The Super Bowl is looming. We’re out of regular season and into the history books now. Which team will make their historic run? Who will be leading that race? Whoever has that spark that makes the difference between a win and a loss, will garner the MVP. The NFL’s most valuable player award, the pinnacle of personal achievement awards in the league. Who really deserves the award? What should we judge players on?
Here’s this year’s top candidates, so far:
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, QB
Despite failing to achieve a perfect record, by losing their first game of the season to the Atlanta Falcons in week 16, the running quarterback in Carolina is still on his way to fame and glory.
On an 8-yard touchdown scramble, Cam Newton became the first quarterback in NFL history to record over 30 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns in the same season. That’s more in one season than Randall Cunningham or the Michael Vick has ever recorded. This might be Newton’s best year. Given the pounding he takes when juggling in for those touchdowns, he may not last long.
Newton hasn’t been working alone. Carolina’s defense has been a big part of their quest to reach NFC’s top seed. This year, Newton has been the energetic, youthful spark every team covets in an NFL quaterback. Without a doubt, Newton leads the league’s MVP race for now, and it’s hard to see that changing.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots, QB
He’s something of a golden child. It seems that as long as Tom Brady has a helmet on, he’s considered to be a favorite for both winning and MVP. But this year, more than ever, the Patriots offense relied heavily on the four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback looking to make it a full hand of rings. With some of the difficult injuries the Patriots had to contend with this year, a solid QB makes all the difference.
After a highly-publicized off-season that saw a four-game “Deflategate” suspension, public backlash and a suspension overturned by a judge, Brady has been channeled his frustrations into one of the best seasons of his career. He threw for an NFL-high 4,636 yards and 36 touchdowns through 16 weeks. Brady has led his Patriots to an AFC-East winning 12-4 record. These numbers are in spite of losing some key players like like Dion Lewis and Lagarrette Blount for the season, and receivers Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski occasionally.
Like he has for the better part of the past decade, Brady cemented himself in both the MVP and Super Bowl conversation. This post-season will show more of the same pressure, he’s shown he can handle.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, QB
The Arizona Cardinals have had a steady but solid season. They’ve become quiet, yet mighty. Their quarterback, Carson Palmer, has been no different. He’s been one of the three quarterbacks mentioned in every MVP conversation.
Palmer led his team to a 13-3 record, an NFC West title, and the Cardinals have clinched a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Palmer’s 34 touchdowns thrown ranks third in the NFL, behind both Brady and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (35). Palmer ranks in the top four in every statistics as a quarterback, including yards (4,542) and rating (106.8).
Not only would Palmer be an unsurprising choice for NFL MVP, but he also qualifies for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award. But who knows what the Super Bowl and playoffs will hold.