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MVP race: should Patriots QB Tom Brady even be eligible?

We've been watching the MVP race pretty closely.

Can a cheater be the league's MVP? I say no.
Can a cheater be the league's MVP? I say no.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

As certainly as ever year a league MVP is selected, it is just as certain a Falcons player is not selected. 2016 is different. Elite quarterback Matt Ryan is squarely in the running with his record-breaking season. There are a few other players in the discussion: Sam Bradford for no clear reason; Dak Prescott for his impressive rookie season; even Ezekiel Elliot is getting attention; and, as always, Tom Brady.

Both Brady and Ryan are coming off of down games, and it's tough to compare them head-to-head because Brady was suspended four games for Deflategate. We covered last year how the Patriots cheated their way to wins against the Falcons, because how else could they win against football genius Mike Smith? Exactly. Cheating.

We could discuss all the other problems with awarding Brady the MVP. The Patriots went 3-1 with Brady suspended, losing only when their UDFA third string quarterback was injured. Does that make him the most valuable player when backups are still winning games?

The biggest problem is Tom Brady smashed away the integrity of the game just like it was a cell phone full of incriminating evidence. You wouldn't award a baseball player that corked their bat. You wouldn't award a hockey player that was caught using performance enhancing drugs. And you probably wouldn't award a quarterback who played well after suspension from his team's second cheating scandal. Realistically, he should not even be eligible for the award.

Can you even be the team's most valuable player if you were suspended for a quarter of the season? I can't think of a player winning MVP when injured for four games, let alone another being suspended for the violation of league rules.

What is Matt Ryan guilty of? Smashing records, not cell phones. Deflating the Super Bowl losers, and not footballs. Stealing yards from defenses, and not defensive signals. That's a true MVP.