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What history can tell us about Tom Brady and the MVP race

Tom Brady leads the league in passer rating (133.9).Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Tom Brady has played only half of his team’s games so far this season.

But his performance in those four contests has warranted his insertion into the MVP conversation. He leads the league in passer rating (133.9) and completion percentage (73.1) and is third in yards per game (329.8). He has also helped his team win those four games by an average of 16.25 points en route to a 7-1 record.

But can the Patriots quarterback snag his third MVP award after being suspended for the first quarter of the year? Let’s see what perspective history can offer.

Sixty-one players have earned MVP honors since the award was first given out in 1957. (There were co-MVPs twice.) Of those 61 MVPs, 10 missed at least one game. Adjusted to percentage of games missed to account for different season lengths, Joe Montana missed 18.75 percent of the competition in 1989 and still secured the award. That’s the highest percentage among these 10 players.

Two players — Paul Hornung and Larry Brown — missed 14.29 percent of competition. Three players — Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, and Steve McNair — missed 12.5 percent.

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Sidelined
Here's a look at the 10 NFL MVPs who missed at least one game the season they won the award.
Year Player Team Pos. Games played Games missed Reason % of games
1961 Paul Hornung GB RB 12 2 Military service 14.3
1963 Y. A. Tittle NYG QB 13 1 Injury 7.1
1966 Bart Starr BG QB 13 1 ? 7.1
1972 Larry Brown WAS RB 12 2 Injury 14.3
1989 Joe Montana SF QB 13 3 Injury 18.75
1991 Thurman Thomas BUF RB 15 1 Rest 6.25
1993 Emmitt Smith DAL RB 14 2 Holdout 12.5
2000 Marshall Faulk STL RB 14 2 Injury 12.5
2003 Steve McNair TEN QB 14 2 Injury 12.5
2011 Aaron Rodgers GB QB 15 1 Rest 6.25

An MVP-worthy performance over 12 games would not only add Brady’s name to this list, but would also mean he missed the most competition — 25 percent — during his award-winning season. If Brady continues his current pace, he will finish with this line: 294 of 402 passing for a 73.1 completion percentage, 3,957 yards, 36 touchdowns, 0 interceptions as well as 30 carries for 132 yards.

Where do those numbers rank for Brady’s career? The 73.1 completion percentage would be his career high. The 36 touchdown passes would tie for third-highest. The 3,957 yards would be ninth-highest. (It would also be the first time since 2010 that he didn’t crack the 4,000-yard passing mark, although he had four fewer games to do it this year. And 2010 was the year Brady won his second MVP award.) The 132 rushing yards would also be a career high.

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Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.