The 2022 NFL MVP race gets youthful again

This time last season it seemed that the new generation of NFL Quarterbacks couldn’t challenge Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady for the NFL Regular Season MVP. Eventually, Rodgers would beat out Brady. Aaron Rodgers had a passer rating of 111.9 with 4,115 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions in 16 games in 2021. Brady finished a passer rating of 102.1 with 5316 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in 17 games in 2021. While both are still taking snaps in 2022 the NFL MVP race is youthful again without them.

The next closest MVP candidate in 2021 was a record-setting Wide Receiver, Cooper Kupp. Kupp finished with 145 catches for 1947 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in 17 games in 2021. While the Rams did win the Super Bowl, Kupp was awarded his first Offensive Player of the Year award.

In the present day, those names no longer bare weight in an MVP conversation in 2022. Rodgers and Brady both enter Week 16 with a 6-8 record. The Green Bay Packers are playoff hopefuls and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the ropes of winning their division which is just enough to get in the playoffs as division winners if so. Cooper Kupp only played in 9 games in 2022 before his season was ended by an ankle injury that required surgery. The Los Angles Rams have officially been eliminated from the Playoffs.

A new year and a familiar face

Hello Patrick Mahomes? Out goes Tyreek Hill and in comes JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Taking a leap this season is Mecole Hardman meanwhile Travis Kelce remains Mahomes’ best option. Prior to Week 16, Mahomes has a passer rating of 105.0 with 4,496 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 14 games this season. This is key for Mahomes for two reasons. He leads the NFL in yards and touchdowns thrown. Second, he’s trending in the direction to throw for over 5,000 yards and over 40 touchdowns for the first time since 2018. Kansas City’s defense is currently ranked 24th in defensive DVOA and 21st in EPA allowed per play. Yet, the Chiefs are 11-3 and STILL fighting for the AFC’s first seed.

Fountain of Youth

Jalen Hurts has emerged as arguably the most improved Quarterback and a clear-cut favorite to be the league’s MVP in only his 3rd year at playing the position. Technically, we could say Hurts’ real shot came last season in his sophomore year as he started all 15 games he played in 2021. He has 35 total touchdowns prior to Week 16 (22 passing and 13 rushing touchdowns). His 745 rushing yards are the third-best behind Justin Fields and Lamar Jackson among Quarterbacks. The Eagles are second in points per game at 29.4 per game. His WR1 is A.J. Brown who sits in 5th place in receiving yards this season with 1201. These are clear indicators that it translates to winning because Philadelphia’s 13-1 record says so.

The assumed MVP

Prior to the 2022 season, Josh Allen would be the assumed front-runner MVP, right? He’s one of the few players in the NFL likewise Mahomes and Hurts look like the complete package. Here is a fun stat, Allen’s 3.56 yards-after-contact-per-attempt average is just shy of Josh Jacobs‘ (3.61). Sounds good right? The Bills are sitting at 11-3 and hold a tiebreaker over the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC’s number-one seed. This HAS to put him over Mahomes right? Allen’s case for MVP will be tough to compete against the above-mentioned. He’s top five in passing yards (5th place before Week 16 games) but that gets muddy with Joe Burrow and Kirk Cousins swapping places with him weekly. Mahomes is on pace to drop 5K passing yards and Allen most likely will miss that in 2022. As for the ground game, Hurts has 13 rushing touchdowns while Allen’s 6 before the Week 16 games is beaten. Overall passing touchdowns? Ring that one up for Mahomes again who leads the league with 35 passing touchdowns prior to Week 16. Again, Allen’s case is difficult with Mahomes and Hurts leading in scoring categories.

Can we get one more that’s not a Quarterback?

The last time an NFL MVP was NOT a Quarterback? 2012’s winner was Adrian Peterson. In 2022 it’s hard to say 10 years later another position will take the crown. Cooper Kupp’s effort in 2021 was capped as Offensive Player of the Year. We could argue he was the clear reason the Rams succeeded and even won the Super Bowl. However, Mahomes enters a year where he’s better with arguably less and could end up with the best record in the AFC overall. Hurts has the Eagles winning with the undisputed best record all season long so far.

An honorable mention would be Justin Jefferson who has taken a leap as a player and added the Minnesota Vikings to the contender’s conversation. Does he move the bar as much as Kupp did last season? Unfortunately, Jefferson does not lead the league in receiving touchdowns (only 7 prior to Week 16) and barely leads the league in receptions (111 receptions compared to Tyreek Hill’s 109 prior to Week 16). If Kupp led the league in receptions, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards but didn’t win MVP neither will Jefferson this season at a lesser achievement.

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