It’s never too early to start gauging the NFL MVP race, so we’re doing exactly that despite the fact the 2017 regular season is only 25 percent complete.
Here are the top 10 candidates that have emerged as we approach the fifth Sunday of the 2017 season.
1. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (last week: 1st): Brady’s Thursday performance wasn’t sexy, but he still completed 30 of 40 passes and went over 300 yards as the Pats got a tough road win on short rest. That’s enough to hold serve one week after a tough loss to the Carolina Panthers which was the defense’s fault.
2. Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith (last week: 2nd): His rate-based numbers (76 percent, eight touchdowns to zero interceptions and a league-high 124.2 passer rating) are better than Brady’s, and the Chiefs are 4-0. But he’s also benefited more thus far from having standout teammates. It’s a really close call. These guys are neck-and-neck.
3. Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff (last week: 8th): Hard to believe, but the 2016 No. 1 overall pick has followed up an abysmal rookie campaign with an electric start to 2017. He actually has a higher passer rating than Brady (and everyone except Smith) as the leader of the league’s highest-scoring offense.
4. Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt (last week: 4th): The rookie third-round pick leads the NFL in scrimmage yards by a 63-yard margin. He’s on pace to set a new NFL record in that field.
5. Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (last week: 9th): The 2015 offensive rookie of the year is off to an even better start in his third season, causing many to forget about his 2016 sophomore slump. Gurley trails only Hunt with 596 yards from scrimmage (nobody else has 450) and leads the NFL with seven touchdowns. It’s the kind of start we’d see from LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 1, 2017
6. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (last week: unranked): Where would the 2-2 Saints be without Brees, who has quietly put up fantastic numbers while keeping a so-so team in games? The 38-year-old completed 69.1 percent of his passes, he’s yet to throw an interception and he ranks fourth in the league in terms of passer rating.
7. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (last week: 5th): Rodgers hasn’t been as good as he was on last year’s late-season run, but he’s performed strongly enough (a 100.7 passer rating for a 3-1 team) to remain in the conversation in early October.
8. Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (last week: 6th): Same with Stafford, who if not for a rules quirk would have the Lions at 4-0. His numbers are strong and he continues to shine in key moments.
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) October 1, 2017
9. Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson (last week: unranked): The rookie’s numbers aren’t quite there yet, but we’re projecting in a low spot because his epic breakout performance against the Tennessee Titans in Week 4 indicates he’s going to keep gaining steam over the course of the year.
10. Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (last week: 10th): He won’t win this unless he maintains an un-maintainable pace, but the man is on pace for 30 sacks. That has to get him on the list.