The NFL MVP race suddenly has become wide open. Ezekiel Elliott remains the betting favorite at 5/2, and maybe he’s become the favorite of voters, too, after poor performances by some of the other candidates the past two weeks.
Fifty media members will make the decision after the season ends Jan. 1.
Before Sunday, Dak Prescott was my leading candidate. Now? I am not so sure.
But, on my ballot, Prescott has as good a chance -- or a better chance considering the position he plays -- than Elliott.
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Elliott ended a streak of three consecutive games without a 100-yard game with 107 yards against the Giants. However, even though it was a coaches’ decision, he was standing on the sideline with the game on the line.
Here is a breakdown of the top candidates with betting odds from Bovada:
Ezekiel Elliott (5/2)
Best stat: He leads the league in rushing with 1,392 yards, 257 ahead of the second-leading rusher in DeMarco Murray.
Working against him: Running backs have won only one of the past nine MVP awards. Quarterback is the most important position in the game. And Cardinals running back David Johnson could steal some of Elliott’s thunder by becoming only the third back in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season.
How he wins it: He rushes for 100-plus – emphasize plus -- the last three games, and the Cowboys win all three despite struggles by Prescott.
Tom Brady (11/4)
Best stat: His 113.6 passer rating leads the league.
Working against him: He served a four-game suspension to open the season.
How he wins it: He wins out with impressive performances, the Cowboys lose a game and voters have no choice but to ignore the four-game suspension.
Matthew Stafford (4/1)
Best stat: The Lions, who have not won a postseason game since 1991, are on a five-game winning streak and lead the NFC North.
Working against him: Stafford, a Highland Park product, dislocated a joint and tore ligaments in the middle finger of his right hand. How will he play?
How he wins it: If the Lions win out against the Giants, Cowboys and Packers, give the award to Stafford.
Matt Ryan (9/2)
Best stat: His average gain of 9.2 leads the league, the highest since Aaron Rodgers had the same average in 2011.
Working against him: The Falcons lost to the Chiefs 29-28 in Week 13. Ryan not only threw a pick-six to Eric Berry but allowed the winning points when Berry returned a pick on the 2-point conversion try.
How he wins it: The Falcons win out, while all of the other contenders falter.
Derek Carr (9/1)
Best stat: The Raiders are on the verge of clinching their first playoff berth since 2002.
Working against him: Carr laid an egg in a national televised game last week, completing 41.5 percent of his passes and averaging only 2.9 yards per attempt against the Chiefs. He is playing with a dislocated pinkie finger.
How he wins it: The Raiders win out, and he plays great, while the Cowboys, Patriots and Lions all lose at least once.
Dak Prescott (33/1)
Best stat: He engineered an 11-game winning streak, a single-season franchise best, a season after the Cowboys went 1-11 with their backup quarterbacks.
Working against him: Elliott might pull votes away from him.
How he wins it: If he leads the Cowboys to victories in the next two games with good performances, he should win it. The reason? That would give him the best record of any quarterback in the league.
* -- Bovada gives Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 15/2 odds, ahead of Carr and Prescott, but in my opinion, Rodgers’ chances rank below those two.