Is it still too early to gauge the NFL MVP race? We’ve been on this since Week 1, and the regular season is now nearly 50 percent complete, so it’s beginning to feel as though the race is actually shaping up.
Here are the top eight candidates that have emerged as we approach the eighth Sunday of the 2017 season.
1. Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz (last week: 1st): Wentz’s numbers don’t do justice to the impact he’s made for the 7-1 Eagles, but here’s one that really matters: 9.3. That’s his yards-per-attempt average on third down, where he has a 118.8 passer rating. Nobody is even close to him in that respect.
2. Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith (last week: 2nd): But Smith is certainly right there because the dude has 16 touchdown passes to zero interceptions despite taking tons of chances during the first half of the season. He’s still the league’s highest-rated passer by a large margin.
3. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (last week: 3rd): Brady ranks second in both of those categories (touchdown-to-interception ratio of 16-to-2, passer rating of 106.5) and his Patriots are 6-2 despite major issues on both sides of the ball.
4. Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson (last week: 5th): Yup, only three players have been as valuable this season as the rookie No. 12 overall pick. Watson’s Texans have scored 33-plus points in five consecutive games, and he produced a league-high 21 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Unfortunately, that might not matter now. This season has really sucked when it comes to significant injuries.
5. Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (last week: 7th): The Seahawks have won four straight and Wilson has a 108.7 passer rating as well as 15 total touchdowns in his last five games. Momentum is also on his side, especially with Duane Brown joining the fray at left tackle.
6. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (last week: 4th): The Saints have won five straight, but — and I can’t believe I’m about to type this — the New Orleans defense has actually been a big reason why. Brees still has just 11 touchdown passes in seven games but his 70.6 completion percentage and his 101.7 passer rating have him in the race.
7. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (last week: honorable mention): Dude is on pace to record an NFL-record 24 sacks along with six forced fumbles. That’s enough to get on the list.
8. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (last week: 8th): Elliott has carried the Cowboys the last five weeks, amassing 738 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns in that span. He’ll fall off of the list if he’s suspended the next six weeks, but that could pave the way for his quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Players who could still potentially join or rejoin the conversation in the next 10 weeks: Prescott, Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell, Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt, Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff, Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown.