Top 3 MVP candidates halfway through the NFL season
As we’ve reached the mid-way point of the 2020 NFL season, it’s a good time to take a breath and see which players have risen above the rest of the league for the most prestigious individual regular season award.
Last year, with a dynamic combination of video game-like speed and agility, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson took home the MVP award.
This season, that splash and dash from Jackson hasn’t quite been at the same level, leaving the MVP front-runners bringing a more traditional style of play to the field.
While different than Jackson’s skillset, the ability of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been on full display, and we’ll examine their chances to stay on a roll and bring home some MVP hardware.
NFL MVP candidate: Derrick Henry
The bruising battering ram that established himself in the second half of last season and via a historic playoff run, Derrick Henry only knows one way to run—violently.
While carrying his team to the AFC Championship Game last season, Henry carried the ball a total of 83 times through three playoff contests, which flies directly against the popular running back-by-committee philosophy employed by many teams in the NFL. At 6’3” and 247 pounds, the former Alabama star doesn’t shy away from contact against hard-charging linebackers, because he’s basically the same size they are.
What has made Henry’s 2020 run at MVP so impressive as an encore is that Tennessee’s offense was no longer a secret coming into the year. Defensive coordinators around the league know that Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will feed his big back as often as necessary in order to dictate time of possession, and wear down a defense. So far this season, Henry is averaging 23 carries a game and has 161 total carries, which both lead the league. He’s extremely effective with each tote as well, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
While Tennessee lost tackle Jack Conklin last offseason in free agency, and tackle Taylor Lewan to injury this campaign, the monster RB continues to churn up yardage and make his MVP case while everyone knows it’s coming.
NFL MVP candidate: Aaron Rodgers
It turned out that Green Bay Packers rookie QB Jordan Love had the perfect mentor after all. He’s had a front row seat to teammate Aaron Rodgers’ virtuoso comeback of a season, in which he’s thrown for the fourth-most passing yards in the league so far, and the second-most touchdown passes.
Green Bay’s lack of high-pedigree receiving talent has been well documented, but that perceived short end of the stick hasn’t stopped Rodgers from unleashing some amazing throws, and making the best out of what he has to work with.
Even though he has WR Davante Adams and star RB Aaron Jones, the narrative that Rodgers’ deck is less than fully stacked has become so popular in NFL circles that MVP voters’ prevailing thought is that the veteran QB is having this success through guile and intelligence. That perception, as well as Green Bay’s impressive 6-2 record, will work in Rodgers’ favor as the season progresses.
They should be able to put away the slumping Chicago Bears in the NFC North, which will also help the State Farm spokesman remain in contention for an MVP award at season’s end.
NFL MVP candidate: Russell Wilson
Everyone wanted to see what Mr. Unlimited could do if he had free reign in the kitchen (an ode to the “Let Russ Cook” campaign), and now we’re finally getting a taste of how sweet some of his main courses can be.
Russell Wilson leads the league in passing touchdowns with a total of 26 through seven games, which puts him on a blistering pace for over 52 touchdowns at season’s end.
What’s even more impressive is that he’s not dinking and dunking his way to success either, which had been his M.O. early in his career. Wilson is also fourth in the league in average yards per completion, suggesting that he’s letting it rip when he sees WR’s Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf with an advantage down the field.
Perhaps the perfect storm for Wilson’s tremendous season and MVP candidacy is the incredibly competitive NFC West race the Seahawks find themselves in. Seattle really does need to win every game, or come very close to it, to hold off the hard charging Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, making every week a showcase for how Wilson plays under pressure.
He usually doesn’t disappoint under the bright lights, which makes him the MVP front-runner in the 2020 NFL season.