Considering we’ve been eagerly anticipating the start of the 2016 NFL regular season ever since the last batch of confetti fell at the close of Super Bowl 50, it’s hard to believe that the new year has already lived up to our lofty expectations. Yet, here we are, with the postseason on the horizon, and not only have plenty of teams looked stronger than ever, so have some of the game’s top players.
The truth is, everyone knows football is first and foremost a team sport. In the NFL, it’s all about winning the most games, making it into the postseason, and taking home a Super Bowl title. The goal is the Lombardi Trophy. That’s all that really matters. Of course, it never hurts to be rewarded for your individual accomplishments along the way.
While the league is loaded with valuable superstars, only one will walk away as the most valuable when it’s all said and done. With the regular season officially behind us, here’s a look at who the oddsmakers are picking to take home the 2016 MVP award.
5. (tie) Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
After returning from a three-game suspension to start the season, Le’Veon Bell showed the world just how historically talented he truly is. The Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowler averaged 105.7 yards on the ground per game, rushed for 1,268 yards (No. 5 in the NFL) and seven scores (adding another 616 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions), and played a major role in his team winning the AFC North with an 11-5 record. It’s unlikely that Bell will walk away with the MVP award, but make not mistake about it, the 24-year-old back is definitely deserving of consideration.
5. (tie) Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott was forced to wait until the fourth round of the 2016 draft to hear his name called, but that didn’t stop him from putting together arguably the greatest season for a rookie quarterback in NFL history. The former Mississippi State product started all 16 games, winning 13 of them, and finished the regular season with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and four interceptions while completing a remarkable 67.8% of his passes. For good measure, Prescott also added 282 yards and six scores on the ground. It’s safe to say that, without his brilliance, the Cowboys probably don’t wind up with the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliot may only be a rookie, but he certainly made a strong case for MVP. The Cowboys running back led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards, added 15 rushing touchdowns, and blew away the competition with his 108.7 rushing yards per game average. It hasn’t always been a popular decision to take a running back near the top of the first round. Yet, with the way Zeke has taken the NFL by storm, it’s safe to say the Cowboys aren’t regretting selecting the former Ohio State Buckeye with the No. 4 overall pick in 2016.
3. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Tom Brady is a special breed of quarterback; one who has gifts that others in his position could only dream of. This is why we knew the New England Patriots signal caller would wreak havoc on the league once he returned from his four-game Deflategate suspension. And, as expected, we were right on the money. The future Hall of Famer completed 67.4% of his passes, threw for 3,554 yards, and finished the year with the best touchdown to interception ratio (28-to-2) in NFL history. As we’ve said before, the only thing scarier than a totally focused Brady is a totally focused Brady who also happens to be angry beyond measure. Thanks to Roger Goodell, the NFL now knows what that looks like.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
At one point in the 2016 season, the Green Bay Packers looked dead in the water at 4-6. Then Aaron Rodgers made a bold prediction, helped it come true by leading the Pack to six straight victories, and willed his club to a 10-6 record and an NFC North crown. In the process, Rodgers completed 65.7% of his passes, amassed 4,428 passing yards, and led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes (against just seven interceptions). The way we see it, it’s hard to imagine anyone being more valuable to their team than Green Bay’s No. 12.
1. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan has been a revelation this season. In leading the Atlanta Falcons to an 11-5 record and an AFC South crown, Ryan completed 69.9% of his passes and threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. He also led the league in yards per completion (13.4) and passer rating (117.1). With the Falcons finishing the season with the highest-scoring offense in the NFL at 33.8 points per game, and earning the No. 2 seed in the NFC, it’s no wonder Vegas is giving Ryan the nod in the MVP race.