I love putting together lists as lead-ins for the Thursday night NFL pick and this weekend is no different. We're past the halfway point in the NFL season, which makes it a good time to assess the MVP race. There are a few candidates that have proved they deserve more consideration than the rest of the league. Most notable about the candidates is that they're all quarterbacks.
That's the new norm for the NFL as the last five MVP trophies have been awarded to a quarterback. The NFL has become a passing league and while it's nice that Adrian Peterson is on pace for 1,700 rushing yards after tearing his ACL last year, it's still not going to be enough to get him the trophy. And while it's nice to think about J.J. Watt as a candidate, no defensive player has won this award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. The likelihood of Watt winning is extremely slim. Here's where I stand on MVP candidates at this point:
5. Andrew Luck
The Colts are 5-3 and battling for a playoff spot. I bet you never expected that from a rookie QB. Eric Mangini said on ESPN this week that Andrew Luck has surprisingly never made the same mistake twice this season. Somehow he's able to retain the information from his mistakes and learn from it, which is unheard of from rookie quarterbacks. He gets the nod over Ben Roethlisberger, because the Steelers have had a good running attack this year and they got off to a slow start this season.
4. Tom Brady
Brady's up to his usual tricks. The Patriots will win the AFC East and Brady will throw for 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. It's just a little disappointing that the Patriots don't have a better record after a few close losses. Brady's on the decline of his career, but he's still better than most quarterbacks out there.
3. Aaron Rodgers
The Packers have lost their starting running back and two starting wide receivers to injury, but they've steadied the ship be 6-3 at this point in the season. That's in no small part to Rodgers, who's clearly the most gifted quarterback in the game. He's been able to keep the offense at a high level in recent weeks despite the injuries and should lead the Packers to another playoff berth.
2. Peyton Manning
Denver were good last year with Tim Tebow, but their offense is bordering on great with Manning at the helm. It took a few weeks for them to get going, but now the Broncos are putting up points at the beginning of games as well as the end. Despite missing all of last season with a neck injury, he's fourth in the league in passing yards and third in touchdowns. Denver has won four of their last five games and they look poised to be a serious threat in the AFC.
1. Matt Ryan
There may be other names ahead of Ryan in passing yards and touchdowns, but steering a team to an 8-0 record with very strong offensive statistics is what makes Ryan the MVP favorite at this point in the season. It's possible that the Falcons level off a bit down the stretch, but they're on their way to a great regular season. Their offense has transitioned from a run-heavy approach to a wide-open passing attack and Ryan has made the adjustment with ease. He's led his team to victories at the end of games and is playing at a level unseen before in his career. It's his trophy to lose with eight games left in the season.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
Pittsburgh over Kansas City
Somehow survivor pools are still going strong. After a few early season upsets, we haven't seen anything as crazy as New England losing to Arizona or Kansas City upsetting New Orleans. Participants are running out of teams, however, as the best teams are getting used up. The big favorites this week are New England hosting Buffalo, Baltimore hosting Oakland, San Francisco hosting St. Louis, and Pittsburgh hosting Kansas City. I've already chosen the first three options in this space, so I'll promote the Steelers as the picks for this weekend.
They shouldn't have much trouble with Chiefs, who have fallen to be the worst team in the league. The Chiefs are giving up the third most points in the league and their offense is clearly not going to win a shootout. It's weird how they've used Jamaal Charles sparingly in the last three games after using him heavily in the three games before that. But when Romeo Crennel is the coach, you can't take common sense for granted. There's a slight question of a Pittsburgh hangover before the bye week after a big win against the Giants, but we're not talking about covering a spread here. If you're looking for other decent options, Seattle (4-0 at home this year) should beat the Jets and is preferred to Miami (a decent sized favorite at home against Tennessee).
Thursday Night Pick:
Indianapolis +3 over JACKSONVILLE
It's hard to find someone who can make a convincing argument for the Jaguars tonight. They've lost their four games by a average of 23 points. They don't have the passing attack to take advantage of the injuries in the Colts' secondary. They're missing their best player. Home dogs are 2-10 in their last 12. All the arguments are stacked up against them. The Colts hadn't shown that they could play well on the road until beating the Titans in overtime a couple weeks ago. The only worrisome thing is this game seems a little too obvious and the spread is only three points. I just can't hear anything that would convince me to take the Jaguars here. They're not as bad as the Chiefs because the Chiefs have quit on the season, but they're pretty damn close.
Last Week: 10-4