Handicapping the MVP Race

So far we are 3 quarters of the way through the NFL season and with each passing week, things only get murkier. Some would say that the MVP race has been decided since week 1, but with 4 games left, I don’t see it so cut and dry. Here I count down the five best candidates and tell you how they can or why the can’t win and give their odds to take home the hardware at the end of this wacky season.

5. Nick Foles, 50/1 – 

How he can win: So far, this season has been a magnificent one for Nick Foles. A list of his accomplishments follows: He tied the NFL record for most touchdown passes in one game (7), set the NFL record for highest quarterback rating in a calendar month (152.8 in November) which was also a month where the Eagles did not lose a game, he has thrown 19 touchdown passes without an interception on the year (just think about that for a second), and he also won an NFC Offensive Player of the Month award. If Foles can lead the Eagles to an 11-5 record (they are 7-5 now), continue his torrid pace of touchdown throws while also not throwing a single pick, and maybe even doing some work with his legs, then the Arizona product has a slim chance of winning an MVP.

Why he won’t win: Assuming he finishes out the season as a starter, You can’t win an MVP if you only start 10 of your teams 16 games. Foles is also huge beneficiary of the help he gets from LeSean McCoy who takes much of the attention off of the passing game with his running ability. Add that to the fact that there is no way that Foles will continue his pace of touchdown throws without interceptions and you have the recipe for a nice story, but not an MVP winner. But hey, at least he will be the Eagle’s starting quarterback for the next 1,000 years.

4. Calvin Johnson, 33/1 –

How he can win: Calvin has been the most dominant receiver the NFL has seen since Rice was gracing football field across America. Jerry, not Ray… or White. The Lions are 7-5 right now and currently hold a 1 game lead in the NFC North. If the Lions’ star wants to win this award, he needs to put up otherworldly stats like Josh Gordon is doing as well as lead his team to a division title while the 3 guys ahead of him on this list slip up down the stretch. If Calvin can keep up the work on the field and Johnson takes care of the work off the field, he has a chance. But needless to say, Megatron needs a lot of help.

Why he won’t win: No receiver has ever won an MVP award and the last time it went to a non QB/RB was in 1986. If Jerry Rice couldn’t do it when he was winning Super Bowl’s, how can Calvin Johnson do it when he plays on a team that is struggling to stay above .500? And besides, Richard Sherman knows about Johnson.

3. Cam Newton, 12/1 – 

How he can win: If Newton and the Panthers ride this 8 game winning streak to a 13-3 record and a first round bye in the playoffs, then the odds for the former Auburn Tiger to win the award go up exponentially. A lot has to go right for that to happen as Cam has to continue to play at an efficient pace while not turning the ball over; two things he has struggled with over the course of his career. Newton obviously needs to prove to voters that he is more valuable than every other player in the league, and to do that he must use his legs more often. The highlight plays that we are seeing from Cam need to come more frequently and if his team can take care of business the rest of the way, the kid has a shot.

Why he won’t win: Let me rattle off some stats for you… Newton is 18th in the NFL in passing yards, 26th in yards per game, tied for 9th in passing touchdowns but also 9th in interceptions, and his 88.1 passer rating is below Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. We all know that the MVP award uses stats as a major consideration, but Newton’s don’t stack up with the elite. And if he loses another game? Forget it.

2. Russell Wilson 13/2 – 

How he can win: Wilson shot up this board after an incredible performance on Monday Night Football in which his team trounced the Saints in a game that was even more lopsided than the 34-7 final score indicates. However, winning at home is nothing new for the former Colorado Rockies draft pick; he’s never lost at CenturyLink Field in his NFL career. To win the award, Wilson needs to keep winning both at home and on the road. A 15-1 record will likely impress voters, and if Russell keeps throwing multi-touchdown games (6 in a row now), then that might be enough to put him over the top.

Why he won’t win: The Seahawks are fortunate to have Russell Wilson, no doubt. But this team really thrives on three things: the best defense in football, a very potent running game, and the greatest home field advantage in sports. While Wilson is certainly an important piece to that puzzle, you could plug in a guy like Colin Kaepernick and the offense would run just as smoothly, yet no one is clamoring for the Niners’ QB to win an MVP award.

1. Peyton Manning 2/1 – 

Why he will win: Ever since that week one 7 touchdown performance against the Ravens, it has been a forgone conclusion that Peyton will win the MVP. This will be the 5th time in his illustrious career in which his season ends with an acceptance speech so voter fatigue might play a factor, but I don’t see it that way. Peyton has been the best player in the NFL this season and the stats back it up. He has thrown 41 touchdowns as of December 4th and still has 4 games to break Tom Brady’s record of 50 in a season. His 4,125 yards are 300 more than any other player in the league. That’s like a whole game’s worth of yards! Take Peyton Manning away from the Broncos and you have a team that struggles to reach 6 wins. I don’t think you can say that about any other player on this list.