With two weeks to go in the NFL season, the MVP race has heated up, and we have a pretty clear idea of who may take home the prestigious award. While there are a number of worthy candidates, two names have really risen above and beyond the rest to make themselves favorites for the award, leaving the chasing pack behind. The race between them will be one of the key subplots of the final two weeks of the regular season. Beyond those two, several other players deserve recognition for the seasons they’re enjoying.
Here are the ten leading candidates for the NFL MVP award.
10. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson has essentially hauled the Seahawks into the playoffs in what many people expected would be a down year for the team. The remarkable quarterback has thrown 31 touchdowns to just six interceptions, and at least through Week 15 is posting the best QBR of his entire career. Wilson’s problem is his numbers just don’t compare to the quarterbacks nearer the top of the list, and losses to teams like San Francisco will do little to bolster his chances. A worthy candidate, but to call him a longshot would probably be generous.
Jalen Ramsey caught Andrew Luck with one of those old “sike!” moves.
The Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback pretended like he was going to help up the Indianapolis Colts quarterback off the ground after a scramble in the second quarter, but then he quickly pulled back his hand.
Jalen Ramsey punks Andrew Luck middle school style pic.twitter.com/D48CfFWkmL
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 2, 2018
Punk move by Ramsey, though not something that should catch any of us by surprise. The Jags cornerback is no fan of quarterbacks throughout the league.
It’s no secret that the NFL is loaded with elite quarterbacks. A number of them are experienced veterans, such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, or Philip Rivers. These quarterbacks are in their mid-to-upper 30s — or beyond, in Brady’s case — and simply will not be around forever.
So who are the best of the next generation of quarterbacks? Here are the 10 best NFL quarterbacks under the age of 30 (note: Russell Wilson was left off the list because he turns 30 this season).
10) Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
The 24-year-old Trubisky is a young quarterback on the rise. He’s shown some ability as a mobile quarterback, with four rushing touchdowns to his name over the course of his young career. The flashes of a quality passer are there, too, as shown by a six-touchdown performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4. He’s up to 13 touchdowns in six games so far in 2018. Those are very promising numbers for a second-year quarterback who is still learning his craft at the NFL level.
The Indianapolis Colts turned incredibly pass-heavy in their last two games, and that’s not something Frank Reich wants to see.
The Colts’ first-year head coach acknowledged on Friday that he has concerns about how much they’ve thrown the ball, saying it’s “killing him.”
Reich on the offensive balance:
“It’s killing me having to throw it this much. The story doesn’t end well when you have to sustain this level of throwing."
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) October 5, 2018
Indianapolis fell behind against the New England Patriots on Thursday night and ended up throwing 59 passes, compared to just 21 runs. The week before, they threw 62 passes compared to 17 runs. They lost both games.
Andrew Luck is on pace to set a career-high in pass completions and attempts, and potentially passing yards. He’s also coming off a serious shoulder injury that left concerns about his arm strength and ability to throw. If there were any thoughts of easing him back into the league after missing last season, they’ve left long ago.
Questions about Andrew Luck’s surgically-repaired shoulder are going to persist until the quarterback shows he can consistently connect on throws down the field, but Luck insists he is not playing with any physical limitations.
Luck is averaging a career-low 5.3 yards per completion this season, and both he and Colts coach Frank Reich have said that is a product of play-calling and game flow. On Thursday, Luck told reporters he’s confident he can “make all the throws.”
“I know I’m at a level where I can make all the throws, and I feel confident I’m going out there with my full arsenal,” he said, via Jay Ayello of the Indianapolis Star. “I don’t think there’s anything physically holding me back.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Luck ranks 26th in the NFL in passing attempts that travel at least 20 yards in the air down the field. While the sample size is small just three games into the season, he ranked first in that category from 2012 to 2014. Reich said playing on the road against tough opponents the past two weeks has played a role in Indy’s dink-and-dunk approach. He said the intention is never to “play scared” but that sometimes playing in a hostile environment against a good defensive front leads to more short, quick passes.
Many people felt it was very telling that the Colts brought backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles to attempt a Hail Mary. Brissett has a stronger arm than Luck anyway, but the throw only needed to travel 54 yards to reach the end zone. Starting quarterbacks are almost never subbed out in that situation.
- Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck has now played in three games since returning from a shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2017 season, and the results have been mixed. On paper, Luck has not been awful. But to those who watched him before he underwent surgery, he seems like a much different player.
Luck is averaging a career-low 5.3 yards per completion this season, which has led to questions about his arm strength. Colts head coach Frank Reich insisted on Monday that the team has “no concerns” in that department.
“What I’ve seen is he makes all the throws,” Reich told reporters, per Mike Wells of ESPN.com. “There’s been plenty of throws down the field, in my mind … (What) I’ve seen is a guy who is extremely accurate. I have no concerns about velocity.”
Something has certainly changed, whether it is play-calling, decision-making or Luck’s physical ability. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Luck ranks 26th in the NFL in passing attempts that travel at least 20 yards in the air down the field. While the sample size is small just three games into the season, he ranked first in that category from 2012 to 2014.
Reich can insist all he wants that Luck has regained the arm strength he had before his injury, but it was very telling that the Colts brought backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles to attempt a Hail Mary. Brissett has a stronger arm than Luck even when the two QBs are at their healthiest, but he only needed to make a 54-yard throw to reach the end zone. There’s no way Luck would have been subbed out in that situation two years ago.
It was not that long ago that we heard a report about Luck’s arm strength that was not all that encouraging, so you have to wonder if Reich is being completely transparent.
The Indianapolis Colts had one last chance to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday with a Hail Mary attempt as time expired, and they did not feel that Andrew Luck was the quarterback on their roster with the best chance to make the play.
Trailing 20-16 and near midfield, the Colts needed to throw the ball into the end zone with five seconds remaining. Rather than have Luck attempt a 54-yard pass, they brought in backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Prior to the Hail Mary attempt, Luck had thrown a series of checkdown passes to move the ball from the 11-yard line to the 46. He threw mostly underneath passes throughout the game, leading many to believe his arm strength still is not where it needs to be after he missed the entire 2017 season.
Andrew Luck does nothing but dink and dunk in the final minutes until Jacoby Brissett comes in to throw a Hail Mary. But keep telling us Andrew Luck's shoulder is fine, Colts.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 23, 2018
Woah, Jacoby Brissett comes in for the final play hail mary, NOT Andrew Luck. We'll be talking about that one.
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) September 23, 2018
Wow, Jacoby Brissett has the strongest arm on this team. I've felt that way for a while. But I still never thought I'd see him enter the game in that situation. Odd.
— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) September 23, 2018
Brissett probably has a stronger arm than Luck even when the two QBs are at their best, but it was still noteworthy that the Colts chose to use Brissett in that situation. It was not that long ago that we heard a report about Luck’s arm strength that was not all that encouraging, so you have to wonder if he is truly at 100 percent health.