While the 2022 regular season is still two weeks from conclusion, and the Super Bowl champions won’t be crowned till mid-February, we welcome in 2023 on Sunday… and what better way to ring in the new year than to speculate as to who will be crowned league MVP in the NFL?
Here we have picked out the league’s five leading contenders in the race this season, with some added input on each hopeful from NBC analyst and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms.
“It’s one of the most interesting years we’ve had in a while in terms of the MVP conversation,” Simms said on Pro Football Talk (Sky Sports NFL, weekdays, 6pm). With the winner not announced till the NFL Honours awards ceremony during Super Bowl week, who do you have down as this year’s man to beat?
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Check out the best plays of the 2022 NFL season so far from MVP hopeful, Jalen Hurts
The Eagles currently own the NFL’s best record, sitting at 13-2 with two weeks to go, with Hurts – absent for the second of those losses, to the Dallas Cowboys last week, with a shoulder sprain – a key component in their success.
Hurts has 3,472 passing yards this season, to go with 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Add that to 747 yards on the ground (third among QBs) and 13 rushing scores (tied for second in the NFL) and it’s easy to see why the third-year quarterback is considered a leading contender for league MVP in 2022.
Simms: “I don’t think you should take the MVP away from anybody if they’ve missed just one game. I don’t think that should sway it.
“If you’re going to vote for Jalen Hurts, then you should vote for Jalen Hurts. He has done a really good job, had a great year. He is a hell of a player, the leader of that football team.
“I understand how the league MVP award works, but to me he’s not necessarily the most valuable player in football. It’s more that they’re a phenomenal team – not that I want to diminish his achievements this year.”
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
A look at some of the best plays from Patrick Mahomes this season, in his bid to grab his second MVP award
Having led the Chiefs to a seventh-straight AFC West division title, Mahomes is many people’s favourite to take home a second MVP gong within his first five seasons as an NFL starting quarterback, having also won in 2018.
The 27-year-old has already notched a fourth career year with over 4,500 passing yards and 35 passing touchdowns, with league-leading marks of 4,720 and 37 in 2022. Only Tom Brady, and his two-decade long career, has had more such seasons (five).
Mahomes also needs just 522 more total offensive yards from Kansas City’s final two games to see him pass Drew Brees (5,562 in 2011) for the most in NFL history.
As much as a second league MVP award is withing his sights, it’s a second Super Bowl ring he will really be eyeing up come mid-February.
Simms: “Mahomes, this year, he has been phenomenal – again, he has some of the most phenomenal, highlight-reel plays of the year.
“I could argue in a lot of ways that he has been better this year than the year he won the MVP. The Chiefs are maybe not quite as explosive, so he has had to be more efficient. And their defense is a little concerning, so it’s always on him to score 30 points every week.
“He has made corrections to his game and been clutch in a lot of big moments. He makes ‘panic mode’ look easy all too often.
“Of course he wants the Super Bowl, but he’d want the MVP too. It’s all part of the resume that measures you against the Bradys. the [Peyton] Mannings, the [Aaron] Rodgers and all of those guys.”
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Watch the best plays from an incredible 2022 season by Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen
Bills quarterback Allen is second only to Mahomes in total yards (4,775) and touchdowns (39) this season, with a large part of his sizeable success coming on the ground.
Allen mows down defenders like no other, a fearsome QB battering ram whose 746 rushing yards in 2022 places him fourth among QBs. And that’s not to forget the absolute cannon of an arm he possesses, with the Bills riding it all the way to a 12-3 record this season to see them currently in possession of the No 1 seed in the AFC.
A red-hot start to the season had him pegged as the man to beat, though his 13 interceptions – tied for second-most in the league – has perhaps hurt his stock.
Simms: “He [Allen] doesn’t have the same supporting cast that Jalen Hurts has in Philadelphia. It’s the same for Mahomes too. They don’t have one of the top defences in football, the best offensive line.
“How do you not watch the Bills and go, ‘Oh my god, what would this team be without this guy?’. He is the leading rusher, running around, scrambling, making unbelievable throws. He’s a big guy for the biggest situations.
“That’s where I look at him and Mahomes and favour them in this MVP conversation. You take them off the Bills or the Chiefs and there is a significant drop off.”
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
A look at the best catches from Justin Jefferson this season, arguably the only wide receiver in with a shout of winning the MVP award
No receiver in NFL history has ever been named league MVP. No wideout has ever topped 2,000 yards in a season, either… but Vikings superstar Jefferson could be set to change all that.
Jefferson leads the NFL both in receptions (123) and receiving yards (1,756) – both career highs – in 2022, with the 23-year-old needing to average 122 yards in Minnesota’s final two games to top 2k, while 104.5 per game would see him beat Calvin Johnson’s previous single-season record of 1,964 set in 2012 with the Detroit Lions.
It may appear a tall order, but Jefferson has eclipsed 100 yards receiving in 24 of his 48 career games in the NFL, at a rate of 50 per cent – obliterating the next highest percentage owned by future Hall of Famer Julio Jones (38.6).
Simms: “Jefferson is the most likely non-quarterback to emerge. He is the most valuable asset to that Vikings team, and I always like us to get back to that conversation, ‘who is truly the most valuable player?’
“You’ve got to throw him into the conversation and legitimately think about it. I don’t know what Minnesota would be without Jefferson? It’s remarkable almost every week from him.”
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
A look at some of the best plays from Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow
Burrow, much like he did when leading the Bengals all the way to the Super Bowl last season, can tend to slip under the radar – drowned out somewhat by the noise created by Mahomes and Allen battling it out ahead of him in the AFC.
He is second only to Mahomes in passing yards (4,260) and touchdowns (34) this season, though if you take away Cincinnati’s surprise 0-2 start, it’s Burrow who actually leads the league in the latter category, with 31 passing TDs since Week Three.
Burrow and the Bengals are the form horse in the NFL, and they could yet steal the No 1 seed in the conference from under Mahomes and Allen’s noses, with victory over Buffalo on Monday night and a Chiefs loss seeing them leapfrog both.
Simms: “Throw Burrow into this conversation. Is it crazy to say that the Bengals are the best team in the AFC? I don’t think so.
“They’ve beaten the Chiefs three times in a row and they’re going to play the Bills this week. I wouldn’t count him out either [for league MVP] if he goes off in some of these big games over the last couple weeks.”
Sky Sports NFL brings you FOUR live games over the New Year’s weekend; Dolphins @ Patriots kicks off the New Year’s Day festivities at 6pm, while there is also RedZone on Sky Sports Mix on Sunday night; Vikings @ Packers and Steelers @ Ravens complete Sunday’s triple bill with Bills @ Bengals from 1.30am on Tuesday January 3.