If Tom Brady played the first four weeks of the NFL season and produced in those four games a similar clip to what he’s done in the four games he’s played, he’d be the runaway leader for NFL MVP.
Brady, of course, missed the first four games of the season — you might have heard about that.
The New England Patriots quarterback certainly won’t lose sleep at night over his MVP candidacy, but as he continues to play out of his mind, the chatter about whether Brady — despite missing the season’s first four games — can win the award is growing.
And he’s certainly making a very good case. Even at age 39, one could argue Brady’s current level of play exceeds any stretch at any point in his career leading up to this season. If he keeps it up, his numbers will still look pretty good standing next to the rest of the NFL quarterbacks, even those with a four-game head start. A wide-open MVP field lacking any legitimate favorites also helps Brady’s case. It’s hard to make a legitimate case for anyone else (although we’ll try our best shortly).
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There’s obviously a ton of football to be played, and no one knows how the season will shake out, especially given the unpredictable nature of the first four weeks this season. And will Brady lose MVP votes because there are those who think he’s a cheater given the Deflategate scandal? Or will some argue Brady’s case is not only minimized by missing four games but also by the fact that the Patriots are still a pretty darn good football team? After all, Jimmy Garoppolo had a 117.1 passer rating in Brady’s absence.
We can’t answer those questions yet, but we’re still going to try to handicap the NFL MVP race at the unofficial halfway point of the season. Here are our NFL MVP power rankings.
1. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
69.2 percent completion percentage, 329.5 passing yards per game, 19 TD, 4 INT, 115.8 passer rating (Falcons are 5-3, first in NFC South)
If we’re being honest, the biggest advantage Ryan has over Brady right now is that he wasn’t suspended for the first four games of the season. But it’s hard to discount what the Boston College product has been able to do through the first half of the season. Even when the Falcons have lost, Ryan has played well, throwing six touchdowns and just two picks in the Falcons’ three losses, one of which came on the road against Seattle in a game where a pass interference non-call might have cost them a win. He also is the beneficiary of recency bias with a brilliant come-from-behind touchdown drive in Week 8.
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
73.1 percent completion percentage, 329.8 passing yards per game, 12 TD, 0 INT, 133.9 passer rating (Patriots are 7-1, first in AFC East)
The four games thing is huge, especially when we’re only talking about an eight- or nine-game body of work for everyone else. But if Brady’s able to sustain this pace — one of the best of his entire career — then you really have to take him into consideration. That’s especially true if the Patriots run the table or finish with a record like 14-2 or 13-3. Only Drew Brees has thrown for more yards per game, and no one has a better passer rating. Heck, even Brady’s 12 touchdown passes are tied for 11th in the NFL, and he’ll continue to climb that list with average-at-best passers like Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in the neighborhood.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
159 rushes, 799 yards, 5.0 yards per rush, 5 TD (Cowboys are 7-1, first if NFC East)
It really doesn’t matter who “wins” the quarterback showdown between Tony Romo and Dak Prescott, because this offense runs through Elliott — literally. He’s, ahem, running away with offensive rookie of the year, and if he continues to pave the way for Dallas on the way to the playoffs, he’ll stay in the conversation. He ranks first in rushing yards, is in the top five in yards per rush (among backs with at least 69 carries) and is tied for eighth in rushing touchdowns. Again, if he continues to shoulder the load for Dallas while pushing toward the 2,000-yard mark and if he finds the end zone with a little more frequency, Elliott will have a legitimate MVP case.
4. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
66.3 percent completion percentage, 290.1 passing yards per game, 17 TD, 3 INT, 100.9 passer rating (Raiders are 6-2, tied for first in AFC West)
Perhaps no one on this list has more to gain in Week 9 than Carr. The nature of this entire conversation changes if Carr has a big game against Denver on Sunday night. Taking down the NFL’s best defense on the big stage will be a signature moment in Carr’s potential MVP campaign. As it is, he still ranks in the top 10 in passing yards, yards per games and touchdown passes, all while throwing just three interceptions for a Raiders team that would improve to 7-2 with a win Sunday night.
Notes: After these four, the race is wide open, but two dark horses to watch are New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Both play on flawed teams, but both of their respective teams are still very much alive in the playoff race. If either gets hot down the stretch and pushes their team across the finish line with depleted rosters or obvious issues, that might be enough to get in the conversation.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images
NFL MVP Power Rankings: Tom Brady’s Case Impossible To Ignore Despite Suspension – NESN.com