I had the displeasure of watching JJ Watt dominate my team (the Jets) a few weeks ago, and let me just say one thing: Wow. I can't ever remember seeing a defensive player dominate a game so thoroughly, and my team employs Darrelle Revis.
In fact, he has been so good this season that he deserves to win the NFL MVP Award.
Before you call me a witch and burn me at the stake, remember that this has happened before. Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page won the award in 1971, and New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor won it in 1986. In fact, Redskins kicker (that's right, kicker) Mark Moseley won it in 1982.
Watt isn't just on pace for a great season, he's on pace for a historic season. At his current pace, he will sack the quarterback 21.5 times. That would be the fourth most sacks in a season ever, only one sack off of the record (which he was on pace to break until last week).
Here's where things get more interesting, though. Watt is a 3-4 defensive end, not the more sack-friendly 4-3 version. In a 3-4 defense, outside linebackers are the primary pass-rushers and defensive ends exist mainly to stop the run and eat up space.
The only 3-4 defensive end ever to come close to the number Watt is on pace to post is Bruce Smith, one of the best pass-rushers of all time. Smith posted 19 sacks in 1990, but never had more than 15 in another season. It's never a bad thing to be in the company of Bruce Smith.
What's even more impressive, though, is Watt's penchant for swatting passes. He has 10 batted passes already (four have been intercepted) and is on pace for an incredible 23. The record for a defensive lineman is 13, set by Reggie White in 1991.
To show you how impressive Watt's pace is, just look at who is near him in the stat book. Watt is currently tied for second in passes defensed with Tramon Williams, Tim Jennings, Patrick Robinson and Stephen Gilmore—all cornerbacks.
The next defensive lineman doesn't appear on this list until No. 67, where Seattle's Chris Clemons has four.
Those numbers are absolutely absurd. It is basically the equivalent of a point guard leading the league in both assists and rebounds.
Now, let's think about Watt's teammates. The Texans' defense as a whole is excellent, but let's break down the individual parts. The only other true star is Brian Cushing, who is out for the season. Johnathan Joseph is the team's highly touted cornerback, yet many pundits have criticized his play so far. Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin are good linebackers, but not elite.
In other words, JJ Watt is the only true superstar on this defense. However, the Texans are ranked No. 2 in the league in total defense. This is a testament to just how important Watt is to this unit.
Now let's look at Watt's competition. Matt Ryan did everything short of holding a press conference and announcing "I don't want the MVP" in consecutive stinkers against the Panthers and Raiders. Tom Brady looks completely content with handing off to Stevan Ridley.
For my money, there are only two other real MVP candidates so far: the Mannings.
Eli Manning has faced a cavalcade of injuries on both sides of the ball yet still has the Giants at 5-2 and is putting up elite stats. I'm definitely more impressed with him this season than I have been in years past. However, he's about to face the hard part of his schedule and he's not exactly Mr. Consistent.
Peyton has a more interesting case in my mind. The Broncos have a mediocre defense (and that's being polite), start Willis McGahee at running back and have two talented, but quite young and inexperienced, receivers.
However, Manning's guidance has them at 3-3 (a very misleading record). Teams can't put them away because of how dominant Manning has been in the fourth quarter. Considering the game situations they've been in, without Manning they'd be a 1-5 team right now (unless you think Tim Tebow could have led a 24-point comeback in San Diego).
However, I can't fully give Manning credit until the Broncos' record reflects his performance. If the Broncos go 9-7, he can't be the MVP. This is especially true if Watt leads the Texans to a 14-2 record and continues his current pace.
Three things have to happen for a defensive player to win the MVP:
1) The team must have a top-three defense (both Page's Vikings and Taylor's Giants were second).
2) The player must have a historic season
3) There must be a lack of offensive candidates
So far, Watt meets all three of these criteria. He's having one of the best seasons by a defender we'll ever see. Right now, he's the NFL MVP.
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