Six weeks into the 2022 NFL season, the race for the league’s most valuable player begins to come together, highlighted by a multitude of quarterbacks emerging as contenders. The leader of the AFC’s only one-loss team has the best Vegas odds and most first-place votes from our panel, while the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team’s QB has skyrocketed in the first third of the season. Those fighting for the top spot still have 12 weeks to make their case.
We asked a panel of analysts — Stephania Bell, Matt Bowen, Mike Clay, Courtney Cronin, Jeremy Fowler, Dan Graziano, Matt Miller, Sal Paolantonio, Jason Reid, Mike Tannenbaum, Seth Walder, and Field Yates — to vote on the top players in the MVP race right now. We then used those 12 sets of rankings to determine our top five contenders, using Heisman Trophy-like scaling for each ranking to determine how the field stacked up.
We’ll also look at a few names whose MVP stocks either rose or fell during the early stages, and ESPN Analytics writer Seth Walder also took a look at an under-the-radar MVP-caliber player. Here is a look at the status after six weeks.
Note: All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
The five best | Just missed
top up | stock down
Under the radar
Statistics 2022: 1,980 passing yards, 17 TDs, 4 INTs, 75.4 QBR (257 rushing yards, 2 TDs)
Current Odds: +125
The early season results reveal an indisputable truth: Allen is the best quarterback in the NFL, an honor he began wresting from AFC rival Patrick Mahomes in last year’s playoffs. Allen went into the season with the best shot at the MVP title and reinforced his case against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6 by defeating Mahomes in a 24-20 thriller that he followed with a 76-yard come-from -behind completed scoring drive with just over a minute remaining.
That was the second game-winning drive he led the Bills in this month (the other being a 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens) and his first fourth-quarter comeback since Sept. 27, 2020. Allen is the first start -Beating quarterback Mahomes twice at Arrowhead Stadium. He leads the league in passing (both yards and yards per game) and his 753 passing yards in his last two games is the most in a two-game span in Bills franchise history.
Statistics 2022: 1,514 passing yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 59.6 QBR (293 rushing yards, 6 TDs)
Current Odds: +450
Hurts’ rise – where he saw huge improvement in areas such as completion percentage (66.8%, 9th place), passer rating (98.4, 5th), average release time (2.76) and yards per attempt (8.2 , 2.) – has seen Philadelphia start 6-0 for the first time since 2004. The 24-year-old QB has nine straight games through 2021, the longest winning streak by an Eagles starting quarterback in 22 years, and he is the fifth player in league history to rush for 1,500 yards in his team’s first six games and ran 250 yards.
The Eagles have the most offensive balance of any team in the NFC (394.5 yards per game, third place; 26.8 points per game, fourth) with a steady running game and explosive passing attacks. Hurts have played a big part in what the Eagles do on the floor, with 11 more carries on designed runs (38) than any other quarterback and 16 of them in the red zone, according to Next Gen Stats. He’s also completing a career-high plus 2.7% of his expectation, the third-highest in the NFL.
Statistics 2022: 1,736 passing yards, 17 TDs, 4 INTs, 74.2 QBR (113 rushing yards)
Current Odds: +500
There has been a lot of talk about how the Chiefs offense would work without wide receiver Tyreek Hill. His absence has forced Mahomes to spread the ball and become a more efficient, patient passer. In six games, Mahomes and Allen are tied for first place with 17 touchdown passes. Mahomes continues to be incredibly effective when under pressure, ranking first in touchdowns per pass attempt and third in first downs per pass attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.
But the pressure he faced late in Week 6 dictated the outcome for the Chiefs. Against the Bills, Mahomes accounted for 92% of Kansas City’s offense as he threw for 338 yards, two touchdown passes, two interceptions and completed 63% of his passes. While Allen led Buffalo on a touchdown drive to take a late lead, Mahomes responded by throwing an interception under duress, his third choice in a game-winning drive attempt dating back to last year’s AFC Championship game.
Statistics 2022: 1,277 passing yards, 13 TDs, 6 INTs, 64.1 QBR (451 rushing yards, 2 TDs)
Current Odds: +850
Jackson’s MVP candidacy is – for now – on hold after a hot start. He ranks third in touchdown passes and leads all players in yards per rush (8.1) and yards from contact per rush (6.3), becoming the first player to do so in the first six weeks of the season since the NFL was in the top 5 in both categories. AFL merger, according to Elias.
Jackson is strongest early in games, with 12 of his 13 touchdown passes coming in the first three quarters. On the other hand, four of his six interceptions have occurred in the fourth quarter. His first three quarters QBR is better than his MVP candidate Hurts, but his fourth quarter QBR is worse than Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields.
Marcus Spears discusses Lamar Jackson’s troubles in the fourth quarter and how he can fix them.
Statistics 2022: 6 sacks, 26 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 passes defended
Current Odds: +12500
A quarterback or running back has won the MVP every year since 1987, but Parsons deserves attention after a strong start to the season as he ranks first in total pressure (31) and second in sacks. Aside from a 26-17 loss to the Eagles, in which Parsons was largely held back, Dallas has won games this season on a dominant defense. The Cowboys went 4-1 in a stretch that left quarterback Dak Prescott injured, thanks in large part to the defense, which leads the league in sacks (24) and is third in points allowed (98).
Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (+2500)
According to Elias, Herbert set a record for most passes thrown (57) without a touchdown in the Chargers’ 19:16 OT win over the Denver Broncos on Monday. He’s still in the MVP talk thanks to his ranking in passing yards (fourth), touchdowns (sixth), interception percentage (fifth), passing first downs (eighth) and QBR (eighth), but he has to go on an A run over the next 11 games to keep up with the leaders.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (+10000)
For the first time in the Super Bowl era, the Giants have notched up four surprise wins in their first six games of a season, thanks in large part to the identity they forged with Barkley, who is said to be the league’s best running back looks. He leads the NFL with 771 yards from scrimmage and his four touchdowns this season are two more than in the 15 games he played in 2020-21. At the very least, he’s a front-runner for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings (+4000)
Cousins broke the Vikings’ franchise record for consecutive completions when he started 17-of-17 in a Week 5 win against the Bears and then threw two touchdown passes in a win against the Miami Dolphins. Coming into his third Pro Bowl season, the 34-year-old has yet to throw 300 yards in a game, but his efficient play has led the Vikings to a 5-1 start.
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (unlisted)
According to Next Gen Stats, Smith leads the NFL in graduation percentage above expectations (up -9.6%) and leads the NFL in graduation percentage (73.4%) over six weeks. He has thrown for 1,502 yards and nine touchdown passes, ranking ninth and eighth among qualifying starting quarterbacks, respectively. The Seahawks would be nowhere near a .500 record without Smith, which is why the franchise should consider him as an option for QB beyond this season.
Also get top 10 votes: Bengals QB Joe Burrow, Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, Bills OLB Von Miller, Rams WR Cooper Kupp, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill, Bills WR Stefon Diggs, Browns RB Nick Chubb, Eagles CB James Bradberry, Rams DT Aaron Donald, Rams QB Matthew Stafford, Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, Falcons QB Marcus Mariota, 49ers DE Nick Bosa, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow bounced back from a 2-0 Bengals start and has completed more than 62% of his passes in each of his first six games. In a come-from-behind win over the New Orleans Saints, the Bengals QB completed 28 of 37 passes for 300 yards and three touchdown passes and failed to turn the ball over. With Atlanta, Cleveland and Carolina, Burrow could work its way into the MVP mix.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers struggles to make up for a reduced supporting cast. He had a 17.0 overall QBR in a loss to the New York Jets, which was his second-worst season (10.8 v Minnesota, Week 1). Last year’s MVP has six turnovers in six games after turning the ball four times all of last season. He has lost three fumbles this season after losing two combined in the previous two seasons.
Field Yates wraps up Aaron Rodgers’ dark fantasy season.
Walder’s under-the-radar MVP candidate
James Bradberry, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Bradberry deserves a top 10 MVP vote in my opinion. His next defender numbers from NFL Next Gen Stats are outrageous. Among the outside corners with 125 coverage snaps, Bradberry ranks:
Second in yards per coverage snap (0.5)
First in target EPA by a wide margin (minus-25.8)
Second in percentage of completion above expectation (minus-20%)
First in receptions allowed above expectation (minus-8.0)
To put the second number in context, the Bengals have recorded a plus 28.7 EPA on Joe Burrows dropbacks this season (I’m mixing between NGS and ESPN EPA models here – not ideal, but you get the point). ). It’s incredibly valuable to record a production level as a corner that is in the same range as a high-end QB. Yes, a bunch of these were generated at a distraction he turned into a Jared Goff pick-six, but it was hardly an isolated incident; Bradberry has been outstanding all year round.
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34822694/nfl-mvp-watch-2022-ranking-top-candidates-including-josh-allen-jalen-hurts-patrick-mahomes Ranking top candidates, including Josh Allen