2019 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting NFL MVP races ever. Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes has 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions and 1,831 passing yards through the first five weeks of the season. He's nearly universally viewed as the best player in the sport, but certainly isn't unopposed in his attempt to become the first back-to-back league MVP since Peyton Manning.
Here's a look at five NFL players to watch in Week 6, including a couple that could challenge for the MVP:
1. Christian McCaffrey
You'll have to get up early Sunday morning to watch McCaffrey, who is becoming an NFL MVP candidate.
McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers are in London for Week 6, as they'll kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET this Sunday in their tilt against the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The third-year running back may be enough of a reason by himself to set an early alarm.
In the first five weeks of 2019, McCaffrey is averaging a staggering 5.6 yards per rushing attempt, and leads the NFL with 587 rushing yards. For good measure, he has 279 receiving yards on 31 catches this season.
Over the last three weeks, Bruce Arians' Tampa Bay offense has exploded, averaging nearly 32 points per contest. They also already have one win over the Panthers, having defeated them 20-14 in Week 2. With former NFL MVP Cam Newton out another week, the Panthers will likely lean on McCaffrey again, and he'll have his work cut out, as the Buccaneers enter the game with the second best rushing defense in the NFL.
2. Russell Wilson
Overshadowed by the incredible start the Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has had to 2019 - and by the continued dominance of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes - is that Russell Wilson is playing as well as he ever has.
Now 30, Wilson has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 1,409 yards through the first five games of the 2019 season, and he's yet to throw an interception. He may not be the early favorite to win the NFL MVP in terms of public perception, but he's played as well as anyone in the sport through the first five weeks of the season.
After holding on for a 30-29 win over the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, Wilson and the Seahawks are 4-1. Still, they find themselves in an extremely competitive division, with the 3-2 Rams and the 4-0 San Francisco 49ers.
Wilson and the Seahawks have perhaps the most difficult game to predict this week, as they'll head to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on a a 2-3 Cleveland Browns team. The Browns were trounced on Monday Night Football by the 49ers in Week 5, but they're still a team ripe with skill position talent and very much in the AFC North race.
3. Kirk Cousins
The 3-2 Minnesota Vikings have three convincing wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants. With all due respect to the upstart 3-2 Raiders, those three aren't exactly Super Bowl contenders.
Despite a 3-2 record, the Vikings aren't in a great position in terms of playoff contention. They play in the NFC North, which is arguably the most competitive division in the NFL. All four teams in the division - the Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears - have winning records. And the Vikings two losses have come against the Packers and the Bears.
In those two losses, quarterback Kirk Cousins has struggled mightily. Cousins, who is the second season of a fully guaranteed three-year/$84 million deal, threw a rather inexplicable fourth quarter pick (which you can see above) on first and goal in the team's Week 2 loss in Green Bay. In Week 4, he and the Vikings didn't score until the fourth quarter against the Bears elite defensive unit, ultimately falling 16-6 at Soldier Field.
Following two consecutive road games, Cousins and the Vikings will return home to U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday. They'll welcome in the 3-2 Philadelphia Eagles, who have won back-to-back games after a surprising 1-2 start. A loss to another NFC playoff contender would further cloud the Vikings path to the postseason.
4. Devlin Hodges
Hodges, a rookie undrafted free-agent out of Samford, will make his first career NFL start on Sunday Night Football. He'll do so against a desperate 2-3 Los Angeles Chargers team, led by Philip Rivers, who Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called a future Hall of Famer this week.
How's that for getting to ease into things?
Hodges did complete seven of nine passing attempts for 68 yards in a 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.
The man affectionally referred to as "Duck" was an FCS record-setter in his four seasons as the starter for the Samford Bulldogs. This week, he'll be asked to step in for an injured Mason Rudolph, who was already playing for future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, who is out for the season. Hodges will be tasked with trying to help revive the playoff hopes of the 1-4 Steelers, who play in the seemingly winnable AFC North.
5. Matthew Stafford
In his 11th NFL season, Stafford has some narrative changing to do.
The 31-year-old will enter a Monday Night Football matchup in Green Bay with a 9-55 career record against winning teams. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has traditionally gotten the best of Stafford and the Lions when they meet.
But Stafford and the Lions, who are coming off of their bye week, were one of the biggest surprises of the first quarter of the NFL season. They're 2-1-1, with wins in hand over the Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles, along with a tight loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, who are seen as a Super Bowl contender.
Through four games, Stafford has tossed nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. He has a chance to lead the Lions to a victory on a national stage that not only would change the outlook of the crowded NFC North, but the entire NFC playoff picture.