Who are the NFL's MVP candidates? Russell Wilson and Christian McCaffrey leading the way
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 19/10/19 8:57am
Which players have emerged as potential NFL MVP candidates this season? With the help of the Around the NFL podcast heroes, we break down the players who have stood out from the crowd.
In London, we welcomed red-hot Christian McCaffrey as the Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Although statistically he didn't live up to previous weeks, he didn't disappoint as he juked his way to a 25-yard highlight-reel touchdown and scored twice on the day.
Panthers leave London as contenders
The Carolina Panthers leave London as contenders, and they spoke to Sky Sports about the week abroad and how they have won four straight.
Later on, in Cleveland, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson helped his team to rally late - throwing two touchdowns and running for one - as they won 32-28 and moved to 5-1. These two, along with a few other players, have emerged as favourite's for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award this season.
When we had Chris Wesseling, Marc Sessler, Gregg Rosenthal and Dan Hanzus in at Sky Sports last week, they took part in an 'MVP Draft', picking their favourites for the award in order.
After Week Six, we look back at their picks and how things have changed in a week. Has anyone new thrown their hat into the ring?
Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson has been playing at an insane level. So far this season, he has 17 touchdowns (14 passing and three rushing) and hasn't thrown a single pick. His completion percentage (72.5) is at a career-high level and his passer rating (124.7) is far ahead of the next QB (Patrick Mahomes, 111.9). He is certainly the current favourite.
Wesseling was supremely impressed with Wilson's Week Five performance, a four-touchdown outing as the Seahawks topped the Rams, with Wilson throwing a late TD to give his team the final lead.
"Each of these games - because there have only been five [now six] so far - has so much meaning," Wesseling to Sky Sports. "And last week's game for Russell Wilson was that game you look back at the end of the season and say yes, that's when he made his candidacy.
"That week, he took it over, that was the stuff that MVPs are made of and he is my pick."
Christian McCaffrey, Running back, Carolina Panthers
Even after a 'down week' with just 57 yards and two scores, McCaffrey is still on an elite running back pace. His 923 total yards from scrimmage so far are well ahead of the last three running backs to win the award at this stage of their seasons (Shaun Alexander, 747 yards, 2005; LaDanian Tomlinson, 719 yards, 2006; Adrian Peterson, 628 yards, 2012).
Sessler said: "It's always a quarterback and that annoys me because why are they calling it anything other than the best quarterback award?
"I'd go Christian McCaffrey because what more can he do? When you know - since Cam Newton has been out, Kyle Allen has played well - but they are just going to give him the ball over and over.
"He had 37 touches [against Houston in Week Four], he keeps doing acrobatic stuff that no other player is doing, so he is fun to watch.
"It's time to give it to someone different than 'fill in the blank' quarterback."
Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
Over the first three weeks of the season, last year's MVP Mahomes was on fire. He threw at least three touchdowns in each of those games, coming out of the period with a 71.9 per cent completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, no picks, and a 134.9 passer rating.
In the three games after, he slipped considerably. The completion percentage dropped to 56.03, the rating to 89.3, and he managed just four touchdowns and threw his first interception of the season.
Then on Thursday night against the Broncos, disaster struck as Mahomes dislocated his right knee and was forced to leave the game.
Mahomes injures knee in Chiefs win
Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes injured his right knee in the Kansas City Chiefs' 30-6 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Before the injury, Rosenthal was fully on board Mahomes' talent coming through by the end of the year. He told Sky Sports: "I feel like if right now, the voters got their ballots, it would be McCaffrey or Wilson but I'm going to take Patrick Mahomes.
"I think people are just searching for reasons not to take Mahomes and to me, he's clearly the best quarterback that's entered the league in our lifetime - at least since I've started covering the league.
"And I think, by the end of the year at least, he'll be clearly the best player."
However, how far will the injury set him back? If he misses three games - the reported best-case scenario - he could launch a miraculous late bid for the award. But his chances of retaining the title look very slim after a simple quarterback sneak went wrong at Mile High.
Dalvin Cook, Running back, Minnesota Vikings
Handzus, who pointed out a clear drop-off after those options said: "I like all of those, but how about Dalvin Cook? He has been everything the Vikings could have hoped for as a receiver and as a rusher.
"McCaffrey is getting the heat at running back right now - which he deserves - but Cook, when you look at what he's been able to do for their offense, it's an offense that is struggling throwing the ball.
"He's fourth place for MVP."
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Sure enough, before Kirk Cousins' four-touchdown performance against the Eagles, Cook was the Vikings' offense. Through their first five outings, he had 742 total yards and five touchdowns, averaging over 100 yards per game rushing. Although he scored a TD in Week Six, he was limited to his lowest total yardage output of the season (54).
He is a long shot - especially with McCaffrey setting the standard at the position - but he will definitely be a crucial piece for Minnesota all season.
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Houston Texans
In Week Six, in a supreme performance on the road at Arrowhead Stadium - against Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs - Watson put his name in the mix for this year's award. He did it with his arms (one passing TD) and legs (two rushing TDs) on Sunday, and has continually come up big in close games for the Texans.
Watson leads the NFL in passer rating (142.8) and passing yards per attempt (10.6) in the fourth quarter. He's tied with Russell Wilson with 17 total touchdowns - the most in the league.
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner backed Watson, telling NFL Network: "When you see a quarterback that is as dynamic as him, that makes big play after big play - I always believe that when you are talking about MVPs, they have to have big-play ability.
"They have to be a guy that every time you turn on the TV, you watch for them, and they have signature plays every time they go out there and [Watson] has signature plays all the time."
According to the latest odds, there are a few other players in the mix - predominantly quarterbacks. Tom Brady has led the Patriots to a perfect season so far as New England continue to dominate their opponents, but they are doing it on both sides of the ball.
Aaron Rodgers has a chance with the Packers at 5-1 despite a banged-up receiving group. However, his numbers (just eight touchdowns and two picks) will need to pick up if he is to mount a bid for the MVP award.
Although Lamar Jackson doesn't have the efficiency as a passer you'd expect from the winner, he is the best dual-threat player at the position since Michael Vick, with already 1,500 passing yards and 11 touchdowns alongside 460 yards and two scores on the ground. Could he be riser in the second half of the season?
Who else could win the award? Let us know on Twitter @SkySportsNFL.