Who will win the NFL MVP award this season?
History says that the likely winner of this award will be a quarterback. Quarterbacks have won the MVP award 37 times with running backs winning the award 18 times. There were three instances when one of those two positions did not win the award. Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page won the award in 1971. In the strike shorten season of 1982, the award went to Washington kicker Mark Moseley. The last year the MVP award did not go to a quarterback or running back was when Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor won it in 1986.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will likely win the award. Rodgers threw for 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns vs. 5 interceptions, and led the Packers to an overall 9-0 at home as well as the NFC North division title. His performance against Dallas at home in the playoffs was one of legendary status. Rodgers was 24-35 for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns and did it with a sore calf muscle.
The most telling stat of his 2014 campaign? He did not throw an interception at home.
But there is one player who has captivated the league in 2014: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
Watt was second in the NFL with 20.5 sacks behind Kansas City's Justin Houston who was 1 sack away from breaking the NFL single-season record for sacks in a season. This is the second 20+ sack season for Watt, who set the mark in 2012 when the Texans made the playoffs.
39 players returned interceptions for touchdowns. Watt was one of them.
28 players returned fumbles for touchdowns. Watt was one of them.
Just watch this Inside The NFL segment featuring J.J. Watt mic'ed up.
This was the definition of taking over a game and it is backed up by Deadspin's Regressing analysts by pointing out that J.J. Watt not only took over that game, but conquered it.
According to pro-football-reference.com, Watt had an approximate value (AV) of 24 which was higher than Rodgers' 21 in 2014. DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing and had a value of 19. As did Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who is playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The single-season leader for AV was LaDainian Tomlinson who led the league in rushing and rushing touchdowns in 2006 resulting in an AV of 26. That season Tomlinson was named the NFL MVP. Marshall Faulk had an AV of 25 in 1999 when he led the season in total yards from scrimage and was named the Associated Press' NFL offensive player. Bills running back O.J. Simpson also had an AV of 25 in 1975. (ok… not exactly a good example…)
The two other players with single-season AV equal to Watt's was Aeneas Williams in 2001 and Tom Brady in 2007.
But to me the most telling statistic is the Texans win total from 2013 to 2014. In 2013, Houston dropped off and finished a league worst 2-14. This last season with Watt collecting 20.5 sacks, Houston finished a respectable 9-7 and was in the midst of the playoff race until the last week of the season. Houston did beat Baltimore, and if it wasn't for the Browns losing to the Ravens the Texans would have been in the playoffs.
Would the Texans have been in the playoff chase if Watt wasn't on the team? I don't think so.
The award is called the most valuable player for a reason.