(Cam Newton photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
(Adrian Peterson photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
Talk of Fame Network
The retirement of Peyton Manning, a four-game suspension of Tom Brady and offseason back surgery that may force J.J. Watt to miss the start of the season could scramble the NFL MVP race in 2016.
Manning and Brady combined to win five of the last nine MVP awards, and Watt has been the NFL’s best defensive player each of the last two seasons and three of the last four. Their absences in September could give some of the NFL’s best players a head start in the chase for MVP honors.
So who will be the MVP in 2016? That’s the subject of our Talk of Fame Network poll this week, and we offer up six worthy candidates:
Khalil Mack, OLB, Oakland. Mack finished as the NFL runnerup to Watt in sacks in 2015 with 15 but could be in position to claim his first crown in 2016 with Watt on an early shelf. Mack was the fifth overall pick of the 2014 draft and has 19 career sacks in 32 games. He collected four as a rookie but exploded with 15 in his second season _ the most by a Raider since 2005 when Derrick Burgess collected 16. He became the first player in the history of the Associated Press all-pro team to be named first team at two positions in the same season, end and outside linebacker.
(Khalil Mack photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina. The reigning NFL MVP. Newton’s arms and legs carried the Panthers to their second NFC championship last season when he produced 45 touchdowns – 35 by passing and 10 more by rushing. He became the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. It was that December day against the New York Giants when he threw for 340 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 100 yards on just eight carries.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. The only non-quarterback to win NFL MVP honors in the last nine years, Peterson earned that acclaim in 2012 when he rushed for 2,097 yards. He won three NFL rushing titles in his last seven seasons, including 2015 when he gained 1,485 yards. Peterson was the only back in the league to carry the ball 300-lus times last season, and his legs powered the Vikings to their first NFC North title in six seasons.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. The NFL MVP in two of the last five years. Rodgers had a down year by his own standards in 2015, passing for only 3,821 yards and 31 touchdowns. But he played the entire season without his best receiver, Jordy Nelson, who tore up his knee during the 2015 preseason. Nelson is back, as is Randall Cobb, whose production fell off as well in Nelson’s absence. The Packers also signed tight end Jared Cook in free agency to give Rodgers an outlet receiver.
(Aaron Rodgers photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger has taken the Steelers to three Super Bowls in his career, winning two of them. If Pittsburgh can stay healthy – something the Steelers couldn’t do a year ago – Roethlisberger may have the NFL’s best offense at his disposal. Roethlisberger missed five starts last season, and while the Steelers were forced to start three different quarterbacks they still finished third in the NFL in offense. NFL receiving champion Antonio Brown is back, and Pro Bowl halfback Le’Veon Bell returns in the fourth week from an NFL suspension.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle. Wilson has shared the offensive spotlight in recent years with Marshawn Lynch on Seattle teams that went to two of the last three Super Bowls. But Wilson has the spotlight all to himself this season with the retirement of Lynch. Wilson turned out to be one of the best third-round investments in NFL history. He has gone to the Pro Bowl each of his first four seasons, and only two quarterbacks – Dan Marino and Peyton Manning – threw more TD passes in their first four years than Wilson (106).
(Russell Wilson photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)