The 2023 NFL MVP race has taken a peculiar turn, with no clear favorite even as the regular season enters its final four weeks. Many of the league’s premier quarterbacks have either been hurt (Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow) or seen declining performance compared to last season (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen).
Top wide receiver draft pick Justin Jefferson has scarcely played owing to injury. No pass rusher is running away with the sack title, nor is any running back challenging long-held records.
As a result, MVP voting that generally focuses on successful quarterbacks has been compelled to expand its scope. The next month will likely determine which player separates from a dispersed group of contenders. Numerous top candidates need to improve their MVP case or uncertainty around whether their squad’s prosperity is truly driven by someone else.
Let’s review some of the unconventional 2023 MVP possibilities as the season nears its conclusion:
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Before The Season: An above-average QB without superstar ability
Now: Can he finish as the hottest passer in the league?
Entering 2023, Prescott drew little MVP chatter after 2022 was filled with interceptions. Doubts about his potential now appear foolish, given his play. Over the last 7 matchups, Prescott paces all QBs in passing yards (2,173), passer rating (121.5), and EPA per dropback (0.31).
During that stretch, his 79.8 QBR also led the league by a wide margin. The Cowboys have charged to take over the NFC East behind Prescott’s brilliance. Prescott may finally earn his MVP accolades if he sustains this dominance to spearhead a Cowboys playoff run.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Before The Season: A frequently injured, brilliant RB with a spectacular 2022 half-season
Now: Can he lift the 49ers to #1 in the NFC?
McCaffrey entered 2023 with modest MVP hype already. He has validated it, leading the NFL in rushing yards and TDs among running backs. Despite obtaining McCaffrey midseason last campaign, the 49ers have kept riding his dual-threat talents in 2023.
McCaffrey’s key will be frequently hitting the end zone as the 49ers chase the NFC’s top playoff seed over the next month. McCaffrey could become the first RB MVP since Adrian Peterson in 2012 if he embarks on a scoring binge.
3. DaRon Bland, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Preseason Expectations: Backup cornerback
Now: The most dangerous ball-hawking corner in football
Bland began 2023 as Dallas’ third corner but has become a must-see television. Though allowing his share of scores, Bland leads the NFL with eight interceptions, taking five back for touchdowns – already a Cowboys career record. The playmaking corner might decide tight games down the stretch.
4. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
Preseason Expectations: Great receiver building off a career-best season
Now: A dominant, record-breaking receiver amid an all-time great year
Hill has lapped the rest of the NFL to the point he often rests entire fourth quarters with games in hand. Despite limited late playing time, Hill holds substantial leads in receiving yards and touchdowns. Already posting five 150-plus yard efforts this season, Hill is tied for the most such games in NFL history. Over the final stretch, he could set new benchmarks.
5. C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans
Preseason Expectations: Promising but raw rookie on a rebuilding squad
Now: A franchise-altering superstar QB
Conventional wisdom says rookies don’t win MVP awards. But Stroud has shattered expectations by unleashing his rocket arm and accuracy to lift a talent-deficient Houston roster. While he excels inside and outside structure, Stroud’s ability to create improvisational Mahomes-esque completions has stunned onlookers. Could his budding brilliance carry the Texans from obscurity to the playoffs?
6. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Preseason Expectations: Elite talent hungry for a rebound after injury
Now: The hidden force keeping Pittsburgh’s bleak hopes alive
Amidst another dreadful offensive campaign, Pittsburgh’s respectable 7-5 record exists almost solely thanks to its defense generating timely turnovers and stops. Watt has frequently catalyzed such game-changing plays, but his overall impact goes far deeper. Without his perpetual disruption up front, Pittsburgh would likely dwell in the AFC cellar instead of retaining unlikely playoff dreams.
7. Jessie Bates III, S, Atlanta Falcons
Preseason Expectations: Steady veteran expected to stabilize rebuilding defense
Now: Potential NFC South title decider and Saints’ demise dealer
A busy Atlanta offseason saw splashy offensive additions grab headlines, but Bates may be the most impactful pickup. The safety has sparked a defense that gives the 6-6 Falcons division title hopes. His playmaking has spared a lackluster offense from dooming playoff dreams. Could Bates swing the NFC South race and send the rival Saints spiraling?
The final four weeks determine whether an unforeseen contender can sustain excellence as their squad climbs the standings. Or a legend like Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes assembles a closing statement to steal the 2023 MVP. But for now, the field remains open and hard to predict. Over a half-dozen hopefuls can state their case during this decisive home stretch.