If Week 14 did anything for the NFL MVP picture, it clouded it.
Derek Carr and Dak Prescott fizzled in marquee games, while the rest of the field didn’t do enough to separate themselves the way Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton did a year ago. So, who are the leading candidates with three weeks left in the regular season?
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: Brady has been stellar since returning to the field. He’s led the Patriots to an 8-1 record since his return, tossing 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski has not slowed Brady, as he has thrown for 675 yards in the last two games, including his 406-yard dissection of the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
2. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: The Detroit Lions are 9-4 and sit atop the NFC North with a running game that ranks 29th in the league and no Calvin Johnson. How? Stafford has led eight game-winning drives this season while throwing to inconsistent receivers Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Anquan Boldin. The finger injury he suffered on Sunday against Chicago might derail his candidacy, but right now, he has as good a shot as anyone.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: The rookie running back leads the league in rushing with 1,392 yards and is one of the main reasons the Cowboys have an opportunity to clinch the top seed in the NFC. While Elliott has had a fantastic rookie campaign, he benefits from the best offensive line in football, a group that would be considered for the MVP if a position group could win it.
4. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: The Atlanta signal caller might be first on this list if not for Eric Berry’s interception on the Falcons’ two-point conversion attempt two weeks ago against the Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, Ryan eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for the season during his dismantling of the Los Angeles Rams, and he has piloted the Falcons to first place in the NFC South.
5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Much of the season has been spent diagnosing what might be wrong with the Packers star, but he has quietly thrown for a league-leading 32 touchdowns, and after he picked apart the Seahawks on Sunday, he doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingl/USA TODAY Sports