So yours truly got hit with this question in passing on this week’s episode of The Grueling Truth’s Weekly NFL Pick ‘em Show: “Who’s your pick for NFL MVP?”
It’s obvious, right? No matter which of the vogue three candidates – Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers – you like, you’re adamant about your choice and, admittedly, you present a solid argument.
Ryan has led his Atlanta Falcons to an unexpected no. 2 seed and the NFL’s top-scoring offense with his 38 TDs and NFL-best QB rating. Brady posted a 11-1 mark (and he missed those games through no fault of his own, man!) with a 27:2 TD-to-pick ratio which should be impossible if the difficulty level isn’t set to “Easy” in Madden. Rodgers led the league in TD passes with a team that had literally no running game at points in this season … and who can forget That Prediction of Running The Table?
(Tangent: That prediction was hardly miraculous – and more like pragmatic trash-talking. Rodgers looked down at the schedule, read “at Eagles, vs Texans, vs Seahawks, at Bears, vs Vikings, at Lions” and thought, “Hey, those are all winnable games.” Nicely done, for sure, but the schedule sure helps the Packers to get into the playoffs.)
Back to the question of MVP. See, the vogue three picks are boring. And each strong argument for one cancels the other’s seemingly obvious claim as Most Valuable Player. Plus, how about the Patriots going 3-1 without Brady? How about the benefits Ryan gets by playing with Julio Jones, not to mention his team’s five losses (interestingly enough, in those five losses, Jones averaged 125 receiving yards, four times surpassing 100)? And Rodgers, well, something.
The point: Let’s not be boring. Consider instead these three alternative choices for the 2016 NFL season’s Most Valuable Player.
• Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys. “WTF is this?” I hear the shouts. “Immediately after he gets done whinging about Ryan, Brady and Rogers, he turns around and nominates a QB for MVP? Not only that, but Prescott’s a dude who may not even be the MVP of his team and may lose the Rookie of the Year battle to that same MVP teammate as well.”
Without the backstory, Prescott’s numbers aren’t mind-blowing, with 67.8% completion percentage for 3,667 total yards passing for a team that ranked 30th in pass attempts. Another minus: Those 13 turnovers are an ugly black mark against his 29 total TDs.
But here’s an analogy: Among the keys to success for the Patriots, the Cowboys’ AFC counterpart at no. 1 seed, is the running game. Ezekiel Elliott has about 500 more yards than LaGarette Blount, fair enough, but Blount’s got two TDs more; both are integral, necessary parts to the team’s offensive attack, yet no one suggest that Blount is his team’s MVP. So why should Zeek get all the kudos for the Cowboys’ success when the team-leading quarterback led the team to a 13-0 record in games not against the New York giants in which Mark Sanchez did not play a substantial role.
Loved the Cowboys in 2016? Prescott for MVP.
• Marcus Peters and Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs (co-MVPs). In a year with no single performer so head-and-shoulders above the competition, why not a dynamic duo for MVP?
The Chiefs got their way to a hard-fought no. 2 seed with a little luck, a low-watt offense and most of all, one amazingly opportunistic defense. The 2016 Kansas City Chiefs rang up 18 interceptions (tied for the league’s best) and 15 fumble recoveries (the league’s best) for a +16 give/take differential, tied for the league’s best. K.C. was a stout 8-2 in games in which the D forced two or more turnovers.
More impressive than these numbers were Peters and Barry’s stats-within-the-stats. Starting in 15 games and playing all 16, Peters totaled six interceptions, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble, plus 20 passes defensed. Berry was good for four interceptions, including two pick-sixes and one forced fumble in 16 starts.
The 10 interceptions run up by Peters and Berry equaled or outdid 10 teams, among them the playoff-bound Cowboys (!) and Detroit Lions.
Oh, Peters and Berry also contributed a combined 97 tackles on that second level, notching 35 and 62 tackles, respectively.
You say you dig on defense? Vote the two shutdown corners for MVP.
• Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys. Look, you can go to the advanced metrics on offensive lines as produced by Football Outsiders – and you should: It’s frickin’ awesome – to confirm that the Cowboys sport a top five offense in most areas of run blocking, but a simple eye test on this OL should be more than enough to impress even the casual fan. After all, it’s no coincidence that Ezekiel Elliott was a consensus top five or six fantasy football draft pick from experts to duffers at the start of his rookie season, usually anathema for fantasy owners.
And this OL has been ruling the point of attack for years. Even last year, with the line reduced to patchwork and the QB positon reduced to the likes of Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys ranked no. 10 in overall rushing yardage behind Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle (McFadden had 104 total yards in ’16, Randle had 0). Prior to *that* was the year when the NFL took notice of DeMarco Murray – and those five blocking for him.
So since I’ll give myself some restrictions and thus not nominate the entire Cowboys offensive line, I’ll put forth the name of left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith did miss three games this season but, since this includes the irrelevant week 17 game at Philadelphia, we’ll give him a pass for missing wins against Chicago and San Francisco in weeks three and four.
It’s about time the unheralded heroes of the tranches, i.e. those guys on the offensive line, get some recognition for their work – and a year with no clear-cut favorite is a perfect time to do so. Smith is a perfect candidate to overcome this barrier, as he is the only offensive linemen this decade – and the sole such since 2004 – to win the NFL’s official “Player of the Week” award. While that was back in ’14, we believe that Smith is just the guy who’d insist on sharing this award with his ‘mates on the OL: Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, Zach Martin and Doug Free.
Love the intricacies of football? A vote for Tyron Smith is a vote for offesnive linemen everywhere!
Among alternative choices for #NFL MVP, who do you like?
— Os Davis (@OsDavis42) January 4, 2017