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The Lede: Matthew Stafford Entering MVP Discussion?

For the first time since 2011, the Detroit Lions are off to a 2-0 start. Their two wins are largely attributable to the strong play of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The NFL’s highest-paid player is proving he’s worth every penny of that $135 million deal. Stafford has faced two of the toughest pass defenses in the league to start the 2017 season — the Cardinals and Giants — and has totaled 414 passing yards, six touchdowns (tied for first in NFL), and just one interception, good for a 114.6 passer rating (third among QBs who have played two games).

Once again, Stafford is making the most of a mediocre supporting cast. Between Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay, there are no true stars in the receiving corps, and the running game has only been able to manage 3.7 yards per carry thus far (18th). Will this be the year Stafford’s on-field heroics are finally recognized with individual hardware? Takeaway: Stafford could dramatically improve his NFL MVP resume by leading the Lions to an NFC North crown. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old, that means dethroning Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and holding off the improving Vikings, who have a more complete roster than Detroit as long as Sam Bradford is healthy. A division title isn’t a prerequisite for winning MVP. Adrian Peterson won the award in 2012 when his Vikings were the runner-up in the North; same goes for Peyton Manning with the Colts in 2008. For Stafford, an outstanding passer rating and a Wild Card berth could be enough. On Bet365, Matthew Stafford is currently listed at +4000 to win NFL MVP. There is a lot of value in those odds, especially when you consider some of the players listed ahead of him. Since 2001, only three running backs have won the award (Peterson, Ladainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander) yet Marshawn Lynch (+3300), Kareem Hunt (+2000), Le’Veon Bell (+2000), and Ezekiel Elliott (+900) all possess shorter odds than Stafford. Continuing with the disrespect to Stafford, no wide receiver has ever won MVP, yet Antonio Brown (+2800) and Julio Jones (+2500) are both being given a better chance. Though it’s still very early in the season, the MVP race is going to boil down to five names: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford. Dak Prescott is simply not MVP-worthy; Ben Roethlisberger is arguably holding the Steelers offense back; Russell Wilson will be lucky to make it out of 2017 without a serious injury; and Cam Newton is clearly not right after offseason shoulder surgery. But again, all of those QBs have shorter odds than Stafford.

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