Top 10 Early MVP Candidates in the NFL

Quarterbacks earn National Football League Most Valuable Player honors just about every year in the modern NFL. It is the way that things are in 2014. A non-QB has won the award only once since 2007 – Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2012. Quarterbacks are front and center while playing in front of millions of television viewers who watch football 22 Sundays out of the year. They are superstars and some of the more popular athletes in the United States.

None of this is to suggest that quarterbacks don't deserve to be recognized as the most valuable contributors for their clubs. Successful QBs are more than just men with strong arms who are able to spin footballs and hit open wide receivers. They are CEOs and captains of offenses, bright football minds who can read defenses and create positive plays while being chased after by 300-pound individuals looking to make massive hits.

Some old familiar faces are back at it halfway through the 2014 NFL campaign. Two veterans who have multiple MVP awards in their trophy cases may be the best quarterbacks in the business heading into November 2014. A man who is searching for the first Super Bowl appearance of his career is also high on the list. Two signal-callers who have already been to the mountaintop could emerge as favorites for NFL MVP if they lead their clubs to division titles.

Then, there is the running back who features for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has been one of the big surprises to date of the 2014 season. A team picked by many to compete for the basement spot of the NFC East standings has won six of its first eight regular season contests. Whether or not the Cowboys will be in it to win it come January remains a question, but it's a safe bet that Dallas will live and die on the first-choice back who has been carrying the rock better than any other player in the league.

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10 RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

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Murray could be the man to break the streak of quarterbacks winning NFL MVP. He rushed for 1,054 yards in his team's first eight games of the campaign. There are some starting running backs in the league who will struggle to get to 1,000 total rushing yards before the end of the holiday season. Murray is averaging over 131 rushing yards per contest, he is picking up an average of 5.1 yards per carry, and he has found the end zone seven times.

There are two things other than the position that he plays that could prevent Murray from winning NFL MVP this time around. First is that he has lost five fumbles in eight games. Opposing players are aware of Murray's struggles with “Fumbleitis,” and they are now attempting to strip the ball out of the back's hands almost every time that he has it. Another worry is that Murray has a history of injury concerns, to the point that some are under the belief that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” he gets banged up.

9 QB Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills

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Do not scoff at or brush away the idea of Orton winning NFL MVP. The Bills were largely an afterthought in NFL previews, to the point that some believed Buffalo would finish dead last in the AFC East. 2014 was supposed to be the year when second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel found his NFL form en route to becoming a competent starter. That did not happen, and Manuel was replaced by Orton after September.

Don't look now, but Buffalo has won three of four games with Orton under center. Orton is not Peyton Manning, in that the Buffalo QB won't be posting monster stats each time he takes the field. He has the Bills playing winning football two months into the campaign, and Orton lit it up when facing the lackluster New York Jets on October 26th. Orton will absolutely deserve to be in NFL MVP discussions if the Bills earn postseason football.

8 QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Think back to the start of October 2013. The Steelers had just struggled through a winless September, and there were rumblings that Pittsburgh was shopping the team's veteran quarterback who had not played well in the first fourth of the campaign. Roethlisberger stayed put, and the Steelers went on to win 8 of the final 12 games on their schedule. with Pittsburgh nearly backing into the postseason.

Roethlisberger is one of the best cold-weather quarterbacks of his generation. Neither the Baltimore Ravens nor the Cincinnati Bengals have performed like world-beaters, and the defense of the Bengals has not been as good as advertised over the past month. The Cleveland Browns are, well, the Browns, and they could be in for a letdown over the next two months. Roethlisberger may be on the verge of a MVP season if he is able to take the Steelers to an AFC North championship.

7 QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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There were, back in late August, respected reporters and journalists predicting that the Seahawks had a roster capable of flirting with running the table this season. That, of course, has not happened. Seattle won four of the team's first seven games this season, and the defense of the Seahawks has not performed as expected. There are also rumors of some unrest in the Seattle locker, and the Seahawks dumped wide receiver Percy Harvin on the New York Jets before the trade deadline.

Despite that, do not sleep on Wilson's NFL MVP candidacy. Wilson has, in 2014, emerged as one of the best overall offensive weapons in the league. He is completing over 65 percent of his passes. He has 11 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions after seven games. Wilson has also rushed for 362 yards and a trio of scores. Wilson is now the best player on a team that could win the Super Bowl for the second straight season.

6 WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

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A big reason for Roethlisberger's success this season is the man who is pound-for-pound the best wide receiver in the NFL today. Brown, undersized for a No. 1 WR (he is listed at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds), has been good for nearly a touchdown per game, as he has found the end zone seven times in eight contests. Brown is tied for second in the league in touchdown receptions (three players have 9 TDs), and only T.Y. Hilton has more receiving yards than Brown.

Odds are that Brown would lose out to Roethlisberger if one of the two of them were to be on final NFL MVP lists. It may not be fair, but voters are likely to go with a quarterback over a wide receiver. The perception is that quarterbacks make targets better and not the other way around. Even if Brown had a historic second half of the season, that may not be enough for him to win MVP, as Big Ben's stats would also be impressive since he throws the balls that Brown catch.

5 QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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The days of Luck being "the best young quarterback in the NFL" are over. He is now just simply one of the elite individuals to be playing the position this season. Luck is on pace to have the best season of his three-year career. He has tossed 22 touchdown passes in eight games. He is on his way to throwing for over 5,000 yards. Luck has already added two rushing touchdowns to what is quickly becoming an impressive NFL MVP resume.

Luck's football life hasn't been all puppies and rainbows in 2014. He is currently averaging over an interception a game. He has put the ball on the ground twice, and Luck has lost a fumble. It's also worth noting that the Colts are not running away with the division as some expected. Indianapolis is only a game up on the Houston Texans in the AFC South standings.

4 QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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The one-time Super Bowl MVP made headlines when he told Green Bay fans to "R-E-L-A-X" after the Packers got off to a slow start. He has since given those supporters reasons to remain calm and believe in the club. The Packers won four consecutive games, including divisional contests against the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, and Green Bay went down swinging in a road loss to the New Orleans Saints on October 26th.

Rodgers will have his work cut out for him over the next two months. The best quarterback in the NFC North currently features for a side that is only second-best in the division standings. Green Bay trails the Detroit Lions by a game, as the Lions have jumped out to a surprising 6-2 start. The Lions notched a home victory over the Packers earlier this season, and the menacing Detroit defense has the ability to go for the double against Green Bay.

3 QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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The Philip Rivers revival tour that began in September 2013 has carried through into the current campaign. After completing 69.5 percent of his passes last season, Rivers is connecting on 68.3 percent of his attempts in 2014. Rivers has a 109.9 rating, good for third-best in the NFL, and he is on pace to finish the season out with 40 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. The veteran in his 11th pro season appears to be in his prime despite the fact that will turn 33-years old in December.

Rivers has two significant hurdles standing in front of him and a NFL MVP award, the first being division rivals the Denver Broncos. Denver is perhaps the best overall team in the league, and the Broncos are again favorites to win the AFC West. Rivers winning MVP as a quarterback on a Wild Card team is unlikely. The man who is the starting quarterback of the Broncos will likely prove to be another obstacle for Rivers.

More on that individual later.

2 QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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It's humorous to recall discussions had by sports talk radio personalities on the morning of September 30th. The Patriots had been routed by the Kansas City Chiefs to the tune of a 41-14 defeat the night before, and some were questioning if Brady's best days were behind him. There were even pockets of fans and radio hosts wondering out-loud if the Patriots wouldn't be better off going to rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Several fantasy football "experts" even recommended dropping Brady for Blake Bortles. Blake Bortles!

No quarterback has played better than Brady over the past month. The all-time great with a spot in the Hall of Fame already reserved has led the Patriots to four straight wins. His numbers over that period of play are straight out of a video game: 14 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a rating of 125.7. The 37-year old is showing no signs of slowing down, and he could be on the verge of making another Super Bowl run.

1 QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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Age really is only a number in some special cases. Manning, who turned 38-years old last March, continues to rewrite history books. He broke Brett Favre's record for most career passing touchdowns earlier this season, and he is on his way to possessing even more records before all is said and done. That Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in the history of the NFL is no longer a debate. He owns that honor, and he could have other awards in his near future.

Manning has thus far matched 22 passing touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. His 119 rating is the best in the NFL. Manning is completing 69 percent of his passes, good for second-best in the league (Drew Brees is at 69.5). The Broncos are atop NFL power rankings halfway through the season, and they are favorites to emerge as the champions of the AFC for the second straight season. Manning would be the consensus NFL MVP if votes were tallied today, and that may also be the case come January.

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