By: Michael Griff
With the 2016-17 NFL playoffs now upon us, we are now able to look back on this past regular season’s superlative performances and assess their merit. Although, in this writer’s opinion, there weren’t many to note, this season was highlighted by a great record-breaking and record-chasing performance by rookie running back, Ezekiel Elliott, who helped the Dallas Cowboys tie their franchise record for wins. He was able to lead them to victory over every team, except their long-time divisional rivals the New York Giants (twice) and the Philadelphia Eagles (in a meaningless last game of the season). Also of note, was the Arizona Cardinals’ multi-threat running back, David Johnson, as he staked his own claim to fame this season as the number one, all-purpose yards leader nudging out Elliott by 131 yards in this department. He achieved over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game played, a feat never done before in NFL history, becoming a Fantasy Football God.
Although both of these running backs have performed astonishingly, I believe neither of them have earned the title as the most dominant player in the NFL. I believe they have been left in the dust by the outstanding statistics put up by the Steelers running back, Le’Veon Bell. Bell, who missed the first three games of the season due to suspension, returned as a beast, recording numbers seldom seen in the NFL. He averaged 157 yards from scrimmage this season, which is 24.7 more than Johnson and 24.1 more than Elliott, the next best running backs in this category.
With no clear MVP candidate as of right now, Bell has made a strong late season push to be front-runner to receive the award. He is currently fifth in total rushing yards (keep in mind he’s only played in 12 games). He is second in rushing yards per game and is first among all players, including wide-outs, in yards after reception. There is simply no more versatile, dynamic and dominant running back in the NFL today.
Although Bell is clearly having the best season of his pro-football career, his numbers throughout his career are notable as well. Over just 47 games in his first 4 seasons in the NFL, Bell is averaging 86.1 rushing yards per game and 42.7 receiving yards per game, for a total of 128.8 yards from scrimmage per game, passing Jerome Bettis for most scrimmage yards in their first 4 seasons as a Steeler. Keep in mind that NFL rushing statistics are at an all time low of late. Teams are averaging just 108.9 rushing yards per game, the third lowest average since the league began tracking this statistic in 1932. As a result, running backs who rely on their ground game have no clear advantage over wide outs, in an era where passing stats are at historic highs. Yet Bell has continuously distinguished himself as a top-tier running back, with the ability to defeat his opponents with his legs and his hands.
With the Steelers securing their playoff spot this past week in an OT thriller victory against the Browns, they have earned a chance to compete for yet another Pittsburgh Super-Bowl title. They are set to play the Dolphins this Sunday. Although I don’t see a way through to that ultimate prize by beating the Dolphins and Chiefs, and then likely the Patriots and Cowboys, if any player is to give them a chance to do so, it would be Le’Veon Bell. Hopefully, his incomparable statistics are acknowledged amongst the voting committee and Bell is rewarded with the title of Most Valuable Player of 2016. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.
Who do you think is going to win MVP?
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