The NFL MVP is an award given to the best player in the NFL that season, typically from a team that makes the playoffs. That award is also typically given to quarterbacks with running backs winning it occasionally. In fact the last time a non quarterback or running back won the award was 1986 when linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants was named the league MVP. Over the last twenty years 16 quarterbacks and 6 running backs have won the award (the award was a tie in 1997 and 2003). Since the 1966 season (Super Bowl era) only three non quarterbacks or running backs have won the MVP award (Lawrence Taylor, Mark Moseley, Alan Page). Having a 3-4 defensive end like J.J. Watt in the discussion for MVP at this point is very surprising; they typically aren't put in a position to put up the stats needed to catch the eye of the media and win the MVP award. Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com has Watt ranked not just in his top 10, but number one overall.
We asked last week if Watt possibly could keep up his pace. And then he dominated yet another game against the pass and run on "Monday Night Football" against the New York Jets. Defensive players never get considered for MVP awards, but they should. Watt has put up the most singular season in the NFL thus far.
Even if you agree that J.J. Watt is the leader for the MVP award at this point, there is still a lot of season left to play. If the vote was held today, I don't think Watt would win. He'd receive votes, but my guess is the award would go to either Matt Ryan or Tom Brady. Not saying they're more deserving than Watt, but that's just the reality of how most people vote; they give it to a quarterback putting up big numbers on a good team.
What does Watt have to do to win this award? He has to dominate in every national broadcast/prime time game (they have four more left this season) and finish the season with amazing stats that give voters no choice but to vote for him. I believe J.J. Watt will have to break the NFL record for sacks to win the award for league MVP this year. Last season Jared Allen racked up 22 sacks (NFL record is 22.5) and he didn't receive a single vote for the MVP award. Hurting Allen's chances last year of course was the Vikings 3-13 record, but still, he was just a half of a sack short of the record and didn't receive even a sniff at the award. Watt currently has 7.5 sacks which ranks second in the NFL behind Clay Matthews (had a sack from the Dolphins game taken away) and is on pace for 24 sacks. If he stays on pace, breaks the record, and the Texans finish with 12 wins or more and a bye in the playoffs; he has a decent chance to win the award. Anything less than that and he probably won't receive a single vote.
Even if his pace falls off and he finishes with around 15 sacks that's still an amazing season from a 3-4 defensive end. I don't think he'll win the award but either way Texans fans have to enjoy what they're watching right now. We're all getting to witness the early stages of a potentially great career; he's extremely fun to watch right now.