With a 2-1 record that could easily be 3-0 if not for a tight loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the San Diego Chargers have firmly established themselves as contenders to unseat the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. With impressive victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, two teams whose only loss is to the Chargers, quarterback Philip Rivers is playing some of the best football of his outstanding career. Two years after many questioned the long term viability of Rivers as the Chargers quarterback, the Chargers veteran signal caller has established himself as a leading league MVP candidate. In a league where the top quarterback conversation typically involves a top tier of Brady, Manning and Rodgers, Rivers play and leadership has stood out this season.
The season is early, but the Chargers look to have staying power. While the team is sure to contend for a division title and second consecutive playoff berth, Rivers has an opportunity to earn his first NFL MVP.
Here are three reason Philip Rivers is the leader of the pack in the NFL MVP voting.
He’s thrived versus tough competition: The Chargers have faced three top five defenses in the first three weeks of the season, with Rivers excelling versus all three opponents. Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo are known for their physical fronts and ability to make it tough on opposing quarterbacks. As he has done his entire career Rivers has shown the toughness and ability to make big throws, even against extreme pressure. Heading into week four Rivers has six touchdowns and just one interception. The Chargers are a battle tested unit who look like they have staying power. The early season tough slate has the Chargers primed and ready to take on the Broncos.
He’s succeeded with a lack of a running game: Rivers has led an impressive offensive performance while the team has struggled running the football. Last week against the Buffalo Bills the team lost running back Danny Woodhead, a week after losing starting running back Ryan Mathews. Even with all the injuries the Chargers offense kept the Bills off balance all day long. It’s testament to the leadership and ability of Rivers to stay in the pocket, often against max pressure, and deliver the football. There are few quarterbacks in NFL history tougher than Rivers, who has made his mark throughout his career by his ability to take massive hits while still putting the football on the money.
He’s doing it with less: MVP voters love a new storyline. Last season Peyton Manning was the deserving MVP due to his incredible numbers. Manning is re-writing the record book, behind one of the league’s best offensive line and an offense full of weapons that includes one of the league’s top receivers (Demaryius Thomas), an elite tight end (Julius Thomas) and a future Hall of Famer in the slot (Wes Welker). Not to undermine Manning’s remarkable performance, but he has a tremendous amount of weapons. Rivers, on the other hand, is not blessed with an elite offensive line or a receiving core that rivals what Manning has in Denver. It’s tough to quantify but the overall feeling is that Rivers is doing more with less, often in the face of intense pressure, with the Seattle game being the prime example. During the Seahawks game Rivers showed an incredible ability to evade pressure and fit throws into remarkably tight windows, often in the face of in intense pressure. It was an MVP performance, something Rivers has done time and time again over the past season and half.
It’s early, but right now Philip Rivers might just be this years NFL MVP.