J.J. Watt leads Matt Ryan in NFL MVP forecast


Each week, Gregg Rosenthal picks his top way-too-early NFL MVP candidates. With eight weeks left, the candidates are solidifying.

1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

We're not going to punish Watt for having a bye week. A defensive player hasn't won MVP since 1986, but Watt's half-season is worthy.

2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan's performance against the Philadelphia Eagles nicely summarized his season. He was wildly efficient, especially on third downs. The Falcons' offense isn't always flashy, but it controls the ball.

3. Eli Manning, New York Giants

We see a fairly sizable drop to Eli at No. 3. Manning hasn't played his best for two consecutive weeks, but he continues to have a knack for making the plays in the fourth quarter.

4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Brady's season is slipping under the radar somewhat because New England's defense couldn't hold on to big leads. He absolutely eviscerated the St. Louis Rams. He has won AFC Player of the Week twice in the last month.

5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Manning isn't higher because he has played just seven games. In his three toughest games against the best opponents, the Broncos offense wasn't that competitive until late in the game. That supersedes Manning's incredible streak of great play for now. Don't be surprised if he climbs this list because the Broncos' schedule moving forward is very favorable.

6. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings: It's amazing Harvin can be so productive despite playing for such a weak passing offense.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Like Brady, Big Ben is playing better than people realize. He was exceptional in tough conditions last week.

8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Packers fans were upset we had Rodgers ninth last week. He was very good but not his usual self for the first quarter of the season. We can't just ignore that, despite a sensational two-game burst against Houston and St. Louis.

9. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: It's hard to have great numbers when your receivers drop 10 passes.

10. Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears: He was on the list earlier in the year and is back after a two-interception performance.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.