2023 NFL MVP

4 Dark Horse 2023 MVP Candidates From the AFC

Vegas seems to think they know who will win the NFL MVP this season. This list is assuming that something could happen to the perennial front runners. You know their names, I’ll even mention them in the next paragraph. It’s easy to just say “one of those guys will win it”. Sure. Probably. But if not, who else could come from behind and beat them at the wire? These studs could.

4 Dark Horse 2023 MVP Candidates From the AFC

Aaron Rodgers

Sounds silly to say, doesn’t it? The guy’s mantle is straining under the weight of his MVP trophies. Is he really a dark horse? In the AFC of 2023, which includes names like Mahomes, Allen, Herbert, and Burrow, you’d better believe it. On paper the New York Jets look good, but how far can paper airplanes really fly?

It’s all on Aaron Rodgers (isn’t it always?) to excel and exceed expectations if the Jets have a chance of making the playoffs. In that division, finishing 3-3 in your division games would be considered a success. It’s a gauntlet. If Aaron can do more with less, he may just bring home the hardware again. If he outperforms the list of golden boys that Vegas is betting on, he deserves to win it again.

Trevor Lawrence

I’ve tried to not like Trevor Lawrence since he was drafted into the NFL. It was easy in the beginning with a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, when the spots on the cat were as many as the holes in the team. Now, even I have to admit that this team is going places, mostly upward. Trevor has weapons now, and a defense that doesn’t make noise off the field, but has sure been heard on it. They aren’t afraid of anyone, and that fearless attitude starts with the Fabio of Football, Lawrence.

I assumed he would drop off and settle into the mediocre middle of quarterback rankings. Instead, his second year was better in almost every statistical category. This will be only his third year in the league, but do you want to bet against him? Go ahead. I’m not that daring anymore. It would take some luck for Lawrence to eclipse the superstar QBs of the AFC listed above, but it is possible, and that’s what football is all about.

Austin Ekeler

In the ‘what if’ category, Austin Ekeler is on every line. What if he could really break out? What if Justin Herbert gets hurt and they have to rely on Austin to stay relevant in the death group known as the AFC West? What if he channels his anger into a huge year? What if Ekeler breaks a record?

Ekeler reminds me of Thurman Thomas and Emmett Smith, who were prolific on the ground and as pass catchers. All-purpose yards can be a very compelling stat for the MVP voters to look at, and if Ekeler has a Thomas/Smith type of year, he darn well should win the award.

This horse is pretty dark, considering Austin was asking for a trade and it seems that his good graces are all but gone in LA. If the two sides can iron out an amiable existence and Ekeler can focus on football, he could shred the turf and the stat sheet this year. Enough to win an MVP? Absolutely.

Dalvin Cook

Go on, scratch your head. As of this article publication, Dalvin Cook is team-less. Kind of hard to win an award if you don’t play. Hear me out. If Cook signs (and I think we all assume he will at some point) and he signs with a decent team, let’s say for example the Commanders, he will instantly make not only his own stock rise but the teams as well.

Washington has to play the Jets in New Jersey, and then the San Francisco 49ers and the  Dallas Cowboys at the end of the season, both games in DC. Cold weather games. If you don’t have a bruiser at running back, you don’t stand a chance. Cook could literally decide one or two of those three games. That sounds MVP-worthy to me.

Cook definitely has something to prove now, and if given the chance, he may just do it. It would be a great story, and if a running back wins the MVP, it may just flip the current narrative of ‘running backs are irrelevant’ right on its head.

Regardless of who actually wins the MVP this year, let’s hope we have several great performances from several unlikely sources. That will mean it has been a great year full of great stories and epic games. That’s good for every football fan.

Main Image: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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