Super Bowl 51: Breaking down the top 5 MVP candidates

Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs with the ball against the Houston Texans during the first half in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs with the ball against the Houston Texans during the first half in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /
super bowl 51
super bowl 51 /

Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs with the ball against the Houston Texans during the first half in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

As the football world awaits Super Bowl 51, who will win MVP of the big game? Here are the top five likely candidates predicted to earn the MVP title.

Super Bowl 51 is finally upon us.  The Super Bowl MVP is a very prestigious award.  Only 44 players have won the awards, with 20 being quarterbacks.

Here’s the breakdown by position:

Four of the quarterbacks won in multiple times, and everyone else won it only once. History can be made in Super Bowl LI.  Only seven times has a player won the league MVP and the Super Bowl MVP in the same season.  Both Super Bowl quarterbacks are in the hunt for NFL MVP.

All of the players who have achieved that feat are quarterbacks.  The players are Bart Starr (1966), Joe Namath (AFL MVP; 1968), Joe Montana (1989), Emmitt Smith (1993), Steve Young (1994), Brett Favre (1996) and Kurt Warner (1999).

What makes the Super Bowl MVP a special award is that the game hinges on that player’s performance.  Unlike the other major sports in America, it’s one game for you to shine your brightest.  There’s no tomorrow to make up for your mistakes.

This Super Bowl also is a matchup of No. 1 defense vs. No. 1 offense.  In four of the five Super Bowls in which that occurred the final score total 50 or more points.  So we can expect fireworks and don’t expect the MVP to come from either defense.

Expect this game to be in the sixties in combined (so take the over).  We should also expect an aerial assault in this game.  Both teams have kept up what they did in the regular season attempting more passes than runs.

So, who are the most likely Super Bowl MVP candidates?  Let’s take a look at some predictions.

Next: 5. Minitron

super bowl 51
super bowl 51 /

Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) celebrates the win over the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

5. Wide Receiver Julian Edelman

Edelman, a former college quarterback, has undoubtedly become one of Tom Brady‘s postseason targets.  In the last eight Patriots playoff games, he has double-digit targets.

In those eight games, he has 104 targets, 69 catches, 778 yards, and three touchdowns.  He’s even added a passing touchdown on a double pass to Danny Amendola.

So far in this post season, Brady has targeted Edelman 23 times.  That has led to 16 catches, 255 yards, and a touchdown.

If he keeps up his yards per carry average and scores a couple of touchdowns, it may be difficult to keep the Pete Rozelle Trophy away from Edelman. If the Patriots can throw a few trick plays in there that get Edelman involved in the offense in multiple ways, he will be even more likely to earn the award.

Edelman’s versatility makes him special, and if the Patriots win, and he uses the versatility, he will win the MVP.

Next: 4. A new favorite target for Tom Brady?

super bowl 51
super bowl 51 /

Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan (15) gestures with the ball after a first down against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

4. Wide Receiver Chris Hogan

During the regular season, Hogan was just your Average Joe at wide receiver.  He was targeted 58 times, and he had 38 receptions, 680 yards, and 4 touchdowns.

However, in the AFC Championship Game, he broke out.  He was unstoppable.  He set career highs in targets (12), catches (9), yards (180) and touchdowns (2).

With his nine receptions against Pittsburgh, his playoff total is now 13.  He and Edelman are the only Patriots’ receivers to have double-digit reception totals in the playoffs.

Hogan had an excellent day against the Steelers, who never wavered from their defensive game plan, despite it not working.  He found holes in the zone, and he consistently beat the one-on-one coverage.

Generally speaking, the quarterback will win the MVP award, because someone has to get the receiver the football.  However, if Hogan can duplicate his performance against Pittsburgh, and he’s the dominant performer, it’ll be hard to keep the MVP trophy out of his hands.

Next: 3. A masterpiece trade finally paying dividends

3. Wide Receiver Julio Jones

In 2008, the Falcons hired Thomas Dimitrov as their general manager.  In 2011, he had their franchise quarterback and he then made a bold move.  He traded their first and fourth round picks in 2011 and their first, second and fourth round picks in 2012 to move up to No. 6 and picked Alabama wide receiver, Julio Jones.

They finished 2011 at 10-6 and followed it up with a 13-3 record in 2012.  It definitely wasn’t smooth sailing from there. They finished the next three seasons, 4-12, 6-10 and 8-8, respectively.  However, this season the move has shown its dividends, because they won the NFC South and are in the Super Bowl, largely in part to their dynamic playmaker, Julio Jones.

Jones had 7 100-yard performances during the regular season, including a 300-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers.  He’s also coming off of a spectacular performance against the Green Bay Packers in which he registered nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Those numbers are definitely Jerry Rice-like.  Rice twice had double-digit receptions and twice had multiple touchdowns in the Super Bowl.  If Jones can duplicate his performance against Green Bay, it’ll be tough not to give him the trophy, even with Matt Ryan on his team

Next: 2. Cementing a legacy

nfl playoffs 2014
nfl playoffs 2014 /

Dec 12, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

2. Quarterback Tom Brady

In his last three Super Bowl victories, Brady has won Super Bowl MVP.  If he gets a fifth Super Bowl title and a fourth Super Bowl MVP, it will cement his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time.

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Tom Terrific seems to save the best for last.  During the regular season, he completes 63.8% of his passes.  In his first six Super Bowls, he’s completed 66.4% of his passes.  In addition, he had four multiple touchdown games in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots don’t have a go-to-receiver.  Brady just goes to whoever is open.  So, one receiver may not dominate the game, and their defense doesn’t have a star.

The odd makers have the Patriots as three-point favorites.  If that holds true, there’s no doubt the MVP award will go Brady.

Next: 1. Ice flows through his veins

nfl playoffs 2017
nfl playoffs 2017 /

Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

1. Quarterback Matt Ryan

Ryan has played spectacularly during the final stretch of the season.  He’s gone 244:32 without an interception.  His last came on a two-point conversion attempt which was returned by Eric Berry for two points the other way.

In the six games since that “pick-2” Ryan has thrown for 18 touchdowns, a 72.8% completion percentage, and a passer rating of 133.3.  In the playoffs, he’s completing 70.7% of his passes with seven touchdowns and a passer rating of 132.6.

If you combine his performance lately with the weapons he has on offense, it would be difficult to expect a bad game from Ryan.  During the playoffs, four different receivers have caught a touchdown, six players have at least five targets, and five have at least five catches.  He even added a rushing touchdown.

Next: How to keep your pets in check for Super Bowl 51

The Patriots may try to take away Jones, but there is a multitude of weapons for Ryan, and he will find them.  The Falcons are 12-1 when scoring 30+ points so far.  Even though the Patriots have only allowed 15 points per game in their 18 games so far, they also haven’t faced an offense like the Falcons. Expect Ryan to have a big game against the Patriots and walk away with the Pete Rozelle Trophy.