Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some movement in the MVP race for the 2020 NFL season. Last year’s winner has fallen out of contention, and the early front-runner for this year was leapfrogged by two former winners. With five weeks left in the season, can anyone catch Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers? Or will it come down to one of these elite quarterbacks? And could a running back really get in the mix?
A panel of nine analysts voted on the top 10 players in the MVP race thus far. We then used those nine sets of rankings to determine our top five candidates overall, using Heisman Trophy-esque scaling for each ranking. We’ll include each player’s MVP odds from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. We’ll also look at a few names who have seen their MVP stock either spike or plummet in recent weeks.
Here are the top five playing at an MVP-caliber level through 12 weeks.
Top five | Just missed | Stock watch
2020 stats: 3,497 passing yards, 30 TDs, 2 interceptions (plus 215 rushing yards and 2 rushing TDs) in 11 games
Odds to win MVP: -450
The 25-year-old built a commanding lead in the MVP race off some exceptional play in his past six games. After the Chiefs took their sole loss to date from the Raiders, Mahomes and Kansas City rattled off six straight wins in a stretch where the QB only threw one interception.
He leads most statistical categories at his position, ranking No. 1 in passing yards; defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) at 40.7%; expected points added (.387); and Total QBR (86.2). And he has become virtually indefensible against any scheme or strategy aimed at slowing him down, ranking first in QBR against zone coverage, the blitz, no blitz, pressure, no pressure, outside of the pocket, in the third quarter, in the fourth quarter and with or without motion, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
Most recently, against Tampa Bay in a game that was never truly in doubt in spite of its 27-24 final score, Mahomes threw for 359 passing yards in the first half alone (the league’s highest first-half total since 1978) and ended up with a season-high 462 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
2020 stats: 3,100 passing yards, 33 TDs, 4 interceptions in 11 games
Odds to win MVP: +550
Rodgers has four upcoming games against opponents with losing records to try to catch up with Mahomes. It’s the kind of stuff he did against the Bears on Sunday night — throwing four touchdowns in a blowout — that keeps him squarely in the picture with front-runners, along with the fact that he continues to put up big numbers without an all-star supporting cast around him.
The Packers’ signal-caller is barely behind Mahomes in Total QBR (85.3), and Rodgers just recorded his fifth game of the season with four TD passes and zero interceptions, which is tied for the most such games in a season in Packers history. That’s a feat he also achieved in 2011, during his first MVP season. The chances of Rodgers earning his third MVP honor rest heavily on the Packers making a push for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs — and Mahomes’ play leveling off.
2020 stats: 3,216 passing yards, 31 TDs, 10 interceptions (plus 379 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD) in 11 games
Odds to win MVP: +750
Six weeks ago, Wilson was the favorite to win his first MVP award. Seattle was letting Russ cook, and the Seahawks were the most explosive offense in the NFL. Since then, Seattle lost three of four games from Weeks 7 to 10, and Wilson threw seven of his 10 interceptions (tied for fourth most) over that stretch. But he is still fourth in passer rating (110.8) behind Rodgers, Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and Wilson ranks second in passing touchdowns.
To say Wilson has faded over the past month is accurate, but it’s not solely his own doing, given the deficiencies of Seattle’s defense. And as we saw in their past two games, against Arizona and Philadelphia, the Seahawks are finding other ways to win games without relying solely on their star QB.
Russell Wilson opens up about his desire to win the NFL MVP award and how it would be a testament to his ability to lead the Seahawks to team success.
2020 stats: 2,800 passing yards, 25 TDs, 6 interceptions in 11 games
Odds to win MVP: +2000
The 38-year-old quarterback is compiling arguably the best season of his career and has the undefeated Steelers in line for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. With his highest passer rating (99.0) since 2014, Roethlisberger is on pace to reach 4,000-plus passing yards and nearly 40 touchdowns with fewer than 10 interceptions.
Navigating rescheduling/snafus related to COVID-19 (through no fault of the Steelers) and a return from a 2019 injury, Roethlisberger is on a tear without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. And if the Steelers do somehow go 16-0, it’ll be hard for MVP voters to ignore the QB’s part in such a historic achievement.
2020 stats: 1,257 rushing yards, 12 TDs in 11 games
Odds to win MVP: +4000
Once again, Henry is leading the NFL in rushing with 1,257 yards and is averaging 114.3 rushing yards per game. His performance against Indianapolis (27 carries for 178 yards and three TDs) was his eighth straight regular-season road game with 100 or more rushing yards, dating back to 2019. Not coincidentally, the Titans are 7-1 in those games.
The fifth-year back has seven 100-yard games this season (most in the NFL) and is No. 1 in rushing yards above expectation, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Henry is looking for his second straight rushing title, and if history is any indication of what lies ahead, the bruising back will only get stronger as the season wears on. Henry rushed for 500-plus yards in December of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, making him the first player to do that since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007.
Here’s how the postseason bracket looks at the moment and what scenarios lie ahead.
• Playoff picture (ESPN+) »
• Playoff Machine: See scenarios »
• Standings » | Football Power Index »
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: Allen (+3000) put himself back into the MVP conversation after a Week 9 win against Seattle, in which he looked like the early-season version of himself, throwing for 415 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Had it not been for Kyler Murray’s successful Hail Mary pass to DeAndre Hopkins in Week 10, the Bills QB would have likely landed somewhere in the top five.
Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams: Donald (+15000) went two games without a tackle before turning into an unblockable force against San Francisco in Week 12, when he totaled five tackles (one tackle for loss), a sack and four QB hits. He also batted a pass that resulted in an interception against the 49ers and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The NFL MVP might be a quarterback’s award, but the league’s sack leader deserves to be in the conversation this go-around, as he makes his case for his third Defensive Player of the Year award.
Also receiving top-10 votes: Deshaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Kyler Murray, Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady, T.J. Watt, Derek Carr, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Myles Garrett, DeForest Buckner, Xavien Howard
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans: The circumstances of other people’s ineptitude continue to negatively impact Watson. In a matter of hours on Monday, the Texans lost both their top wide receiver (Will Fuller V) and top cornerback (Bradley Roby) due to PED suspensions. Despite it all, Watson has single-handedly carried Houston throughout this abhorrent season. In his past six games, Watson has completed 141 of 200 passes for 1,750 yards and 16 touchdowns while not turning the ball over. That’s MVP-level play deserving of recognition.
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders: The loss to the Falcons was gross, but everyone deserves a complete and utter meltdown from time to time, right? Carr has been edging his way into the conversation since October; and had the Raiders not given Mahomes 1:43 to beat them in Week 11, Las Vegas would have been responsible for two Chiefs’ losses in games in which Carr was terrific.
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “But Brady can’t throw it deep anymore!” OK, we heard you, and hopefully Bruce Arians did too. Brady is in the middle of a rough patch right now, after back-to-back losses to the Rams and Chiefs. But his deep ball wasn’t the problem in a loss to Kansas City; the 43-year-old went 4-for-8 for 152 yards on passes 20-plus yards downfield, with a touchdown and an interception.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens: The best ability is availability, and it certainly would have helped Jackson to try to right the ship if he were on the field against the Steelers on Wednesday. Jackson tested positive for COVID-19, though, leaving him out. Much has been debated about the Ravens’ offense losing its form from a season ago, when Jackson was the unanimous MVP selection. His passing numbers are down, as is his Total QBR (61.9). All the narrative-shattering he did in 2019 seems to have gone by the wayside this year, with his team on the outside looking in for the playoffs.