By the end of Sunday night's game there were seven quarterbacks tied for the NFL lead in interceptions and three had something in common: They were preseason favorites for MVP.
Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts all have eight interceptions. None of the three have been all that great this season. Mahomes has the lowest passer rating of his career. Hurts has a lower rating than Mahomes. Allen is leading a Buffalo Bills team that has been moderately disappointing with some bad losses. None of them have been bad, but it would be hard to argue any of them is having an MVP season.
Other quarterbacks like Tua Tagovailoa and Brock Purdy have spent time leading the MVP debate, but it's half-hearted. We know voters' tendencies and, simply put, they have eyes for quarterbacks and only quarterbacks. We'll desperately fit any moderately deserving quarterback into the MVP discussion.
But as we reach the unofficial halfway point of the NFL season, one player has had a bigger impact, with more consistency, than any other: Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill is the MVP of the first half.
On Sunday, Hill became the first player in the Super Bowl era to reach 1,000 yards in his team's first eight games. He leads the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He's on pace for 2,155 receiving yards (which would shatter the all-time record), 130 catches and 17 touchdowns. In every Dolphins game, Hill is the player who defenses account for first, and it often makes no difference. Hill has an NFL-best seven 40-yard catches and only one other player has more than three (Rashid Shaheed of the Saints has six). Hill's tremendous speed makes him unguardable, and the Dolphins have no problem passing it to Hill every time they can. That sounds pretty valuable.
It was probably a mistake to give Aaron Rodgers the 2021 NFL MVP at the end of an unmemorable season over Cooper Kupp. It was definitely a mistake to not give Jerry Rice an MVP award in 1987 when he had 22 receiving touchdowns in 12 games. A receiver has never won MVP. Not even Rice, who has a strong case as the greatest NFL player ever. That means Hill probably won't win either. However, Rice says Hill has a shot.
"I think he's excited about the opportunity of being the most valuable player. That could happen. That could happen," Rice told Yahoo Sports' Matt Harmon. "It doesn't happen that often as a wide receiver, but I think he has a legitimate chance of making it happen."
If there was a season when a non-quarterback should get a look, it's this one. None of the elite quarterbacks have been great. No quarterback is having a transcendent season.
In a fair world, Hill's main competition at the halfway point wouldn't even be a quarterback. It could be Christian McCaffrey, who has scored in every game this season and has tied the NFL record for most consecutive games with a touchdown. It could also be A.J. Brown, who on Sunday set an NFL record for most consecutive 125-yard games. Edge defenders like Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt have a better argument than just about any quarterback at the midway point.
Here's how it will go, in reality: Hill could have the NFL's first 2,000-yard receiving season and maybe he'll get a token vote or two for MVP. If no quarterback has an MVP-level season — and nobody has yet, except maybe Tagovailoa — voters will just find the best quarterback and give it to him anyway. Hill will have to settle for Offensive Player of the Year, even if he's the best player in the league. And that's exactly what he has been through the first half of the season.
Here are the power rankings after Week 8 of the NFL season:
32. Arizona Cardinals (1-7, Last Week: 32)
The Cardinals needed a rally in the fourth quarter to avoid their fifth double-digit loss in a row. The fallout was that Joshua Dobbs lost his job as the team's starting quarterback. In Week 9 it'll be either rookie Clayton Tune making his first start or Kyler Murray in his return. Bringing Murray back from a torn ACL to start at a tough Cleveland defense, perhaps in bad weather, seems like something Arizona would like to avoid.
31. Carolina Panthers (1-6, LW: 32)
The Panthers got a win, and that has to take a weight off everyone in the organization. The one thing Carolina has to do better is run the ball. Its running backs had 33 yards on 20 carries Sunday. Miles Sanders has been effectively benched for Chuba Hubbard, but it's not like Hubbard is taking off with the job.
30. New York Giants (2-6, LW: 30)
When you lose, everything is under scrutiny. Head coach Brian Daboll's explanation for trying a field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter made sense. He didn't think his defense would allow the Jets to score a touchdown in the final 25 seconds and he was probably right. But the kick missed, the Jets somehow got in field-goal position, hit that kick to tie it and then won in overtime. When your season is going bad, that kind of loss doesn't get easily forgotten.
29. Chicago Bears (2-6, LW: 29)
Sunday wasn't great for the Bears. They lost at the Chargers, the type of blowout loss that let everyone know Chicago still has a lot of work to do. Even worse, Carolina won. Arizona now would hold the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draftif the season ended today. For the rest of the season, the results of the Panthers' games might be more important to the Bears than what happens in their own games.
28. Green Bay Packers (2-5, LW: 28)
The Packers have gone five straight games without a first-half touchdown. While it's fair to say Jordan Love deserves more than seven games to prove if he can be a starting NFL quarterback, it's sure looking like the Packers' 2024 starting QB isn't on the roster now.
27. New England Patriots (2-6, LW: 27)
Receiver Kendrick Bourne had some good moments this season, including touchdowns in each of the Patriots' past two games. He tore his ACL on Sunday and is done for the season. It's another step back for a Patriots offense that doesn't have a lot of talent.
26. Las Vegas Raiders (3-5, LW: 23)
If you didn't watch Monday night's game and saw that the Raiders lost 26-14 to the Lions, you wouldn't think it was that bad. It was bad. The Raiders were outgained 486-157 and one of their two touchdowns came on Marcus Peters' pick 6 of Detroit. It was a debacle. The Raiders better play a lot better going forward, or head coach Josh McDaniels might not last the season.
25. Washington Commanders (3-5, LW: 26)
It came in a loss, but Sam Howell had the type of game that can get Washington excited for his future. He threw for 397 yards against a good Eagles defense. He has been taking way too many sacks this season but took only one against a strong Philly pass rush. Howell threw a bad interception that led to the loss, but otherwise it was a very good performance for a young quarterback.
24. Minnesota Vikings (4-4, LW: 15)
We have to judge the Vikings for what they are now, and without Kirk Cousins the rest of the season they are probably going to struggle. Next up is probably fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall. They could sign someone like Carson Wentz. But the truth is that nobody available at the start of November is going to turn the Vikings into a contender. It's a brutal break for a team that was starting to ascend.
23. Indianapolis Colts (3-5, LW: 20)
The Colts' lack of talent at cornerback is going to be their downfall. They've overcome it in some weeks but couldn't Sunday as the Saints went up and down the field on them. Being unable to stop an opponents' receivers is a bad deficiency in 2023.
22. Los Angeles Rams (3-5, LW: 21)
Matthew Stafford has a sprained UCL in his right thumb. He's day-to-day and is a tough player who has played through pain and injuries before, but the Rams have a bye after this week. It would make a lot of sense to sit Stafford on Sunday against the Packers.
21. Denver Broncos (3-5, LW: 24)
The Broncos' defensive turnaround has been stunning. A few weeks ago, Denver looked like the worst defense not only this season but maybe in many seasons. Then over two games in three weeks, Denver held Kansas City to 28 points. Patrick Mahomes didn't lead his team to one touchdown on Sunday, a few weeks after Miami scored 70 on Denver. Everyone was ready to fire defensive coordinator Vance Joseph a month ago, and now he deserves credit for overseeing a huge turnaround.
20. Tennessee Titans (3-4, LW: 25)
Will Levis will get another start Thursday if Ryan Tannehill is out, which is no surprise after Levis threw for four touchdowns in his NFL debut. Unless Levis is horrible in his next couple starts, he should get the rest of the season. It's not like Tannehill was playing well anyway, and he's almost certainly going to be gone by 2024.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4, LW: 19)
The Buccaneers will be "listeners" at the trade deadline, head coach Todd Bowles said. Tampa Bay is like many teams, not bad enough to tear it all down but also not good enough to feel like contenders. So many teams being near the middle in the NFL will probably limit how many trades happen Tuesday.
18. Houston Texans (3-4, LW: 18)
Everything was off about the Texans' offense on Sunday. C.J. Stroud had his quietest game as a pro. The running game, now split between Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary, was ineffective. None of the Texans' pass catchers showed up. All against a bad Panthers defense. It's a reminder that the Texans have a long way to go, despite promising signs this season.
18. Atlanta Falcons (4-4, LW: 16)
Head coach Arthur Smith said the Falcons are going to be mindful of Desmond Ridder's health when determining if he can play this weekend. He left Sunday's game to be checked for a concussion, then never came back. Smith, to no surprise, is being vague about what exactly is going on. It leads to speculation that the Falcons are getting a look at Taylor Heinicke due to Ridder's performance as much as his health.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3, LW: 14)
Kenny Pickett has a rib injury and his status for Thursday night's game is up in the air. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has already been ruled out with a hamstring injury. It's unfortunate for the Steelers that they have a short week. At least they're at home, and perhaps the defense can fluster Titans rookie QB Will Levis in his second career start.
15. New Orleans Saints (4-4, LW: 22)
The Saints put up 511 yards and 38 points and while that says a lot about the Colts' defense, it's a reflection of the talent New Orleans has on offense. Maybe it's starting to come together. One thing that's clear: Big-play receiver Rashid Shaheed needs to be more involved. He's an impact playmaker.
14. Los Angeles Chargers (3-4, LW: 17)
Austin Ekeler looked healthy for the first time since he suffered an ankle injury early this season. He had 123 total yards. He can add an element to the Chargers' offense that has been missing.
13. New York Jets (4-3, LW: 13)
The Jets got very, very lucky to beat a Giants team that had to turn to its third-string quarterback and ended up with minus-9 net passing yards. All wins count but this is who the Jets are. They need to be incredible on defense and special teams, and hope the offense does just enough to get them wins.
12. Cleveland Browns (4-3, LW: 9)
Kevin Stefanski was criticized for passing on third-and-3 right before the two-minute warning against the Seahawks. P.J. Walker's pass went off Jamal Adams' helmet and was picked off, and that led to a game-winning Seahawks drive. A run in that spot would have at very least given the Browns a chance to punt and make Seattle start a drive from deep in its territory. With the Ravens starting to widen their lead in the AFC North, that will be a loss the Browns regret.
11. Seattle Seahawks (5-2, LW: 11)
Rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba is coming on. He has scored touchdowns in two straight games, including the game-winner on Sunday. He's not a huge part of the Seahawks' offense yet because Seattle has many options, but he doesn't need to be as a rookie. If he's a secondary threat for Geno Smith to throw to, that opens up Seattle's offense. Not many teams have a third receiver better than JSN.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3, LW: 12)
Maybe the Bengals are back. Those issues that seemed hard to fix a few weeks ago all were fine when they were dominating the 49ers' defense on Sunday. We can pretty much go forward assuming Cincinnati has returned to being a top team, though a Week 9 game against the Bills will be telling.
9. Buffalo Bills (5-3, LW: 10)
The Bills looked good against the Buccaneers, though the way they let up in the fourth quarter almost cost them a win. A Week 9 game at Cincinnati should let us know if the Bills can still be a Super Bowl contender this season.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2, LW: 8)
Among all the top teams in the AFC playoff picture (unless you count Cleveland), the Jaguars have the easiest remaining schedule according to Tankathon. The Jaguars aren't the best team in the AFC, but they are tied for the best record with the easiest remaining schedule of anyone who has a realistic shot at the No. 1 seed. Keep that in mind.
7. San Francisco 49ers (5-3, LW: 3)
In hindsight, it was the wrong decision to let Brock Purdy play six days after suffering a concussion, with a bye coming up. Purdy didn't look right, he banged his head again, and the only thing his poor day did was increase the doubts about his long-term viability.
6. Dallas Cowboys (5-2, LW: 7)
The Cowboys' offense hasn't always been effective this season, but it was good on Sunday against the Rams. If the Cowboys can keep that momentum going into this weekend's game against the Eagles, they have a shot to get a win that would change the entire NFC East race.
5. Detroit Lions (6-2, LW: 6)
Jahmyr Gibbs went off for 189 total yards. Every week, it seems the Lions' ceiling gets higher. And if you take a look at the Lions' easy remaining schedule, much like the Jaguars in the AFC, they're positioned very well to make a run at a No. 1 seed.
4. Miami Dolphins (6-2, LW: 5)
Jalen Ramsey had an impact right away in his return. He had a big interception and the Patriots practically refused to throw to his side.
Mac Jones was 4 of 7 for 5 yards and an interception targeting the left side of the field, and 15 of 21 for 156 yards & 2 TDs targeting the middle and right thirds.
Jalen Ramsey played at right cornerback on 100% of his 47 defensive snaps in his season debut.#NEvsMIA | #FinsUppic.twitter.com/aBLKXEhS52
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 29, 2023
It will be very interesting to see how good the Dolphins can be if they ever get close to full health.
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2, LW: 4)
Gus Edwards picked a good time to have a three-touchdown game, right before the trade deadline. The Ravens should still explore running backs because Edwards is probably best suited as part of a committee rather than a lead back, but he is a good player and will do if the Ravens can't add anyone.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2, LW: 1)
The Chiefs will be fine. That streak against the Broncos was bound to end eventually, and a five-turnover day was the path for it to happen. If there's a concern it's that the offense has not been great yet. The good news is the defense has improved a lot, which will be really important if the offense catches up.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1, LW: 2)
Giving up 472 yards to the Commanders isn't what the Eagles wanted with the Cowboys coming to town for a massive NFC East game on Sunday. The Eagles' defense hadn't allowed more than 250 yards in a game for three straight before that, so let's assume letting the Commanders go up and down the field was the outlier.