For NFL Thursday today, we have to recognize the fact that in the last four seasons, four different quarterbacks have won the MVP voting, and we have awarded those same MVP honors to an alternate set of four different quarterbacks. That is an interesting trend, for sure. Will it continue today?

This seems to get more complicated every season now, for sure.

2018 MVP: Patrick Mahomes (original AP & PFWA), Russell Wilson (revised)

We’ve seen a clear trend recently, too, with the defensive players as it’s rarely the same players we look at here as MVP candidates, really, season to season. This time, only Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard topped 10-plus tackles a game with 163 takedowns in 15 games. He also registered 7 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. He was everywhere for a 10-6 team that made the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald put up 20.5 sacks, 41 quarterback hits, and 4 FFs for a 13-win team that reached the playoffs. Also, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt put up 16 sacks and 7 FFs, as his team won 11 games and the AFC South Division. Do we really have three distinct MVP candidates on defense?!

At QB, a whopping nine players topped 100 points on the QB rating scale: New Orleans Saints legend Drew Brees (115.7), Kansas City Chiefs phenom Patrick Mahomes (113.8), Seattle Seahawks stalwart Russell Wilson (110.9), Atlanta Falcons veteran Matt Ryan (108.1), Los Angeles Chargers star Philip Rivers (105.5), Houston Texans youngster Deshaun Watson (103.1), Philadelphia Eagles enigma Carson Wentz (102.2), Los Angeles Rams starter Jared Goff (101.1), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick (100.4).

The Falcons missed the postseason with a losing record, as did the Bucs. So that leaves us with the other 7 guys, but already, we can toss out Goff and Donald, as well as Watson and Watt, as teammates. They made each other’s jobs a lot easier. This simplifies things for now, too, and we’ve been consistent with this reality.

Wentz went just 5-6 in his 11 starts, as the Eagles made the postseason with a 9-7 record, so his backup (Nick Foles, the Super Bowl hero from the year before) was clearly more “valuable” than he was. By the way, Mahomes won the vote for both MVP awards, based on his 50 TD passes, probably, and the shock value of his being so good in his first season as a starter.

What about running backs? Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott topped the league in yards (1,434), but he also fumbled just as many times as he scored (6). Ouch! No other runner even topped 90 yards a game during the regular season, making it a very boring year for RBs in the NFL.

Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones was the best pass catcher in the league, with 113 receptions for 1,677 yards and 8 touchdowns. But his team missed the postseason by 2 games, so there’s that. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill had a great season, too, with 1,479 yards and 12 TDs, without a fumble, one of the few receivers to not cough the ball up at all. But generally, no true MVP candidates here.

In the scrimmage-yards world, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley may have been the “best” player in the league with 2,028 yards and 15 TDs without a single turnover. But the Giants went just 5-11, making his performance relatively non-valuable. Elliott ended up with 2,001 yards, but his fumbles can’t be overlooked. Rams RB Todd Gurley had a fine season with 1,831 yards and 21 TDs (with just one turnover), but L.A. had a loaded roster, as we already have noted with Donald and Goff.

This leaves us with five finalists, roughly. Here’s our breakdown:

  • Leonard: QB Andrew Luck (98.7 QB rating), WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards with 6 TDs and zero TOs), RB Marlon Mack (1,011 yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs)
  • Brees: RB Alvin Kamara (1,592 yards with 18 TDs and 1 TO), WR Michael Thomas (1,405 yards with 9 TDs and 2 TOs), sixth-best NFC defense (353 PA)
  • Mahomes: WR Hill (1,630 yards with 13 TDs and zero TOs), tight end Travis Kelce (1,336 yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs), RB Kareem Hunt (1,202 yards with 14 TDs and zero TDs), fifth-worst AFC defense (421 PA)
  • Wilson: RB Chris Carson (1,314 yards with 9 TDs and 3 TOs), WR Tyler Lockett (1,034 yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs), fourth-best NFC defense (347 PA)
  • Rivers: RB Melvin Gordon (1,375 yards with 14 TDs and 1 TO), WR Keenan Allen (1,271 yards with 6 TDs and 3 TOs), sixth-best AFC defense (329 PA)

Leonard was supported by three pretty good triplets on offense, so the jury is out there still. Brees had two Pro Bowlers at his disposal and an above-average defense behind him, too. Mahomes had a lot to work with in Kansas City, and the defense wasn’t that bad, as it went into prevent mode a lot with big leads. Wilson was ably backed, although to a lesser degree than Brees, for sure. Rivers is in the same boat as Wilson, really.

So, where does all this leave us? There’s nothing dominant about Leonard’s season that can truly warrant MVP status: The Colts defense was seventh in the AFC for points allowed, and the offense was capably staffed, scoring 433 points. He was good, and maybe he was great, but we’re not seeing anything jump out at us as it should.

Brees had a top-heavy supporting cast, all around, so we are going to put our 2009 MVP pick aside. Mahomes also fits the same category with those three guys to distribute the ball to so easily. We’re not saying what he did was easy, but he certainly had a lot of help compiling his stats.

We will add the fact that Wilson ran for 376 yards himself, while Rivers had more help than Wilson did. The Seahawks won 10 games with a depleted roster long vacated of the talent that carried it to two straight Super Bowls earlier in the decade. Wilson tossed 35 TDs and just 7 INTs, while providing support for his team with his legs.

It’s a very debatable pick, we know, but we like Wilson’s overall contributions to a team that squeaked into the postseason. Feel free to disagree with us; we won’t fault you, as this is just one of those tough years to dissemble.

Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!