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NFL MVP Watch: Love The Mobility Of Today's Top QB's, But an Old Statue Stands In Their Way

Analysis Explained

What makes an NFL MVP? There are a lot of variables, some measurable, some immeasurable when you examine an NFL MVP caliber player. QB's are the easiest and are almost always going to win the award.

Our current top 5 consists of five QB's. The variables used to decide who is the NFL's leading MVP candidates are pretty simple. We first take a look at the raw numbers, passing yards, attempts, completion rate, TD's and INT's, and then we examine some of the advanced stats (throws under pressure, throws when clean); we then look at the QB's schedule strength, who have they beat and what is their current record against their current strength of schedule.

Measurables Summary

  • Raw stats (raw numbers, passing yards, attempts and completion rate, TD's and INT's)

  • Advanced Stats (Ex. passer rating when under pressure, vs not under pressure)

  • Strength of Schedule (who have they beat and their current record against their current strength of schedule).

  • Some unmeasurable items we consider (Ex. age of player and level they are playing, coaching staff, what their team would be without them)

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady:

The #'s: 149-225 (66%), 15 Pass TD's, 2 INT's, 1767 passing yards

Notable Games: Home win wk1 vs. Cowboys, lost at Rams wk3, won at Patriots wk4

The Analysis

I drafted Tom Brady in a fantasy football Superflex Dynasty this year, and for a good reason, Tom appears to be getting better with age. At 44 years old, he plans to play for at least another season, and Tom recently floated the idea he could play until 50. Not the best dynasty draft strategy if Tom is only playing another year or two, but the upside is there for at least two seasons, and if Tampa Tom plays until 50, well, that would be awesome.

Regardless of what you think about Brady, he is playing at an NFL MVP level through five weeks, posting 1767 passing yards, he is on pace to throw for 6000 yards, his 15 pass TD's on the season rank second to Patrick Mahomes. Brady is also 5th in the NFL through five games in passer rate. He is the MVP frontrunner through the first five weeks of the NFL season.

Strength of Schedule

With wins vs. the Cowboys at Home and Patriots on the road, Tampa Bay has proven to be in command of their title repeating destiny.

#2 Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

The #'s: 122-165 (74%), 10 Pass TD's, 4 INT's, 1368 passing yards

Notable Games: Road loss wk1 vs. Bucs, win at Chargers wk2, won at home vs the Panthers wk4

The Analysis

A year ago this week, Dak endured a gruesome season-ending ankle injury. He has put that injury in the rearview mirror, and it was apparent in a hurry just how important Dak is to the Dallas Cowboys as they collapsed without him in a year where the defense was a sieve.

So far in 2021, Dak is back to being Dak. He is completing 74% of his throws through five weeks, and he has propelled a Cowboys offense to an NFL leading 439 yards per game. His leadership is high level, his teammates feed off of him, which are the unmeasurable characteristics.

Strength Of Schedule

As noted, we look at the strength of schedule; the Cowboys held their own week one vs. the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and even in a loss, it felt like a Cowboys victory. Since that season-opening loss, they have won games at the Los Angeles Chargers and a home game vs. the Carolina Panthers.

#3 Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

The #'s: 112-167 (67%), 8 Pass TD's, 3 INT's, 1519 passing yards

Notable Games: Loss on the road vs. Raiders, win at home vs. Chiefs, win at Denver

The Analysis

When evaluating how much a player means a team's bottom line, it's easy to recognize that the 2021 Ravens in its current state would not be very good without Lamar Jackson. The Ravens without Lamar would have lost at least two more games to the lions and against the Chiefs. A few weeks ago I broke down some interesting data on Lamar Jackson and where he is ranked according to the SIS W.A.R. model, excerpt below.

According to the SIS W.A.R. model, which is broken down nicely by fellow SIS contributor Alex Vigderman, W.A.R. measures points above replacement using a points-per-win conversion based on the scoring environment. According to the SIS W.A.R. metric, Lamar Jackson ranks 13th (1.53) as a passer since 2019. As a rusher, Jackson ranks atop the NFL since 2019, posting an average W.A.R. of 0.63. If you combine the two metrics (running and passing), Lamar ranks 5th among all QB’s in the NFL using the SIS W.A.R. metric.

Lamar Jackson in 2021 is on pace to throw for 5000 yards; he currently has 1519 yards through the air through 5 weeks, ranking 3rd just behind Justin Herbert and Derek Carr. Lamar Jackson has 341 yards rushing, he is on pace for 1159 yards rushing. That would be over 6000 yards of total offense by one guy.

Strength of Schedule

The Ravens barely escaped a disastrous loss to the Lions in a game where Hollywood Brown dropped multiple TD's passes. The Ravens escaped with a record-breaking Justin Tucker FG. They opened the season with a loss to the Raiders, who appear to be falling quickly after a fast start. Their signature win occurred at home vs. the Chiefs in week two, and that game took all they had to win, and keep in mind Lamar brought the Ravens back down 11. Their next big win came on the road vs. the Broncos.

#4 Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray

The #'s: 124-165 (75%), 10 Pass TD's, 4 INT's, 1370 passing yards

Notable Games: Win on the road vs. Rams, win at home vs. the 49ers

The Analysis

I have been a critic of Kliff Kingsbury the last two seasons, but the 2021 edition of the Arizona Cardinals has a different feel to it. Playing in arguably the most challenging division, at least until the 49ers were ravaged again by injuries and the Russell Wilson injury, the Cardinals and the Rams are the front runners.

The Cardinals dispatched the Rams easily a few weeks ago in a game where Kyler Murray was impressive, completing 20 of 32 throws for 268 yards and two passing TD's. Murray also rushed for 39 yards on 6 attempts.

Murray's ability to extend a drive with his legs is on the level of a Lamar Jackson; his ability to extend passing plays while moving around is also on par with or better than Josh Allens, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson's of the world. Murray is arguably the most accurate passer in the NFL; he carries the league's top completion rate through five weeks.

Strength of Schedule

One week after the Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in dominating fashion, the Cardinals decisively beat the Rams. The win against the Rams is a signature victory, and the Cardinals followed up by defeating the 49ers this past Sunday. Keep an eye on how the NFC West continues to take shape; with Russell Wilson out for several weeks and the 49ers consistently being plagued by injury, it appears the division will be a race between the Cardinals and the Rams.

#5 Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen

The #'s: 114-183 (62%), 12 Pass TD's, 2 INT's, 1370 passing yards

Notable Games: Home loss vs. the Steelers wk1, home win vs. the Football Team wk3, win at the Chiefs wk5

The Analysis

Josh Allen entered the 2021 NFL season as my top candidate to win the NFL MVP. He started slowly in a loss vs. the steelers to open the season. Allen is a dynamic player in the mold of what NFL scouts, GM's and coaches are looking to find at the QB position. At 6-5 237 lbs, Allen can beat you with his big arm, and he is an athlete who can run over a defender or around a defender.

So far in 2021, Allen has completed 63% of his throws, down from 69% in 2020. But don't let the completion percentage sway your opinion of Allen, who is 8th in the NFL in total pass yards (1370) and tied for 5th with 12 TD passes through five weeks.

Where Allen makes up for a drop in completion percentage is as a runner. Allen has compiled 188 yards, 5.4 yards per attempt, and two more scores on the ground. His ability to keep plays alive with his legs will play a role in his ability to bring home the NFL MVP.

Strength of Schedule

The season-opening loss vs. the Steelers is a bit of a head-scratcher after five weeks, but the Bills have since defeated the Washington Football and Kansas City Chiefs pretty handily and are now 4-1.

#6 Los Angeles Charger QB Justin Herbert

The #'s: 139-207 (67%), 10 Pass TD's, 4 INT's, 1576 passing yards

Notable Games: Won at Football Team wk1, lost at home to Cowboys wk2, won at Chiefs wk3, won at home vs. Raiders week 4, won at home vs. Browns wk5

The Analysis

Justin Herbert keeps proving that he is on the same level or approaching the NFL's top QB's and he is doing it in an unprecedented fashion in today's NFL. Herbert is following up his record-breaking rookie year by playing at an MVP level leading the Chargers to a 4-1 start against arguably the most challenging schedule through five weeks.

Herbert has completed 67% of his throws, with 13 TD's to 3 INT's. He was phenomenal against the Browns this past Sunday, completing 26 of 43 passes (61%) with 398 passing yards, 4 TD's, and 0 INT's.

Herbert is another big-bodied QB who uses his mobility to keep plays alive. He possesses one of the league's strongest arms while playing with great poise and confidence. The AFC West is wide open now, and the Chargers are now the team to beat. If Herbert keeps playing at a high level, this team will be tough to defeat, and Herbert will continue to creep up the list of NFL MVP candidates in 2021.

Strength of Schedule

As I already mentioned, the Chargers have played arguably the most challenging schedule through the first five weeks of 2021. They beat a Washington Football Team (albeit a bad secondary), they lost a competitive game to the Cowboys, but have reeled off wins against the Chiefs, Raiders, and this past Sunday against the Browns.

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