We are at, or beyond, the mid-season point depending on your team’s schedule and bye week. It’s the point when people put forward their MVP candidates, and someone gets buzz each week.
The actual voting results on MVP, though, are pretty stable and predictable based on past behaviors. The MVP tends to come from one of the best teams in the league, who leads a good scoring offense, and puts up good passing stats in the positive categories (touchdowns, yards gained per play).
Last year, I looked at the statistical cases for various MVP candidates, showing that Cam Newton had a decent statistical case, even if we didn’t account for his rushing.
Using the seven categories that rated the highest among all past QB MVPs gives us the following: (1) adjusted net yards per pass attempt; (2) passer rating; (3) team win percentage; (4) touchdown rate; (5) total touchdowns; (6) yards per pass attempt; and (7) team points scored rank.
Newton, last year’s MVP, averaged a 3.6 in those categories, and it’s extremely rare for a MVP not to average being in the top 5 of those categories.
Plugging this year’s players into those categories, here are the MVP standings. (Note: total rank categories, like TD and scoring, are pro-rated to games played, and Brady’s total TD rank adjusted to the team total through 8 games).
Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are the only two who average being in the top 5 in these key MVP categories. Drew Brees would be there but for the Saints having a losing record, which almost certainly precludes him (If the Saints went on a win streak his case would build). Derek Carr is having a pro bowl year, and the Raiders currently have the record, but he falls just outside where typical MVPs have been in numerous individual categories. Dak Prescott has the team success, and good efficiency stats, but not the touchdown totals and team scoring totals of typical MVP candidates.
We are only halfway through the season, and things can change. Last year, Brady was tearing up the league at the halfway mark, and then injuries hit the offense, his numbers dropped sharply, and the Patriots lost several games down the stretch. But at this point, Ryan and Brady are the two that have the look of a MVP.