Andy Dalton has not only been the talk of Cincinnati, but the fifth-year quarterback's play has him in the national spotlight.
For once, it's for nothing but praise after he spent much of his first four years being criticized for holding the Bengals back and struggling in the playoffs. Dalton has not only helped carry the Bengals' offense thus far, but his play now has him being mentioned in the same company as the NFL's best signal-callers.
In Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column, he listed Dalton among his quarter-season MVP candidates.
4. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati. Stop laughing. Average yards per pass play: Dalton 10.2, Rodgers 8.1.
King had Dalton listed behind Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware. You can pretty much take Ware out of the equation as players rarely win this award based on how much value voters put into the quarterback position. After all, a defensive player hasn't won the NFL MVP award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.
Does that mean Dalton actually has a chance at winning this award?
There's no question he'll be in the discussion for it if he keeps producing at the rate and consistency he has in the first four games. Dalton was simply one of the NFL's four or five best quarterbacks over the first quarter of the season, and if an MVP vote were held today, he absolutely should be getting votes.
That said, Dalton ideally won't have to keep passing for more than 300 yards every game for the Bengals to keep winning. Prior to this season, the Bengals had an 8-7-1 record in games in which Dalton threw for 282 yards or more. They're 2-0 when Dalton reaches that mark this year, but those were against teams with a combined 2-6 record.
Dalton has already thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception. In Dalton's first three seasons, he threw six interceptions before he reached nine touchdown passes. Last year, he had nine picks before he reached nine passing scores.
Still, with one of the best offensive lines in football paving the way for one of the best running back tandems there is, the Bengals will hopefully be winning more games with their ground game and defense the rest of the season. After all, most teams who are able to win the Super Bowl do so with a balanced team, not ones that relies on their quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards every week. That doesn't mean Dalton won't continue having games where he carries the Bengals to a win, just that other aspects of the team should be chiming in, too.
You have to feel good as a Bengals fan seeing Dalton can string together big passing games to lead the Bengals to victory. There's no doubt he'll be called upon to carry the offense several more times this year, and the Bengals feel as confident as ever he'll get the job done.