Award may be Wil­son’s to lose

Seat­tle QB al­ready has posted an im­pres­sive ar­ray of sta­tis­tics

Baltimore Sun - - FOOTBALL - By C.J. Doon

The front-run­ner for NFL Most Valu­able Player award ex­tended his lead over the rest of the pack this week­end.

Rus­sell Wil­son led the 30th gamewin­ning drive of his ca­reer in the Seat­tle Sea­hawks’ come­back win over the Min­nesota Vik­ings on Sun­day night, the most of any quar­ter­back since Wil­son en­tered the league in 2012. Through five games, he’s on track to win the league’s high­est honor for the first time in his ca­reer.

Mean­while, one of the league’s least most underrated play­ers is prov­ing his 2019 break­out sea­son was no fluke.

Here’s a look at who’s trend­ing up in the race for MVP through Week 5:

1. Sea­hawks QB Rus­sell Wil­son (last week: No. 1)

An­other week, an­other MVP­mo­ment­for Wil­son. With the Sea­hawks trail­ing 26-21 with 1:42 to play, Wil­son led a 13-play, 94-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to DK Met­calf with 15 sec­onds to go, his third of the game. Af­ter the Vik­ings failed to con­vert on fourth-and-1 from the Seat­tle 6-yard line with two min­utes left, Min­nesota still had a 91.4% chance to win the game, per ESPN. Yet it still seemed in­evitable that Wil­son would march the Sea­hawks down the field for the win­ning score. That’s the mark of an MVP. From the raw stats (72.8% com­ple­tion rate, 1,502 pass­ing yards, 19 TDs, three in­ter­cep­tions) to the ad­vanced met­rics (80.8 QBR, 0.375 ex­pected points added per play, 12.5% com­ple­tion per­cent­age over ex­pec­ta­tion) to Seat­tle’s 5-0 record, ev­ery­thing is point­ing in Wil­son’s fa­vor so far.

2. Pack­ers QB Aaron Rodgers (last week: No. 3)

Even with a bye in Week 5, Rodgers is still tied for the third-most touchdown passes in the league (13), leads all qual­i­fied passers in EPA per play (0.492) and has the most pass­ing at­tempts of any quar­ter­back with­out an in­ter­cep­tion (139). Green Bay will put its un­de­feated record on the line Sun­day against the Buc­ca­neers and Tom Brady, giv­ing Rodgers an­other chance for a sig­na­ture per­for­mance in front of a na­tional au­di­ence. The 36-year-old is look­ing bet­ter than he has in years.

3. Chiefs QB Pa­trick Ma­homes (last week: No. 4)

Ma­homes’ Chiefs lost for the first time since last Novem­ber, fall­ing to the Raiders in a shootout, 40-32, on Sun­day to end a 13-game win­ning streak. The reign­ing Su­per Bowl MVP threw for 340 yards with two touch­downs and his first in­ter­cep­tion of the sea­son and also scram­bled for a 3-yard score, but was out-du­eled by Derek Carr. Ma­homes is still tied for the third-most

touchdown passes in the league (13), ranks third in QBR (86.3) and fifth in EPA per play (0.338) and has the Chiefs (4-1) sit­ting on top of the AFC West. Ma­homes is on pace to put up huge num­bers for per­haps the league’s best team.

4. Bills QB Josh Allen (last week: No. 2) Allen dis­ap­pointed Tues­day night in a 42-16 blowout loss to the Ti­tans, pass­ing for 263 yards, two touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions af­ter throw­ing just one pick in his first four games. One bad game doesn’t de­rail his MVP cam­paign, nor the Bills’ sea­son, but his per­for­mance against a team that missed two weeks of prac­tices be­cause of a COVID-19 out­break is con­cern­ing. He still has 14 touchdown passes, sec­ond most in the league, and en­tered Tues­day with the sec­ond high­est EPA per play (0.403), above Wil­son and Ma­homes. Mon­day night’s show­down against the Chiefs is a big op­por­tu­nity to vault back into the top of the race.

5. Ti­tans QB Ryan Tan­nehill (last week: not ranked)

So much for re­gres­sion. Tan­nehill was ex­pected to de­cline from his ca­reer-best sea­son in 2019, when he was one of the league’s most ef­fi­cient passers and helped lead a sur­pris­ing run to the AFC cham­pi­onship game. In­stead, he might have got­ten even bet­ter. The eight-year vet­eran was nearly per­fect in Tues­day night’s rout of the pre­vi­ously un­de­feated Bills, com­plet­ing 21 of 28 passes for 195 yards and three touch­downs and rush­ing for 42 yards and an­other score. He’s com­plet­ing 68.9% of his at­tempts with nine touchdown passes and zero in­ter­cep­tions and en­tered Tues­day sev­enth in EPA per play (0.293).

In the run­ning

Rams QB Jared Goff (last week: not ranked)

He’s not the type of quar­ter­back who will im­press with his raw num­bers (274.4 yards per game, eight touch­downs, three in­ter­cep­tions), but he’s been ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient (71.7% com­ple­tion, 9.0 yards per at­tempt, 0.334 EPA per play) lead­ing coach Sean

McVay’s dizzy­ing of­fense. The Rams are 4-1 and chal­leng­ing the Sea­hawks for the top spot in a tough divi­sion.

Ravens QB La­mar Jack­son (last week: No. 5)

Jack­son has been in­con­sis­tent as a passer and less in­tim­i­dat­ing as a run­ner this sea­son, ev­i­denced by his per­for­mance Sun­day against the Ben­gals (19-for-37 pass­ing for 180 yards, two touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion with 3 rush­ing yards). The un­der­ly­ing num­bers — 24th in EPA per play (0.097), 19th in CPOE (2.2%), 11th in QBR (75.6) — show a worse quar­ter­back than Jack­son’s raw stats would sug­gest, but the Ravens are 4-1 and have some big games com­ing up that could vault Jack­son right back into the MVP con­ver­sa­tion.

Raiders QB Derek Carr (last week: not ranked)

Tak­ing down Ma­homes and the Chiefs was a big mo­ment for Carr, who had yet to win in Kansas City in six ca­reer games, los­ing by an av­er­age of 17 points. He threw for 347 yards with three touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion, com­fort­ably push­ing the ball down­field with scor­ing strikes of 59 and 72 yards.

Buc­ca­neers QB Tom Brady (last week: not ranked)

It’s of­ten said that the MVP is a nar­ra­tive award, and Brady has one of the best in the league af­ter leav­ing his Pa­tri­ots dy­nasty be­hind for a new home in Tampa Bay. Not know­ing it was fourth down with the game on the line in Thurs­day night’s loss to Su­per Bowl neme­sis Nick Foles and the Bears is a strike against him, but he’s still per­form­ing at a high level (64.3% com­ple­tion rate, 275 yards per game, 12 touch­downs, four in­ter­cep­tions) and has the Bucs (3-2) tied for first place in the NFC South.

Steel­ers QB Ben Roeth­lis­berger (last week: not ranked)

Big Ben doesn’t have the arm that once helped him lead the league in pass­ing yards, but he’s done enough to keep the Steel­ers of­fense afloat through five games. He is com­plet­ing nearly 70% of his passes, has 10 touchdown passes to just one in­ter­cep­tion and ranks ninth in EPA per play (0.268).

TYLER KAUF­MAN/AP

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers is very much in con­tention for the NFL MVP award, but it’s still Rus­sell Wil­son’s to lose.

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