Sam’s Section: Why Tua Tagovailoa is the front-runner for MVP 

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. Photo by Steven Senne/AP photo.

Through the first three weeks of the NFL season, there are many overreactions that can be made. However, saying that Tua Tagovailoa is the current favorite for MVP is not one of them. 

The Miami Dolphins are 3-0 to begin the season for the second straight year. They had back-to-back one-possession road victories before putting up 70 points in their home opener against the Denver Broncos. There’s not a more central driver behind the Dolphins’ strong start than Tagovailoa, who could become the franchise’s first MVP since Dan Marino in 1983. 

As a massive New England Patriots fan, it hurts to write this article about a division rival. However, Tagovailoa has made his case. He has currently passed for 1,024 yards (second in the NFL) on 71.3% completion (fifth in the NFL), with eight touchdown passes (second in the NFL). His QBR of 82.9 and a passer rating of 121.9 are currently the best in the NFL in those categories. He averages 10.1 yards per completion, which also leads the league. 

With an average of 341.3 yards per game (second in the NFL), he’s currently on pace to have a league record 5802 yards at the end of the season. Eight touchdown passes through three weeks means he’s on pace to have 45 touchdown passes. 

In Week 1’s 36-34 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Alabama alum passed for 466 yards and three touchdowns on 62.2% completion and one interception. Trailing by four with under two minutes remaining, Tagovailoa found star wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. During the game-winning drive, the Dolphins went 75 yards in two minutes and eight seconds. 

On Sunday, the Hawaiian proved why he’s the MVP front-runner, and the Dolphins have the best offense in the league, with a 70-20 win over the Broncos. In the win, Tagovailoa passed for 309 yards and four touchdowns on a career-high 88.5% completion rate. Despite a secondary featuring Pat Surtain II and Justin Simmons, Tagovailoa was able to pick Denver’s defense apart. 

So far this season, the Dolphins have averaged 550.3 yards per game, averaging 43.3 points per game and 130 points total. Making it the second-most total points in NFL history in the first three weeks, only trailing the Dallas Cowboys in 1968, who had 132 points. 

Through the first three weeks, Tagovailoa has 0.58 expected points added (EPA) per dropback, the second-best by any quarterback since 2000, according to TruMedia. The only quarterback with a better start to a season in that category is Tom Brady, who had a 0.64 EPA per dropback during his legendary 2007 MVP season. 

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) hands the ball to running back De’Von Achane (28)during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo.

Having the first three weeks of your season compared to Brady’s record-breaking season means something special. However, Tagovailoa knows this is just the beginning, and he cannot get too confident and overreact to his hot start. 

“Everyone overreacts on everything,” he said after the team’s win over the Chargers to Sports Illustrated. “You’re either going to win the Super Bowl after you win your first game, or you’re the worst team ever, and everything that comes with that…We still got to go on the road, and we got 16 more games to play against 16 really, really good teams.” 

There are a lot of factors that can play into Tagovailoa not winning the league’s MVP award. He would have to stay healthy, which was difficult for him as he entered concussion protocol for a part of the 2022 season. He was also carted off the field early in Week 2 of 2021 after suffering several fractured ribs. 

Miami’s schedule is no piece of cake, especially from a defensive standpoint. Tagovailoa did not look like an MVP in Week 2’s win over the Patriots but made big plays on third downs that continued drives and helped the Dolphins win in Foxborough. They will face the second-best scoring defense in the Buffalo Bills twice, the third-best in the Dallas Cowboys and the fourth-best in the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Another part could be the other superstars in the league. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes will always contend for the award as long as the Chiefs are winning and he’s healthy. Jalen Hurts made a case for MVP last year and certainly could this season. Josh Allen has been a star in the league for a couple of years and has yet to clinch the award. 

Overall, what Tagovailoa needs to do to secure the award is to lead the Dolphins to be one of the best teams in the AFC, put away the league’s best players, and stay healthy. He has a great supporting cast with Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert. According to FanDuel, he currently has +350 odds to win. 

Tagovailoa will have a chance to build on this exceptional start on Sunday as his Dolphins back on the road against the Bills at 1 p.m. on CBS. 

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