Writer: Caleb Akpan
NFL football will be back on our TV screens very soon. Come Thursday, the best of best will take the field to try and eventually play on the biggest Sunday of the year. The night prior to Super Bowl 52, the 2018 NFL Honors will take place, recognizing the greatest performers of the season, including the Rookie of The Year, Defensive Player Of The Year, and of course, the MVP. Today we’ll look at five candidates for the most coveted award of the season, five players who have a chance to lead their teams to Super Bowl victory:
. Le’Veon Bell, Running Back, Pittsburgh Steelers
If Bell didn’t sit out of training camp, he’d probably be higher on this list, but even though the star back just signed his franchise tender to officially join the team for 2017, he still has an opportunity to do great things. There’s almost no chance coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t immediately plug Bell back into the gameplan, seeing that he can do so much on the field. The Steelers will need Bell to once again contend for a championship, and with the perfect pieces around him, all Bell really has to do is keep on pace with his 2016 season (1884 yards from scrimmage, 9 touchdowns) and play a few more games (he only played 12 in 2016) to deserve MVP consideration.
4. Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons
Back-to-back MVPs aren’t completely out of the ordinary. Legend Joe Montana won back-to-back in the 80s. Peyton Manning did it twice for four of his five. Brett Favre three-peated from 1995 to 1997. Matt Ryan isn’t on the same level as those three Hall Of Famers, but he probably has more to prove than any of them did in their MVP winning seasons. The sting of Super Bowl 51 will probably never go away, but 2017 offers a chance for redemption and Ryan seems unlikely to regress with a great team still around him, even with offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, gone to the 49ers. If Ryan decides to take his frustration for the historic loss out on the league, watch out for a quarterback who can do major damage.
3. Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott has done a lot of good things to start his NFL career. He successfully filled in and then fully replaced a Pro Bowl Quarterback in Tony Romo, essentially sending him into retirement. He brought the Dallas Cowboys back to (actual) relevancy, and relevancy that seems like it will stay for years to come. Prescott has his doubters heading into year number two, but he also has a great opportunity. There’s still a decent chance that his partner-in-crime (no pun intended) Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended to start the year, and that happening could shoulder a large amount of the Cowboys offensive load onto Prescott’s shoulders. If he handles that anything like the pressure he faced in 2016, Prescott will be more than just a great young prospect this year.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
After an already insane 2016 campaign, the sky’s the limit for Aaron Rodgers in 2017. Bad taste left in his mouth after the NFC championship game? Check. Coming off a career year in pass completions? Check. A healthier and likely better team around him? Check. Everything looks right on paper for Rodgers, he just has to execute, and if he’s shown the NFL’s viewing audience anything since he took the reigns on Green Bay in 2008, it’s that more often than not, he can get the job done.
1. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
The Patriots are going to run the table, be the greatest team ever, destroy everybody, blah blah blah. That’s an uncertainty at this point, if anybody knows how hard that is, it’s New England, and they already have a major setback with the injury to Julian Edelman. What can almost be called a guarantee is Tom Brady being really good at football. It rarely matters who lines up with Brady, but even with Edelman gone, Brady still has Rob Gronkowski (for now) and Brandin Cooks, whose already drawing comparisons to Randy Moss, who Brady threw 23 touchdowns to in the almost perfect season. If Brady can create a connection like that with Cooks and do what he always does with Gronkowski, few will be able to compete with him for the title of the NFL’s best player.