WITH A QUARTER of the NFL's regular season remaining, there's no clear favorite for the MVP award, which could wind up having its closest vote since Peyton Manning and Steve McNair shared the honor in 2003. Four players head into the final four weeks as the leading candidates, though quarterbacks Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Matthew Stafford of the Lions could join the discussion with stellar finishes. Here's where the race stands.
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NAME POS., TEAM
TOM BRADY Quarterback, Patriots
DEREK CARR Quarterback, Raiders
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT Running back, Cowboys
DAK PRESCOTT Quarterback, Cowboys
THE CASE FOR
The two-time MVP has 19 TDs against just one interception, leads the league in QB rating (113.1) and set an NFL record by winning his 201st game, playoffs included, on Sunday.
A third-year man, Carr has led six game-winning drives in catapulting Oakland to a 10--2 start—its best in 16 seasons—and first-place in the AFC West, the league's toughest division.
The NFL's leading rusher set a rookie record with four straight games of at least 130 yards on the ground, and he could break Eric Dickerson's first-year mark of 1,808 yards.
The fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State, who filled in for—and then supplanted—Tony Romo, has guided Dallas to its first 11-game winning streak with a TD/INT ratio of 19 to 2.
THE CASE AGAINST
Brady's Deflategate ban cost him four games; his top target, TE Rob Gronkowski, is out for the year.
Carr is fourth in the league in passing yards, fifth in completions and seventh in touchdowns—rankings that hardly scream MVP.
Only four RBs have won MVP this century. He'll need transcendent stats to win. No rookie rushing record, no MVP.
He's just eighth among QBs in rushing yards and 16th in passing yards. And only one rookie has been MVP: Jim Brown, in 1957.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If the Pats win out and Brady maintains his current pace, he could cap his Roger Goodell Revenge Tour with the MVP.
QB Rich Gannon was MVP the last time the Raiders won the division, in 2002. Carr will also need a first-place finish to win.
If Elliott returns to his midseason form he has a shot. Either way, he'll be a part of this discussion for years to come.
This week's Sunday-night showdown with the Giants, the only team to beat the Boys, could make or break Prescott's candidacy.