While I won’t argue any of these players will be able to slide past the big three (Brees/Favre/Manning) for the MVP, I think these are some players who are in a good place to put together runs that could breach them into the top four or five beyond expectation.
Phillip Rivers: This will probably take a bit of flak as my ‘homer’ pick, and the better the Chargers are looking the more this is actually hurting his vote, as they aren’t relying on 300 yard games. But show me a team that stayed alive more purely on the power of their quarterback’s arm earlier in the season.
With a somewhat friendly final stretch of games, this team could easily earn a 12-4 record with increased relevance after being an afterthought the first half of the year. He began the year putting up big touchdowns, nice yardage, and an average completion percentage.
He lost some of the gaudy stats now that they have something resembling a running game, but has seen his completion percentage skyrocket. To go with his 63.5 percent completion rate, he also has a 17:6 touchdown to interception ratio, doing a great job of protecting the ball.
Why he can’t win: His value to the team is great, but he won’t put up gaudy enough numbers and the team is growing more balanced.
Kurt Warner: Continues to put up yards and TDs. Whenever Leinart is asked to come in the game it becomes apparent that a good system and wideouts alone are not making the numbers. With a weak running game and a hot-cold defense, Warner is (one game aside) the team’s most consistent force and leader.
The Cardinals looked shaky to start the year, but with the benefit of a friendly division, they have charged to a 7-3 record, no longer looking to be only an 8-8/9-7 squeak in on the power of their division alone. The legitimizing of the team helps to legitimize Warner.
Why he can’t win: Missing at least one game won’t help. He has good yardage and rating, but not top five in either. He also ranks sixth with 11 interceptions, albeit it some consideration must be given to half coming in one miserable game.
Chris Johnson: He floats somewhere between candidate and dark horse, and probably has one of the better chances at an actual top three look, yet certain factors will force him from frontrunner to this page. He is on pace for just shy of 2,000 yards ( 1,976) and is a primary reason for the Titans hurtling the cellar at present.
Why he can’t win: Despite a great pace, he is hit with two detraction's. One is the quarterback favor of voters. A running back has the second best chance of winning, but that still is far lower. More importantly will be his team’s record. Despite a great run I see them landing at 8-8. With over 5,000 yards last year Brees’ 8-8 record cost him the MVP, I think this will be the same case.
Elvis Dumervil: With all the attention on Jared Allen as the pass rushing monster, this guy is the league sack leader with 14 at present, a pace that could easily land him over 20. The Broncos have exceeded all expectations especially with an array of new names on a defense not expected to do anything this year. If the Broncos outpace San Diego for the division and Elvis can top 20 sacks, he could see his MVP stock take a sizeable boost.
Why he can’t win: It takes a miracle for a defensive player to win this award. He is not a big media-grabber that would be a sexy sell (Jared Allen with 20 sacks on this Vikes team would probably have near double the chances). Denver still has to work to avoid a collapse with only one win in the last five games.
Aaron Rodgers: He still holds the ball too long and several of the many sacks he’s eaten are his own fault. Yet he is the third highest rated quarterback, with a great pace for yardage and TD’s, he looks to be top five in virtually every positive category while still protecting the ball (only five picks). This team lacks the talent and run-support of other teams, and are now making themselves relevant again with a 7-2 record against teams not wearing purple.
Why he can’t win: Still don’t think the media Is really taking the Packers seriously yet. Rodgers is responsible for a good portion of his interceptions, and his across the board statistical quality is just outpaced by the big three.
Ben Roethlisberger: Despite the Steelers reputation as a defensive powerhouse that runs the football, they have relied more and more on big ben’s arm to put wins on the board. He is top ten in every major category and has kept the team going with significant injuries and a declining running game.
He has evolved from a ‘game manager’ who comes up at the right time to a bonafide pro bowl quarterback. With his improvisational skills and ability to extend plays, he is the guy Cowboys fans hope Romo can evolve into.
Why he can’t win: The Bengals domination of the Steelers is a passing of the guard at least for this season. With the Oakland upset now the Steelers are worrying more about making sure they hang onto the wildcard rather than what they can do with it.