2013-14 NFL Season: Top 10 MVP Candidates At Midseason
Gauging The NFL MVP Race At Midseason
During the opening weeks of the 2013 NFL season, multiple coaches, players and fans took to defending their team's poor starts as an aberration or simply being unlucky. After all, each season begins with a number of solid teams looking out of sorts as a result of any number of reasons and they must find their way back to the top.
Last season, the prime example of this was Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who started 2-3 as the quarterback became accustomed to his new surroundings. Once he did that, the QB led the team to 11 straight wins to finish 13-3. By the middle of the season, it was apparent that Manning and the Broncos were a force to be reckoned with; and again in 2013, it appears that the midway point of the season has marked a turning point for the haves and have-nots.
Just as the midway point of the NFL season marks a time in which the true contenders begin to gain some distance from those who will finish outside of the playoffs, those in contention for major awards begin to break away from the field. This applies especially to the NFL MVP award, as the best players in the league have undoubtedly showcased their skills efficiently through the season's first eight weeks. Not doing so would effectively take them out of contention for the award, as it is given to the player most valuable to their respective team over the entire season.
After taking into consideration the importance of the first half of the season and the results of those who have effectively showcased their skills thus far, I have formed a list of the top 10 candidates for the NFL MVP Award right now.
10. Mario Williams
Mario Williams has been an absolute force in the defensive line for the Buffalo Bills, compiling an astounding 11 sacks through eight games. This has Williams on pace for 22 sacks (22.5 is the single-season record) and signifies the fact that he has been amazingly consistent throughout the 2013 season. Unfortunately for the lineman, his Bills only sit at 3-5, and the team's defense has allowed 26.6 points per game, so one must wonder how valuable he has been. Obviously, breaking the single-season sack record and helping Buffalo find their way into the playoffs would help alleviate these concerns, but outside of those long shots happening, it appears unlikely that Williams will win the 2013 NFL MVP award.
9. Andy Dalton
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has answered all the questions about his play in 2013, racking up a 65.6 percent completion percentage, 2,249 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions through eight games. Given the fact that 11 of these touchdowns and only two interceptions have come in the last three weeks (all Bengals wins), it is safe to say that Dalton has surged onto the list of candidates for the NFL MVP award. Obviously, keeping this up will help Dalton vault up this list in future weeks, as will keeping the Bengals in first place in the AFC North and second in the entire AFC.
8. Tamba Hali
The Kansas City Chiefs have seen a great turnaround since the arrival of Andy Reid in the offseason, and their move from 2-14 in 2012 to 8-0 in 2013 shows that they are a force to be reckoned with. A huge catalyst for this change has been the play of their defense, which has been led by linebacker Tamba Hali. Hali has picked up nine sacks, one interception and forced four fumbles while serving as a headache for any opposing offensive line. With the Chiefs allowing an NFL-low 12.3 points per game, it is clear the linebacker's efforts have had a huge impact, and at the very least will keep him in the MVP discussion throughout the season.
7. Aaron Rodgers
If it seems as if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been an MVP candidate for the past five years, it is probably because he has. This is no different in 2013 as the star quarterback has thrown for a 67.1 completion percentage, 2,191 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions through four games. The Packers have recovered from a 1-2 start to now sit at 5-2, echoing the advancement in play the Rodgers has displayed as the season has progressed. Moving forward, there is little doubt that he will continue to play like a star, although it is yet to be seen whether he will provide enough of a wow factor to warrant an MVP title.
6. Robert Mathis
While many people look to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as the team's undisputed MVP, it would be simply wrong to ignore the contributions of Robert Mathis in 2013. In seven games, the linebacker has picked up 11 sacks and forced three fumbles as the anchor of a Colts defense that has allowed only 18.7 points per game and helped the team to a 5-2 record. While it will be hard for Mathis to get out from underneath Luck's shadow in the MVP race, one could certainly make the case that he has put up better statistics than the quarterback.
5. Philip Rivers
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has had a surprisingly great season in 2013, helping the team jump to a 4-3 record that currently has the Chargers occupying a playoff spot. So far, he has thrown for a 73.9 completion percentage, 2,132 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, in the process helping to paint over the fact that the Chargers are average at best at running the ball and on defense. While he may not have the star power or play on as great of a team as some other candidates, it will be very hard to ignore Rivers for the NFL MVP Award if he takes an underwhelming Chargers team to the playoffs in 2013.
4. Drew Brees
The return of Sean Payton has had a huge impact on the entire New Orleans Saints roster, but perhaps no one more than quarterback Drew Brees. The team's star has seemed to feel a weight come off his shoulders, throwing for 2,290 yards, a 67.5 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions as the Saints jumped out to a 6-1 start. This great statistical output and the success of New Orleans has put Brees firmly in the race for the NFL MVP award, a conversation he seems likely to stay in for the rest of 2013.
3. Calvin Johnson
Traditionally, wide receivers do not and should not win the NFL MVP Award, but Calvin Johnson is simply too great to ignore. Despite only playing in seven of the Detroit Lions' games this season, Johnson has picked up 47 receptions, 821 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. All five of the Lions' wins have came in games that Johnson has played in, and the team relies on him to do everything offensively every week. No receiver on the team's roster has picked up even half the yards Johnson has compiled, which is remarkable given the fact the standout receiver is constantly double- and even triple-teamed. Simply put, no one can stop the man known as Megatron, which could even include his competitors for the NFL MVP award by the end of 2013.
2. Andrew Luck
On the surface, one would say that Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck has really not been that impressive, as his statistical output of 1574 passing yards, 60.7 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions does not jump off the page. But when one actually watches his play on the field, it becomes obvious that he is the leader of the entire Colts roster and shows up to play when things count most. The small things that Luck provide to the Colts in each of these games can not be fully described, but are impossible to miss for the NFL MVP award voters. It will be hard to keep the quarterback from finishing in the top three for the award, and he certainly has a chance to win it outright.
1. Peyton Manning
During the 2012 season, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was held back from winning the NFL MVP Award because of a historic season by Adrian Peterson, but there appears to be no such obstacles lying in the way in 2013. Through eight games, he has thrown for a 71.2 completion percentage, 2,919 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. These numbers have him on pace for possibly the best season by a quarterback in the history of football. It has established Manning as the undisputed leader of the Broncos and marked him as a huge reason why the team has jumped out to a 7-1 record. At this point of the season, the future Hall of Famer is the undisputed leader for the NFL MVP award, although a few slip-ups could result in a competitor finding their way into the race.