MVP Watch:Two Shall There Be

A few weeks ago it could be argued that the race for MVP was crowded at the top. Now that week 13 is officially in the books after possibly the worst football game I’ve ever seen with my own eyes, it’s clear that there are only two horses still rounding that final bend. Christian McCaffrey may be the clear choice for the Heisman trophy, especially with Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds unfairly omitted from the short list, but the conversation about who should be named the NFL’s MVP isn’t as clear-cut. We’ll keep the argument faceless to begin.

Quarterback A: 2,797 yards, 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 476 yards and 7 touchdowns rushing

Quarterback B: 3,912 yards, 31 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 45 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing

At a glance, Quarterback B has thrown for 1,000+ more yards than Quarterback A with 6 more touchdowns and 4 fewer interceptions. So he’s having the better season, right? Well what about when we add in rushing yards and touchdowns? The playing-field here is entirely too level to judge these quarterbacks based solely on their out-of-context statistics. Quarterback B is one Mr. Thomas Edward Brady, Jr, no stranger to the MVP conversation. Quarterback A, who probably gave himself away with the 476 rushing yards, is dabbin’ Cam Newton. Although I must say, don’t pretend you didn’t see Tom Brady’s 36-yard reception on Sunday against the Eagles.

So here’s where circumstances come into play for each of these quarterbacks. Brady has been watching all of his friends on offense sustain major injuries and losing his three leading receivers in the process. Despite having to play without Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Brandon Lafell, and Rob Gronkowski at different points in the season, Brady managed to steer the Pats to a 10-0 record before finally losing to the Broncos in overtime. As if offensive and defensive injuries weren’t enough to stack the odds against Brady, New England’s special teams have done everything in their power to ensure a loss in the last two weeks. To illustrate the impact of injuries on New England’s offense let’s take a look at their leader in receptions. That player happens to be Julian Edelman who hasn’t played in the last three and a half games. That means Edelman was being targeted at such a large clip before he was injured that no receiver has been able to eclipse his receptions total in the three weeks since he went down. The week before Edelman went down with his foot injury the Patriots lost emerging star Dion Lewis for the season with a torn ACL. After a four-game absence, Lewis is still second in rushing yards among New England running backs and fourth in receptions among all players.

On the other hand, Cam Newton is the featured player in an offense that would make most coordinators cringe. Carolina’s best receiver is a 30-something year old tight end who has tapped into some sort of fountain of youth. Greg Olsen has caught 62 passes for 917 yards through thirteen weeks. Newton’s second-leading receiver who is known best for dropping wide-open passes at the worst possible moment, Ted Ginn Jr, has caught 35 passes for 525 yards. Let’s play a fun game called Where Were Cam Newton’s Top 5 Receivers Last Year?

  1. Greg Olsen- 2014: (Panthers) 84 receptions, 1,008 yards, 6 touchdowns. 2015: (Panthers) 62 receptions, 917 yards, 6 touchdowns.
  2. Ted Ginn Jr- 2014: (Cardinals) 14 receptions, 190 yards, 0 touchdowns. 2015: (Panthers) 35 receptions, 525 yards, 6 touchdowns.
  3. Jerrico Cotchery- 2014: (Panthers) 48 receptions, 580 yards, 1 touchdown. 2015: (Panthers) 27 receptions, 352 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  4. Devin Funchess- 2014: (University of Michigan) 2015: (Panthers) 19 receptions, 298 yards, 3 touchdowns.
  5. Corey Brown- 2014: (Panthers) 21 receptions, 296 yards, 2 touchdowns. 2015: (Panthers) 19 receptions, 240 yards, 3 touchdowns.

Not exactly the makings of an explosive offense that we’re looking at here, but don’t miss the fact that each receiver is eclipsing or quickly approaching their 2014 totals through just thirteen games this season. Cam Newton has simultaneously gotten himself labeled as a run-first quarterback while gaining a reputation for bringing out the best in a mediocre supporting cast. MVP voters will be forced to acknowledge Newton’s growth into a mature quarterback who can work in the pocket to find an open receiver down the field before tucking his head and taking off. Cam threw five touchdowns on Sunday against the Saints and did it all without wonder-kid Kelvin Benjamin who has been sitting at home all season trying to figure out who the hell is catching passes for his team.

Cam Newton currently has an edge over Brady because the Panthers have yet to yield their undefeated season. With four remaining games against Giants, Buccaneers, and Falcons twice, it’s more than plausible that the Panthers end this season 16-0. Should that happen there is no doubt that Cam Newton will walk away with the MVP trophy. He takes the “best player on the best team” concept to the next level with his commanding control of the offense. Whether it’s by land or through air, Cam has consistently found a way to win games when it looked like Carolina was finally being exposed as the fluke accident so many insisted they are.

Just for fun, let’s take a peek at who New England’s leading receivers, in terms of yards, were in Sunday’s mistake-filled loss to the Eagles.

  1. James White: 10 receptions, 115 yards, 1 touchdown
  2. Danny Amendola: 7 receptions, 62 yards, 1 touchdown
  3. Scott Chandler: 4 receptions, 61 yards, 1 touchdown
  4. Keshawn Martin: 3 receptions, 45 yards, 0 touchdowns
  5. Tom Brady: 1 reception, 36 yards, 0 touchdowns

Of these five receivers, three weren’t in a Patriots uniform last season and the fifth is Tom Brady, you know, the starting quarterback for the last 13 years? When your 38 year-old quarterback is flipping out wide to catch passes down the field it MIGHT be a sign that your receiving corps is depleted. Had Brady not been dealt a terrible hand full of atrocious special teams play this past Sunday, the hot topic on Sportscenter would be his ability to win yet again while throwing to guys you’ve never heard of and making them look like Pro Bowl talent. Should-have, would-have, could-have doesn’t factor into the opinions of MVP voters, of course, so Brady will just have to do his best with this cast of misfit toys as the regular season comes to an end.

An undefeated record and more relatable dance repertoire currently have Cam Newton leaning into the tape barely ahead of Brady, but this race to be named Most Valuable is far from decided. All I know is both of these guys better enjoy this MVP hype while they can because in a few years Blake Bortles, quarterback for the San Diego Jaguars, will be taking home the trophy every season. Quote me, folks. I’ll see you back here tomorrow for Fantasy Thursday and probably some personal info about my life that you don’t need to know!

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