J.J. Watt had a blast Sunday; MVP consideration should come

HOUSTON -- In the Houston Texans' stadium, among fans, players and even the team's owner, this is a rhetorical question: Does J.J. Watt deserve to be the league's MVP?

"What do you think?" Texans safety Danieal Manning countered.

"You wouldn't find another defensive lineman with five touchdowns; you don't find some tight ends, some offensive players don't have five touchdowns," Texans safety D.J. Swearinger said. "Five touchdowns speak for itself. Not even speaking about what he does on defense. ... If you watch the games, you see 99."

"They always have the ball," Manning said of the argument that a quarterback affects the game more. "J.J., if he had an opportunity to get the ball [every play] -- it feels like he does all the time, that's the argument we'll have. ... He's almost like a corner, a lockdown corner, he's going to make plays every time you throw it over to him."

"I've never seen a defensive lineman change the game the way he does," 14-year veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "Never. Not a lineman on any side of the football."

The headliners came late in the game when the Texans had basically put away the 2-10 Tennessee Titans -- Watt's strip-sack of Jake Locker and his third touchdown catch of the season put the Texans up 45-14. But what Watt did throughout the rest of the game got them to that point. His six quarterback hits, his previous sack, his tackle for loss, his presence alone.

As he does every week, Watt changed the way his opponent's offense had to play, and as they do every week, his performance reminded his teammates of what they've said all season -- Watt deserves to be the league's MVP.

"He's the MVP man, hands down," receiver DeAndre Hopkins offered. "... When was the last time you've seen a defensive end have as many touchdowns or make the kinds of catches he's made?"

It's been 70 years since a defensive lineman of any kind had at least five touchdowns in one season -- and back then they played on offense regularly. It's been 66 years since a player at any position has had at least three offensive touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. No player has ever had three offensive touchdowns, an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdowns in one season.

Even back when Watt was practicing one-handed catches off the Jugs machine during training camp, he never assumed he'd have any touchdowns this season, much less three touchdown catches lining up on offense.

"Everybody in the stadium knew he was getting the ball at that point, but it didn't matter," left tackle Duane Brown said.

It has become the norm for Watt now, but it has not become mundane.

"Never ever, ever, ever becomes old hat," Watt said. "It is a blast. I mean, just to hear the stadium, to see my teammates. Like I said after my first one, there's no greater feeling than scoring a touchdown and seeing your teammates come running over to congratulate you. I mean, those guys got the ball down there. It's the best feeling in the entire world."

It hurt's Watt's candidacy that the Texans are 6-6 while his MVP competition -- Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, DeMarco Murray and Peyton Manning -- all play on teams with at least eight wins. But when a player is creating NFL history in such dramatic fashion, those kinds of performances can't be ignored.

Watt will tell you he can't control how people vote for awards. He'll tell you all he can control is how he plays, as he has all season long. There's a lot he won't say that his teammates, his owner and his fans will say for him.

"I think the crowd loves him, and I think he's deserving of that kind of consideration," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "That would be wonderful."

The fans' chant was a little more high-pitched than the usual three-syllable chant that Texans fans shower upon the best defensive player in franchise history.

Not "J-J-Watt," this time; now they aspired higher.

"M-V-P, M-V-P," they shouted gleefully.

"It's what you dream about," Watt said.