At halfway point of NFL season, there's no better MVP pick than Eagles' Carson Wentz
If the pure awe of his rise doesn't scream it, then the cold, hard numbers should
When Philadelphia Eagles fans started chanting "M-V-P!" in the waning minutes of their team's 10-point win over the rival Washington Redskins on Monday night, the calls for Carson Wentz to be crowned best in the NFL may have been laced with some hometown bias.
No. 11, after all, was the closest embodiment of all the right parts of guys like Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick in front of Washington that evening. He was the closest representation of an All-Pro signal-caller in the City of Brotherly Love since Vick himself had an unprecedented 2010 run or, more realistically, since Donovan McNabb guided the Eagles to the NFC Championship -- and their last playoff victory -- in 2008. (In hindsight, even Eagles fans acknowledge Nick Foles' best moments didn't equate to "franchise" material.)
Those "M-V-P" chants might also merely have been reactions to the inexplicable poise of Wentz during his most elusive highlights of the night -- his escape from a pocket that collapsed on top of him and his perfectly placed touch pass in the face of swarming defensive linemen.
Or maybe they stemmed directly from the fact that Wentz's big night under the lights was the X-factor in the Eagles advancing to 6-1, the best record in the NFL and the best mark by Philadelphia since 2004, when the Birds opened on a 7-0 run and ultimately advanced to Super Bowl XXXIX. After all, a sweep of an NFC East rival -- at home in front of a prime-time audience, no less -- is about as potent an ingredient for fan triumphalism as there is in the NFL.
No matter what spawned those chants, though, one thing is clear.
When the Eagles faithful recited "M-V-P!" from the stands of Lincoln Financial Field (and, perhaps, also from the comfort of their own homes), they were spot on.
Before the 2017 season, the bar was set awfully (too) high for the defending division champion Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles were forward. Early-season indications, including the , suggested that would be just the case. And now, at mid-season, it is definitely the case, and it is definitely in large part due to their headlining young quarterback -- a second-year man in Carson Wentz who, approaching his eighth game of the year, should be the absolute favorite for league MVP.
Does this mean Wentz's second half of the season doesn't matter? Oh no, it matters plenty. The tail end of his inspiring, albeit flawed, rookie campaign unearthed some pesky inconsistencies in the former North Dakota State University product. There's also no greater example of how quickly things can change -- how abruptly parity can overtake expectations -- than the NFL.
All of this is also discounting, of course, the fact that there's an MVP case to be made for Wentz's persona alone. There is his persistent humility, evidenced through his widely known efforts to play for an "audience of one," or Jesus Christ, and the locker-room awakening he's sparked in the form of things like . There was his , whose family got one of Wentz's touchdown balls after Monday's game. There is the aura of someone who (still) doesn't seem like they went from FCS quarterback to NFL all-star a week before Opening Day of their rookie season.
But if you're looking strictly at the games that have been played, the standings that have taken shape and the positions teams have earned entering the midway point of the season, the only excuse not to echo the chants from the Linc is that you simply haven't turned on your TV.
Here's how Wentz's numbers through seven games stack up against the rest of the league:
By reaching 17 touchdown passes through seven games, Wentz eclipsed a franchise record previously set by McNabb in 2006, and it has the sophomore gunslinger roughly on pace for the following 16-game stat line: 4,233 yards, 38 TDs, nine INTs. The only other quarterbacks in league history to post such drastic TD:INT ratios, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank, are Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, who share a combined five MVP trophies.
Ryan, whose defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons lost to Brady's New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, claimed the MVP title in 2016 with numbers nearly identical to the Wentz projection: 4,944 yards, 38 TDs and seven picks.
Who else is challenging for MVP, which Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery said he wanted to help Wentz win upon arriving in Philadelphia? The Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown is well on pace to top his 1,200-yard season from a year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs' Kareem Hunt could match Ezekiel Elliott's sensational rookie numbers for ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid and the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley has racked up all kinds of yards from scrimmage.
But a non-quarterback has been named sole MVP just once in the last decade and only six times since 1994.
If you take it to the QBs, then, Reid's oft-overlooked Alex Smith deserves every bit of credit his 120.5 passer rating says he deserves. Zero picks thus far helps. But even if the eye test doesn't tell you Wentz offers more in the way of size and raw athleticism, the numbers should: Carson leads the NFL in just about every relevant passing category (yards, touchdowns, interceptions) on third-down plays and he edges Smith on the ground with 196 yards. Brady and Kirk Cousins, in Washington, have fewer INTs, while Houston Texans rookie Deshaun Watson has a top-three QBR on ESPN, but it's Wentz who's running the team with the league's best record (6-1) and second best point differential (plus-53) -- a team he's helped catapult from 7-9 alongside second-year coach Doug Pederson.
It may be true that neither Dallas nor Philadelphia would ever trade Wentz for fellow 2016 pick Dak Prescott or the other way around, but it is true that only one of those QBs is sitting comfortably atop the NFC East halfway through 2017. Prescott remains a weapon for the Cowboys even if his rookie campaign was bolstered by 1,600 yards from Elliott, but his yards-per-throw average (7.0) is 20th in the NFL, whereas Wentz's (8.0) is fourth. His team, hyped as a contender after a 13-3 finish a year ago, awaits its first matchup with the Eagles mostly so it can have a fighting chance in Philly's trail within the East.
The Eagles have, at long last, embraced their "guy" at the most important position in the game. He showed Monday night why they should be pumped to do it. Only time will tell, of course, whether any of it translates into the latter half of the year -- and whether anyone else will dazzle enough to top his efforts.
For now, though? We're halfway across the road of the 2017 season, and the clearest path forward in the race for MVP is obvious.
Hopping aboard the Wentz Wagon.
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
The injury bug just bit the 49ers again
The second overall pick in the NFL Draft got injured during practice on Tuesday
There are a lot of teams interested in adding Gerald McCoy
The Buccaneers have a new defensive tackle
Where are the NFL's top free agents landing this offseason? Follow along with our updating...
At least one player in Green Bay isn't very happy with his role right now