NFL Power Rankings: With Andrew Luck retired, who are the preseason MVP favorites?
We can predict with reasonable accuracy these things about the 2019 NFL MVP: It will be a quarterback, he’ll be on a winning team, and it won’t be Andrew Luck.
Luck, the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback who threw for 39 touchdowns and retired, would have been an MVP frontrunner. Considering there are probably only 10-15 realistic candidates — again, barring something historically unusual it’ll be a quarterback because that’s what voters lean on — that changed the race.
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Patrick Mahomes is the reigning MVP and he’s the favorite again. The Chiefs offense will be great again and Mahomes has a special talent. You have to start with him. But who else looks like a good pick? Let’s look at a few of the most interesting candidates to unseat Mahomes:
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: As stated at length in our Packers preview, does anyone doubt that Rodgers will be on a mission to show that the team’s recent failings were Mike McCarthy’s fault? He played through significant injuries last year and was still good; if he’s healthy, he could win another MVP.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz: Look at the Eagles’ depth chart sometime. They’re loaded. Health obviously matters here. But Wentz was an MVP favorite before tearing his ACL in December of 2017 and he can do it again.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees: You’d assume voters would have a soft spot for Brees, who should have won MVP in 2009. He didn’t, and now one of the 5-10 greatest quarterbacks ever could retire without one MVP award. Brees slumped late last season but if that was a blip, he’d have some sentimental value in the voting.
Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers: Rivers might not have the volume to produce the stats that generally win, but the Chargers could be very good and like Brees, it would be his last shot at it.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield: We’re going to get a lot of Browns hype this season, especially if they start fast. Mayfield will be in the headlines all year, good or bad. That’s his personality. Constant attention never hurts in MVP balloting, and Mayfield has the talent around him to produce big numbers.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff: If we believe Todd Gurley will be scaled back, but Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are all capable of 1,000 yards, why not Goff? The Rams will be good. Goff could put up huge numbers. He fits the criteria.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: Yes, this is a stretch. But if Prescott thrives early in the season without Ezekiel Elliott (assuming that holdout lasts at least one game), that will set a positive narrative for Prescott. And the quarterback of the Cowboys will never lack for attention. Prescott has much better talent around him than last season, which should boost his numbers. Amari Cooper has a full season in the offense, Michael Gallup looks like a clear second-year breakout, and eventually Elliott will report (at least, we think so). New coordinator Kellen Moore might help too. I’m not picking Prescott to win, but he’s the long shot I like most.
I think Rodgers wins MVP this season. I’m fully invested in him being motivated to prove he’s still the best quarterback in the game. It’s an easy story to get behind, too, if he starts well. If not Rodgers, I think the MVP will come from one of the players listed above. Though who knows, Mahomes didn’t make many potential MVP lists before dominating the NFL last season.
For the pre-Week 1 power rankings, “last week” will refer to our pre-preseason rankings. And for a full in-depth season preview of each team, click the team name below:
32. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 31)
I get why Brian Flores had to bite back on the talk of the Dolphins tanking. He has to lead that locker room no matter who is in it. But it’s clear after their recent flurry of moves that the Dolphins’ only goal is to finish with the No. 1 overall pick. Which isn’t the worst idea. It will just be a really long season.
31. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 32)
Maybe there was a little too much optimism to think Kliff Kingsbury’s version of the “Air Raid” offense would be an instant success, especially with a rookie quarterback. Days like that preseason debacle against the Raiders come to mind. It’s also possible that what the Cardinals held back in the preseason will take opponents by surprise.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 28)
Between A.J. Green’s ankle injury and some attrition on the offensive line, it’s hard to find many positives. A Week 1 trip to Seattle could get ugly.
29. Washington Redskins (LW: 26)
I have absolutely no idea why Washington seems so stubborn on the idea of trading left tackle Trent Williams. Maybe they’ll win this standoff and Williams will play for them, but it seems like a good time for a rebuilding team to get value for a player who isn’t happy.
28. New York Giants (LW: 29)
After Daniel Jones was the star of the NFL preseason — he threw 34 passes and completed all but five of them — we’re just waiting for the quarterback switch to happen. And now that Jones has intrigued everyone, you have to assume the Giants can’t stick with Eli Manning very long if he struggles.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 27)
Between playing in a lot of high-scoring games, a lack of any exciting running options and Bruce Arians’ aggressive mentality, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jameis Winston threw for 5,000 yards. It might not be a pretty 5,000 yards, but whatever.
26. Oakland Raiders (LW: 30)
There aren’t many teams I’m more interested to watch in Week 1. Perhaps that’s the “Hard Knocks” effect. But Oakland has looked good at times in the preseason. Antonio Brown became even more fascinating. I don’t know how the 2019 Raiders will play out, but we’ll be watching.
25. Detroit Lions (LW: 25)
It seems the Lions avoided serious injuries for center Frank Ragnow and linebacker Jarrad Davis, who were both carted off in the third preseason game. A very interesting Week 1 game at Arizona awaits.
24. Buffalo Bills (LW: 24)
The Bills went 4-0 in the preseason and coach Sean McDermott was happy with that. Does it matter? Probably not. The Buffalo News pointed out that of the 36 teams to go undefeated in the preseason since 2002, they’ve averaged 7.8 wins in the regular season. And both 0-16 teams in NFL history, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns, went 4-0 in the preseason.
23. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 21)
It’s amazing how the perception of Jimmy Garoppolo has changed in a year. There was too much hype last year. There’s too much negativity this year, based on one awful practice and a bad preseason outing. After a slow start against Kansas City in the third preseason game Garoppolo played quite well. He’ll be fine.
22. Tennessee Titans (LW: 18)
It looks like Derrick Henry will be ready for Week 1, after dealing with a calf injury last month. Here’s a crazy prediction: Henry will lead the NFL in rushing yards.
21. Denver Broncos (LW: 22)
If Bradley Chubb is going to turn into an All-Pro candidate — and it looked in the preseason like he might — the Broncos’ defense could be a top-five unit under Vic Fangio.
20. New York Jets (LW: 23)
While I still have skepticism about Adam Gase, this is the team I have lower in the rankings that could rise quickly. I really like the Jets’ talent, including quarterback Sam Darnold. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they get a wild-card spot.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (LW: 20)
I’m buying Dede Westbrook having a huge season for the Jaguars. Nick Foles is a competent quarterback and who else is going to catch the ball in Jacksonville?
18. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 5)
It’s not ideal, but not many teams had a Jacoby Brissett as their No. 2 quarterback. He might surprise folks. The rest of the team is good. They have to take a huge step back in the rankings until we see it, but I still can’t rule out the Colts winning the division, especially with whatever is going on in Houston.
17. Atlanta Falcons (LW: 19)
Devonta Freeman had a quiet offseason. That’s a good thing. Freeman’s health has been a major factor lately but if he can stay healthy this season he could have an enormous year in a great offense.
16. Houston Texans (LW: 12)
All these moves better work out for the Texans. It didn’t make much sense to overpay for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills, sending Miami two first-round picks and a second-rounder in a trade, hours after practically giving away Jadeveon Clowney. Bill O’Brien keeps winning power struggles with general managers, but it won’t look good if Houston can’t win an Andrew Luck-less AFC South.
15. Carolina Panthers (LW: 17)
Cam Newton looks set to start the season despite a foot/ankle injury in the third preseason game. It’s still worrisome that a quarterback who has taken more punishment than any other by his age-30 season will start the year at less than 100 percent. Newton is tough but the Panthers have to be concerned.
14. Minnesota Vikings (LW: 16)
If Dalvin Cook doesn’t have a monster season, it’s not because he’ll lack opportunity. His 85-yard touchdown run in the preseason might be a sign of things to come.
13. Seattle Seahawks (LW: 15)
The Seahawks’ passing tree might be strange. Tyler Lockett might catch 120 passes and nobody else gets 40. Who else do you trust in Seattle’s offense to catch the ball?
12. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 14)
From all accounts, big rookie receiver Miles Boykin had a great camp. If the Ravens hit on that third-round pick, and first-round pick Marquise Brown pays off too, all of a sudden Lamar Jackson has some exciting targets.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 13)
James Washington made some big plays in the preseason. The Steelers always seem to draft good receivers, and maybe Washington will have a nice second-year breakout.
10. Dallas Cowboys (LW: 11)
Realistically, it isn’t the worst thing for Ezekiel Elliott to miss a few games if this holdout continues. It’s a long season, and the Cowboys want him fresh for the end. Not that this was Jerry Jones’ plan all along, but it might work out very well.
9. Cleveland Browns (LW: 10)
We might have been talking about the wrong Browns unit all offseason. The offense has some fun stars but it’s the defense that looks dominant, especially up front.
8. Green Bay Packers (LW: 9)
I’m still fine trusting that Aaron Rodgers can be the best quarterback in the NFL, or close. The Packers are going to have a nice season.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 6)
Are the Chargers cursed? Why do bad things always affect them? The Derwin James injury really affects their ceiling. He had a long-shot chance to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That’s a major blow, among others.
6. Chicago Bears (LW: 7)
I’m entirely in the Sean McVay/Matt Nagy camp of blowing off the preseason. A few snaps for the starters probably won’t make a big difference, but a key injury does. The tradeoff could be a slow start to the season, and we’ll see right away on Thursday night if that affects the Bears against the Packers.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: 8)
If Carson Wentz stays healthy all season, the Eagles can win a Super Bowl and Wentz can win MVP. If he is hurt again, I’m not sure the Eagles can make the playoffs. Yes, you can say all of that about many quarterbacks but given Wentz’s recent injury history, it seems more relevant to Philadelphia.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 4)
I’m not sure what LeSean McCoy has left after he was awful in Buffalo last season. But the situation for McCoy is much better. He’ll see many more light defensive fronts than he did when rookie Josh Allen was his quarterback. McCoy, Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson can all be productive this season.
3. New Orleans Saints (LW: 3)
It was good to see defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins activated before the season starts. He’s coming off a torn Achilles, and his return to last year’s form is one of the most underrated stories of the season. Once he’s ready to play, the Saints’ defense gets better.
2. Los Angeles Rams (LW: 2)
Todd Gurley has gotten all the attention and rightfully so, but don’t forget that the Rams’ offense took a step back after Cooper Kupp tore his ACL. Reports on Kupp have been positive, but it’s hard to know for sure until we see him in meaningful game action.
1. New England Patriots (LW: 1)
Usually teams lose players in August. The Patriots, for practical purposes, gained Josh Gordon. Center David Andrews’ medical issue is worrisome, but the Patriots seem to have answered a lot of questions over the preseason, from Sony Michel’s health to Isaiah Wynn’s ability to fill in at left tackle. The Patriots look better now than they did a month ago.
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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab