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4 reasons Ezekiel Elliott should be the 2016 NFL MVP

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The Cowboys running back isn’t just the Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner. He could also be the league’s MVP.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We’re past the point of talking about Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for just NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Elliott is playing so well that it’s easy to make a case for him to be named league MVP if he continues to perform the way he has so far this season — and it’s not just LeBron James who thinks so.

Through nine games, Elliott has 1,005 rushing yards and 250 receiving yards, with nine touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. He and Dak Prescott, along with some stellar blocking from the offensive line, have been the driving forces behind the Cowboys surging to an 8-1 record.

Here are four reasons Elliott deserves to be named NFL MVP.

1. Elliott has been incredibly productive

Elliott is the fifth player — not rookie, player — in the history of the NFL, with more than 1,000 rushing yards and more than 250 receiving yards in the first nine games of the season.

2. Elliott has joined an exclusive club

Elliott and Adrian Peterson are the only rookies since Eric Dickerson to exceed 1,250 yards from scrimmage through the first nine games of the season.

Dickerson totaled 1,096 rushing yards and 302 receiving yards as a rookie through nine games in 1983. Peterson accounted for 1,081 rushing yards and 219 receiving yards through nine games as a rookie in 2007.

Dickerson is a Hall of Famer and Peterson will likely be one after his career is over. With Sunday’s 83-yard touchdown against the Steelers, Elliott also became the first rookie since Gale Sayers — another Hall of Famer — in 1965 to score a 60-yard touchdown and an 80-yard touchdown in a single season.

That’s pretty good company for a rookie to keep.

3. Elliott is breaking new ground

Sunday’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers marked Elliott’s sixth game this season when he put up more than 140 yards from scrimmage. Since Dickerson in 1983, no rookie has ever had that many games with 140+ yards from scrimmage in an entire season, much less through just nine games.

4. Elliott’s performance against the Steelers alone justifies MVP consideration

Against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Elliott finished with 114 rushing yards, 95 receiving yards, two touchdowns on the ground, and one receiving touchdown.

The 83-yard touchdown was Elliott’s single receiving touchdown of the day, and it came on second-and-18 while the Cowboys were trailing by nine points. Yes, the pass from Prescott is nice, and the blocking is extraordinary, but a lot of this is just Elliott.

Elliott’s other two touchdowns came within the last two minutes of the game. The first gave the Cowboys the lead. The second gave them the win.

After the Steelers came back to take a one-point lead, and with just nine seconds remaining in the game, Elliott saved the Cowboys with this 32-yard touchdown run.

It was the first time since 1974 that any NFL player had scored two go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes of the same game. Ahmad Rashad was the last player to accomplish this on September 16, 1974, when his Buffalo Bills beat the Oakland Raiders 21-20.

Without Elliott, the Cowboys wouldn’t have beaten the Steelers this week. He was the difference.

* * *

There are still a few weeks left in the NFL season, and much can happen between now and then. However, Elliott has been consistent with this level of production throughout the year. What he has accomplished as a rookie through has been thoroughly impressive.

In Week 10, Tom Brady looked a bit more human in the Patriots’ loss to the Seahawks. Matt Ryan did, too, when the Falcons fell to the Eagles. That leaves the door open to seriously interject Elliott into the MVP race discussion.