While no player has taken a stranglehold of the MVP race this season, presumed front-runner Derek Carr did damage to his stock Thursday night with a lackluster performance in a crucial division contest.
Players like Ezekiel Elliott and Tom Brady are still looking good to have a shot at the award, but both have valid arguments against their cases.
With plenty to be decided in the final four weeks of the season, here are three candidates who could steal the award with a series of strong performances as the season winds down.
Remaining Schedule: at Titans, vs. Patriots, at Chiefs, vs. Raiders
With the Broncos’ offense as depleted as it’s been all year, Miller will need to start taking over games if Denver is going to secure their spot in the playoffs. No team on their remaining schedule has a losing record, so relying on either rookie Paxton Lynch or second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian to win games on their own will be too tall of a task.
Miller won the Super Bowl MVP award with his dominance in the big game last year and currently leads the league in sacks. If Miller can be credited with holding his final four opponents to few enough points that the Broncos regain a division lead, he could become the first defensive player since Lawrence Taylor in 1986 to win league MVP.
Remaining Schedule: vs. Broncos, at Chiefs, at Jaguars, vs. Texans
While all eyes are on Elliott in the running game, the Cowboys’ former league rushing champion Murray has been having quite the season himself. The sixth-year pro is the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind Elliott and has helped the Titans go from the league’s worst team to a playoff contender.
The next two games for Murray and Tennessee are crucial to their postseason chances and award hopes. If the Titans can control the clock and knock off either AFC West opponent, they could essentially control their own destiny. Murray would need to get his team into the playoffs with a wining record to get any MVP recognition, but putting together dominant days against his final four opponents – all of whom have bottom 13 run defenses – could do the trick.
Remaining Schedule: vs. Bears, at Giants, at Cowboys, vs. Packers
The Lions are in line to win their first division title since 1993 and someone deserves some credit. That someone is Stafford, who has silenced all the doubters crediting his previous career success to Calvin Johnson.
Stafford’s offense hasn’t been prolific this season, but he’s led his squad well, taking care of the football and coming through in clutch moments. His latest win against the Saints was the first of the Lions’ eight that didn’t involve a last-minute comeback. Winning all four down the stretch would give the Lions the division and their first 12-win season since 1991. A Week 16 Monday night spotlight appearance with a chance to hand Dallas its first loss since Week 1 could be the perfect opportunity for Stafford to explode, capturing the hearts of Cowboys haters and MVP voters alike.