With MVP race wide open, you might consider these three


(Antonio Brown photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

So who’s your MVP choice now?

A week ago, it was (take your pick) Carson Wentz, Tom Brady or Russell Wilson … with Wentz in the lead and Wilson closing fast on the outside. But then Wentz bowed out with a torn knee ligament … and an inept Brady couldn’t convert a third down in a loss to Miami … and Wilson threw three interceptions in a Seattle defeat.

So who’s your MVP choice now?

Before you answer, let’s get something clear: That doesn’t mean Wentz, Brady or Wilson can’t win the award. They could. But their chances are diminished from last week. Wentz almost certainly is out of it, while Brady and Wilson took giant steps backward.

So what? So that makes the field as wide open as any I can remember in years, with an outlier a possibility, and I have three I’d like to add … unless, of course, they, too, hiccup this weekend.

The roll call, please …

QB PHILIP RIVERS, CHARGERS

The Argument For: First of all, he plays the right position. Quarterbacks were league MVP winners the past four years and eight of the last nine. Moreover, there are twice as many of them (39) as there are any other position (16). So that’s one box checked. The other is Rivers’ drive to the finish line. The guy hasn’t thrown an interception in four weeks, has thrown for 1,097 yards in his last three games and won seven of his last nine starts. If the Chargers win the AFC West … and that could be decided Saturday in Kansas City … Rivers gains an enormous boost for an award he’s never won.

The Argument Against: The Chargers have beaten only one opponent (Dallas) with a winning record. Then again, they may not make the playoffs. So then what?

RB TODD GURLEY, RAMS

The Argument For: He does just about everything. He leads the league in touchdowns. He leads the league in rushing touchdowns. He leads the NFC in rushing. He’s second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage. And he plays for a division leader … OK, not just a division leader but the second-highest scoring team in the NFL and one of its best stories. He ranks second to Le’Veon Bell in touches, is third in carries and first with 11 games of 100 or more yards from scrimmage. Yet, for some reason, since the Week 8 bye, Gurley has been averaging fewer than 20 touches per game — n oversight coach Sean McVay promises to correct. “That’s something I’ve got to be mindful of,” he said. Smart man.

The Argument Against: Some people in L.A. contend Jared Goff is the team MVP. Gurley once said it’s kicker Greg Zuerlein, the league scoring leader. Still others contend it’s … yep, Andrew Whitworth, the left tackle imported from Cincinnati. With that many candidates, the argument for one individual is weakened.

WR ANTONIO BROWN, STEELERS

The Argument For: Not only is he putting up prodigious numbers; he has the endorsement of NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth … and, trust me, that can make a difference. Brown is nearly 300 yards receiving ahead of his closest pursuer, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, and, with a league-leading 99 catches, is on target to win his third receiving title in four years. But why stop there? He has an NFL-best eight 100-yard receiving games, five 150-yard receiving games and one with 213 yards in receptions.  Moreover, like Rivers, he’s peaking, with 39 catches, 627 yards and three TDs the past four games … and, with his next reception, becomes the first player in NFL history to produce five consecutive 100-catch seasons. Unlike Rivers, however, he plays for the top dog in the AFC … at least for the moment. “I don’t think there’s anybody as dominant as he is in the game this year,” Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald said Thursday. “He single-handedly has won … or put his team in position to win … three (or) four games this year.”

The Argument Against: There are too many people arguing for Brown’s teammate, running back Le’Veon Bell, and you can see why. He leads the league in rushing, touches and yards from scrimmage. So how can you be the league MVP if you split the MVP on your own team? Answer: You can’t. Then there’s this: Never in the history of the award has a wide receiver been named Associated Press MVP … though Jerry Rice was named the 1987 winner by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, which was voted on by players.

 

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