non-signal caller has a chance to make any kind of run at the award in 2015 it will be the St. Louis Rams rookie. Missing almost all of September hurt Gurley’s candidacy, but he’s been so good that he deserves to be on the list.
It didn't take Gurley long to established himself as an elite running back. In four games as the Rams’ No.1 running back, Gurley has been the league’s best playmaker, rushing for 566 yards on 6.1 yards per carry. Along with the team’s defense, Gurley has made the Rams a legitimate playoff contender, becoming the main source of their offense. St. Louis has won three of their last four games, even though quarterback Nick Foles hasn’t thrown for more than 191 yards in any of those games.