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Andrew Luck is playing at an MVP level so far this year for the Colts

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Luck has had a phenomenal season for the Indianapolis Colts so far in 2016.

Through seven games, he has completed 179 of 276 passes (64.9%) for 2,074 yards (7.5 yards per attempt), 14 touchdown passes, and four interceptions for a passer rating of 98. He has four 300-yard passing performances in seven games and has three fourth quarter comebacks. Quite simply, he’s playing at the highest level of his NFL career so far. That puts him on pace for a 4,741 yard season with 32 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, which would be a tremendous year for any player.

But the perception of him nationally hasn’t caught up to that, probably in large part because people just look at the box score, see the Colts lost, and blame Luck. The Colts are only 3-4 on the year, but Luck isn’t anywhere close to the reason why. In fact, he’s playing at an MVP level.

That statement can be thrown around easily, however, so I thought it would be helpful to take a look at what actually is an MVP level. So I looked at every quarterback to win the MVP award since 2000 (there have been 13 of them) and looked at their production for that season and through the first seven games of that season. The results show that Luck is playing pretty close to the same level overall.

The last 13 quarterbacks to win the NFL MVP award have averaged 4,392 yards, 37 touchdowns, and ten interceptions during those seasons. Sure, there have been some performances that blow those averages out of the water (such as Peyton Manning’s 2004 season, Tom Brady’s 2007 campaign, Tom Brady’s 2010 year, Aaron Rodgers’s 2011 season, and Peyton Manning’s 2013 year), but the overall average is very consistent with what Luck has been doing. Luck is on pace to throw for 4,741 yards, 32 touchdowns, and nine picks this year. And through seven games, it’s similar: those past 13 MVP winners have averaged 2,015 yards, 17 touchdowns, and five interceptions through seven games, while Luck has thrown for 2,074 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four picks through seven games. Again, that’s pretty comparable.

Season Totals
Yards TDs INTs
Past 13 MVP winners 4,392 37 10
Andrew Luck (projected) 4,741 32 9

Through Seven Games
Yards TDs INTs
Past 13 MVP winners 2,015 17 5
Andrew Luck 2,074 14 4

There’s one main thing that Luck might not get that all of the 13 quarterbacks looked at did, however: a playoff appearance. Voters haven’t really tended to give the MVP award to a guy who misses the playoffs, so that makes any case for Luck much weaker (even though it’s not his fault). But if the Colts can somehow make the playoffs (and the AFC South makes it very possible) and if Luck keeps playing at this level, he has to be in the conversation. Playing at a really high level consistent with some past MVP winners and making the playoffs despite playing with a terrible defense (maybe the NFL’s worst), having the most dropped passes, and being sacked more than anyone else should be a pretty good MVP case for the Colts’ quarterback.  So if the award truly goes to the most valuable player, that's Andrew Luck.

Of course, there's a lot more that goes into the conversation than just these stats that have been included, but my point is simply that Luck is playing at a level consistent with some of the recent MVP winners (though again, not all of them, just with average sum of them).  And so much of the MVP decision is also about how the rest of the league does that year, so this can't just be looked at in a vacuum - but again, Luck belongs in the conversation.  So that’s not to say he is or should be the favorite right now. That distinction should belong to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, while guys like Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, and others are also having very good seasons.  I’m not arguing that Luck should be the MVP frontrunner right now (though he very well might be the most valuable player to his team), but rather that he deserves a prominent spot in the conversation as the season goes along if he keeps this up.  And it'd be hard to find a guy more valuable to his team - and a really bad team, at that - than Andrew Luck is to the Colts so far this year.