Numbers say: Put Rams QB Jared Goff in the MVP race

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- When asked if he'd given much thought to this season's MVP race, Jared Goff chuckled.

"No," said the low-key quarterback who has led the Los Angeles Rams to a 7-0 start. "I haven't."

So, as Goff prepares to face two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (3-2) on Sunday at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, we thought about it for him.

After all, the Rams are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, and Goff, in his third season, is leading the league's top-ranked offense and has ascended the quarterback rankings.

"He's clearly taken a huge step," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's coming off a big year last year and it looks like he's picked up right where he left off. They're putting up huge numbers offensively and he's playing very well."

Though Goff's stiffest competition in the MVP race could come from teammate Todd Gurley, who leads the league in rushing yards and has a league-high 14 touchdowns, the MVP has gone to a quarterback in each of the past five seasons.

It's also gone to a quarterback in 10 of the past 11 seasons. And Goff, 24, the top overall pick in 2016, could be next.

"He's extremely accurate, he's extremely poised," San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said before Goff dropped 39 points in a lopsided victory over their NFC West rival. "He's very balanced in the pocket -- nothing seems to really get him rattled."

Goff's Total QBR is 79.1 and ranks fourth in the league behind Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. He ranks fourth in passing yards, with 2,130 behind Matt Ryan, Mahomes and Kirk Cousins.

"He's throwing the ball extremely accurate, giving guys a chance to run after the catch," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "Clearly he's a very talented thrower of the football that can change his arm angle, but I just think the way that he's throwing the football consistently with accuracy, giving guys the chance and then obviously the deep ball has been real positive, too, and he's been able to hit on a handful of those when he's taken shots down the field."

Goff is completing 55 percent of his throws of 20-plus yards downfield, up from 37.7 percent in 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Leading his receivers into the open field, as well as allowing them to pick up yards after the catch, has been an emphasis for Goff this season.

"Reps, reps, reps," Goff said, when asked how he was able to make the improvement. "Really testing yourself and seeing how far out in front you can put it and how perfect you can be over and over again."

Goff has connected on 69.7 percent of this throws, good enough to rank sixth in the league, and he's second in yards per attempt with 9.77.

He could stand to gain some ground on his touchdown-to-interception ratio, where he ranks 10th, with 14 TDs and five picks.

But, according to ESPN Stats & Info, his numbers through seven games are on pace with those of the past five quarterbacks to win MVP: Tom Brady, Ryan, Cam Newton, Rodgers and Peyton Manning.

Goff's Total QBR is more than eight points higher than Brady's was through seven games in his 2017 MVP season. Goff has three more wins than Ryan did at this point in 2016. His completion percentage (69.7) is 15 percent better than Newton's was in 2015 (54.2). He's passed for 456 yards more than Rodgers did through seven games in 2014, and as far as comparing Goff to Manning's MVP performance in 2014, well, that's one quarterback whom Goff still just doesn't quite stack up to.

However, once winless in seven starts as a rookie, and now undefeated through seven in Year 3, Goff is well on his way.

"He's playing at a high level," said Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph before Goff led the Rams to a 23-20 victory at Mile High. "He's so accurate; he's so tall and long. He can see over the rush. He's not being hit. ... He's playing like an MVP veteran quarterback."

This Sunday, when he goes head-to-head against Rodgers, also a first-round pick who starred at the University of California, we'll see if Goff, too, can be an MVP.

ESPN Packers reporter Robert Demovsky contributed to this report.