Matt Ryan, ATL: 68.3%, 1,507 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT, 106.1 rating
Ryan has struggled to stay consistent, especially in the postseason, in recent seasons. But from the looks of the Atlanta offense this season, 2012 could end up being Matt Ryan's time to shine. Obviously the Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees' will still be in the hunt for the MVP, but I decided to keep Ryan as the only quarterback on this list. The signal caller of one of two remaining undefeated squads, Ryan has played near-perfect football and has possibly created one of the best trios (Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones) in the league right now.
Jamaal Charles, KC: 551 yards, 2 TDs, 5.4 Y/C
One year after suffering a season-ending ACL, Charles has broken out as the league's leading rusher. His three total TDs (2 rushing; 1 receiving) doesn't top the charts, but 5.4 Y/C and a league-best five runs of 20+ yards certainly gives the Chiefs an edge over the opponent and, with Matt Cassel struggling under center, Charles has been carrying the load for Kansas City.
Arian Foster, HOU: 532, 5 TDs, 4.0 Y/C
Fitting that the top two leading rushers are the two backs to crack the list of top MVP candidates, but I didn't just look at the top of the stat list to make these choices. Foster, despite his 4.0 yards per carry, has helped Houston's offense immensely. Thanks to his 106.4 yards per game and 5 rushing TDs (in addition to 1 through the air), Houston has managed to stay balanced on offense and put up nearly 30 points per game.
A.J. Green, CIN: 36 Rec., 493 yards, 4 TD
There are other wideouts out there that could be substituted in for Green, but I give the second-year receiver the edge over guys such as Victor Cruz, Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne. Sure Brian Hartline and Demaryius Thomas each have better numbers than Green, but do you really expect them to keep up this pace? Green, on the other hand, is quickly blossoming into a superstar wide receiver before our eyes. And the crazy thing is, he's in just his second season with a second-year quarterback in Andy Dalton throwing him passes. If he can keep up the numbers throughout the season, especially against teams such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh within the North, it would be a well-deserved MVP.
J.J. Watt, HOU: 26 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 8 PD, 2 FR
In just his second professional season, Watt is leading the league's 4th overall scoring defense. Fellow Houston Texan Brian Cushing has been lost for the season after tearing his ACL on Monday night, but the crazy thing is they may not even skip a beat. Watt is making an impact in every aspect on defense, recording 26 tackles and a league-leading 8.5 sacks. His 8 passes defensed ranks at No. 3 (tied with five others) among a group of cornerbacks and safeties. Coming off the edge, Watt will make an impact in some sort, whether it's getting to the quarterback or disrupting the play by throwing up his huge hands and knocking the ball down. Just an overall impressive first five games.
Clay Matthews III, GB: 21 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF
Matthews is having a great start to the season, on pace to top his career-high 13.5 sacks set in 2010, his second season in the league. Yet he's still five tackles, a half a sack and seven passes defensed behind Houston's Watt. Defenders don't win the MVP very often at all, but if I were to choose two defenders that could compete for it this season, it would be Watt and Matthews (in that order). The 26-year old Matthews is as scary as ever.
Other top performers by position:
Drew Brees, NO
Eli Manning, NYG
Aaron Rodgers, GB
Tom Brady, NE
Frank Gore, SF
Alfred Morris, WAS
LeSean McCoy, PHI
Stevan Ridley, NE
Demaryius Thomas, DEN
Brandon Marshall, CHI
Reggie Wayne, IND
Marques Colson, NO
Note: The last non-QB/RB to win the Associated Press Most Valuable Player award was LB Lawrence Taylor in 1986. Since the award started in 1957, there have been just three non-QB/RB winners of the award (Taylor, Washington PK Mark Moseley in 1982 and Minnesota DT Alan Page in 1971). So, a wideout has never won and only two defenders have ever been awarded an MVP award.
What does this mean? Well, basically we can eliminate A.J. Green, J.J. Watt and Clay Matthews. Unless of course they end up tripling their current numbers by the end of the season––and even if Green did so, he still probably wouldn't have numbers good enough to compete.
Our Early Favorite: Matt Ryan
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