Photo Credit: theScore (featured image), ESPN (team logos)
5. Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys (6-1)
- Statistics: 159 rush attempts, 799 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, 15 receptions, 150 receiving yards
- Analysis: As a 21-year-old rookie, 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 not put up superstar passing numbers. 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. However, a suspension for his the domestic violence accusations back in July could put a damper on his MVP campaign if he does miss time.
4. Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints (3-4)
- Statistics: 214/308 (69.5% completion percentage), 2,366 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 9 rush attempts, 11 rushing yards
- Analysis: Brees would be a lot higher on this list, possibly even #1, if his value to his team actually helped them win more games. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever take a snap in the NFL, and his numbers this year further help that argument. However, he cannot be much higher right now until his team starts winning more games and his value to the Saints really starts to show. The Saints’ extremely poor defense allows opposing offenses to score quicker, giving Brees more time with the ball, which in turn inflates his passing statistics. Still, his efficiency and effectiveness when the ball is in his hands are, without a doubt, among the best the NFL has ever seen. Brees may very well walk away with this season’s NFL MVP award if the Saints’ defense steps up and his team can prove his true value by winning more games as a result of his outstanding production.
3. Derek Carr, Quarterback, Oakland Raiders (6-2)
- Statistics: 214/323 (66.3% completion percentage), 2,321 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 18 rush attempts, 61 rushing yards
- Analysis: In just his three NFL seasons, Derek Carr has taken this Oakland Raiders team from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. His quarterbacking over the first three seasons of his young career has made this Raiders team a contender to win their division and get to the postseason. This season, his quarterbacking has been some of the best the NFL has seen. Carr is emerging as one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, and he appears to have an extremely bright future, especially since he has been able to form one of the NFL’s most lethal quarterback to wide receiver connections with second year star Amari Cooper. If Carr can keep this up and even improve, which he should be able to do given that he is only 25 years old, he will be a contender to become one of the youngest NFL MVP award winners in NFL history once this season is over.
2. Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
- Statistics: 193/279 (69.2% completion percentage), 2,626 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 21 rush attempts, 69 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 his team atop the NFC South and leading the highest scoring offense in the NFL (32.8 points per game), Matt Ryan is among the current favorites for the NFL MVP award this season, and he may very well stay towards the top of this list.
1. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots (7-1)
- Statistics: 98/134 (73.1% completion percentage), 1,319 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 10 rush attempts, 44 rushing yards
- Analysis: Assuming he has not yet cheated this season, Tom Brady has been dominant in his first four games back from his suspension to show that he is really back, and he is not rusty. Sure, he has only played in four games so far while many players have played in seven or eight, but if he puts up solid numbers all season long like he has done so far 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 atop this list is because he has shown that value already since returning from his suspension.