There are thirteen weeks left in the 2020-21 NFL regular season. But it’s never too early to take a look around the league and evaluate which players have the best case for MVP.

As always, quarterbacks lead the way. Since 2001, the Associated Press National Football League Most Valuable Player Award has gone to a quarterback all but three years, with three different running backs claiming the title. The most recent was Adrian Peterson in 2012. Since then, seven different quarterbacks have taken home the trophy in the last seven years.

Quarterbacks are the heart and soul of any NFL offense, and voters will look for signal-callers with elite records, dominant statistics, and those who leave a clear mark on the outcome of a game.

Voters could potentially be swayed by good “stories” if the race is especially close. Josh Allen leading the Buffalo Bills to new heights is a fresher story than Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers hot start. Tom Brady is a perennial MVP candidate, but taking a second team to a strong record could prove his value even more.

Here are ten candidates for the NFL MVP award after the first four weeks of the season.

Power Rankings: Post-Week 1, Post-Week 2Post-Week 3, Post-Week 4

Weekly Picks: Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4

2020 NFL MVP Rankings

1. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks' Wilson faces his idol in Brees | USA TODAY Sports Wire
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, Russell Wilson has never even received an MVP vote, yet alone the MVP award. But he’s the early front-runner this year, leading the Seattle Seahawks to a 4-0 record with an NFL-high 142 points scored through four weeks. Wilson has passed for 1,285 yards, with a league-leading 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions, along with an NFL-high 75.2% completion percentage among qualified passers.

2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Contract details for Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' extension
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The reigning Super Bowl MVP, and 2018 NFL MVP, is the next most likely player to be crowned regular season MVP. Patrick Mahomes has the Kansas City Chiefs sitting at 4-0, business as usual for a quarterback who is undefeated in the month of September. Mahomes has passed for 1,134 yards, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions, and one rushing touchdown. Mahomes has already outdueled the reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson, as well as Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

3. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

Bills vs. Texans: Thank you, Josh Allen, for that ridiculous game
Michael Wycke/AP

Like the first two players, and the next one, Josh Allen is a quarterback who has his team sitting pretty at 4-0. If you haven’t been watching, you may think Buffalo’s defense is still driving Bills wins. But this couldn’t be further from the truth: the defense is allowing 25.0 points per game. Yet Allen is leading the offense to 30.8 points per game. He’s passed for 1,326 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception on a 70.9% completion rate. Throw in three rushing touchdowns, and the fact that Buffalo is usually a quarterback graveyard, and Allen just might be your 2020 NFL MVP.

4. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Who was Aaron Rodgers' favorite target against the Falcons?
Mark Hoffman-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA Today Network

If you’re a quarterback who’s more than a game manager, and your team is 4-0, you’re probably in the NFL MVP race. That’s not to say Rodgers is only here due to routine or tradition though: he’s actually having a lights out year. Some years, he’d be the MVP front-runner at this point: it’s just a testament to this year’s loaded field. Rodgers has passed for 1,214 yards, 13 touchdowns, and no picks, while completing 70.5% of his passes. Rodgers has won the NFL MVP Award twice, but not since 2014.

5. Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Tom Brady leads Bucs back with 5 TDs vs. Chargers
Mark LoMoglio/AP

43-year old quarterback Tom Brady has won NFL MVP three times (2007, 2010, 2017) and probably could’ve won more if voters didn’t get tired of the perennial candidate. His case gets a resurgence this year, as he’s proving he can take a different team, not just the New England Patriots, to a winning record. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are rolling with three straight wins and the eighth-most points in the NFL. Brady holds a 3-1 record with 1,122 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, and a rushing score.

6. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals, DeAndre Hopkins closing in on contract extension
Rob Schumacher/The Republic

DeAndre Hopkins has been instant offense for the Arizona Cardinals. While his team would need to bounce back from two straight losses and finish with an elite record for Hopkins to have a legitimate MVP case, early returns are promising. Hopkins leads the league in catches (39) and has hauled in at least seven passes for 41 yards or more in each of the Cardinals’ four games. He’s only found the endzone once so far, which would also need to change quickly to form a better MVP case, but his 397 receiving yards are only six behind the league leader (Stefon Diggs.)

7. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Report: Titans not 'on the verge' of signing Derrick Henry to extension
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans have picked up right where they left off after a deep AFC playoff run last season. While Ryan Tannehill has been good, the driving force behind this team’s success is still running back Derrick Henry. Henry is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 319… which is insane considering Henry has only played three games so far. Henry does in fact, lead the league in rushing yards per game, with 106.3, a pace that would net him 1,700 yards on the ground over 16 games. He does have just two rushing scores, but if the Titans finish with a strong record and Henry continues to be the reason why, Henry could make a rare running back-for-MVP case

8. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott is finally in a modern offense
Michael Ainsworth/AP

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-3, and having a losing record isn’t likely to fly in MVP voting. But taking a lot at the statistics, Dak Prescott is playing at a historic pace through four games. His 1,690 passing yards are 364 more than the next closest quarterback, an insane margin to have through just four games. With 422.5 passing yards per game, Prescott projects for 6,760 passing yards over 16 games, which would shatter Peyton Mannin’s 2013 record of 5,477 yards. Even if Prescott passes for 1,000 yards less than projected, he would break the record with ease. The Cowboys would have to at least win the NFC East for Prescott to get serious consideration, but even an 8-8 or 9-7 record would likely dissuade voters.

9. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson can beat you so many ways … from 50 yards
Frank Victores/AP

It’s rare for NFL MVP’s to go back-to-back, though Peyton Manning did twice in his career. Lamar Jackson would have to duplicate or even improve on his elite 2019 campaign to take home the NFL MVP award for the second year in a row. With the Baltimore Ravens’ offense is churning, and Jackson suffering just one loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, you would think the quarterback would be right near the top of these rankings. But with three games of 205 passing yards or less this season, Jackson just doesn’t have the numbers to back up an MVP case: yet. His loss to Mahomes also stings, perpetuating the narrative Jackson can’t get it done in big games, a quality voters would love to see when determining the league’s most valuable player. Jackson has passed for 769 yards, seven touchdowns, and thrown one interception. He’s carried the ball 39 times for 235 yards and a touchdown.

10. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

For the Steelers, Terry Bradshaw to Ben Roethlisberger took too long
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Remember what I said about being a better than decent quarterback and leading your team to an undefeated record? The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-0, with veteran Ben Roethlisberger playing as good as ever. He’s got 777 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception through three games. The teams he’s beaten, the New York Giants, Houston Texans, and Denver Broncos, haven’t been the toughest competition though, so he’ll have to continue winning to make a case for MVP. If the Steelers can challenge the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North title, Roethlisberger just might have a shot at his first MVP award, in his 17th year in the league.

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