The NFL season is halfway done, and narratives are starting to settle in and take shape. Teams we thought were good like the Cowboys have far more warts than we previously thought, and teams we buried at the beginning like Colts have exceeded all our expectations. Individual
players have also separated themselves from the pack, as this pass-happy league continues to fuel offenses and take advantage of the elite traits of their players.
Who is coming out on top as MVP this year? If you are paying attention, you won’t be surprised.
No other player in the NFL has benefited from a change in offensive philosophy quite like Dak Prescott has. He spent his first three seasons toiling away in an aggressively mundane offensive system under Scott Linehan. Revolved entirely around star running back Ezekiel Elliot, Prescott was asked to game manage, more than anything.
The Cowboys’ passing attack has ranked in the bottom half of the league, since Prescott took over in 2016, averaging an anemic 217 yards per game and only 6.9 yards per attempt.
The Cowboys removed Linehan from his role prior to the season, electing to go with first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The change promised a more progressive offense that would be similar to what Sean McVay is doing for the Los Angeles Rams. Pre-snap motion, play-action, and above all not pounding Elliott into oblivion.
The results are in, and Prescott is having his best season by far, averaging 303 passing yards, 8.9 yards per attempt, and has the number one QBR. These numbers would easily place Prescott in the MVP race had the Cowboys not lost three straight, before running over the Eagles on Sunday night.
In a league now that is passing more often than ever, a running back’s role has become marginalized. There is more focus being put into schemes and committees than giving the ball to a bell-cow 30 times a game. Even in this changing of the guard, there are exceptions, and
there is not a bigger one than Christian McCaffrey and what he has accomplished so far.
McCaffrey was drafted eighth overall to help elevate the burden from Cam Newton, but with injuries sidelining the star quarterback for most of the season, McCaffrey has taken the entire load and put it on his back. In a league that has diminished running back roles, McCaffrey has played an absurd 96 percent of the Panthers’ snaps and leads the league in yards from scrimmage and touches. In fact, he’s on pace to finish just behind Chris Johnson’s 2,509 total yards in 2009.
However, even as amazing as these numbers are, and how much he has done to keep the Panthers afloat, the MVP is almost always the quarterback. As long as the league is pass-happy, that will most likely continue to be the case.
3. DeShaun Watson
Drafted by the Houston Texans in 2017, Deshaun Watson set the world on fire. Only starting in six games before tearing his ACL, he passed for almost 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns. Last year he played well after recovering from that injury, and this year he’s continued that upward
Watson is currently sitting at 2,231 yards passing, a career-best 69.3 percent completion rate, and only five interceptions. The Texans sit near the top of the AFC South currently, and it wouldn’t be possible without his play. The Texans’ biggest issue has been protecting Watson in the pocket.
Since entering the league, he leads the lead in being sacked at an insane 105 times, which is not sustainable for any human being. To help fix this problem, they traded a king’s ransom to the Dolphins for the services of Laremy Tunsil-a young left tackle to help stabilize their line. It appears to be working, as they have given up just three sacks in as many weeks, and Watson has looked dynamic in each of those games. During week six against the Chiefs, in a much-hyped matchup between Watson and Mahomes, it was Watson who came out on top and has the Texans in the drivers’ seat in the AFC South.
2. Patrick Mahomes
What is to say about Patrick Mahomes that has not been said before? He is likely the most talented quarterback playing today, and in Andy Reid’s offense, torched defenses on his way to winning last year’s MVP award in his first season as a starter. Regression was to be expected, but Mahomes must have not gotten the message.
He came out this year guns blazing, passing for 2,180 yards, 15 touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 113.1. These are the video game numbers expected from the defending MVP. The only thing slowing Mahomes down and keeping him from repeating are injury concerns. In week one, Mahomes injured his ankle, which has lingered throughout the season. The biggest injury of his pro career came this past week as Mahoes dislocated his knee cap resulting in the quarterback likely to miss three to five weeks.
His play in these games has taken quite a hit, with his competition percentage rate dropping from 73.3 to 65 yards passing average from 398 to 311.4, and touchdown passes from 10 to 5. Now that Mahomes is sidelined for a significant time, his MVP status will undoubtedly take a hit, but even an injured Mahomes is better than almost any other quarterback. Until further notice, he is still very much in the MVP hunt.
1. Russell Wilson
At this point in the season, the leader in the clubhouse for MVP has to be Russell Wilson. It is amazing to think that is where we are currently, considering the Seahawks’ penchant for a strong running attack and limited passing. In this throwback of an offensive scheme, they ask
very little of Wilson in comparison to his colleagues. Unless they find themselves in a negative game script, Wilson will not be passing in volume, but he more than makes up for in efficiency.
Wilson currently sits eighth in completion percentage at 68.4 percent, which is an entire four points higher than his expected completion percentage. He leads the league for passing touchdowns 17-while ranking 13th in attempts. He has thrown just one interception and ranks second in quarterback rating with a 77.5, just one point behind first place.
In Wilson’s eighth season in the NFL, he is having his finest to date. With each passing week, he continues to thrive in a conservative offense and efficiently dissects the opposing teams’ defenses unlike any other quarterback today-including Mahomes. He is playing at a level above every other quarterback and doing so at a fraction of the opportunities. It is this reason Russell Wilson should be the favorite to win the MVP, and should this trend continue, that is exactly what will happen.
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