With two games left in the National Football League season, it’s a bit early to crown the league’s Most Valuable Player. However, heading into Turn 3 with the checkered flag waving in the distance, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has pulled into the lead.
Newton put himself in position to win his first MVP award with a monstrous performance in the Panthers’ 14th consecutive victory to open the season. But before we take a look at his resume, we need to examine the other competitors.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks got off to a slow start in 2015, losing four of their first six games and they were being considered also-rans before the midpoint.
Wilson, though, has led a resurgence as the ’Hawks have won their last five. In those victories, Wilson has thrown for 19 touchdowns and has not thrown a single interception. For the season, he has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 3,538 yards and 29 scores. He’s been sacked 40 times and has tossed seven interceptions. His quarterback rating stands at 111.4. He also has 502 rushing yards and a touchdown.
What takes Wilson out of the running is Seattle’s five losses. During those games, he has six touchdown passes and two interceptions, but his completion percentage is six percentage points lower and he’s been sacked 18 times while passing for just an average of 230.2 yards in those games.
Aaron Rodgers has had yet another good year for Green Bay with 3,379 yards and 29 touchdowns and has rushed for 313 yards and another score. He’s been sacked 33 times and thrown six interceptions.
After starting 6-0, Rodgers and the Packers lost four of five, though they’ve rebounded to win their last three. Rodgers has five touchdowns during the latest stretch. In the Packers’ four losses, Rodgers has completed just 55.2 percent of his passes for an average of 245.3 yards, just 5.6 yards per attempt.
Carson Palmer has quietly snuck into the conversation with an under-the-radar Arizona Cardinals team that may prove to be a real contender for the NFC’s bid to Super Bowl 50. He’s throw for 32 touchdowns and 4,277 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per attempt. He’s been sacked just 23 times and has thrown nine interceptions.
The Cardinals are 12-2 and have won their last eight. Palmer has thrown for 18 scores and four interceptions during the streak. Despite throwing for an average of 386.5 yards in Arizona’s two losses, but amassed just two touchdowns while tossing three interceptions.
That leaves perennial MVP competitor Tom Brady as Newton’s biggest competition. Brady leads the league with 35 touchdowns for New England and is tied with Rodgers for fewest interceptions with just six. His 4,405 yards average out to 7.7 per attempt.
The Patriots lost two straight after a 10-0 start. Brady completed just 53.1 percent of his passes – almost 11 percent lower than his season average – in those games for 6.0 yards per attempt while being sacked seven times.
Newton has separated himself from the pack in two areas – he has the Panthers undefeated at 14-0 and he is a legitimate threat in the Panthers’ running game. He’s also been sacked just 27 times.
Many don’t want to hear it, but an undefeated season is a big deal and the quarterback is most responsible for whether a team wins or loses. Newton hasn’t lost while the others have all played below their season averages in the games their teams have tripped up. As it stands, Newton will finish the season no worse than tied for the least losses of all the quarterbacks in the league. That matters in a league where success is measured in wins and losses.
Newton’s passing numbers are in line with the others. He’s passed for 3,402 yards and 33 touchdowns. He averages 7.7 yards per attempt. He’s lags behind the group with a 58.8 completion percentage and has the most interceptions at 10.
However, he more than makes up those for areas with his legs. He’s netted 580 yards on the ground and scored seven times, giving him 40 total touchdowns, two more than Brady, who has scored three rushing touchdowns and stands at 38 total scores on the season.
He also leads the league in charisma, which is ultimately a big reason the Panthers stand undefeated with two games to go. A quarterback has to be a leader and Newton clearly has led his team well.