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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Each NFL team’s MVP so far

Carson Wentz

There can only be one NFL MVP, but each team can claim their own most valuable player, no matter how good or bad the franchise’s season goes. Sometimes the team’s MVP is an elite defender, a star quarterback, or a remarkable playmaker, or even a special teams player, if the rest of the team is struggling a lot.

Here’s a look at each NFL team’s MVP so far in 2017.

Arizona Cardinals — Chandler Jones, LB

The former New England Patriot is once again proving to be the defensive rock for the Cardinals, setting records along the way. He has picked up eight sacks in just seven games thus far in 2017, and is proving to be a nightmarish foe for opposing blockers and quarterbacks. The gaudy numbers are great, but Jones has also been valuable in other ways. He’s good against the run and has put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, even when he doesn’t get the sack.

Atlanta Falcons — Devonta Freeman, RB

In what has been a disappointing year for the Atlanta offense, Freeman has continued to stand out and produce no matter what is happening around him. His 2017 thus far has been every bit as solid as his 2016 was. Freeman is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has piled up five rushing touchdowns in six games. As Matt Ryan and his fellow offensive players have failed to hit the heights that they did in 2016, Freeman has simply been steady and reliable.

Baltimore Ravens — Justin Tucker, K

Last year, Tucker accounted for roughly 40 percent of the Ravens’ total points. He’s not that far off the total this year. Tucker has made 13 of his 15 field goals, converting every single attempt from inside the 50-yard line, with a long of 57. The kicks he did miss were from 58 and 62 yards away. He also remains automatic on extra points and still has not missed one during his entire career.

It’s not great to have a kicker as your MVP, but the Ravens haven’t been very good. They do boast one of the best place kickers in the game, and there are definitely worse things to have.

Buffalo Bills — Micah Hyde, S

Hyde is somewhat emblematic of Buffalo’s turnaround in 2017. Cast aside by Green Bay in the offseason, he landed with the Bills and has been at the heart and soul of their defense ever since. Hyde’s four interceptions lead the NFL, and he’s been involved in 20 tackles and defended seven passes. If anything, Hyde has set an example for the Bills — he wasn’t a huge, marquee addition, but he’s been integral in the team’s 4-2 start.

Carolina Panthers — Julius Peppers, DE

Peppers is 37 years old, but somehow, he continues to find the fountain of youth. On a Carolina team that has constantly battled inconsistency, the veteran lineman has been as good as ever, collecting 6.5 sacks in seven games. The Panthers have limited him due to his age to keep him at peak performance, and while they certainly wish they could have him out there every snap, it’s that management that has enabled him to have such a successful season. They’re a better team when he’s playing.

Chicago Bears — Jordan Howard, RB

Given how bad the Bears’ quarterback play has been, Howard has pretty much been the team’s entire offense this season. His early-season play was not the best on account of some injuries, but he’s come on strong since then, rushing for 560 yards and four touchdowns while helping his young team to some surprising victories. It’s fair to say that the Bears wouldn’t have all three of the wins they have without Howard’s contributions. He’s held off star rookie Tarik Cohen to remain the main factor in the offense.

Cincinnati Bengals — A.J. Green, WR

Even as the rest of the offense has its issues, Green remains one of the game’s most consistent top-level wide receivers. He’s well on pace to surpass 1,000 yards once again after falling just short of the mark for the first time in his career in 2016. His three touchdowns give him a solid base to surpass his 2016 total of four as well. There’s something to be said for the fact that Green is able to perform at such a high level despite everyone knowing he is easily Cincinnati’s No. 1 weapon on offense.

Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE

He’s only played in three games, but the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft has already outplayed many of his defensive teammates and shown just how good he is. Four sacks in three games is a testament to that. He is, in a sense, the default choice on this team. The Browns are winless and have offered very little in terms of quality performance. But between his sacks and the pressure Garrett has put on opposing quarterbacks, the Browns can be excited about this one.

Dallas Cowboys — DeMarcus Lawrence, DE

Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have both been good, albeit not quite as good as they were last year. This year, Dallas’s MVP is on defense. DeMarcus Lawrence keeps turning in outstanding performance after outstanding performance in 2017. In just six games, he’s posted a remarkable 9.5 sacks, forced three fumbles, and recovered one. He is playing like one of the very best defensive players in the NFL, and the Cowboys couldn’t be happier with his contribution.

Denver Broncos — Von Miller, LB

Miller remains the heart and soul of the Denver defense, and he still takes the lead as far as impact goes. The veteran linebacker has put up another seven sacks in 2017, having collected at least one in five consecutive contests. The only game in which he didn’t register a sack was the season opener. Denver has had its share of struggles, but the defense can’t be blamed for most of it — especially Miller, who remains a dominant force.

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