Brian Sullivan

We’ve seen enough football to determine who the most important players in the league are right now. Normally, I’d wait until Tuesday to do this. But I have a feeling no MVP candidates will emerge from this Browns vs. Ravens game tonight… By the way, certain guys who are playing great won’t make the list. Andy Dalton is playing fantastically, but he’s SURROUNDED by talent, he isn’t the reason the Bengals are winning. Also, certain defensive players represent the great defenders on certain teams. I can’t include 5 guys from the Broncos, and the Patriots, and the Vikings. I wish I could, but I can’t. Also, MVPs have to be on winning teams. Cameron Jordan has been playing OUT OF HIS MIND. So has Philip Rivers. So has Malcolm Jenkins. But their teams have been awful, so guys like that won’t touch this list.

1. Carson Palmer (QB, Arizona Cardinals)

The Cardinals are a well coached team with a ton of great players, but without Palmer, they’re going nowhere. Palmer’s 9.07 passing yards per attempt leads the league. He’s thrown 27 TDs to only 9 INTs. The Cardinals are currently scoring 35.5… Yes… 35.5 points per game. That’s unreal. It’s tops in the league. His passer rating is at it’s highest (129.2) when his team is down by 9 or more points, which shows that he plays his best football when his team needs him most. Right now, he IS the MVP.

2. Tom Brady (QB, New England Patriots)

His 3,600 yards and 28 TDs both lead the league. He’s doing it now without Dion Lewis or Julian Edelman. He’s playing some great football. However, let’s keep in mind that Bill Belicheck is still more important to the Patriots success than Brady. Brady has nothing to do with the Patriots being the 4th best scoring defense in the league. As incredible as Brady has been, I’m convinced the Patriots would find a way to win if he went down some how, because Belicheck is just that good.

3. Luke Kuechly (ILB, Carolina Panthers)

I know, Cam Newton is the popular vote, and I’ll get to him. Pro Football Focus has Kuechly ranked as the best player in football. Actually, he currently has the highest grade of any linebacker ever since they began compiling data in 2007. That’s impressive. The Panthers rank 2nd in both scoring defense and yards per game allowed. The defense, more than Cam, is the reason why the Panthers have been so successful.

4. Adrian Peterson (RB, Minnesota Vikings)

The Vikings are 8-3, very few could have predicted that (*cough cough*, we said they’d win the North…). Anyway, Peterson’s 1,164 yards lead the league. He also has 8 TDs. All of this is behind a pretty average line. Did I mention the Vikings passing attack is ranked 2nd to last in the league? So he’s basically this entire offense. The defense also deserves some love (we’ll get there).

5. Josh Norman (CB, Carolina Panthers)

This entire Panthers secondary has been remarkable, but Norman is the best of the bunch. The unit ranks 4th in the league in passing yards allowed. A stat that still holds true after 12 weeks is that you’d have a better passer rating spiking the ball every time then throwing the ball at Josh Norman. He played a superb game against Dez Bryant. He continually forces teams to game plan away from their number 1 targets. He is truly remarkable.

6. Von Miller (DE/OLB, Denver Broncos)

It wouldn’t be right to not mention the other studs on this defense… Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall, Shane Ray, Chris Harris, Aqib Talib… But Miller is the cream of the crop. He may only have 6 sacks, but his presence is felt on almost every play. He is arguably the best pass rusher in the game right now.

7. Cam Newton (QB, Carolina Panthers)

I might get attacked for this, but hear me out. Yes, the Panthers are 11-0. Yes, he’s throwing to guys like Philly Brown and Jerricho Cotchery. But the Panthers rank 27th in passing. 27th… Newton has been great, he has 27 total TDs. He doesn’t need to put up big yards. But that’s just it. This team is winning games by pounding the rock and playing elite defense. Am I saying they’d be 11-0 with Blaine Gabbert? No. But I am saying that they could still make the playoffs with a guy like Joe Flacco or even Ryan Fitzpatrick. Would they be 11-0? Absolutely not. 7-4? Possibly, that defense is insane.

8. J.J. Watt (DE, Houston Texans)

The Texans emerged from the dead, and are now on a 4 game winning streak. Watt now leads the league in sacks with 13.5. The Texans offense has been helping this team win by not making mistakes, but this defense has been incredible, and Watt is still the best player on it. Shout out to Deandre Hopkins, he’s been absolutely insane. But Watt is the MVP of this team, and the reason they are suddenly in contention for the Playoffs again.

9. Tyrann Mathieu (CB, Arizona Cardinals)

What makes Mathieu so incredible is his versatility. He can line up outside, in the slot, as a safety, or even as a pass rusher. He’s superb in man coverage, but he can also stuff the run. He’s a playmaker and a half. He has 3 INTs and 12 passes defended so far, and is Pro Football Focus’s 2nd rated cornerback currently. This whole Cardinals defense deserves credit, but Mathieu has been the main guy.

10. Harrison Smith (FS, Minnesota Vikings)

Smith moves down a little bit because he missed the Vikings last game, but he has been phenomenal. He’s one of the most under appreciated players in the league. At one point this season, opposing QBs had a passer rating of 0.0 when throwing at him… 0.0… I’m no mathematician, but that isn’t very good. Like Mathieu, his versatility makes him incredibly hard to game-plan around. This whole Vikings defense has been great, they rank 5th in the league in points allowed, but Smith is the anchor.


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