NFL MVP could be on the line when Brock Purdy's 49ers host Lamar Jackson and the Ravens

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) warms up before an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – If a December matchup between the top two teams in the NFL didn't provide high enough stakes, the NFL MVP could be decided Monday night when the San Francisco 49ers host the Baltimore Ravens.

Niners quarterback Brock Purdy comes into the game as the favorite to win the award in what would be a remarkable rise from the final pick of the 2022 draft to MVP in 2023. Another impressive performance on the big stage might be enough to wrap it up.

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Lurking close behind is Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has the second-best odds to win his second career MVP, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

And if the quarterbacks slip up, 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey has the fifth-best odds to win the award.

“Are you trying to get me in trouble with those two guys?” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said when asked to pick a candidate from his team. “That’s the only reason I wouldn’t overly comment on either one of them because I don’t want them to cancel each other out. But, if any non-quarterback’s going to get a MVP, I don’t get how Christian McCaffrey can’t. ... If it’s going to a quarterback, then I don’t have to talk about Christian. I can talk about our quarterback. If his numbers is all you see, then I think that solves it up. But, if you watch the film, then it makes it even stronger.”

The case for Purdy has been complicated for many experts who have tried to decide how much credit Purdy deserves for San Francisco's high-powered offense and how much should go to playmakers such as McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, along with Shanahan's schemes.

But Purdy's ability to push the ball down the field and make off-schedule plays have elevated what had been a good offense under Jimmy Garoppolo last season to the best one in the league with Purdy. San Francisco leads the NFL with 29.9 points per game scored on offense and its 6.79 yards per play would be the third-best mark in the Super Bowl era.

Purdy is a major reason for the success less than a year removed from major elbow surgery. He leads the NFL in passer rating (119), yards per attempt (9.9) and TD passes (29), with his yards-per-attempt figure on pace to be the best in nearly 70 years.

“I think he’s playing the best on the team that’s playing the best in the entire league,” Niners linebacker Fred Warner said. “I guess guys are always going to handicap him with where he was drafted, his size and all those sort of things that he got knocked on in the draft. He’s a second-year player and ranked first in all the categories that matter. So I think he should win it.”

Warner said if Purdy doesn't win MVP, McCaffrey is the obvious choice.

McCaffrey's case is strong, even though the past 10 MVP awards went to quarterbacks as the NFL has become more reliant on the pass.

He leads the NFL with 1,801 yards from scrimmage and is tied for the lead with 20 TDs, and it was his midseason addition last season that started San Francisco's offensive rise. His ability to thrive as a traditional runner, as well as a receiver, has opened up space for everyone else on the offense.

“He's the reason why our pass game and our play-action pass and all that kind of stuff opened up because he sort of sets the standard with the run game and then when we do pass the ball, he’s there in our play,” Purdy said. "He’s definitely a valued player and I think the most valued player.”

If the award doesn't go to a 49ers player, Jackson is building a good case to win his second MVP to go with the unanimous one he captured in 2019, even if his numbers aren't quite on the same level as Purdy's.

Jackson's running ability fuels Baltimore's top-ranked rushing offense, and he is having one of his most prolific passing seasons under a new offense run by Todd Monken that utilizes far more passing.

Jackson needs 23 yards passing this week to break his career-best mark of 3,127 yards set in 2019, to go along with 17 TD passes, 741 yards rushing and the ability to put fear into opposing defenses.

“With Lamar, it’s unique just because I think everyone has a pretty good plan (to stop him), and then, it just seems like it doesn’t go as planned based off what I see,” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “He does it all."

While plenty of people will view the game as a referendum on the award, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh has different priorities.

“I don’t really care,” he said. “I couldn’t care less about any of that, and the beautiful thing is Lamar couldn’t care less either. What we care about is the game.”



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