The Carolina Panthers got back on track in Week 9 thanks mainly to a performance that should further the case of Christian McCaffrey in the NFL MVP race.
McCaffrey, as he has done so often in 2019, put the Panthers on his back in a 30-20 win over the Tennessee Titans. He rushed for 146 yards on 24 carries and caught a touchdown pass from Kyle Allen, who will helm the offense the rest of the way with Cam Newton on injured reserve.
This performance did not see McCaffrey earn an overly high score in Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM). This uses the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to grade a player’s contribution to the team by looking at the areas only he can control.
McCaffrey earned a grade of 19.85, just shy of a ‘Good’ score. For the season, he has an ‘Average’ grade of 16.64. According to OSM, 11 backs have been more responsible for the production of their respective offenses. The numbers indicate McCaffrey’s success has been a product of all-round excellence from the offense as much as his brilliance. However, no back in the NFL has taken advantage of being placed in positive situations more consistently and more devastatingly than McCaffrey.
Though it is the weekly highlight-reel plays that headline McCaffrey’s resume in the MVP race, it is what he does on a down-to-down basis that makes him so valuable. He is a legitimate bell-cow back, and that was exemplified again on the Panthers’ first scoring drive against the Titans. McCaffrey demonstrated elusiveness, patience, contact balance, speed, and vision on a field-goal drive.
McCaffrey frequently uses those attributes to turn short gains into runs that move the sticks. On a third-quarter drive that ended in his second touchdown, he did just that, as his outstanding vision helped him pick up 11 yards on first down and move the ball into Tennessee territory.
Yet if McCaffrey is to win the award, it will because of his ability to consistently produce signature plays akin to the clincher in Week 9. McCaffrey, according to NextGen Stats, reached 20.52 mph on his 58-yard touchdown run that broke the back of the Titans and effectively sealed the game. Though it was his speed through the second level that got McCaffrey in the endzone, the way he made himself skinny through the hole and was able to stay on his feet through a late tackle attempt were also vital to him reaching paydirt.
With Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson firmly in the MVP race and Patrick Mahomes poised to return from injury, McCaffrey has a considerable challenge ahead of him to win the award. In the past 12 NFL seasons, there has been only one running back MVP, Adrian Peterson in 2012. However, if McCaffrey continues to carry the load for the Panthers to such an impressive degree while producing the spectacular every week, then his OSM score and his chances of taking home the prize should only increase.
Nicholas McGee is a writer for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. You can follow him on Twitter @nicholasmcgee24.