The NFL regular season has come to a close, which means we have 17 weeks worth of data available to fully evaluate the finalists for the league's coveted MVP honors.
A year after Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers took home the hardware, four other quarterbacks have climbed their way into contention for the award.
But as the following odds indicate, one candidate has distanced himself from a condensed field of contenders thanks to his dual-threat capabilities and ability to shoulder the load for an offense devoid of big-time playmakers:
|NFL MVP Odds|
|Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers||-500|
|Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots||+350|
|Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals||+1200|
|Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks||+1200|
With the odds established, here's a look at which way the votes may swing in a few weeks.
Breakdown and Prediction
|2015 NFL MVP Candidates|
|Player||Pass Yds||Pass TD||INT||Comp. %||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
When it comes to touchdown passes, the four gunslingers are all practically dead-even. They all reside in elite company from that perspective, with Brady topping the group with a league-leading 36 scoring tosses.
However, it should be noted Newton ranked No. 1 among all quarterbacks this season with a touchdown percentage of 7.1. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, touchdown percentage measures the percentage of touchdowns thrown when attempting to pass.
Considering Newton's primary pass-catching targets were Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Olsen, rookie Devin Funchess, Corey Brown and Jerricho Cotchery, it's hard not to put him in the driver's seat following a 15-1 campaign.
"On paper, Palmer has the better case, but then there’s the issue of supporting cast," the Washington Post's Chase Stuart wrote. "Palmer certainly benefits from a great one, while Newton’s is ... more complicated to evaluate. His top two wide receivers are Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery, two players who would struggle to make some NFL rosters, much less starting lineups."
Newton's head coach, Ron Rivera, summed up the case for his quarterback quite succinctly.
"You’ve got to be willing to look beyond the numbers – quarterback rating, the completion percentage, stuff like that – and say, OK, what else is it?" Rivera said, according to the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person. "Is it about scoring touchdowns? Is it about throwing touchdown passes? Is it about completions? Or is it about winning too?"
A case could also be made for Brady based on efficiency. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Brady's interception percentage of 1.1 led all quarterbacks this season. For a guy who threw 624 passes—13 off his career high—that's remarkable.
But the bad news for Brady is twofold: Like Palmer, Brady worked with a supporting cast that boasted some superstar weapons in Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Additionally, the Patriots faltered down the stretch with consecutive losses to the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins to send New England tumbling to the No. 2 seed.
Wilson threw for 24 touchdowns over the Seahawks' final seven games and worked his way into the conversation, but it's hard to justify handing him the MVP after Seattle finished sixth in the NFC following a 2-4 start.
Newton was the cream of the crop all season long, and he should have no problem parlaying his career year into the most coveted individual honor the sport has to offer. However, he'll undoubtedly have his eyes on more important hardware of the Vince Lombardi variety once MVP debates are over and the award is handed out.
Predicted Winner: Cam Newton