So I guess I’ve made two AFC West fan bases extremely happy with these two awards, and I honestly think there is no better recipient for this award than Philip Rivers, who is back on track this season. Even though the pass protection is still not good, it’s no longer absolutely pathetic. D.J. Fluker and King Dunlap (fingers crossed on his health) have formed a legitimate tackle duo, which is the first time Rivers has had such a thing since Marcus McNeill was an elite left tackle. Rivers had to play behind the worst pass blocking offensive line in the league over the past two seasons, and it’s no wonder why he went from being a great, sure-fire top ten QB to being the brunt of jokes (which he still is, because it seems like the majority of NFL fans enjoy cracking cruel jokes at a good player’s expense). Now that his offensive line is no longer a joke (the depth is questionable at best, but the starting five is definitely improved) and he has a head coach who is 100x better, Rivers looks downright deadly.
To be honest with you, I think it’s fair to say that he has carried this team. I’m not saying that the rest of the players on the San Diego Chargers have been completely incompetent or anything like that, but I am saying that Rivers has been the most important player to his team than anybody else in the NFL so far this season. If you take Rivers off of the Chargers and replace him with a QB like Alex Smith, then I think the Chargers are a two-win team right now. That is to say, they would have lost to the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts, as opposed to winning those games (which they, of course, did).
Rivers is easily one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, and I would say that he has been the most accurate QB in the NFL this season. Not only is he second to only Peyton Manning in QB Rating and ESPN’s TQBR, but he’s also the league leader in completion percentage at 73.9%. That accuracy is incredibly crucial to the San Diego Chargers success, and that’s an unreal completion percentage. He has a deep group of receivers, but I don’t think anybody sane would take his pass-catchers over Manning’s if given the opportunity. I absolutely love Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, and Antonio Gates, but the Chargers don’t have a real No. 1 target. If you want to look at what a No. 1 receiver means to a quarterback, just look at the Stafford-Johnson and Nelson-Rodgers pairings as prime examples of this.
It’s honestly been a joy to watch Philip Rivers command this Chargers offense, and he looks far more energized (if you like puns, you could say “charged”) with Mike McCoy at the helm. More importantly, Rivers looks more like a leader, which is something many have criticized him for during his career. With the Chargers at 4-3 mostly thanks to the scintillating play of Rivers, I doubt you can make that claim at this point. He is leading this team to playoff contention right now, and he’s doing it whilst being backed up by a pass defense that has struggled mightily. The injury to Dwight Freeney was an absolute dagger, and the secondary has been a flop. The run defense hasn’t been much better either, but Rivers is keeping his team in games by playing at an elite level.
The Chargers schedule doesn’t get any easier with two games against the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs coming up, but the Chargers are an above-average team right now thanks to Rivers. Even if the Chargers season goes south, Rivers’s play, turnaround, and the confidence he is giving this organization and fan base for the future should not be lost. He is my MVP so far, because he has been playing at an elite level (just take a gander at the numbers) and has been doing a lot with less than the other QBs populating the league leaderboard. That’s the mark of a great quarterback, and I think Rivers has proved that he is back to being a great QB with his performance so far this season.