2011 NFL Season: Top 10 MVP Candidates Through 4 Weeks

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IOctober 8, 2011

2011 NFL Season: Top 10 MVP Candidates Through 4 Weeks

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    The 2011 NFL season has been a wild ride through four weeks. From Calvin Johnson's eight touchdowns to Tom Brady's ridiculous Monday night showing, the season has been defined by fantastic performances.

    Some players have hit the spotlight after years of mediocrity, while stars like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are just adding to their accolades.

    Here are the top 10 MVP candidates through Week 4 of the NFL season.

10. Matthew Stafford (DET)

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    Matthew Stafford has been absolutely terrific through four games, as he has led the Detroit Lions to an undefeated start, while establishing himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL worthy of the No. 1 overall draft choice.

    He and Calvin Johnson form the most dangerous passing duo in the league, and Stafford is putting up gaudy numbers through the firstfour weeks.

    If he can lead the Lions to the postseason, and stay healthy, Stafford could be in the awards race come January.


    Team Record: 4-0

    On Pace: 400/644, 62.1 Pct, 44 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 4,868 yards

    Projections: 376/641, 58.6 Pct, 28 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 3,756 yards

9. Steve Smith (CAR)

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    After a subpar 2010 season, many thought Steve Smith's glory years were behind him, but the dynamic veteran wide receiver has silenced the critics by exploding in the first quarter of the season.

    His chemistry and connection with rookie quarterback Cam Newton has been terrific thus far, as he has caught 24 passes for 530 yards, good for second in the league.

    If the former All-Pro keeps playing at this ridiculous level, then he will break the single-season yardage record set by Jerry Rice in 1995 (1,848), and be in contention for the MVP. 


    Team Record: 1-3

    On Pace: 96 receptions, 2120 yards, 8 touchdowns

    Projection: 85 receptions, 1307 yards, 7 touchdowns

Fred Jackson (BUF)

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    Veteran running back Fred Jackson has had a sensational start to the 2011 season, as he currently sits fourth in the league in rushing yards.

    The 31-year-old Bills star has proven to be one of the most dynamic backfield threats in the league, leading one of the most prolific (and surprising) offenses in the NFL to a 3-1 start.

    Jackson is also a solid contributor in the passing game, and he definitely deserves recognition for his outstanding performance through the first quarter of the season. 


    Team Record: 3-1

    On Pace: 256 carries, 1467 yards, 5.8 YPC, 16 touchdowns, 52 receptions, 588 yards

    Projection: 237 carries, 1133 yards, 4.8 YPC, 9 touchdowns, 40 receptions, 496 yards, one touchdown

7. Darren McFadden (OAK)

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    Darren McFadden has been the most explosive running back in the league in 2011 and has built on his breakout campaign from last season.

    Run DMC currently leads all NFL backs in rushing yards, and yards per carry. His superb performance against a stingy New York Jets defense led the underdog Raiders to a huge Week 3 victory.

    The Pro Bowler seems poised to be an MVP candidate if Oakland manages to be in contention late in the year.


    Team Record: 2-2

    On Pace: 300 carries, 1872 yards, 12 touchdowns, 60 receptions, 528 yards, four touchdowns

    Projection: 287 carries, 1591 yards, 10 touchdowns, 53 receptions, 503 yards, three touchdowns

6. Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton has been absolutely incredible through four weeks, silencing critics and turning the dismal Carolina Panthers into a competitive squad.

    The No. 1 overall pick in this past NFL draft currently ranks third in the league in passing yards, and has put up gaudy numbers on the ground.

    Due to his rookie status and below-average team, the former Heisman Trophy winner will likely be left out of the major awards race, but he has proven that he is the future of the NFL.


    Team Record: 1-3

    On Pace: 388/652, 59.5 Pct, 20 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 5,544 yards, 132 carries, 532 yards, 16 touchdowns

    Projection: 334/608, 55 Pct, 18 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 3,874 yards, 101 carries, 404 yards, eight touchdowns

5. Drew Brees (NO)

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    Drew Brees continues to put up incredible numbers in the Big Easy for a powerhouse Saints team.

    The former Super Bowl MVP and perennial Pro Bowler is off to his best start ever, currently ranking second in passing yards and fourth in touchdowns through four games.

    The Purdue product will have a monster season and will likely finish top three in MVP voting by year's end.


    Team Record: 3-1

    On Pace: 480/696, 69.1 Pct, 40 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 5,640 yards

    Projection: 432/651, 66.3 Pct, 35 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 4,706 yards

4. Calvin Johnson (DET)

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    Having caught an unbelievable eight touchdowns through just four games—making him the first wideout to ever accomplish that feat—Calvin Johnson is the most talked about receiver in football right now.

    Megatron's chemistry with young quarterback Matthew Stafford has been undeniable, and has surely kept opposing coaches and defenses up at night.

    The Georgia Tech alumnus will make a strong bid for the single-season receiving touchdown record, set by Randy Moss in 2007 (23), and make himself a strong MVP candidate.

    If he leads the Lions to the playoffs, he could take home the Offensive Player of the Year award.


    Team Record: 4-0

    On Pace: 96 receptions, 1,284 yards, 32 touchdowns

    Projection: 95 receptions, 1,207 yards, 19 touchdowns

3. Wes Welker (NE)

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    On pace to shatter basically every single-season receiving record in the book, Patriots wideout Wes Welker has had an astonishing first quarter of the season.

    New England's dynamic wideout has had an unbreakable connection with the elite Tom Brady and has had at least nine receptions in every game this season.

    Expect Welker to be the top receiver in football in 2011 and flirt with the single-season record in receptions. 


    Team Record: 3-1

    On Pace: 160 receptions, 2,464 yards, 20 touchdowns

    Projection: 132 receptions, 1,533 yards, 13 touchdowns

2. Tom Brady (NE)

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    Tom Brady is arguable the greatest quarterback of this generation, and the defending NFL MVP is out for blood again this year.

    The future Hall of Famer's accolades speak for themselves, and the Patriots quarterback is off to another terrific start. The Michigan product currently leads the league in touchdowns and passing yards.

    Brady possesses too much skill and accuracy to be stopped, and I expect him to be one of the strongest contenders for MVP by season's end.

    He is currently on pace to break his own single-season TD record for passing touchdowns, which he set in 2007 (50).


    Team Record: 3-1

    On Pace: 436/652, 66.9 Pct, 52 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 6,212 yards

    Projection: 404/602, 67.1 Pct, 41 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 4,643 yards

1. Aaron Rodgers (GB)

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    Aaron Rodgers is the NFL MVP at the quarter mark. The former Cal Bear and Super Bowl MVP currently ranks second in the league in touchdowns and fourth in passing yards.

    He has led his talented Packers squad to a 4-0 start, and has proven to be the most dynamic quarterback in the league.

    If Rodgers carries Green Bay to the best record in the league, and keeps up his terrific stats, then he will add MVP to his resume.


    Team Record: 4-0

    On Pace: 412/564, 73.0 Pct, 48 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 5,300 yards, 76 carries, 212 yards, eight touchdowns

    Projection: 389/567, 68.6 Pct, 37 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 4,407 yards, 71 carries, 201 yards, six touchdowns