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Rank the NFL MVP candidates and awards through Week 9, 2023

Nov 8, 2023 #NFL

Rank the NFL MVP candidates and choose your awards through Week 9, 2023.

We’re halfway through the NFL season. 135 of the 272 regular season games we will see this season have been played; The Chargers-Jets game on “Monday Night Football” will officially get us 50% of the way through the campaign.

What a strange season it has been. The teams known as the best in football often lose humiliatingly the following week. Midfielders in small groups fall back into groups.

One of two dramatic wins on Sunday was when Joshua Dobbs led the Vikings, his third team in three months, to victory over the Falcons. We sent the Chiefs and Dolphins to light up the scoreboard in Germany and two of the most exciting offenses in the league produced a combined 28 points.

If you don’t know which team is truly great or who will be the league MVP after nine weeks of play, join the club. Today, however, I’ll tackle that last issue and hand out my midseason awards.

I’ll name my picks and two runners-up for Coach of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year before finishing with my MVP pick. Keep in mind that these are my picks based on what each player did in the first nine games of the season.

I don’t predict what these players will do for the rest of the season or what voters will actually do at the end of the campaign, although I do discuss their actual chances of winning hardware. play when all is said and done. January.

This is an annual practice for me, as are my quarterly awards every year after week 4. There are times when a player plays his best and wins quarterly, mid-season and full-season awards, but this will not happen in 2023.

Not one of my quarter-season picks is in the same spot here at the midway point, and none of my top-three MVP candidates through Week 4 is in the top three now. In a league full of upheaval, let’s start with Coach of the Year, where I favor a leader who inexplicably has never won the award:

Coach of the Year

This is typically an award that goes to the coach who exceeds his team’s preseason over/under by the largest number of wins and takes a moribund team to the playoffs. By that criteria, the obvious candidate should be DeMeco Ryans, who has the Texans competing every week and winning well ahead of schedule in the AFC South.

He’s a viable candidate, but it’s tough to pick a defensive-minded coach when the Houston defense ranks 25th in expected points added (EPA) per play. (If you’re an unhappy Texans fan, there’s good news coming later in the column.)

I’m more inclined to give this award to coaches who have been around and either continue to do great work, bring through young talent or get more out of players who struggled elsewhere. Three of my coaches have been in the job for at least two full seasons and they will impress again in 2023.

3. Nick Sirianni, Eagle

While even Eagles fans probably realize that the 2023 team doesn’t look or play as dominant as the 2022 team did during the regular season, 8-1 is 8-1, right? The Eagles have the best record in football and although they didn’t exactly dominate the fourth quarter against the Cowboys on Sunday, Sirianni’s team did enough to hold on for a crucial 28-23 win.

Last year, I credited Sirianni with helping the veterans more than the coaches at their previous stops, with A.J. Brown, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Bradberry are prominent examples.

This season is more difficult because the Eagles don’t have the space to make many key additions, but D’Andre Swift is playing the best football of his career in Philadelphia. More about the young players, as Jalen Carter and Reed Blankenship have been forced into regular roles due to departures and have exceeded expectations.

Sirianni’s comfort in winning on fourth down and being aggressive on offense is also changing Philadelphia’s offense and what they can do play-wise through all the ups and downs. Having a money play like the tush push helps, but the Eagles are also willing to execute it in situations where even the tush push isn’t possible, such as 4th-and-3.

on a field that the Eagles converted. on the road to Dallas Goedert to help set up their first encounter. Many coaches would have decided to score early, but Philly ended up needing those points late in the game. The Eagles pose a unique challenge to opponents and Sirianni’s aggression is matched by his team’s analytical ability and attacking prowess.

2. Dan Campbell, Lion

One of the things I love most about soccer is how players sign with new teams and call those teams “projects.” There’s a nice pretense there.

Manchester City is a project. No U.S.-based player was traded to the Brewers, Hornets or Coyotes and said they were enthusiastic about their project. It’s one team against another team.

If there’s one NFL team that looks like a project it’s the Campbell Lions. We’ve seen them grow in real time, from the disappointing team of 2021 to their breakthrough in the second half of 2022.

And now, in 2023, they’re off to a start. Great. At 6-2, the Lions have an 83.4% chance of winning the NFC North for the first time since the league switched to an eight-division format in 2002 (via the Football Strength Index of ESPN).

This will be Detroit’s first championship since 1993, when Campbell was a high school student in Clifton, Texas. Are the Lions a bit worse than their record suggests? Maybe. Five of their six wins have come against teams with a losing record of 15-27 overall. T

hey went 1-2 against potential playoff teams and were outscored by 37 points in those three games, with their only win coming against the Chiefs in a game in which Kansas City seemed allergic to catch the ball and one of the drops became an option.

six from Brian Branch. Tips and turnovers count, however, and the Lions have improved significantly on defense, even without offseason additions Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson most of the time.

That’s one of the most exciting things about the Lions and a compelling argument for why Campbell deserves to be considered one of the best coaches in football: His players are relentless improvement. Last season, it was Jared Goff, Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown are the ones running the offense. This season, Aidan Hutchinson has become one of the fastest players in the league. Branch looks like an impact player.

Alim McNeill looks like a new man. Even veteran Alex Anzalone is making more plays and looks more confident than he has in years past. The Lions are a complete team, and I’m willing to give a fair amount of credit for that to their coach.

1. Mike Tomlin, Steelers

If you’ve been reading this column for a few years now, you know me. I like rationality. I wanted to understand what helped teams win or lose. I want a clear reason why things happen. Football is very complicated, but if you pay close attention, you can often find hidden reasons to explain things.

And then there are the Steelers, whose quarterback ranks 29th in the league in QBR. Who’s average running back is 3.8 yards per carry. Sure, their defense is good, but they are 12th in points allowed per game.

The turnover differential is significant — the Steelers are +8 through eight games — but even that doesn’t fully explain them hitting above .500 while being outscored and outscored by 30 points in every game.

At this point, Tomlin felt it was inevitable that the role of coach would bend the football world to his whims and produce a successful season for a flawed team. These Steelers are nothing like the teams of old, as they went from a team full of drafted and developed talent to one of the teams with the least amount of local talent in football, but we still see some of these rookies shines every time. year. First-round pick Broderick Jones has been in and out of the lineup, but second-round guard Joey Porter Jr. and Keeanu Benton look like stars. Pittsburgh was able to get by without Diontae Johnson, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Heyward for extended periods of time.

Tomlin has never won Coach of the Year and has never even finished in the top five voting at any point in his career, which seems strange. These awards should not be a substitute for lifetime achievement awards or a reward for mistakes over the years, but I don’t see many people doing more with less than what he did. with your list.

Offensive Rookie of the Year.

We’ve seen a lot of rookies shine with big games or impressive plays on the offensive side. Unfortunately, several of them have been injured: Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson is out for the season, while Dolphins running back De’Von Achane missed last month with a knee issue.

Last week it was Lions defenseman Jahmyr Gibbs; Sunday’s rookie receiver was Texas running back Tank Dell, who passed for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bucs. Of course, Dell’s midfielder also joined the discussion.

3. Bijan Robinson, RB, Falcons
Choice: #8

Through four games, Robinson has looked like the generational running back prospect the Falcons praised him for when they selected him in the first round. Since then, he has missed most games with a mysterious illness, averaged 4.0 yards per carry and had as many fumbles as touchdowns (two).

He formed a legitimate rotation with Tyler Allgaier, with each defender getting 15 touches in Sunday’s disastrous loss to the Vikings.
The Falcons’ story of Robinson serving as some kind of hybrid star and slot weapon doesn’t hold up. According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, he completed 78 routes out of the backfield, meaning he completed about 8 routes per game.

These routes covered a total of 43 yards, averaging 0.6 yards per route run. That ranks 185th among the 202 players who rushed at least 50 yards out of the backfield this season. Robinson has produced more out of the backfield, averaging 1.0 yards per route run.

He wasn’t your typical impact receiver.
Although he was the better pure runner, most of his best performances came in the first month of the season. He recorded an above-expected 106 rushing yards (RYOE) on his first 103 attempts, which is notable considering Allgayer recorded minus-43 RYOE on 116 carries. At the same time, consider that fellow rookie Achan leads the league with 236 RYOE in just 38 attempts.

Ashan is within 57 yards of Robinson’s total rushing yards, but the Dolphins draft pick only carried the ball 38 times before going on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Robinson has been the best rookie back this season, although Gibbs has looked more explosive over the past month and Achane is set to return from injured reserve after the Dolphins return from their bye.

Vikings fans might feel as if wideout Jordan Addison deserves to be ahead of Robinson in this top three, and I wouldn’t begrudge them. Robinson was the prohibitive favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year before the season, but he feels closer to dropping out of the top three than to the lead spot right now.

2. Puka Nacua, WR, Rams
Pick: No. 177

It was an inevitability that Nacua would see his numbers decline after the return of Cooper Kupp, but he’s still way ahead of the competition.

His 827 receiving yards are nearly 300 more than any other first-year receiver, and Addison is the only rookie with over 500 receiving yards. With half the season left, Nacua is just 10 yards shy of the fifth-round pick’s rookie record, trailing only Herschel Walker.

Even last month, Nacua was competing with Addison at the top of the rookie chart. He had 25 catches on 44 targets for 326 yards and 2.4 yards per route run, while Addison had 28 catches on 39 targets for 349 yards and 2.2 yards per route run.

Addison scored five touchdowns in that stretch, but Nacua’s only weakness was getting to the end zone. Still, he’s on pace for nearly 1,600 receiving yards. It’s going to take something special in the second half to get him into the top three here.

1.C.J. Stroud, QB, Texans
Selection: No.2

Stroud was supposed to be designated for selection before Sunday’s performance, but it doesn’t hurt for a rookie to experience one of the best games he’s ever played.

In the win over the Bucs, he set a single-game passing record with 470 yards and became the second rookie quarterback in league history to throw five touchdown passes in a game, tying Matthew Stafford’s mark in 2009. is. Stroud eliminated competition for Offensive Rookie of the Year and is almost being talked about as the most impressive rookie season for a quarterback in league history.

He has now thrown his 14 touchdown passes to one designated player. Although he often plays in protected offenses even as a good rookie, his average air yards per throw exceeds his 8.0 air yards, which is his fifth-most among quarterbacks. be. The only quarterbacks with more first downs than Stroud are Brock Purdy and Tua Tagovailoa.

Furthermore, can we really say that Stroud is growing with great players? The offensive line was plagued by injuries for most of the season. Houston’s running game remained anonymous. His two best wideouts were Nico Collins and rookie third-round pitcher Tank Dell, who some teams viewed as top gadget players.

Dell was one of several Texans to shine on Bucs corner Carlton Davis on Sunday, with six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns (including the game-winning score). Former Cowboys wideout Noah Brown had six catches for 153 yards and one touchdown.

Does Stroud have something to do? Safe. His pass completion rate is only 62%, but it’s still good considering his completion rate was 0.5 points higher than expected. And 19% of his passes missed the goal. That’s the third-highest rate in football behind Deshaun Watson and Stafford. However, Stroud made the Texans a weekly player to watch far ahead of schedule.

Defensive Rookie of the Year
Texans fans hoping for a one-two punch from their first-round picks will be disappointed to hear Will Anderson Jr. is the last man out of the discussion in this category. He has only two sacks through nine games, but his underlying metrics are more promising.

He has 22 pressures, which leads all rookies and ties him with Aaron Donald and Josh Sweat for 15th in the league. Anderson’s nine knockdowns suggests he should have four sacks. Given that we aren’t doubting the former college star’s physical talent, he should produce more sacks as the year goes along if he continues to play this way.

When Anderson was eliminated, there was a clear top three. I had to leave out two players because of playing time concerns: Lions safety Brian Branch had two complete games, two absences and four in between, and Steelers corner Joey Porter Jr. was the backup for the first five weeks before transitioning to a regular role in the win over the Rams in Week 7. Both appear to be developing into stars in the secondary for their respective teams .

As the Rams execute one of the most impressive defensive rebuilds we’ve seen around Donald this offseason, the natural hope is that they’ll land some young players on rookie contracts who will became the point guard in play for Raheem Morris. I’m not sure if this plan will work out well, as they rank 24th in EPA per game, but there are some promising players coming up.

Most notable among these young players is Young, who leads all rookies with five sacks through Week 9. That includes two sacks of Jordan Love on Sunday against the Packers. Despite not being involved in a play where Young generated initial pressure, his awareness and motor skills came into play as he cleaned up the play.

Young’s 20 pressures ranked him second in the league among starters behind Anderson, so he created havoc playing into the wind of the future Hall of Famer up the middle.

Young was an undersize third-round pick and already is 25 years old, so the Rams probably can’t count on him to turn into a superstar. If he can be a solid situational rusher who makes an average of just under $1.4 million per year on his rookie deal, though, he will be a nice find for L.A.

2. Jalen Carter, DT, Eagles
Pick: No. 9

Carter, on the other hand, was a top-10 pick with a résumé as one of the best defensive players in all of college football. Through eight games, he has looked as good as the Eagles could have hoped from a rookie defensive tackle. The only thing that has slowed him down has been Carter himself, as he missed a game with an ankle issue and is battling a back injury at the moment.

Carter wasn’t as dominant Sunday as he has been in earlier stretches, but he helped come up with a key play against the Cowboys when he joined in with Brandon Graham for a sack of Dak Prescott with 2:09 to go in the fourth quarter.

Second-year lineman Tyler Smith won most of his battles with Carter on Sunday, but Carter created the initial pressure on that key sack before Graham helped finish the job and take down Prescott. Smith will move to left tackle once Tyron Smith finishes his time with the Cowboys, but Prescott and the rest of the Cowboys will be seeing plenty of Carter for years to come.

1. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Seahawks
Pick: No. 5

Nobody on the Seahawks can feel good about getting blown out in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, but that’s not going to define Seattle’s season. Witherspoon has very conspicuously emerged as a force in the secondary, settling in and immediately looking like a veteran.

After missing the Week 1 loss to the Rams with an injury, he has been virtually an every-down players. He made 11 tackles in the win over the Panthers, but his coming-out party was in Week 4, when he tormented the Giants for 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback knockdowns and a 97-yard pick-12 to put the game to bed. He followed that with a viral hit on Rondale Moore against the Cardinals, albeit on a play that produced a first down.

The Seahawks started with Witherspoon playing outside before moving him into the slot, which speaks to a flexibility that we almost never see from rookie corners. He has been great in both places.

He has been targeted 51 times as the nearest defender in coverage, allowing just 5.4 yards per target while giving up two touchdowns in eight games. The only cornerbacks with 200 or more coverage snaps who have allowed fewer yards per target this season are Xavien Howard and L’Jarius Sneed.

Seattle still is a heavy zone team, so Witherspoon isn’t the sort of traveling man-coverage defender we associate with the league’s best corners, but he’s off to a spectacular start.

3. Byron Young, OLB, Rams
Choice: #77

Defensive player of the year
This is the most difficult award to give to date. There are at least a half-dozen credible candidates at No. 1, let alone the top 3. I wouldn’t even get close to someone like Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, who plays like crazy and dominate games, or Danielle Hunter, who leads the league in sacks, the Vikings compete.

The Giants’ Dexter Lawrence is doing what nose tackles shouldn’t be doing every week over the past few weeks and hasn’t cracked the top 5. Jaguars passer Josh Allen is having a career year. I’m angry that I had to narrow it down to three.

Yet here we are. The final two players cut were Lions defensive back Aidan Hutchinson, who has been the driving force behind his team’s dramatic improvement on defense, and Cowboys rusher Micah Parsons, who is the most unstoppable player on the team.

Maybe I’m just waiting for Parsons to make the inevitable play where he takes over and single-handedly destroys the opposing offense. It sits just outside the top three. 3. TJ Watt, Edge, Pittsburgh Steelers

While it’s difficult to find a winning formula for the Steelers, the one constant is usually a big game from Watt, whose presence appears to be a prerequisite if they want to win. Since the start of 2022, Pittsburgh is 13-5 with Watt and 1-6 without him. If the Steelers can be close, he usually finds a way to get them over the hump.

Returning to a permanent role after a dip in form last season, Watt had 9.5 knockdowns and 18 takedowns in nine matches. His big plays were crucial for Pittsburgh in the tournament.

Watt had a fumble at home in a 26-20 win over the Browns in Week 2, then recovered the fumble with 1:12 left in a four-point game against the Ravens to set up a touchdown in that resulted in a 17-10 win. (He ended that game by sacking Lamar Jackson with 20 seconds left.)

A Watt interception started the second half against the Rams and set up a Steelers offense on a short field for Pittsburgh’s first touchdown in what would eventually become a 24-17 victory.

He gets coverage more often than other passersby and actually adds value in doing so. He has seven interceptions in seven seasons, most of which came when a quarterback who didn’t expect him to be in the lane threw the ball directly at the opposing team’s best player.

I tend to look to the top performer to analyze the value of these rewards. If I had to pick the most important player on any NFL defense if the team wants to play at a high level this season, Watt would be a viable option.

2. Maxx Crosby, Edge, Las Vegas Raiders

I understand the reluctance to give this award to a player who doesn’t play well defensively. It’s hard to watch the Raiders every week, let alone watch them and reward a player for being among the best in the NFL. However, if you want to watch the Raiders, there’s only one reward: witnessing one of the best defensive players in the league destroy his shop every week.

Crosby is unblockable for long stretches every week. He leads the NFL with 40 pressures in nine games, serving as the only notable passer on a defense where no one else has been sacked more than once in the entire last season.

Sunday against the Giants and third baseman Tommy DeVito. Crosby racked up three sacks and three tackles for loss in the Raiders’ win, which resembled a celebration of Josh McDaniels’ passing. It’s not just about chasing the quarterback.

Crosby leads the league with 13 tackles for loss. His haul was impressive: no defensive midfielder has made more tackles this season. He plays virtually every snap, which is important because they have so little around him. No one can do more with less.

Myles Garrett, Edge, Cleveland Browns
Perhaps it’s too simple to just give this award to the best player on the best defense in the tournament. In terms of split-second rushing production, I’m not sure anyone is better than Garrett. After being sacked against the Cardinals on Sunday, he has 9.5 sacks on 188 passing opportunities this season. In other words, he takes just under 20 passes per attempt, which is the best in football and far ahead of his league-leading rivals:

Garrett ranks second among the Edge Rushers in pass win rate, despite being tied for the second-highest rate in football. (In both cases, he was behind Parsons.) ESPN’s automated analysis shows he has produced a total of 11.5 sacks for himself and others this season, a number tied with Chris Jones tied for the league lead. Garrett is an irreplaceable player on the league’s most dominant defense.

Offensive player of the year.
As I always mention, the NFL makes a confusing distinction between this award and the Most Valuable Player award while the MVP almost always goes to the quarterback. With that in mind, I’ll leave the quarterback out of the discussion here.

I’m open to nominating a non-quarterback offensive player for the MVP conversation in due course, but we’ll come back to that in the MVP conversation.

3. Christian McCaffrey, running back, 49ers

The momentum died down in San Francisco after three straight losses, but I don’t think many would blame McCaffrey for that decline. Despite the groin injury, he still led the league in yards from scrimmage (994) and tied for the lead in touchdowns (13) with Raheem Mostert. It was a machine first; His first 56 tries are 13 more than anyone else, and Travis Etienne is the only player with more than 40 this season.

McCaffrey is still a big earner. He averaged 1.7 yards per route, third in the league among backs with 100 or more routes, behind Alvin Kamara and Jaylen Warren. He is the most productive player in football, although he has lost the historic pace we saw in his first month.

2. AJ Brown, WR, Eagles

Brown’s six-game streak with 125 or more receiving yards ended with Sunday’s win over Dallas, and while that’s an arbitrary stretch, it’s a much longer streak. As impressive as Antonio Brown’s 35-for-50 record was at his peak with the Steelers.

The Eagles star has changed his game over the past two months, serving as a get-out-of-jail-free card for Jalen Hurts he’s on pace for 1,170 receiving yards in addition to the number, which would be the most a receiver has posted in a season since 2008.

The deadline is no coincidence, as the new receivers will win more receiving yards in addition to single game numbers. year was Reggie Wayne and Randy Moss in 2007. Very good company.
The 26-year-old has had a quiet start to the season, which puts him just below our No. 1 pick for OPOY after nine weeks. If Brown can rack up another 125-yard record, he will have a strong case to be the winner.

1. Tyreek Hill, WR, Dolphins

Hill has had a productive season…and we’re only nine games in. His 69 catches for 1,076 yards and eight TDs on 97 targets are about the same as what Tee Higgins had in 16 games (74 catches, 1,029 yards, seven TDs on 109 goals) last season. And Hill still has half a season left to play!

Hill averaged 4.1 yards per route through the first nine games. ESPN has route data going back to 2007, and no receiver during that period had more yards per route through the first nine games of his season. No. 2? That was Hill a year ago. The 2022 version of Hill is the only receiver to average more yards per game through the first nine contests than the 2023 version of Hill.

He really impressed, even if Sunday wasn’t his best game: Hill, 29, turned 10 targets into 62 yards and lost a fumble that the Chiefs came back for a fumble . Considering what Hill does against opposing defenses on a weekly basis and how he executes Miami’s offense, I’m willing to forgive him for a disappointing game. He is the most dynamic player in the league this season.

Most valuable player

Before we taped our weekly segment for “SportsCenter” on Sunday, I asked Scott Van Pelt who he thought was the nine-week MVP and he just laughed at me. There is no clear favorite. Every candidate has flaws, many of which disqualify them.

It may be easier to take this “Guess Who” style approach and eliminate the candidates before seeing who is still in the running. I’ll start by taking the non-quarterbacks out of the equation, although this is a year a receiver or passer could surpass if he sets a single-season record for receiving yards or bag.

With no midfielder standing out from the group, the door is open for a non-quarterback to be spectacular. This is just something that won’t become clear until we get to the end of the season. Hill may be preparing for a 2,000-yard receiving season, but he’ll have to get there for some serious help.

Many midfielders are left out of the discussion without a second thought. Justin Herbert has great numbers, but he missed too many big throws for a 3-4 Chargers team going into Monday’s game against the Jets. He owes Keenan Allen a subway ad in recent weeks.

Joe Burrow has exploded over the past two weeks and looked excellent in the Bengals’ wins over the 49ers and Bills, but he has a sub-70 passer rating and 728 passing yards in the first month of the season.

He could dominate from here on out and win MVP, but I base my assessment on the first half of the season, and his first quarter was affected by that calf injury. I’m happy to endorse Brock Purdy given the 49ers’ current three-game losing streak, where his ability to play without structure and without Trent Williams on the field has been called into question.

Purdy still averages a league-high 9.1 yards per attempt and is second in QBR, but he has thrown five interceptions over the past three weeks and isn’t as productive with his legs compared to with the best midfielders in the tournament. Let’s see what he does after some well-deserved rest.

Dak Prescott nearly led the Cowboys to victory with a strong performance for much of Sunday’s game against the Eagles, but the oft-talked-about quarterback went over the line on a potential 2-point conversion.

This ability can change the end-game scenario on both sides. He then couldn’t find an opening for Jake Ferguson at midfield on fourth down before throwing a contested ball to save Jalen Tolbert against James Bradberry. Mina Kimes noted that Prescott leads the league in rushing completion percentage and that he consistently made impressive unstructured plays against Philadelphia, but he’s not that player every week.

Trevor Lawrence was pulled down for a failed attempt near the goal line. Lawrence’s 6.6 QBR in the red zone ranked last in the NFL, as he went just 10 of 21 for 78 yards on seven first downs this season.

This lack of execution caused the Jaguars to lose to the Chiefs early in the season. He’s not playing badly, but his numbers are nearly identical to what we saw for a full season a year ago, which suggests he’s not as good as the guy who broke out in the second half of 2022.

Josh Allen leads the league in QBR and continues to make impossible throws for the Bills every week, but he’s also thrown nine interceptions, including a Cover 2 overthrow against the Bengals on the night Sunday on a pass that should never have been thrown. Allen’s heroics may have won the game for the Bills, but it also cost them their Week 1 game against the Jets when he turned the ball over four times.

His six rushing touchdowns helped, but he had trouble finding a solution when the opposing team took down Stefon Diggs. We’ll see if Dalton Kincaid is the playmaker for this offense in the second half.

The latest quarterback cut is Tua Tagovailoa, who has had a notable six-game performance since the Broncos’ 70-20 loss in Week 3. This game was against the lowly Panthers, and while I don’t entirely agree with the argument that the Dolphins fought against bad teams and struggled against playoff-caliber opponents, it’s hard to make the case. he is the MVP. caliber quarterback in losses to the Chiefs, Eagles and Bills.

Tagovailoa’s offensive line has taken a hit and Jaylen Waddle has suffered countless injuries, but at this point, I’d probably pick Hill as this offense’s MVP candidate over Tagovailoa.

3. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Manager
After narrowing the group down to three, Mahomes is an easy choice at number three. It may be unfair to judge the defending champion by his own standards. While voters typically don’t pick a defending MVP to retain his title after his numbers decline, I shouldn’t be held to those same standards. Mahomes has been excellent this season.

With Travis Kelce struggling to be the week-to-week dominator we saw last season, Mahomes has often been asked to find solutions on his own without resorting to the legendary rapport he has with Kelce on scramble drills.

It’s a credit to the future Hall of Fame quarterback that he has been able to adjust. He ranks fourth in the NFL in QBR on throws made in 2.5 seconds or less. He has also been devastating as a scrambler, running for a league-high 16 first downs while scrambling. His average first down while scrambling has come with 10 yards to go.

Mahomes’ ability to sense that he can get the first down as a runner without taking a big hit is otherworldly. When he goes, he almost always picks up a first down, even on third-and-forever.

It’s one of his two secret superpowers alongside movement within the pocket. The average quarterback is sacked for nearly 23% of his pressures, but Mahomes is only sacked for 12% of his pressures. This is the best result of the tournament.

We can blame a drop in rankings or a lack of players at the wide receiver position for some of their problems, but the Chiefs have been in and out of too many offensive games for Mahomes to feel like ideal fit here.

Sunday was a case in point, as the Chiefs scored 14 points on two long drives against the Dolphins and gained 110 yards on seven other key drives they attempted in Germany. No one on the planet is better than Mahomes at providing answers, but even he at times seemed to struggle with Kansas City’s inconsistency.

2. Jalen Hurt, QB, Eagles

If you want to know how valuable someone is to your team, watch them limp up from a pile of stuff and see how you feel. Eagles fans had to endure that pain for a minute Sunday when Hurts took a hit to his knee and limped to the sideline before halftime against the Cowboys.

After the break, the fourth-year star returned to the lineup and looked no worse for wear. It wasn’t always pretty, but he threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns and added another on the ground in a 28-23 Eagles victory.

The nearly unprecedented gains Hurts made as a passer over the past few seasons aren’t going anywhere. Having great receivers helps, but he continues to be one of the league’s most accurate quarterbacks.

His 68.9% completion rate was 6.9 percentage points higher than expected from the NFL Next Gen Stats model, which was the best mark for any quarterback. He’s known for being able to do damage to teams outside the pocket, but his 72.4 QBR in the pocket ranks as the best in the NFL this season.

Of course, Hurts also made a significant difference as a runner, in part because of his integral role in executing the league’s most brutal play. He has made 39 first downs this season, 22 of which were designed runs of 2 yards or less.

That’s exactly in line with what we saw a year ago, when he pitched a record 67 first downs. His scrambling ability is lost in the proverbial dust cloud that comes with pushing and how it changes Philly’s offense, but he’s added 11 more first downs this season .

The only problem holding Hurts back is his tendency to play negatively. He has improved his sending-off rate from 7.6% a year ago to 6.2% this season, but interceptions are a concern.

He had just six picks in 460 passing attempts last season, but he had eight picks in about half a season in 2023. That includes three interceptions in a disappointing loss to Jets last month. Hurts is still an excellent football player and essential to Philadelphia’s cause, but he’s second to my top pick.

1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

Jackson gets a lot of help from his defense and we still need him to stay healthy through December and January after missing most of those months in 2021 and 2022 due to injury.

However, based on the first half of the season, I think he is the other and the best player in two months.
As a passer, Jackson made great strides. He led the league in completion percentage (71.5%) despite throwing downfield at the highest rate.

He averaged a league-high 10.2 yards per play, and he shut down dominant defenses up the middle. On throws 11 to 20 yards in the air, his 94.4 QBR is the second-best mark in football, behind Herbert. He ranked third in QBR under pressure.

And as a runner, Jackson hasn’t lost much of his prime. He rushed for a league-high 48.9 yards per game, topping all quarterbacks.

His 32 first downs are second only to Hurts, who has the advantage of always running a play that generates free first downs about 95% of the time. Jackson’s 19 pass attempts of 10 yards or more were by far the most of any passer in the league.

He racked up 47 completions of 10-plus yards during his MVP campaign, and no other quarterback in recent memory has exceeded 33 carries in a single campaign. He is aiming for 36th place this season.

Jackson has also been just slightly better at protecting the football and avoiding drive-stalling plays than his Eagles counterpart. He has taken sacks on 6.8% of his dropbacks, right in line with Hurts’ 6.2%.

The big difference is Hurts has thrown eight interceptions to Jackson’s three, albeit with 52 more pass attempts. They each have two fumbles, although Hurts has lost both of his fumbles, while Jackson has not.

With Jackson coming in as a more effective runner and protecting the ball as well as any other quarterback, his all-around game leaves me to pick him No. 1 here. Will this be enough to push Jackson to the MVP title? Sure is not.

The MVP usually has to win their division or even get first place in their conference. That’s easier said than done in the red-hot AFC North, where all four teams won games this weekend. Jackson was frustrated at times with drops, and he even went through stretches where it felt like Baltimore had been caught playing with its food before losing disappointingly. hopes against the Colts and Steelers, but he didn’t. moment. Jackson minimized mistakes, improved his passing, retained much of what people loved about him as a runner and made enough big plays to win every week. That was enough to take the lead in the MVP voting.

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