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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is the co-favorite in the NFL MVP race

Ben Roethlisberger's career-long maturation process looks like it may culminate in an MVP Award

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is the front-runner for the MVP Award. At this point in the season, however, he is neck-and-neck with fellow gunslinger Matt Ryan, who has his Atlanta Falcons sitting pretty at 4-1. Both are in a good position to win the honor.

Before we discuss the aspects of their respective candidacies in further detail, it is probably prudent to mention some other mid-season candidates for the award. I have an MVP vote, so if the season ended today, this is how I would rank the top five MVP candidates:

1. Roethlisberger

1a. (and this is so so so super close for real) Matt Ryan

3. Vikings QB Sam Bradford (who seriously could've predicted this?)

4. Cowboys RB Zeke Elliott (buddy is leading the league in attempts, yards, first downs and runs of 20 or more yards; second in touchdowns and averaging five yards per attempt for a team that runs nearly 50 percent of the time)

5. Broncos LB Von Miller (the clear front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year with 6.5 sacks)

Since Miller is a defender and Zeke is a running back (and a rookie), we can probably knock them from the list for now.

Bradford isn't doing anything particularly prolific this season (ranked 25th in yards, 29th in attempts and 14th in touchdowns), but he isn't turning the ball over (one of only four starting quarterbacks who has yet to thrown an interception) and he is excelling as a game manager (ranked 2nd in completion percentage and 2nd in quarterback rating among players who have attempted at least 41 passes). However, Minnesota's early success is mostly attributable to the performance of its defense and special teams, so I think the fact that Bradford isn't the featured player on the team puts him behind Ryan and Roethlisberger.

In judging Roethlisberger's and Ryan's credentials, I tried to be as objective as possible (as those strict PFWA by-laws require).

Roethlisberger is pacing the league in touchdown passes with 15, while Ryan has 12 such passes to his name. Ryan has a solid edge in yards (1,740 to Roethlisberger's 1,496). If ESPN's QBR ratings are your thing (no judgment, just as long as you don't acknowledge the absurdity of PPF's "statistics"), Ryan ranks 1st in this category; Roethlisberger is 3rd (rookie QB Dak Prescott, interestingly, is 2nd). For the traditionalists, Ryan also ranks 1st in the NFL with a 121.0 quarterback rating; Roethlisberger's 106.6 rating ranks 5th. Roethlisberger has also thrown four interceptions, while Ryan is responsible for just a pair of picks this season. Roethlisberger and Ryan are also ranked 1st and 2nd in the NFL in touchdown percentage (7.8 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively). Roethlisberger's Steelers are 4-1, as are Ryan's Falcons. The Steelers have defeated three teams that made the playoffs in 2015. Atlanta has defeated both Super Bowl participants from last season.

It is also important to consider that Roethlisberger has played three games in the rain so far this season. Ryan, on the other hand, has played three games in domed stadiums.

Obviously, we are only headed into Week 6. Ryan's current quarterback rating, for example, is almost 30 points higher than his career average. Moreover, Roethlisberger is averaging about 35 fewer yards per game than he did in an injury-shortened 2015 season. Oh yeah, speaking of injuries, Roethlisberger has missed at least one game in nine out of his going-on-13 professional seasons, so betting on his health is a ballsy endeavor. Working in both Roethlisberger's and Ryan's favors, fortunately, is the fact that both have bonafide receiving superhumans at their disposal in Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, who, in fact, are borderline MVP candidates in their own right.

Given the newness of the NFL season, other MVP candidates will emerge (re: Le'Veon Bell, Derek Carr, David Johnson, Aaron Rodgers and, of course, Tom Brady). Roethlisberger and Ryan will have some less-than-spectacular weeks, which will only further close the gap between them and other suitors.

For now, though, we can safely declare Roethlisberger and Ryan the MVP front-runners. Based on Roethlisberger's prestige, however, I think he might be the man to beat in this season-long race.