Philip Rivers was really good in 2013 and there’s a chance he could be even better in 2014. With an improved defense, Rivers could actually stay the same statistically and be perceived as better just because the San Diego Chargers win more games. There’s evidence Rivers could play better statistically, as was pointed out here a few weeks ago. The chance of improvement on both sides of the ball in San Diego could make Rivers a legitimate MVP candidate at the end of the season. His odds, at least according to sportsbook.ag, are not very favorable for that to happen, but that could make him the best value on the board. It’s also time we stop underrating Philip Rivers.
Rivers is currently listed 100/1 to win the Most Valuable Player award in 2014. He’s understandably behind other top quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Some of the other players he’s behind make less sense. Cam Newton is listed at 25/1 for a season in which he’ll be throwing to Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Kevin Benjamin. The quarterback trio of Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford are all listed at 50/1 and each comes with their own flaws. Manning is coming off a season in which he led the league with 27 interceptions, Romo is coming off of back surgery, and Stafford is coming off of head coach surgery and the possibility of it getting replaced just as ineffective of a part.
The players also listed at 100/1 are even more puzzling. Those players include, but are not limited to, Eddie Lacy, Johnny Manziel, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub and Josh McCown. Some highlights from that quarterback group last season include having one of the worst seasons ever recorded by a quarterback who won a Super Bowl the previous season, getting traded to the Oakland Raiders for a sixth-round pick and having a career half-season at age-34.
Since taking over as the starter in San Diego, Rivers has completed as season with an ANY/A+ under 115 twice and under 100 just once. ANY/A is adjusted net yards per attempt, one of the best single stats to judge a quarterback’s performance. It takes the simple yards per attempt metic and adds in other important and weighted information from sacks and interceptions — the full formula can be found here. The “plus” part of the statistic compares each rating to the league average, which is represented as 100. For each digit over 100, the rating is that percent above league average. For example, Rivers’ ANY/A+ in 2013 was 123, 23 percent above the league average. For some more reference, Peyton Manning’s record breaking season had a ANY/A+ of 134. Rivers’ only season with a ANY/A+ under 100 was 2012 when Norv Turner was at his Norviest, and even in that season Rivers was just three percent below league average. Is this a legitimate case for Rivers to be considered an MVP frontrunner? Of course not, but it should at least get him out of the tier he’s currently in.
If there’s one player in that 100/1 range who has the chance of being the standout start on a playoff bound team, Rivers has to be the favorite. He’s probably even a better bet than the quarterbacks in the tier ahead of him — Manning, Romo and Stafford. After 2012, Rivers was seen as done and there was little expected of him heading into the 2013 season in which he eventually led the league in completion percentage. It seems even after that season, he’s still being underrated by many outside the game. Entering his 11th year in the league, it might finally be time for that to change.