Steph Curry received his second-straight NBA Most Valuable Player award on Wednesday, which got NFL Media columnist Adam Schein thinking:
Who are the NFL's MVP candidates for the 2016 season?
So on Thursday, Schein released a list of nine players he feels have the best chance of being the league's top player when 2016 is all said and done.
Sitting at No. 9? Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
This prognostication, of course, comes a little less than four months before any of these players step foot on a field in a game that actually counts, but it still says something about how the national media views Luck's comeback effort in 2016 after an injury-plagued season limited him to a career-low seven games played in 2015.
First, here's what Schein had to say about Luck, and then, a little more on his upcoming season:
"This is my way of saying he's back, too. Luck's healthy. And the 26-year-old quarterback is still an elite talent.
I think the Colts are the third-best team on paper in the suddenly competitive AFC South. But they still have the best QB in the division. And now that Ryan Grigson actually drafted a few offensive linemen to support the face of the franchise, Luck will mask areas of deficiency and remind you he's Andrew Luck."
Analysis: Fair enough. The Colts are coming off an 8-8 campaign in which they narrowly missed a playoff bid despite Luck's absence from the starting lineup for most of the second half of the season.
But with a fully-healthy Luck in 2014, Indianapolis advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game. The former No. 1-overall pick certainly put in an MVP-caliber season, completing 380-of-616 passes (61.7 percent) for 4,761 yards with 40 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, while also running 64 times for 273 yards and another three scores.
With a clean bill of health — and what is expected to be a much improved offensive line protecting him — Luck certainly returns in 2016 with a chip on his shoulder, hoping to not only lead his team back to where it should be (winning division titles and deep playoff runs), but to earn his keep as one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league; the latter is yet to be determined, as the organization and Luck continue contract negotiations.
But new deal or no new deal, Luck knows what's in front of him. The AFC South, as whole, is much improved. The Houston Texans are relying on a new quarterback, Brock Osweiler, while they still have J.J. Watt on their defense (Watt, for what it's worth, ranked No. 5 on Schein's MVP list). The Tennessee Titans added running back DeMarco Murray to complement second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota, and should be much better overall. And the Jacksonville Jaguars can boast an impressive 2016 NFL Draft class, and don't forget: Dante Fowler Jr., the No. 3-overall pick in last year's NFL Draft, is eagerly anticipating his NFL debut in 2016.
Without a doubt, the Colts are looking to Luck to step up his game even more this season to get back into the conversation as Super Bowl contenders. If they accomplish that task, then their signal caller will undoubtedly be in the conversation once again for the MVP award.
Is it September yet?