Photo Credit: wtop.com (featured image), ESPN (team logos)
5. Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys (4-1)
- Statistics: 109 rush attempts, 546 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, 9 receptions, 81 receiving yards
- Analysis: This would have seemed crazy a month ago. Now, it doesn’t. Ezekiel Elliott is the best running back in the NFL already. Not only that, but the Cowboys are actually winning games without their usual starting quarterback Tony Romo, and quarterback Dak Prescott has only accounted for seven total touchdowns through five games. Ezekiel Elliott is carrying the load for this team, and he is doing so effectively, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He has also emerged as a pretty decent pass-catching running back as well. Right now, he is certainly one of the five most valuable players in the NFL, and down the stretch he will be a key player to watch for to have a chance at winning this season’s NFL MVP award.
4. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots (4-1)
- Statistics: 28/40 (70.0% completion percentage), 406 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 2 rush attempts, 14 rushing yards
- Analysis: Assuming he didn’t cheat again, Tom Brady put on a commanding performance in his season debut to show that he is really back, and he is not rusty. Sure, he has only played in one game so far, but if he puts up solid numbers all season long and gets this Patriots team yet another first round bye in the postseason, there is no doubt that he will be one of the league’s top players with a legitimate shot at winning the NFL MVP award yet again. The reason he is already #4 on this list is because he showed just that in his return.
3. Von Miller, Linebacker, Denver Broncos (4-1)
- Statistics: 13 solo tackles, 7 assisted tackles, 20 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 passes defensed
- Analysis: I cannot think of a defensive player in the NFL that has ever had more of an impact on the success of an entire team than Von Miller. He pretty much single-handedly won the Denver Broncos last season’s AFC championship game and Super Bowl with some help from his teammates here and there, and that momentum has carried over with him into this season. Miller has already totaled 6.5 sacks through only five games, and just his presence is enough to negatively affect the play of any quarterback, even all-time greats like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, which we have seen within the past year. If Miller’s superb play keeps up, we could see our first NFL MVP award won by a linebacker since Lawrence Taylor won the award following the 1986 season.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)
- Statistics: 126/192 (65.6% completion percentage), 1,496 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 rush attempts, 18 rushing yards
- Analysis: Ben Roethlisberger has opened up the 2016 campaign in ultra-explosive form. He is getting everyone on the Steelers’ offense pretty much evenly involved, and their offensive production has been extremely high and even scary because of it. Right now, Roethlisberger looks like he is putting together a career statistical season, and with a healthy offense loaded with extraordinary talent and potential, his superb numbers may not let up and he may not slow down. Expect Roethlisberger to be towards the top of this list for much if not all of the season with a chance to claim his first NFL MVP award.
1. Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons (4-1)
- Statistics: 116/168 (69.0% completion percentage), 1,740 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 15 rush attempts, 50 rushing yards
- Analysis: Matt Ryan is playing some of the best football of his life right now. He is on pace to become just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,500 or more yards in five or more consecutive seasons. He looks like he is back to his 2012 form when he had a career high season, converted on many of the Falcons’ clutch opportunities, and led the team to the NFC championship game with an NFC-best 13-3 record. Leading the highest scoring offense in the NFL (35.0 points per game) and having just knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in Denver, it’s time to recognize the fact that Matt Ryan is the current frontrunner for the NFL MVP award this season, and he may very well stay atop this list.