2019 NFL MVP Watch: Lamar Jackson on the verge of usurping Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers makes his entrance

Michael Vick, arguably the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback in NFL history, never won MVP. I'm bringing this up four years after Vick last played in the NFL and nine years after Vick mounted his last serious MVP charge because the NFL appears to have found its new version of Michael Vick, except that this new version of Michael Vick appears to be even better than the actual Michael Vick, just as dynamic, and a viable threat to win the MVP award in his second NFL season. 

On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens -- a team that had beaten up on bad teams, but struggled to win against good teams before Sunday -- went into Seattle and beat the now 5-2 Seahawks, 30-16. It was a truly impressive effort in every facet of the game. The defense held a Seahawks offense that was averaging 27.5 points per game to 16 points and pick-sixed Russell Wilson. John Harbaugh allowed his offense to go for a critical fourth down instead of settling for a field goal like Pete Carroll did moments earlier.

And then there's Lamar Jackson.

Look at the box score and specifically, the passing section of the box score, and you might come away with the idea that Jackson submitted a dreadful performance. That couldn't be further from the truth. While Jackson only completed 9 of his 20 pass attempts for 143 yards, no touchdowns, and a 69.4 passer rating, he also ran for 116 yards and a score on 14 rushing attempts. The Seahawks couldn't stop him. 

Before Harbaugh made the decision to go for a fourth-and-2 in a tie game instead of kicking a short go-ahead field goal, the Ravens faced a third-and-15 from the Seahawks' 21-yard line. Most teams would've thrown the ball. Some teams would've called a cowardly screen and taken the three points in the third quarter of a tied game. Some teams would've called a running play up the middle to minimize the risk of a turnover. Not the Ravens. They called a designed quarterback run, with the left tackle and center pulling, that put them in a position to even consider going for a fourth-and-short.

ezgif-com-video-to-gif.gif
NFL Game Pass

Jackson headed back to the sidelines after that third-down run, but when Harbaugh asked him if he wanted to go for it, he told his coach, "Hell yeah." So, Harbaugh let him.

They called another designed quarterback run. The Seahawks couldn't stop it.

ezgif-com-video-to-gif-1.gif
NFL Game Pass

After the game, Seahawks defensive end Branden Jackson said trying to tackle Jackson was "like playing 'Madden' against Michael Vick," according to ESPN's Brady Henderson. Jadeveon Clowney said, "I always wanted to play against Michael Vick. I guess I'm getting the new era with Lamar Jackson right there," according to Ryan Mink of the Ravens' team website.

And if you think Jackson did all of his damage with his legs and still isn't capable of throwing the ball, well, remember that he also did this way earlier in the game. Notice the Ravens' use of motion and how the player in motion attracted two defenders, which allowed his teammate to find space downfield before the safety could arrive over the top. The Ravens, maybe the league's smartest team behind the Patriotsknow how to use motion to their advantage.

ezgif-com-video-to-gif-2.gif
NFL Game Pass

Last week, I talked about how Wilson got his MVP moment against the Browns when he led a touchdown drive without the help of his play-caller after the Seahawks' headsets went out. While Wilson remains very much the frontrunner in the MVP race -- he's still leading the pack, as you'll see below -- there's a chance that Sunday will come to represent Jackson's own MVP moment. Jackson has emerged, in the wake of Patrick Mahomes' knee injury, as a serious MVP challenger. He has a legitimate chance to usurp Wilson.

Through seven weeks, Jackson doesn't rank very high in most passing categories -- he's 16th in yards, tied for 12th in touchdown passes, and 16th in passer rating -- but to only look at his passing statistics without adding in his contributions as a runner would be to miss the point, as was also the case with Vick. The very point of Jackson as one of the league's best quarterbacks is that he can do things that no other quarterback can do. Jackson has thrown for only 11 touchdowns, but he's also scored three as a runner. He's thrown for only 1,650 yards, but he's also rushed for 576. He's sixth in the league in rushing, ranking one spot behind Ezekiel Elliott and one spot ahead of Chris Carson. Put it this way, what other quarterbacks could go 9 of 20 throwing the ball and still be unstoppable? 

main-qimg-5294160095f7e411d91e30d5874f5b0d.png
Game of Thrones via Quora

Welcome to our post Week 7 MVP check-in, where five NFL writers here at CBS Sports submitted their MVP ballots heading into Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season and the points were added up to form one collective ballot. A week ago, Wilson held a six-point lead over Deshaun Watson. Jackson ranked fourth with nine points. This week, Wilson's lead is down to one meager point over Jackson, who has shot up all the way to 21 points. Through seven weeks, Wilson is our MVP, but the race is tight. Two of our five voters put Wilson atop their ballots. Another two put Jackson in first.

Below, you'll find our cumulative MVP ballot. First-place votes are worth five points, second-place votes are worth four points, and so on. Farther down below, you'll find our individual ballots followed by brief explanations for our picks. 

MVP leaderboard after Week 7

  1. Russell Wilson -- 22 points
  2. Lamar Jackson -- 21 points
  3. Deshaun Watson -- 9 points
  4. Patrick Mahomes -- 8 points
  5. Aaron Rodgers -- 7 points
  6. Christian McCaffrey -- 6 points
  7. Dak Prescott -- 2 points

Will Brinson's ballot

  1. Christian McCaffrey 
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Lamar Jackson
  4. Deshaun Watson
  5. Aaron Rodgers

Taking what could be the last stand for McCaffrey here and not penalizing him because he was on his bye week. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson drop a spot because they both lost. Lamar Jackson was the extra guy on this list at No. 5 last week and shot up to third after beating Wilson in Seattle. Aaron Rodgers is going to win this award if what we saw against the Raiders was him getting comfortable in Matt LaFleur's offense and not just beating up on a bad defense.

Jared Dubin's ballot 

  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Patrick Mahomes
  4. Deshaun Watson
  5. Dak Prescott

Mahomes will presumably drop off this list over the next few weeks as he sits out and others rack up more games and stats, but if we're voting as of this week, he still has to be on there. Jackson leapfrogs his way to the top after a mind-blowingly awesome performance to beat Wilson and the Seahawks in Seattle. With Mahomes in the sideline, Lamar is the clear-cut most electrifying player in the game at this point. He's unreal. Watson's coming off a relatively disappointing game, but he is essentially single-handedly carrying Houston to its scores and wins. Prescott has a few too many turnovers for my liking but he's also responsible for 15 touchdowns, leads the league in QBR and Completion Percentage Over Expectation, and is averaging 8.9 yards per attempt for a team that badly needs his exploits to come away with wins.

John Breech's ballot

  1. Russell Wilson
  2. Lamar Jackson
  3. Aaron Rodgers 
  4. Deshaun Watson 
  5. Christian McCaffrey

Lamar Jackson made a big jump up my list this week, making the move from fourth to second. Although he beat Wilson head-to-head, the fact of the matter is that the MVP is a season-long award and Wilson has been the best quarterback in the NFL this season. The Seahawks quarterback is tied for the NFL lead with 15 touchdown passes and he's also tied for the lead in total touchdowns (18). Of course, if Jackson keeps playing the way he's playing, he'll have a chance to take over my top spot before the end of the season. Jackson, who currently ranks sixth IN THE ENTIRE NFL with 576 rushing yards is currently on pace to smash Michael Vick's rushing record for a quarterback. The other big jump on my list went to Aaron Rodgers, who moved up to third after being unranked last week. Rodgers basically replaced Patrick Mahomes, who likely won't be in the MVP discussion anymore due to his injury. Rodgers debut on the list comes after he threw for five touchdowns on Sunday where he recorded the first perfect passer rating in Packers history. As for Watson, it's going to be impossible for him to win this award if the Texans don't win the AFC South and right now, they're in second place.

Sean Wagner-McGough's ballot

  1. Russell Wilson
  2. Lamar Jackson
  3. Patrick Mahomes
  4. Deshaun Watson
  5. Dak Prescott

I'm not ready to remove Wilson from my top spot because of one poor performance. The gap has shrunk between first and second place, but Wilson has still been the best player in football throughout the season to this point. One bad performance isn't enough for him to lose his spot. Every other quarterback on my list -- with the exception of Mahomes -- has submitted less than impressive performances at some point this season. Wilson's not alone in that regard. As for Mahomes, he might disappear off my ballot next week, but I can't take him off yet. If the MVP vote were held today (and if I had a vote), I would have ranked him this high. But obviously, as he begins to miss games, he'll start sliding down my list. The last player I want to address is Rodgers, who was awesome in a big win over the Raiders on Sunday but didn't make his way onto my list. One great performance wasn't enough for me to move Rodgers above the five players I selected because those five players have all played better than Rodgers over the course of the entire season. Before Sunday, Rodgers wasn't playing like an MVP-level quarterback. If Rodgers pieces together more MVP type of performances, he'll make his way onto my ballot. There's only so much one great performance can do for a player.

Ryan Wilson's ballot

  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Patrick Mahomes
  5. Deshaun Watson

We're convinced Lamar Jackson will be the NFL's best player in 2-3 years, and we're already seeing glimpses of just how good he can be after a rookie season that consisted mostly of running the ball. Now Jackson is throwing more -- and more accurately -- in addition to being the league's most dangerous rusher. Russell Wilson lost against Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday but that's just a testament to just how important he is to the Seahawks; his first bad game of the season (including his first pick of 2019) and Seattle has no answers. But when he's on, and that's essentially all the time, the Seahawks are tough to beat despite holes elsewhere on the roster. Aaron Rodgers has been in the league since 2005 and he had his best statistical game on Sunday against the Raiders. Maybe he and Matt LeFleur are finally on the same page. Until his knee injury, Mahomes was the MVP and it wasn't even close. He'll remain in the race but he'll have to make up some ground when he returns in a few weeks. Watson is at his best when he's protected. Unfortunately, that rarely happens with Houston's still-suspect-but-improving offensive line but when it does (as was the case in Weeks 5 and 6) Watson is one of the most efficient and exciting quarterbacks in the league.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

Join our Free $1,000,000 Parlay Challenge

Our Latest Stories