Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Mike Sando's MVP Watch
By Mike Sando
Tom Brady has completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 940 yards in the Patriots' first two games.
The MVP race could not be clearer at the top.
The New England Patriots' Tom Brady leads the league in NFL passer rating, Total QBR and many related categories, including passing yards, yards per attempt, completions, attempts (tied), longest pass completion and touchdown passes (tied). His team is 2-0 and among the NFL’s very best.
Year of the Quarterback
ESPN has dedicated 2011 to examining one of the most crucial positions in all of sports -- the quarterback. Year of the QB »
The league has named Brady its top AFC offensive player for each of the first two weeks, the first time one player has won that 28-year-old award twice to open a season. Brady won the AFC’s weekly honors twice in 2007 and 2010, winning MVP following both of those seasons.
Finding nine other candidates to consider on the MVP Watch list wasn’t all that difficult this week. The tougher part was deciding which players would round out the last few spots. Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee’s Matt Hasselbeck and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware were three players who missed only narrowly.
After putting together the list, I went through the QBR season leaders to see how the quarterbacks stacked up by that measure. Fitzpatrick, Hasselbeck and the Cowboys' Tony Romo are the only quarterbacks other than Brady with a QBR of at least 80.0. Each has a good shot at moving onto the list with another strong performance in Week 3.
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 9/25 at BUF ... Last Poll: 1
The Patriots are one of three teams without a dropped pass this season. Receivers get much of the credit for that, but Brady's accuracy makes life easier for them. No one wants to let down the quarterback when passes are delivered with almost perfect precision. Brady is leading the NFL in passing yards and yards per attempt while completing 71.6 percent.
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 9/25 at CHI ... Last Poll: 2
Rodgers joins Brees as the only players with more than three TD passes and no interceptions through the first two games. Rodgers has now avoided throwing an INT in 11 of his last 14 games, counting playoffs. He has 30 TD passes with four picks in his last 13 games, counting playoffs. Not bad for a player who didn't even make the Pro Bowl last season.
Quarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 9/25 vs. HOU ... Last Poll: 3
Brees has gone without an INT in the opening two games for the second season in a row. His turnover problems began to surface with a two-pick game in Week 3 last season. He threw at least one in each of the final 12 regular-season games of 2010. Keeping down the turnovers this season will significantly enhance his credentials.
Quarterback | Detroit Lions ... Next Game: 9/25 at MIN ... Last Poll: 7
Only Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick have thrown as many TD passes as Stafford this season. The Lions are 2-0 for the first time since 2007, when they won six of their first eight, only to finish 7-9. Road games against Minnesota and Dallas over the next two weeks provide Stafford and the Lions opportunities to make a statement. These are winnable road games.
Running Back | Minnesota Vikings ... Next Game: 9/25 vs. DET ... Last Poll: NR
The Vikings are 0-2 and could be headed for a rough season that would make it difficult for Peterson to remain in the MVP running without truly sensational stats. There are other running backs with slightly better stats this season, but Peterson's credentials make him most reliable. Peterson stays in consideration for now after a 120-yard game in Week 2.
Quarterback | Philadelphia Eagles ... Next Game: 9/25 vs. NYG ... Last Poll: 6
The concussion Vick suffered in Week 2 against Atlanta reinforces fears he will have a hard time holding up over the course of a season. Vick lacks the raw passing stats of some other players under consideration for the MVP Watch list this week. I'll leave him here, pending additional news about his availability for the upcoming game.
Running Back | Buffalo Bills ... Next Game: 9/25 vs. NE ... Last Poll: NR
The Bills are one of the surprise teams in the NFL, and Jackson is showing why the team felt comfortable trading Marshawn Lynch last season. Drafting C.J. Spiller wasn't the only consideration. Jackson leads the NFL in rushing yards. I gave him the edge over Fitzpatrick on this list, but both were worthy of consideration.
Quarterback | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 9/25 at NO ... Last Poll: NR
Schaub is one of five qualifying quarterbacks (min. 14 attempts per game) to complete at least 70 percent of his passes in the first two games. He has only three TD passes, but the Texans' 2-0 start enhances Schaub's credentials. We'll have a much better idea where he stands after Houston faces New Orleans on the road and Pittsburgh at home over the next two weeks.
Quarterback | San Diego Chargers ... Next Game: 9/25 vs. KC ... Last Poll: 5
Rivers is averaging a healthy 8.1 YPA despite completing no passes longer than 37 yards. That suggests Rivers is consistently stretching defenses, a reflection of the Chargers' scheme and Rivers' ability to make that scheme work. Eleven quarterbacks average at least 8.0 YPA. Seven have completed passes covering at least 73 yards.
Quarterback | Carolina Panthers ... Next Game: 9/25 vs. JAC ... Last Poll: 10
Three INTs against Green Bay nearly knocked Newton off the list. There were other candidates worthy of consideration, for sure. But with Newton throwing for 422 and 432 yards in his first two starts, respectively, with six total TDs and a 10.3 YPA, Newton proved impossible to ignore. He hasn't fumbled despite taking eight sacks (too many) and rushing 18 times.