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The RZL MVP Race (Mid-Season)
By Keith Van Wagner
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The RZL MVP Race (Mid-Season)

We are now halfway through the 2023 season and several players have shown through the first part of the season. While thereís still a lot of football to be played, the race for the MVP is already shaping up. In looking at who should be considered the MVP of the first half of the season, I tried to identify performances that were paramount to their teamís success. Additionally, I also tried to look at players who were elevating their teamís performance. So while I didnít have a hard a fast rule that the MVP candidate had to play for a winning team, it was a big factor. So, for example, Oaklandís Shane Vereen has had an awesome season Ė but the Raiders have not. So he didnít make this list.

There have been so many productive players this season, it was hard to narrow it down to just a few. Below, Iíve identified 5 candidates, but there were a lot of guys Ė like, Lino Baggett, Matt Moore, Adrian McPherson, Golden Tate and Marvin Barth, for example Ė who were in the running but didnít make the final cut. Including probably your guy, so sorry in advance.

Here are the candidates, in alphabetical order:

WR Eddie Burns, Eagles
Stat line: 1,102 yards, 19.3 ypc, 10 TDs
Team record: 7-2
Why he deserves MVP: The Eagles have a below average running game, have been hit by injuries, and Burns has journeymen McGee and Brousseau throwing to him. Despite this, Burns is on pace to sniff 2,000 yard receiving. Burns has 7 100+ receiving games, 4 of which were 140+. He seems to be willing this team to victory.
Why he doesnít: Wide Receivers arenít MVPs, are they? Besides, the Eagles have only played two teams with Top 10 power rankings, and split those.

QB Major Hestor, Titans
Stat line: 1,837 yards, 66.3%, 17 TDs/2 Ints, 119.2 Rating
Team record: 4-3
Why he deserves MVP: Hestor has been on fire this season, and has 3 games with QB ratings over 150. His first 5 games had completion percentages of 65%+, including 3 of more than 73%.
Why he doesnít: Despite his amazing stat lines, the Titans are barely above .500 ball and have lost 2 straight. Three of the Titansí four victories have come against the Texans, Chiefs and Colts, all near the bottom in power rankings.

HB Matthew Millner, Ravens
Stat line: 1,010 yards, 5.5 avg, 7 TDs
Team record: 6-3
Why he deserves MVP: Millner is second in the league in rushing and has had 5 100+ games this season and has not dipped below 4.0 yards per carry. Every game heís at least either rushed for 100, scored a TD, or had 5.0 ypc so heís pretty consistent.
Why he doesnít: Is he even the MVP of his team? QB Cameron Rymer leads all QBs in passing yards while WR Marvin Barth has nearly 1,000 yards receiving and has more TDs. Such a talented team dilutes his candidacy.

WR DeMaryius Thomas, Jaguars
Stat line: 979 yards receiving, 21.8 ypc, 8 TDs
Team record: 7-1
Why he deserves MVP: Thomas is averaging over 21 yards per catch Ė and heís catching a lot of passes. In 4 of his games heís had 7 or more catches, including 18 catches in his first 2 games. The Jags have a horrible running game so they rely on the passing game. The Jags are 1 point away from a perfect season and heís the poster child for their dominance this year.
Why he doesnít: Thereís no doubt the Jags would miss a step without Thomas, but they also have Michael Floyd who is on his way to 1,400 yards and 10 TDs receiving and Beau Hansen. Itís not hard to imagine the Jags continuing to win if Thomas went down.

QB Will Wright, Redskins
Stat line: 2,422 yards, 60.0%, 20 TDs/3 Ints, 109.6 rating)
Team record: 5-3
Why he deserves MVP: Wright is having a career season after years of waiting in Washington. In 8 games, Wrightís rating has been over 100 six times. Wright is second in the league in passing yards, second in rating, and first in touchdowns. Heís the best QB this season so far, and QB is the most important position.
Why he doesnít: The Redskins have played 3 Top 10 teams this year and lost all 3. In the divisional game against the Eagles, the biggest game the Skins have played so far, Wright threw for 203 yards, 1 TD, 2 picks and was sacked 3 times in a 54-14 route.
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