Falcon Points

Houston has another player in the MVP conversation, and while it is a long shot, let's take a look at how Deshaun Watson stacks up

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Houston fans are obsessed with MVP awards. Maybe it is because the teams themselves rarely bring home the ultimate hardware. Maybe it is because all three major teams have had legitimate MVP candidates over the past several years. James Harden and Jose Altuve have won MVPs recently. J.J. Watt made a case a few years ago, and Alex Bregman will likely be runner up this season.

So it is no surprise that as Deshaun Watson's name starts to come up, Houston fan is excited again. The Texans quarterback is a legitimate candidate through nine games, but there is a lot of football left. The next three games will be huge for both the Texans and Watson. It's not just homerism; Vegas has him as the third favorite in the wagering at +600. So let's look at the other top four contenders:

1) Russell Wilson, +175, favorite

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Wilson has the Seahawks in the mix for a West Division title after Monday's win over the 49ers. Wilson is completing 68.5 percent of his passes, has a 114.9 rating and 23 TDs to just 2 interceptions with 2,737 passing yards in 10 games.

The Seahawks are 8-2, a game behind the 49ers and Wilson is a big part. The deserving favorite so far.

2) Lamar Jackson, +250 second favorite

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals

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You could make the case that Jackson should be the favorite. His passing numbers don't measure up to Watson and Wilson, with just 2,036 yards, but he has completed 65.3 percent with 15 TDs and just 5 interceptions and a rating of 101.7. But Jackson's excellence is in the running game; he has 702 yards and averages 6.6 per carry. Combined with efficient passing and explosive plays, he has been a human highlight reel. And oh yes, the Ravens are 7-2 and have a win over the Patriots. A head to head victory and outperforming Watson this week could put him on top, although Wilson is going to be hard to catch if he keeps playing this well.

3) Aaron Rodgers +900 fourth choice

Aaron Rodgers Andy Lyons

Rodgers will always get a lot of support if he stays healthy. A media darling, if the Packers continue to win games, he will climb the list. Green Bay is 8-2, thanks in part to an improved defense. But Rodgers has been excellent with 2,718 yards passing, a 64.5 percent completion rate, 17 TDs and just two interceptions and a 107.2 rating, so his numbers are legitimate.

4) Christian McCaffrey +900 co-fourth choice

It's hard for a running back to win this award, but McCaffrey was superb early in the season to get a lot of run. However he has tailed off of late. Still, he is the Panthers offense, with 983 rushing yards, a 5.3 average and 11 TDs on the ground. Be he also has 48 receptions for 396 yards and another three TDs. A strong finish keeps him in the mix.

Other contenders

Patrick Mahomes Photo via Kansas City Chiefs/Facebook

Patrick Mahomes missed some time but is still +1400 and still has almost half a season and his numbers are outstanding. Tom Brady (+2000), Drew Brees (+2500), Jimmy Garroppolo (+2500), Dak Prescott (+3300) and Kirk Cousins (+3300) are next in the wagering, but they all seem unlikely at this point. Dalvin Cook of the Vikings might still be able to make a run. Realistically, it's hard to see anyone outside of the top five other than perhaps Mahomes, but again, a lot of football is left to be played.

The case for Watson

Realistically, Watson is a deserving top four candidate. In my current rankings, he would slot in behind Wilson, Jackson and Rodgers, but the next three weeks could move him way up or take him out of the race entirely. Still, he has completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,432 yards, 18 touchdowns, five interceptions and a rating of 107.1. He also has rushed for 279 yards on 52 carries and five TDs. His numbers put him right there, but team record will be a big factor here. He is unlikely to have significantly better numbers than Jackson, Wilson or Rodgers, so his best hope is to keep winning games and continue to play at a high level. And like all of them, stay healthy.

There is a long way to go, but for now, at least another Houston athlete is in the MVP conversation. We will see how long it lasts.

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The NBA is doing it right with their restart inside the Orlando Bubble at the Disney resort. A centralized location for the 22 teams picked to finish out the regular season and vie for the playoffs. A nice twist of a play-in for the eighth and final spot in each conference adds some intrigue. With teams not having to travel as extensively as they would under normal circumstances, this could have a positive effect on players and teams by them being more rested between games.

When I say it could benefit players and teams, I'm specifically talking about the Rockets. Head coach Mike D'Antoni typically employs a tight rotation when it comes playoff time. He's notorious for only playing a strict seven or eight man rotation. This usually overworks his starters who play close to 40 minutes per game or more. Meanwhile, guys that have gotten a decent amount of minutes are relegated to being cheerleaders with jerseys on. Given the current conditions, is small-ball sustainable in the bubble?

Yes: the extra rest will help

As previously stated, I believe the rest will help. James Harden and Russell Westbrook aren't spring chickens. Neither is P.J. Tucker or Eric Gordon. All four of these guys are keys to the Rockets being able to make a run. Given the lack of travel allowing for extra rest, I think the older guys who've played significant minutes and have overcome injuries will be better rested. Better rest and time to heal should give them a boost.

No: can't win being out-rebounded

In their impressive win over the East leading Bucks in their second game of the restart, the Rockets were out-rebounded by 29! Now the possession gap was tightened via the 23 turnovers they got from the Bucks, including several down the stretch. But you can't expect to be consistently out-rebounded and win.The last NBA champion to be out-rebounded by their opponents was the '12-'13 Miami Heat team who were loaded. This team isn't suprememly talented like that team was so I doubt they can overcome shortcomings on talent alone.

Yes: threes are more than twos

Three is greater than two. That is a fact that can't be debated. The fact that the Rockets shoot more threes than any team in the league isn't debatable either. Their shooting percentage on those threes (34.9%) ranks them 22nd in the league. But when you shoot roughly 45 a game and make about 16 of them yielding 48 points off threes, it makes the risk worth the reward. Not to mention long distance shots often give way to long rebounds which can help a team that doesn't play a regular player taller than 6'9.

No: defense is too inconsistent

The inconsistency at which this Rockets team plays defense could be their downfall. The way they played down the stretch against the Bucks is the way you'd hope they play all game. They stepped up when it counted in that game, but don't play that way consistently enough to be considered a real threat. When you score 118.7 a game, but give up 114.9 a game, you will always be in close games. Add the rebounding desparity, and that's a recipe for too many close games which they could end up losing if they aren't shooting well. When you can't get stops, you can't win. It's that simple.

Overall, this team has a shot to do sometihng special, but will need lots of things to go right for them. Do I think they have a shot at a title? Yes. Do I think the road will be tough? Yes. All it takes is 16 wins once the playoffs start. Being the best team in a best of seven series four times in a row is more daunting than it sounds. The confines of the NBA bubble make it a little more advantageous to the Rockets' style of play. But will their deficiencies impede their progress? That remains to be seen. Until then, let's enjoy the ride.

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