This is the announcement we SHOULD hear at NFL Honors on the eve of Super Bowl LIV in Miami. Whether we will or won't is still up for debate. Right now, the Carolina Panthers running back is a sure-fire candidate, alongside the likes of quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers. But I'm here to tell you why McCaffrey MUST be considered a front-runner for the league's most prestigious award.
In his first two pro seasons, McCaffrey benefited from playing with Cam Newton in the Panthers' offense. This season, though, McCaffrey has been running over defenses weekly with a backup quarterback (Kyle Allen) who does not pose nearly the same threat to defenses as a healthy Newton. Don't get me wrong: Allen has played well, while other skill position players have stepped up -- and they'll need to continue to do so with Newton going on IR on Tuesday. But McCaffrey has been the player putting up gaudy numbers weekly.
McCaffrey is having one of the best seasons by a running back in NFL history and leads the league in touches per game (25.9), rushing yards per game (110.1), scrimmage yards per game (155.5), rushing TDs (10) and scrimmage TDs (13) heading into Week 10. Right now, McCaffrey is on pace for 2,488 scrimmage yards, which would be the second-most in a season in NFL history, behind Chris Johnson's 2,509 in 2009. He's also in line for 26 scrimmage TDs. Notably, three of the four previous players to score as many scrimmage TDs in a season won MVP, including LaDainian Tomlinson (31 in 2006), Shaun Alexander (28 in 2005) and Marshall Faulk (26 in 2000). (Priest Holmes missed out on the MVP award when he had 26 scrimmage TDs in 2003.)
To really put McCaffrey's production in perspective, let's juxtapose it with that of the last two running backs to win the award: Adrian Peterson in 2012 and Tomlinson in 2006. When comparing their numbers per game, the 23-year-old is either on pace with or ahead of them.
McCaffrey in '19: 25.9 touches, 155.5 scrimmage yards, 1.6 scrimmage TDs.
Peterson in '12: 24.3 touches, 144.6 scrimmage yards, 0.8 scrimmage TDs.
Tomlinson in '06: 25.3 touches, 145.2 scrimmage yards, 1.9 scrimmage TDs.
In Peterson's MVP season, he had 2,097 rushing yards -- 9 yards short of breaking the all-time record -- a year after suffering a major knee injury. Tomlinson set the league record for touchdowns with 31 (28 rushing) in his MVP season. It feels as if McCaffrey must put up some tremendous numbers or do something extraordinary to edge out other QB candidates this season.
Even then, he might not win. Just look at Chris Johnson's 2009 campaign as proof. CJ2K had 2,006 rushing yards and more than 2,500 scrimmage yards that season -- and still didn't win. Peyton Manning was named MVP for the fourth time in his career -- despite not stacking up to other QBs that season from a numbers standpoint -- after leading the Indianapolis Colts to a 14-2 record. Johnson's Tennessee Titans finished 8-8 in 2009, which likely played a role in the voting (though I don't think that should be a factor).
Based on past seasons, it feels as if the Panthers must go on a run for the running back to truly be considered for MVP. They are currently 5-3 and just outside the NFC playoff picture heading into Week 10. They have a tough slate ahead, but if they end up making the postseason when all is said and done, it will be because of McCaffrey.
When considering all of these factors, though, if voters aren't going to consider THIS running back the current front-runner for MVP, they should just change the award to MVQB.
Now, let's get to the weekly rankings ...
Former NFL rushing leader and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2019 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 10.
Two MVP candidates take the field Sunday in Carolina's meeting with the Green Bay Packers. You know how I feel about what McCaffrey's done already this season, and a big outing at Lambeau could be the boost he needs to convince others he's MVP-worthy.
[Sunday night's Vikings-Cowboys tilt](https://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2019111010/2019/REG10/vikings@cowboys) features two of the best running backs in the league. The [Cowboys](/teams/dallascowboys/profile?team=DAL)' run defense is one of the unit's weaker areas; Cook must take advantage to help the [Vikings](/teams/minnesotavikings/profile?team=MIN) get the play-action game going. I expect Kevin Stefanski to run Cook early and often in a game with a ton of playoff implications. Yes, I know it's only Week 10, but this game feels HUGE for both parties. </content:power-ranking>
Elliott is coming off a monster performance on Monday night (23 carries for 139 yards), and he'll need to do it again vs. Mike Zimmer's unit. The Vikings boast the league's ninth-best run defense, but if anyone can make a good unit look average, it's Zeke.
The entire Jacksonville offense struggled across the pond, not just Fournette. The third-year running back totaled just 40 yards on 11 carries, but he is is still the AFC's leading rusher heading into Week 10.
Carson is one of five running backs who are averaging 100-plus rush yards per game since Week 5. His consistent production over the last month makes the Seahawks' pick-your-poison offense especially difficult to defend.
This weekend's bout with the Panthers features the top two players in the NFL in scrimmage touchdowns this season. We know McCaffrey will show up -- he always does -- but Jones is a bit of a wild card. He's had some superb performances this year. He's also had some duds. We'll see if Jones and the Pack can get back on track.
Henry's three-TD performance wasn't enough for the Titans to get it done against the Panthers last week. It doesn't get easier with Patrick Mahomes, who returned to practice Wednesday, and the Chiefs coming to town Sunday. Henry will need to channel his last performance against the Chiefs in the 2017 AFC wild-card, when he set a franchise record for scrimmage yards in a playoff game with 191. He could do it against this year's 29th-ranked run defense.
It feels like Hyde has a revenge game every other week. Against his former team Sunday in London, he went off for 160 yards on 19 carries (8.4 yards per tote), highlighted by runs of 48 and 58 yards -- though, Hyde fumbled the ball on the 2-yard line on his longest run of the game. It was his fourth fumble of the year and the second he's lost. Houston put itself in the driver's seat of the division with the win, but Hyde needs to fix his turnover issues.
Gurley has seen career lows in touches per game (15.3), carries per game (13.1), scrimmage YPG (62.3), rush YPG (50.7) and receiving YPG (11.6) this season. With the Rams sitting third in the NFC West behind San Francisco (8-0) and Seattle (7-2), the star running back could see a bigger haul in the second half of the season.
Since Bill Callahan took over as interim head coach in Week 6, Peterson has averaged 95.8 rush yards per game -- after having 27 rush yards per game through Week 5. Peterson, who logged his second 100-yard rushing game of the season last week against the Bills, needs to rush for 509 yards in the final seven games to become the third player to crack 1,000 for the season at age 34 or older. He would join Hall of Famers John Riggins and John Henry Johnson.