Mike Sando's MVP Watch
It was striking, however, that his dominant rushing performance in Week 5 failed to produce a victory over St. Louis. The Seahawks ran the ball almost at will in that game, but without a marginally productive passing game, they fell short.
SportsNation: NFL MVP
Who is your choice for NFL MVP after Week 4 of the NFL's regular season?
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Arian Foster ranked fourth heading into opening week. Jamaal Charles appeared at No. 9 last week after topping 200 yards rushing. No other running backs have appeared on the list at any other time. That wasn't by design. It has just worked out that way.
Sixteen quarterbacks, two receivers and two defensive players have appeared. We've had nearly as many referees as running backs, with Ed Hochuli making a just-for-fun appearance before the NFL and its officials finally settled their labor impasse.
Lynch has a good shot at appearing next week, particularly if the Seahawks win. He's facing a Carolina defense that has allowed a 100-yard rusher for three games running. Lynch has eight 100-yard games since Week 9 last season, most in the NFL by two games.
1. MATT RYANQuarterback | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: 10/7 at WAS ... Last Poll: 1
Ryan leads the NFL in ESPN's points-above-average and points-above-replacement metrics. He ranks second to Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick in TD passes while throwing five fewer INTs and completing a far higher percentage of his passes (69.4, tied with Robert Griffin III for second in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks). Completing a 59-yard pass from his own 1-yard line helped move Atlanta into position for the winning field goal against Carolina in Week 4.
Week 4 vs. CAR
2. TOM BRADYQuarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 10/7 vs. DEN ... Last Poll: 7
Brady lit up the Bills for 340 yards with three TD passes and no picks. We should have expected as much. Buffalo couldn't stop Mark Sanchez from completing 70.4 percent of his passes for 266 yards and three scores this season. Brady took only one sack on 38 drop backs. He even ran for a touchdown. Might we see a shootout against Denver on Sunday?
Week 4 at BUF
The Packers are about to begin a three-game road trip through Indianapolis, Houston and St. Louis. It's part of a five-game run featuring four road games. Rodgers is leading the league in completion percentage. Throwing four TD passes against New Orleans partially atoned for his zero-TD, eight-sack game at Seattle a week earlier. It's still too early to say the Packers are back offensively, however. They won't play the Saints every week.
Week 4 vs. NO
4. JOE FLACCOQuarterback | Baltimore Ravens ... Next Game: 10/7 at KC ... Last Poll: 3
What to make of the Ravens quarterback? Bill Barnwell calls Flacco overrated, noting that an average quarterback would have produced about as many wins when paired with a defense as formidable as the one in Baltimore. Jamison Hensley counters by saying the Ravens won most of those games by relatively wide margins, an indication their defense wasn't doing all the work. I'm not 100 percent certain Flacco belongs this high on the list, but I wasn't going to move him down significantly after another victory.
Week 4 vs. CLE
5. MATT SCHAUBQuarterback | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 10/8 at NYJ ... Last Poll: 5
Schaub and Brady have the same number of TD passes (seven) and INTs (one). Brady has 35 additional drop backs. The Texans don't need Schaub to carry their team. They have Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and a formidable defense featuring J.J. Watt. Schaub does have six TD passes over Houston's past two games, however. He ranks seventh in QBR at 74.3 and third in percentage of action plays improving the Texans' win probability.
Week 4 vs. TEN
What Monday night game against Atlanta? That had to be the Peyton Manning imposter at work. The real Manning has five TDs without an INT over his past two games. The Broncos have scored 62 points in those games, including 25 against a Texans team that has allowed 31 points to its three other (admittedly weak) opponents. Manning's next six games are against teams with the following QBs: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton and Rivers (again). The Broncos are going to need continued production on offense.
Week 4 vs. OAK
7. A.J. GreenReceiver | Cincinnati Bengals ... Next Game: 10/7 vs. MIA ... Last Poll: NR
Green makes his MVP Watch debut as arguably the best receiver in the NFL this season. Green accounts for 41 of the Bengals' 124 targets this season. The team is running its offense through him, with very good results. Green has made 20 of his 27 receptions outside the yard-line numbers, providing great value as a perimeter threat. However, Green has yet to catch a pass on third down. He is the only player in the NFL with more than 16 receptions and none on third or fourth down.
Week 4 at JAC
8. ELI MANNINGQuarterback | New York Giants ... Next Game: 10/7 vs. CLE ... Last Poll: 2
Manning dropped all the way from No. 2 after throwing that late INT against the Eagles in Week 4. The Giants are only 2-2. Manning ranks 27th in QBR and 22nd in NFL passer rating on third down. I was tempted to drop him from the list entirely, but figured he would bounce back. Manning ranks fourth among regular QBs in yards per pass attempt (8.3). He ranks second in passing yards.
Week 4 at PHI
9. J.J. WATTDefensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 10/8 at NYJ ... Last Poll: 9
Watt has at least 1.5 sacks in every game and 7.5 for the season. He and Kevin Greene (1998) are the only players since 1982, when sacks became an official stat, to collect at least 1.5 sacks in each of their team's first four games. The Texans draw the New York Jets' struggling offense in Week 5, so the production should continue. A prime-time game against Green Bay awaits one week later.
Week 4 vs. TEN
Griffin ranks 10th in QBR and fourth in NFL passer rating. He ranks third in completion percentage, third in yards per attempt (8.6) and 16th in rushing yards. Washington ranks third in yards per game, thanks largely to Griffin. The Redskins are weak on defense, putting additional pressure on Griffin to produce. The team might be lost without him. Griffin is coming off his first fourth-quarter comeback victory.
Week 4 at TB