There’s currently a four-horse race for NFL’s Most Valuable Player through eight weeks of the season, but it’s clear that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the best of the bunch. That’s not a slight against emerging star and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, or Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who is in the middle of the best season of his career, or Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in football.
It’s just that no other player has been as good or as valuable as Brady has been for the Patriots.
Brady leads the NFL with 2,541 passing yards and his 8.2 yards per attempt (YPA) ranks third. Smith is second with 2,181 passing yards and leads the NFL with 8.4 YPA. Wentz ranks third with 2,063 passing yards and seventh with 7.8 YPA. Wilson ranks sixth with 2,008 passing yards and is tied with Wentz for seventh with 7.8 YPA.
Wentz is tied with Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson with 19 passing touchdowns, while Brady and Smith are tied for third with 16. Wilson is fifth with 15. Smith leads the NFL with a 115.4 passer rating, while Brady is second with 106.5, Wentz is seventh with 101.6, and Wilson is eighth with 100.4.
The trio of Wentz (203 rushing yards), Wilson (194 yards and a touchdown), and Smith (154 yards and a touchdown) are greater rushing threats than Brady (28 yards), but that’s not enough to close the gap.
We could include Saints quarterback Drew Brees into the discussion, but he’s a clear distance behind these four in the rankings, while Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins and Watson could be considered, too, but their teams have losing records.
Where Brady separates himself from the pack is how he’s had to overcome the Patriots poor defensive performances over the first half of the season.
Through eight weeks, the Patriots rank first on offense in DVOA and 32nd on defense. The 2017 Patriots are the first team since the 2011 Patriots to be first in offense and last on defense, joining the 2002 Chiefs and 2000 Rams as the only other teams to manage the feat in Football Outsiders’ database.
Brady actually received zero MVP votes in 2011, thanks to Aaron Rodgers putting together the most efficient year in NFL history and Drew Brees setting records for passing yards and completion rate. Rams running back Marshall Faulk was named MVP in 2000, while Chiefs running back Priest Holmes earned just one vote in 2002 after scoring 24 touchdowns.
While Wilson is carrying the Seahawks offense, he’s also playing with a top 10 defense, while Wentz is playing with a middle of the road defense- but the Eagles offense simply isn’t as good as the Patriots. Wentz could be the most improved, but he’s certainly not the most valuable.
Smith is playing with a surprisingly inefficient Chiefs defense and could be considered the second-place option for MVP of these options, but when rookie running back phenom Kareem Hunt leads the league in rushing yards (763) and is the only player in the NFL with over 1,000 yards on the year (1,070 yards from scrimmage), then perhaps Smith’s value to the Chiefs should take a small hit- and that’s before considering that the weak Chiefs defense is still magnitudes better than what Tom Brady played with in New England for the first four weeks of the season.
So if I had to put together a ranked ballot, Brady would be at the top of my list, followed by Smith, Wentz, Wilson, and Watson. The ranking of second through fifth is up for debate, but there’s no question in my mind that Brady deserves that top slot.