J.J. Watt pressures Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) during the game at NRG Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Though this vote came with two games left in the regular season, it still gives a flavor of how the guys over at ESPN were thinking … and why.
Demovsky: Unless Rodgers has another game like he did against the Bills, he should win it. He’s done everything an MVP should do: He has been a leader off the field — his R-E-L-A-X comment was just what the Packers needed after their 1-2 start — and he’s at the peak of quarterback performance on the field. His mastery even before the ball is snapped is part of the reason he’s able to make stellar plays. He almost never throws interceptions (four of his five this season have been off receivers’ hands), and he should have answered all questions about whether he can rally a team from behind. And he’s done it with basically two consistent receivers: Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.
Ganguli: Watt should be rewarded for having an unprecedented season. He’s the first defensive lineman since 1944 to score five touchdowns, the first defensive player to have five touchdowns in a season since 1971, the first player since 1956 to have multiple touchdowns on offense and defense and the first player ever to have at least three receiving touchdowns, a pick-six and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
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The Texans are 4-1 in games in which Watt scores a touchdown, and he affects every play from a position that isn’t generally designed to do so. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Watt disrupts the quarterback more than any other player, and according to Pro Football Focus, the gap between Watt and any other player at his position is significantly bigger than the gap between any other player and his peers. Giving this award to a defensive player who plays on a team struggling to get into the playoffs might be extraordinary, but so is Watt.
Chadiha: Rodgers is the clubhouse leader, but Murray deserves the award. He’s produced 11 100-yard games this season, many of which have come after defenses started focusing their attention on stopping him. He’s also been more than a runner, as he has 54 receptions to go along with his league-leading 351 rushing attempts. Murray also has a shot at a 2,000-yard season. That would make him the eighth player in NFL history to reach that magic number (and four of the previous seven won the MVP award). Murray faces long odds in the voting because quarterbacks are valued so highly, and Rodgers is the best player at that position today. But it’s also rare to see a running back come out of nowhere and do what Murray has done for a Cowboys team on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009. He deserves to be rewarded for that.
Legwold: The votes are due after the regular-season finale, and I’m not sure I can make the call for my vote at the moment. Again, personnel people I respect say Watt has been the league’s best player this season, and the film validates that each week, but his team will not make the playoffs. And the fact a player so clearly at an elite level can’t pull his team into the postseason speaks to defining “valuable” and why quarterbacks so often win the award. The fact quarterbacks may splinter the votes could give Watt a chance. Watt may be the best player, but a quarterback may be more valuable. I’m leaning toward Watt at the moment. Manning and Brady each deserve a long look, but as we discuss this with two games left, I think Rodgers will win the award.
Clayton: With two games left, I’m sticking with Rodgers. I still believe he will win the last two games and get to 12 wins. That total, combined with his impressive stats, should get him the MVP.
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