We've reached the midpoint of the 2014 NFL season -- and it's time to highlight players who are operating at an MVP level.
Rather than focus on the candidates for the NFL MVP award, however, I thought I'd broaden the discussion by singling out the top performers within each division, as some players who might not make the league-wide cut nonetheless deserve kudos for guiding their teams to solid starts in 2014.
Below you'll find my MVP for each division in the NFC through Week 8; click on the tab to the left to see my MVP for each division in the AFC. I'm sure some of you will disagree with my selections. Feel free to voice your opinions to me @BuckyBrooks.
The running back position might have been devalued on draft day, but Murray is proving the position remains a marquee spot in the lineup. The fourth-year pro has single-handedly carried the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East by cranking out an NFL-record eight straight 100-yard games to open the season. Murray is showing the toughness and durability to handle a heavy workload (25-plus carries per game), enabling Dallas to power through opponents ill-equipped to deal with the physicality of a blue-collar offense spearheaded by a dynamic runner.
Back in September, Rodgers told fans of the Packers -- who were 1-2 at the time -- to R-E-L-A-X. Since then, he's directed the offense brilliantly, providing stellar play from the pocket. The MVP of Super Bowl XLV, who had a streak of 213 consecutive passes without an interception snapped last weekend, helped Green Bay regain its spark by spreading the ball around to a trio of explosive pass catchers (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams) on the outside. Given how well the Packers are positioned to capture the division title behind the sizzling-hot play of their quarterback, Rodgers should be in the mix for the league MVP award by season's end -- provided, of course, the hamstring injury he suffered Sunday doesn't get in the way.
It's hard to nominate anyone in the NFC South, based on the ineptitude displayed by every team within the division. But Newton has shown flashes of being a dominant one-man force for the Panthers, despite playing behind a lackluster offensive line and a nonexistent running game. Critics will certainly take issue with his recent struggles during the team's three-game winless streak, but Newton's early-season play allows him to coast to this honor at the midway point.
The Super Bowl-winning quarterback has faced some criticism in recent weeks about his connection and chemistry with his teammates, but based on his on-field performance this season, there's no disputing his importance to the Seahawks. Wilson has continued to play at a high level as an efficient passer (98.1 rating) while tormenting opponents with his speed, quickness and athleticism on the perimeter. Although Seattle is struggling to find an offensive identity, the team remains a viable contender in the NFC largely due to the exceptional play of Wilson.