The NFL season has reached the halfway point for most teams, offering a reasonable amount of time to predict how the second half of the season will go, and will players like Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, or Josh Allen win this year’s NFL MVP award.
There is plenty of football left and the potential for injuries and other unforeseen issues like player unrest and coaching meltdowns. But as things stand now there are five top candidates and four others that deserve mentioning even though they won’t get the award.
The four honorable mentions include Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who might get strong consideration if the Buffalo (5-4) can win at least seven more games and become a real threat in the playoffs. Allen has decent numbers passing for 2,423 yards and 18 TDs while rushing for 233 yards and 6 scores. But the Bills haven’t played with any consistency this year.
Others worth mentioning are San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, who leads the league in rushing with 652 yards and 9 TDs, Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill who has 1,076 receiving yards and 7 TDs, and Cleveland Browns pass rusher Miles Garrett, who wrecks every game in which he plays. If only the award didn’t always go to a quarterback.
With all of that in mind, here’s a ranking of the top five NFL MVP candidates and the predicted finish in descending order.
5. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins quarterback leads the league in passing yards with 2,609 and a league-leading 19 touchdowns. Miami’s offense has looked electric at times with Tua Tagovailoa completing 69.5 % of his passes. But the perception at the break is the Dolphins (6-3) thrive on weak teams and struggle against good ones with losses to the Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, and Kansas City Chiefs.
Miami is on the upswing, but probably not good enough yet to beat those teams and out-shine their quarterbacks.
4. Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles might be headed back to the Super Bowl and Jalen Hurts will play a big part if that happens. Hurts has 2,347 yards and 15 TDs passing as the Eagles (8-1) enter a bye week with the best record in pro football. He has 316 yards rushing and 7 TDs, thanks mainly to the celebrated “Tush Push.” Hurts could well be the MVP if the Eagles continue, but Hurts might be a player who doesn’t get the full credit he deserves because his team is so good.
“I’m as hungry as ever to continue to strive for new heights,” Hurts said recently. “But it all comes down to how we execute. When we do that at a high level, we’re pretty good.”
3. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati quarterback tends to get better as the season goes along and he’s headed in that direction this year. Slowed initially by a calf injury, Joe Burrow is starting to compile wins and statistics. He is still far down the list of passing leaders with 1,861 yards and 12 TDs but has thrown 10 of his TDs during the Bengals’ current four-game winning streak.
Cincinnati stands at 5-3. Burrow admitted winning an NFL MVP is on the list of his personal goals. “Yeah eventually,” he said. “Everything has to go right for you to win that award. You usually have to have the best record. A lot of things play into it. I’d like to win it eventually, but it’s not No.1 on my list.”
2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens look scary at 7-2. Their defense is stingy and Lamar Jackson is using his abundance of weapons. He has thrown for 1,954 yards and 9 TDs while rushing for 440 yards and 5 scores. His 71.5% completion percentage speaks to the efficiency of the Ravens offense. It figures to get even better as the year rolls along, putting Jackson in a position to win his second MVP award.
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Face it. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (7-2) are at again, proving they’re one of the elite teams in the NFL. The crafty Mahomes has thrown for 2,442 yards and 17 TDs, and while he’s not Jackson or Allen when it comes to running with the football, his scampers (258 yards) do damage.
He’s a great leader and makes his teammates better. It will be tough to keep the Chiefs out of the Super Bowl and Mahomes away from his third MVP.
“We can get a lot better as an offense,” Mahomes said after the Chiefs beat the Dolphins in Germany, “and if the offense gets to where I think it can be we’re going to be a hard team to beat.”
George Willis is a columnist for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.