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Derek Carr could enter NFL MVP conversation on ‘Monday Night Football’

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you had Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders as one of two undefeated teams remaining in the NFL in early October, congratulations. Also, let me know the next time you make it to Las Vegas. Steaks on me.

Jon Gruden’s squad heads into Monday night’s matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers in Southern California with a perfect 3-0 record. The embattled Carr continues to play out of his mind.

Through the first three games of the 2021 season, the multi-time Pro Bowler is leading an offense that is averaging 30 points per game.

He’s also the face of a squad that has already defeated three fellow AFC Playoff contenders in that of the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. Carr is doing this while putting up some tremendous numbers. This has Carr on the verge of entering the NFL MVP conversation.

Derek Carr stats

  • Completion %: 64.7
  • Yards: 1,203
  • Touchdowns: 6
  • Interceptions: 2
  • Yards per attempt: 8.8
  • Yards per completion: 13.7
  • QB rating: 101.4

If you look at Derek Carr’s QB rating over the past two seasons, they are similar to what we’ve seen in 2021. However, he’s been much more efficient with the ball.

One of the knocks on the veteran quarterback has been his unwillingness to throw the ball down the field. Based on his rankings in terms of yards per attempt (6th) and yards per completion (5th), that has not been the case in 2021.

Looking at NFL Next Gen Stats, Carr also ranks sixth among starting quarterbacks in average air yards per pass (9.1). This has helped open up the Raiders’ offense in a big way.

Derek Carr as a team leader

derek carr, nfl mvp?
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas’ offseason was filled with a ton of drama, both internally and through a public lens. Multiple front office shake ups. Questions regarding general manager Mike Mayock’s future in the desert. An uneven relationship between Carr and Gruden, leading to continued rumors about a potential divorce.

All of this has given in to an early season filled with promise in Vegas. Three consecutive wins against teams who had playoff hopes heading into the campaign. Two overtime wins with Carr leading the charge in the extra stanza and in front of boisterous Raiders fans in the desert metropolis.

The entire dynamic has now officially been turned on its head. And a lot of that has to do with Carr’s veteran presence. On the field, it has a lot more to do with Carr’s own progression as a quarterback.

Derek Carr is getting the youngsters involved

derek carr, las vegas raiders
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the season, a lot of the focus was on Carr targeting stud tight end Darren Waller too much. The idea that he’s zeroing in on his best pass-catcher, leading to a predictive offense.

Heading into a huge Week 4 outing against the Chargers, that simply is no longer the case. Look at Carr’s ball distribution and success rate through the first three games.

  • Darren Waller: 33 targets, 60.6% completion
  • Hunter Renfrow: 22 targets, 72.7% completion
  • Henry Ruggs: 17 targets, 57.9% completion
  • Bryan Edwards: 13 targets, 76.9% completion

While Waller remains the most targeted, three of Carr’s young receivers have played a huge rule over the first three games of the season.

Edwards’ 13 targets are not where the Raiders want them to be. However, he’s come up big in overtime both times Vegas has played in the extra stanza. Meanwhile, Ruggs is averaging a resounding 21.5 yards per reception despite catching less than 58% of his targets. Add in Renfrow as a legit slot guy, and there’s a lot to like here.

Bottom line: Derek Carr as an NFL MVP candidate

If Carr were to go into SoFi Stadium in Southern California Monday night and come away with a win, we’d have to list him as one of the top-five candidates for the highest individual honor in the NFL.

Defeating a Chargers team led by Justin Herbert while remaining one of only two undefeated teams in the league is nothing to sneeze at. A strong performance here, and Carr will get his due.