The race for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award is beginning to take shape six weeks into the 2023 season. So it’s a great time to take a look at who might be the leading candidates as we head into Week 7.
We asked 12 analysts — Matt Bowen, Courtney Cronin, Jeremy Fowler, Dan Graziano, Matt Miller, Jason Reid, Jordan Reid, Mike Tannenbaum, Lindsey Thiry, Seth Walder, Seth Wickersham and Field Yates — to vote on the top players in the MVP race. We used those 12 sets of rankings to come up with our consensus top five candidates to determine how the field stacks up to this point.
There are no undefeated teams left in the league, and we’ve already seen three different quarterbacks split time as the consensus odds favorite for the MVP award at Caesars Sportsbook. The quarterback of the NFL’s most explosive offense owns the best Las Vegas odds and the most first-place votes from our panel. Three other quarterbacks join the list alongside a do-it-all threat who leads the league in rushing.
Could this be the year that a non-QB wins the MVP award? How much does having two candidates on the same team hurt those players’ chances? We’ll also look at risers and fallers, and analytics writer Seth Walder names an under-the-radar MVP candidate. Here’s where the MVP race stands after Week 6.
Note: All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
2023 stats: 1,876 passing yards, 14 TDs, 5 INT, 74.7 QBR (21 rushing yards)
Current odds: +350
Tagovailoa leads the most high-powered offense the NFL has seen since the “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Miami has the second-most total yards (2,992) through six games ever (behind only the 2000 Rams) and leads the league in scoring this season with 37.2 points per game. That’s nearly a touchdown more than the next-closest offense (49ers, 30.7). Tagovailoa has been ranked in the top five of Caesars’ MVP odds for six consecutive weeks. He leads the league in touchdown percentage (7.1%) and is third in QBR (74.7). And the 25-year-old is the only quarterback to throw for at least three touchdowns in three games this season.
There have been a few MVP-caliber games this season to start his campaign. A 309-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Broncos, which the Dolphins won by 50 points, is certainly at the top of the list. Tagovailoa completed 88.5% of his passes that day. And when Miami needed him most in Week 6, down 14-0 against the Panthers, he threw for 262 yards (21-of-31 passing), three touchdown passes and no interceptions to earn the Dolphins their fifth win.
2023 stats: 1,593 passing yards, 11 TDs, 5 INT, 72.6 QBR (185 rushing yards)
Current odds: +450
The Chiefs are off to a slower start than they’re used to — averaging 24.5 points per game — but are tied for first in the AFC (5-1) after ripping off five consecutive wins following a one-point loss to the Lions in Week 1. Kansas City has yet to dominate the way it did during last season’s Super Bowl run, but Mahomes is still a force even when the rest of the offense isn’t playing at its best.
The two-time MVP is completing 68.3% of his passes for 265.5 yards per game. In Week 5, Mahomes threw for 281 yards and two touchdown passes in a win over the Vikings. He has now won a game against every team in the NFL since 2018 (except for the Chiefs). And he’s the 10th starting quarterback to beat 31 different NFL franchises and the first to do it before the age of 30.
2023 stats: 553 rushing yards, 7 TDs (177 receiving yards, 2 TDs)
Current odds: +1000
McCaffrey’s four-touchdown performance (three rushing, one receiving) against the Cardinals in Week 4 has helped him leapfrog the rest of the pack in his quest to become the first non-quarterback to win the MVP since 2012 (Adrian Peterson). The 27-year-old has scored a touchdown in each of San Francisco’s six games, including a 13-yard reception against the Browns before he exited with an oblique/rib injury that isn’t expected to be serious. He has scored a touchdown in 15 consecutive games, a streak that dates back to last season (including the 2022 playoffs) and is the second longest in NFL history.
Despite an offense loaded with playmakers, the Niners still lean on McCaffrey. He has accounted for at least 135 scrimmage yards in three of his first six games, and he is second in the NFL with 133 touches and 110 carries.
2023 stats: 1,576 passing yards, 13 TDs, 6 INT, 75.1 QBR (131 rushing yards, 3 TDs)
Current odds: +850
Allen has shaken off any concern about his play after throwing three interceptions against the Jets in Week 1. The 27-year-old quarterback is back in familiar territory as a top-five MVP candidate and leads the league in completion percentage (71.7%), has the third-best efficiency mark among quarterbacks (0.28 EPA/play) and is tied for fifth in throws that have generated first downs (77).
Allen’s most impressive moment in the early season came in a 48-20 thrashing of the Dolphins, where he threw for 320 yards (21-of-25 passing) with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. He earned a single-game career high in completion percentage (84%) and became the 34th player with a perfect passer rating since 2000. His second-half performance against the Giants in Week 6 won’t garner as much attention, but it served as the catalyst for Buffalo to grind out a 14-9 win and get to a 4-2 record.
2023 stats: 1,542 passing yards, 7 TDs, 7 INT, 59.9 QBR (253 rushing yards, 5 TDs)
Current odds: +850
Hurts struggled against an undermanned Jets secondary and was responsible for three interceptions in Philadelphia’s 20-14 loss to the Jets in Week 6. It was only the second time he has thrown three picks in an NFL game, so no need to panic about last year’s MVP runner-up. The 25-year-old has taken his time to adjust to the Eagles’ offensive changes (which include new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson), which might explain why he hasn’t looked like the version of himself from last year.
While Hurts has exceeded last season’s six interceptions with seven in six games, he has accounted for 12 total touchdowns (85.7% of his team’s offensive touchdowns). Hurts’ five rushing touchdowns are the most of any quarterback this season, and his 19 rushing attempts in the red zone are 40.4% of his team’s carries inside the 20-yard line. To top it off, Philadelphia ranks fifth in scoring, averaging 25.8 points per game with Hurts leading the way.
Remember when Hill vowed to have a 2,000-yard season? The league’s top receiver is on pace to get there with 42 catches for 814 yards and six touchdowns through six games. Hill leads the NFL in receiving yards per game (135.7) and yards after catch (336), and he has turned 35 receptions into first downs (tied for first). He is the wideout whom no defense wants to face.
Purdy was pretty much flawless through his first five games (9 TDs, 0 INTs on an offense that averaged 33.4 points per game) and was the MVP favorite at Caesars Sportsbook ahead of the Niners’ 19-17 loss to the Browns this past weekend. The second-year quarterback’s first regular-season loss came on a rather pedestrian day (12-of-27, 125 yards, TD, INT, 40.1 QBR), and receiver Deebo Samuel and McCaffrey both exited with injuries. Purdy’s MVP candidacy only slightly took a hit, given he had the 49ers in a position to win the game with 9 seconds left when kicker Jake Moody missed a 41-yard, game-winning field goal attempt.
Goff’s 5-1 Lions are off to their best start since 2011. He has shown he can lead Detroit to wins without his full supporting cast, including a win in Week 5 over Carolina without receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and a Week 6 victory at Tampa Bay after running back David Montgomery exited in the second quarter with a rib cartilage injury. Goff is putting up numbers in line with the league’s top quarterbacks; he’s fourth in QBR (73.3%) and fifth in completion percentage (69.5%), passing yards (1,618) and touchdown passes (11).
Also received top-10 votes: Chargers QB Justin Herbert, Steelers OLB T.J. Watt, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Browns DE Myles Garrett, Cowboys LB Micah Parsons, Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield, Raiders DE Maxx Crosby, Texans QB C.J. Stroud, Browns CB Denzel Ward, Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson, Rams WR Puka Nacua, Eagles WR A.J. Brown, Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, Falcons S Jessie Bates III
Whose stock is up after six weeks?
Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns (+30000). The anchor of the Browns’ defense has consistently been among the league’s best pass-rushers through Cleveland’s first five games. Garrett has generated wins on 28.8% of his pass-rush snaps and has 5.5 sacks and 28 total pressures. The race for the top defensive player is starting to heat up with a handful of deserving candidates, from Garrett to T.J. Watt to Micah Parsons.
Whose stock is down after six weeks?
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (+2800). A lingering right calf injury hindered Burrow’s effectiveness through six weeks, which is why Cincinnati could not score a touchdown in two of its losses and is averaging under 17 points per game. Burrow hasn’t been able to connect on deep balls to Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins the way we’ve grown accustomed to and has seen his yards per attempt drop from 7.4 (a top-10 ranking last season) to 5.3 (the worst mark among QBs who have started at least two games this season) in 2023.
Does McCaffrey/Purdy and Tagovailoa/Hill playing on the same team hurt their MVP chances?
The way the league has worked around the MVP becoming a QB-specific award is by doling out Offensive Player of the Year nods, the past four of which have been won by three wide receivers and one running back. The weight placed on a position that orchestrates an offense’s success undoubtedly has the MVP skew toward favoring quarterbacks, which it has done 42 times out of 58 seasons.
The 49ers’ and Dolphins’ offenses are headlined by their breadth of skill position talent like McCaffrey and Hill, but credit tends to go to quarterbacks over two players who are among the top of the league in touches and the percentage of the offense that runs through them.
What would need to happen for us to see our first non-QB MVP crowned in over a decade?
The last non-QB MVP was Adrian Peterson in 2012. Calvin Johnson set the NFL’s single season receiving record (1,964 yards) that season but did so on a 4-12 Lions team. If a non-quarterback wins MVP, he’ll have to put up record numbers on a playoff-contending team — Hill has a chance there — and likely need the quarterbacks vying for the award to fall off in a major way.
That didn’t happen last year, when Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson led the NFL in targets (184), receiving yards (1,809) and receptions (128), because of the neck-and-neck race between Mahomes and Hurts. It was similar in 2021, when Rams receiver Cooper Kupp had as strong a case as anyone but was among the runners-up for the MVP behind quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
Walder’s under-the-radar MVP candidate
Watt is tied for the league lead with 8.0 sacks and has 2 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown). How’s that for a five-game stat line? I didn’t even mention the three batted passes, too. I’m all for advanced numbers — and to be honest, Watt’s pass rush win rate is down a bit this year (21%, which ranks 19th among all qualifying pass-rushers) — but those box score stats and turnover contributions are just too impactful to omit him from this list.