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Published: Nov. 3, 2015 at 12:50 p.m.
Updated: Nov. 3, 2015 at 03:40 p.m.

Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, Cam Newton among divisional MVPs

Through eight weeks of NFL play, certain players have risen to hero status for their teams, lifting their respective squads with remarkable individual performances. The midpoint of the 2015 campaign is a good time to highlight these MVPs. But rather than focus on the league-wide picture, I thought I'd highlight the MVPs of each division, thus allowing for a broader discussion of those players who have provided star-caliber showings thus far this season.

8 Photos Total

  • Dalton is rarely included in the conversation about the NFL's top young quarterbacks, but the fifth-year pro has led his team to four straight playoff appearances and claimed a division title in 2013. Granted, his postseason record (0-4) has created an "underachiever" narrative. But thus far this season, Dalton has been debunking that narrative with his spectacular performance, posting a 15:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 107.6 passer rating through seven games. With the Bengals running away with the division crown, Dalton deserves a mention as an MVP candidate. 8

    Don Wright/Associated Press

    AFC North: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

    Dalton is rarely included in the conversation about the NFL's top young quarterbacks, but the fifth-year pro has led his team to four straight playoff appearances and claimed a division title in 2013. Granted, his postseason record (0-4) has created an "underachiever" narrative. But thus far this season, Dalton has been debunking that narrative with his spectacular performance, posting a 15:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 107.6 passer rating through seven games. With the Bengals running away with the division crown, Dalton deserves a mention as an MVP candidate.

  • The four-time Super Bowl champion is playing the best football of his career, which is remarkable considering his age (38) and already gaudy résumé. Yet, Brady is on pace to finish 2015 with 5,508 passing yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 46:2, both of which would shatter the single-season records. Brady leads an efficient "dink-and-dunk" offense that lights up scoreboards like a pinball machine. Given the Patriots' 7-0 record and staggering offensive output, Brady is the obvious choice as the league MVP. 7

    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    AFC East: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

    The four-time Super Bowl champion is playing the best football of his career, which is remarkable considering his age (38) and already gaudy résumé. Yet, Brady is on pace to finish 2015 with 5,508 passing yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 46:2, both of which would shatter the single-season records. Brady leads an efficient "dink-and-dunk" offense that lights up scoreboards like a pinball machine. Given the Patriots' 7-0 record and staggering offensive output, Brady is the obvious choice as the league MVP.

  • The third-year pro is quickly entering the conversation as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. Hopkins has 66 receptions through eight games, putting him on pace to challenge Marvin Harrison's single-season reception record (143). He's displayed a polished game that has made him nearly impossible to guard on the perimeter. Hopkins also has <a href="http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&season=2015&seasonType=REG&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&statisticCategory=RECEIVING&conference=null&d-447263-s=RECEIVING_YARDS">the second-most receiving yards</a> in the NFL (870). The Texans could conceivably ride their spectacular pass catcher to a division title in the lowly AFC South. 6

    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    AFC South: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

    The third-year pro is quickly entering the conversation as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. Hopkins has 66 receptions through eight games, putting him on pace to challenge Marvin Harrison's single-season reception record (143). He's displayed a polished game that has made him nearly impossible to guard on the perimeter. Hopkins also has the second-most receiving yards in the NFL (870). The Texans could conceivably ride their spectacular pass catcher to a division title in the lowly AFC South.

  • The Raiders' young gunslinger has made a quantum leap in his development in his second NFL season. Carr is not only displaying the leadership and clutch ability to guide 4-3 Oakland to huge wins, but he's producing at a level (three 300-yard games and a 15:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio) that places him among the NFL's elite quarterbacks. 5

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    AFC West: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

    The Raiders' young gunslinger has made a quantum leap in his development in his second NFL season. Carr is not only displaying the leadership and clutch ability to guide 4-3 Oakland to huge wins, but he's producing at a level (three 300-yard games and a 15:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio) that places him among the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

  • The veteran has come back strong following <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000485782/article/adrian-peterson-timeline">his regrettable (to say the least) 2014</a>. Peterson <a href="http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&season=2015&seasonType=REG&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&statisticCategory=RUSHING&conference=null&d-447263-s=RUSHING_YARDS">ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards</a> (633) and remains a dangerous threat as a workhorse runner. Given the Vikings' record this season when he gets at least 19 carries (5-0), Peterson deserves consideration as the division's most valuable player. 4

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    NFC North: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    The veteran has come back strong following his regrettable (to say the least) 2014. Peterson ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards (633) and remains a dangerous threat as a workhorse runner. Given the Vikings' record this season when he gets at least 19 carries (5-0), Peterson deserves consideration as the division's most valuable player.

  • Cox is quietly leading an Eagles' defense that is rounding into one of the stingiest units (<a href="http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=2&season=2015&seasonType=REG&role=OPP&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=1&d-447263-p=1&conference=ALL&defensiveStatisticCategory=GAME_STATS&d-447263-s=TOTAL_POINTS_GAME_AVG">11th in scoring defense</a>) in the NFL. The high-motor defender wreaks havoc with his relentless pass-rush skills (5.0 sacks) and run-stopping ability (three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries), exhibiting sheer dominance at the point of attack. 3

    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    NFC East: Fletcher Cox, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

    Cox is quietly leading an Eagles' defense that is rounding into one of the stingiest units (11th in scoring defense) in the NFL. The high-motor defender wreaks havoc with his relentless pass-rush skills (5.0 sacks) and run-stopping ability (three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries), exhibiting sheer dominance at the point of attack.

  • The Panthers' franchise quarterback is listed here not because of his numbers but because he's found a way to guide his team to a 7-0 start despite a supporting cast that includes only one Pro Bowl-caliber playmaker (tight end Greg Olsen) on the perimeter. Yes, the defense has also played a major role in Carolina's ascension to the ranks of the elite, but Newton's maturation has keyed the Panthers' dominance in the NFC South. 2

    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    NFC South: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

    The Panthers' franchise quarterback is listed here not because of his numbers but because he's found a way to guide his team to a 7-0 start despite a supporting cast that includes only one Pro Bowl-caliber playmaker (tight end Greg Olsen) on the perimeter. Yes, the defense has also played a major role in Carolina's ascension to the ranks of the elite, but Newton's maturation has keyed the Panthers' dominance in the NFC South.

  • The sensational rookie runner has sparked the Rams' dormant offense with his rugged running style and explosive playmaking skills. Gurley has tallied four straight 100-yard games and <a href="http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&statisticCategory=RUSHING&conference=null&season=2015&seasonType=REG&d-447263-s=RUSHING_YARDS&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-n=1">ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing</a> despite making just five appearances and four starts -- less than a year after <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000428929/article/acl-tear-ends-season-for-georgia-rb-todd-gurley">tearing his ACL</a>. 1

    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    NFC West: Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams

    The sensational rookie runner has sparked the Rams' dormant offense with his rugged running style and explosive playmaking skills. Gurley has tallied four straight 100-yard games and ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing despite making just five appearances and four starts -- less than a year after tearing his ACL.

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