The last eight weeks have flown by and what started as the way-too-early NFL MVP list has developed nicely into Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and then everybody else.
Week 7’s slate of games left us some thrilling performances, only one unbeaten team (in the Pittsburgh Steelers), and a better projection of who could topple Wilson for the league’s award. Wilson has been the running favorite since the start of the season, according to BetOnline.ag, and despite the lone blemish on his record, continues to make a strong case. There were, however, some vintage performances from very veteran passers who could challenge Wilson if they keep it up.
Here are 10 players leading the way in the NFL’s MVP race:
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Last week: No. 1
Yes, the Seahawks lost Sunday night. Yes, Wilson threw three interceptions in the soul-crushing 37-34 overtime defeat. Yes, Wilson is still in a class of his own because that’s how good he is.
Wilson threw for 388 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals. He also led all Seahawks rushers with 84 yards on the ground. Wilson continues to be one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. According to The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin, Wilson remains the NFL leader in the expected points added (EPA), completion percentage over expectation composite ranking, and sits among the league’s best in nearly every statistical category. He has an NFL-leading 22 touchdowns and a 10.1% touchdown pass percentage, which is more than two points higher than the rest of qualified passers.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: No. 2
After back-to-back victories, the Kansas City Chiefs once again look unstoppable. If this is Wilson’s award to lose, I would bet quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be the one to beat him out.
Mahomes didn’t have an uber impressive performance against the Denver Broncos, either. In Kansas City’s 43-16 win, he threw for 200 yards and one touchdown—and even if Mahomes has an “off” day, the Chiefs can still beat their opponents by nearly 30 points. All Mahomes needs is some big performances in marquee matchups—including games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints—to dethrone Wilson.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Last week: No. 5
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been more fun than usual to watch, and it’s no coincidence that has resulted in a 5-1 record and classic Rodgers’ performances.
Rodgers was having some of the best quarterback play league-wide with an injury-riddled roster. Now that his favorite target, wide receiver Davante Adams, is back in the fold, Rodgers continues to show up and show out. He finished Green Bay’s 35-20 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday with 283 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers had the second-highest passer rating (132.4) of Week 7, trailing only the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield, and continues scoring at a higher rate than the rest of the league; the Packers rank second in the NFL with 32.8 points per game.
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: N/A
We’ve gotten away from the obvious for long enough. Quarterback Tom Brady is still the Tom Brady we saw with the New England Patriots, and the Buccaneers are making sure of it. No team is in a win-right-now-at-any-cost mode like Tampa Bay and its star-powered roster is storming through the AFC.
Brady has 20 total touchdowns through seven games and in the Buccaneers’ most recent win, a 45-20 rout of the Las Vegas Raiders, Brady was betting against the house and won—big. He completed 33-of-46 passes for 369 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions; in fact, Brady has just one interception in his last five outings. If Brady is going to get better, and better, and better as the season progresses, he’ll be vying for another MVP award. He’s already on pace for 4,366 yards and 41 passing touchdowns, which would be the second most in his career.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Last week: No. 3
This is painful, but for as good as Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is, he doesn't look like the same MVP player from 2019. The Ravens, similar to the Chiefs, don’t need Jackson to play well every single game—Baltimore is enjoying a 5-1 record with its only loss to Kansas City.
Jackson has looked out of sync with his targets, and the Ravens barely toppled the Philadelphia Eagles, 30-28, this weekend. Again, similar to Mahomes, all Jackson needs is a handful of great games to put him near the top of this list; and that starts with the Week 8 matchup versus the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: No. 6
This was by no means supposed to transition this smoothly, but since we’re talking about the Steelers, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continues to show us that age and injury won’t hamper his 17th season.
Despite his three-interception day, Roethlisberger did enough offensively to keep Pittsburgh perfect on the season. He’s playing with one of the league’s best defenses and a loaded offense that has three wide receivers with 220-plus yards on at least 25 targets. Roethlisberger is playing better than some expected following a season-ending injury and elbow surgery in 2019. He’s ranked 15th in EPA per play (0.214).
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
Last week: No. 4
The Tennessee Titans continue to build off of their 2019 success and it’s due to the efforts of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry; both players deserve to be in MVP conversations.
Tannehill won Comeback Player of the Year last season after helping the Titans reach the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 2002. He’s been showing he’s much of the same quarterback this year but fell down this list after losing the battle of the AFC’s two unbeaten teams heading into Week 7. He couldn’t quite outlast a tough Steelers defense; it would have been a feat that would have given Wilson a run for his money.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Last week: No. 8
It’s tough to see anyone but a quarterback winning this award, especially when quarterback play is at a premium. If a player were to do it, it would be one of these last three.
Henry is the engine of the Titans offense and will destroy any defender in his path. He’s totaled league-leading 143 carries, 663 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, an average of 110.5 yards per game, and 153 total touches. Henry is the best player in the backfield this season.
Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Last week: No. 9
If the Los Angeles Rams continue to be successful, it’s because of the one-man wrecking crew on defense. Aaron Donald is the best player on this team, the best defensive player across the league, and a strong case could be made for the best player in the NFL regardless of position.
For better or worse the Rams have had three primetime games, which really means we’ve had three chances to see Donald in action, including a 24-10 win on Monday over the Chicago Bears. Los Angeles didn’t allow an offensive touchdown versus Chicago and is barely second in points allowed per game (17.7). Donald had 36 pass-rush snaps and 10 quarterback pressures against the Bears. He’s good.
Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns
Last week: N/A
Let’s try this again: If the Browns continue to be successful it’s because of the one-man wrecking crew on defense. Myles Garrett leads the NFL with nine sacks and has four forced fumbles through seven weeks, which is tied for the most in the league. He has three multi-sack games, which, again, leads the NFL. He’s a shoo-in for Defensive Player of the Year at the least.