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Justin Herbert ranks 3rd in early NFL MVP predictions

Herbert has been the Chargers offensive MVP so far this season by a wide margin.

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has surely benefitted from the addition of Kellen Moore as the team’s offensive coordinator. The offense is scoring more points, Herbert is throwing it deeper, and offense is once again the unit pulling the Chargers forward most weeks.

But just how good has Herbert been, despite missing several starters around him?

According to ESPN NFL analyst Bill Barnwell, Herbert is currently third in the MVP running amongst his early league award predictions. Only Tua Tagovailoa and Brock Purdy sit ahead of him through the first month of the season.

“Just ignore what happens on fourth-and-short.,” Barnwell says. “Playing without running back Austin Ekeler for most of the first month and center Corey Linsley and wideout Mike Williams during Sunday’s win over the Raiders, Herbert has continued to produce.”

Herbert has been as safe as it gets with the football through the first three games of the season before throwing an ill-advised against the Raiders in Week Four. He only has one lost fumble on the year, as well.

Per Barnwell, Herbert has the third-highest quarterback rating (95.3) in football among quarterbacks who have started all four games of the season. When inside the 20-yard line, he’s been dangerous. On 22 pass attempts within the red zone, Herbert has completed 14 of them for 73 yards and six touchdowns to zero interceptions. When you account for the three rushing touchdowns he’s accumulated as well, you’re looking at nine of his 10 touchdowns coming inside the 20.

“Herbert is throwing deeper more often, as expected after the arrival of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but that’s probably the area where he can still stand to improve if he wants to win MVP. His 86.4 QBR on passes traveling 20 yards or more in the air ranks 16th. He has attempted more deep throws than anybody else, but he has completed 39.1% of those passes. His 5% CPOE on those passes ranks 19th. We know Herbert can be a devastating downfield passer, but if he can pull that off without Williams — who’s out for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee — that might be the last barrier remaining for Herbert as a passer. The other big roadblock is the guy in Kansas City. Mahomes might not win MVP this season, but the award winner in real life almost always comes from a division winner. The last time a league MVP didn’t finish the season with his team in first place was 2012, when Adrian Peterson carried the Vikings to the wild-card round. If the Chargers can somehow topple the Chiefs, Herbert might have his best shot of taking home hardware.”

On the season, Herbert ranks fifth in passing yards (1,106), tied seventh in touchdown passes (seven), second in completions (103), and tied third in total touchdowns (10). After having a down game in Week Four against the Raiders, it’s still astounding he’s still as high as he is amongst his peers. Unfortunately, he’s got an incredibly tough test once the Chargers come back from the bye as they travel to Dallas to face the vaunted Cowboys defense.