Picking the NFL Most Valuable Player usually comes down to picking between a few good quarterbacks on a few good teams.
This season is no exception.
For FiveThiryEight’s Benjamin Morris, making an MVP pick (which for the first time in forever isn’t Peyton Manning) comes down to breaking a toss-up between three quarterbacks: the Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton.
As it does for most people, Palmer’s 12-2 record as a starter for the Cardinals over the last two years compared to the 5-5 mark without him goes a long way in swaying Morris’ opinion.
With Palmer, the Cardinals offense has scored 0.75 points above expectation per drive. Without him, this plummets to -0.11. This 0.86-point swing — per drive — is huge and can explain most of the Cardinals’ good fortune this year.
Thus, on epistemic grounds alone, Palmer seems more likely than Dalton to be the best quarterback.
So let’s say it’s between Palmer and Brady.
Unfortunately for New England, Brady doesn’t miss enough games to have his With or Without You (WOWY) stats measured very well.
Between the three MVP candidates’ teams, Arizona’s offense has taken the biggest leap forward this season from last.
It’s hurt Brady’s case that he’s hardly missed time to compare the Patriots’ offense without him in command. Plus, New England’s upswing on offense only returned the squad to past seasons’ production. Therefore, it’s hard to determine if it’s Brady, the scheme or other players that have made the Pats successful over the last several seasons.
As for Dalton and the Bengals, well, the catalyst to their ascent this year is even more mysterious.
Cardinals fans would probably agree with Morris. Watching Palmer perform with the Cardinals, it’s pretty clear he’s incredibly important to their success.
And isn’t that the definition of Most Valuable Player?
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