Let’s start with a question: Is the race over? It should be. It could be. There is no way of knowing. Picking the order of this week’s ranking is a tall task. You could put the second, third, fourth, and fifth players in almost any order and I would not argue. I have to confess that I strongly considered finally putting a defensive player on the list this week. The problem was I couldn’t pick between James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware. I decided to leave them both off.
1.) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 26 TDs, 12 INTs, 3907 Yds, 93.8 Rating
Team Record: 11-4, 2nd place AFC South
Last week: 3 TDs in a win at Jax
Remaining Games: TEN
Manning is back on top, this time hopefully to stay. He was amazing Thursday night against the Jaguars. I compare the performance to Michael Jordan in his prime. No one could stop Manning. Another multi-touchdown deficit, another comeback win.
2.) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Stats: 1657 Yds, 9 TDs, 4.8 Avg, 8 fumbles
Team Record: 9-6, 1st place NFC North
Last Week: 22 carries, 76 Yds, 0 TDs in a loss to ATL
Remaining Games: NYG
Peterson had a terrible game in the biggest game of his team’s season. He fumbled twice and was also responsible for a fumbled hand off from Tavaris Jackson. Can he come back from it? Possibly. He’ll need a great performance against a Giants team that has nothing to play for. Winning the division and making the playoffs is essential to AP’s case. I could have easily dropped him two spots, but I still think he’ll get some votes.
3.) Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Stats: 1491 Yds, 16 TDs, 4.2 Avg
Team Record: 10-5, 2nd place NFC South
Last week: 19 carries, 70 Yds, 1 TD in a win at Min
Remaining Games: STL
Turner should be ranked over Peterson, but he he has less media hype helping him out. He also has the benefit of a better quarterback. In the end I think this is the biggest chink in his campaign. Matt Ryan is playing very well (although not MVP well).
4.) DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Stats: 1337yds, 18 TDs, 5.4 Avg
Team Record: 11-4, 1st place NFC South
Last week: 24 carries, 108 Yds, 4 TDs in a loss at NYG
Remaining Games: @NO
DeAngelo had a great game in primetime in an overtime loss against the defending champs. His stock has reached its highest point. Has he done enough to separate himself from the other two backs on this list? Probably not. Carolina has not locked up its division so he should get plenty of work in Week 17.
5.) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Stats: 32 TDs, 11 Ints, 3802 Yds, 104.0 Passer Rating
Team Record: 7-8, 2nd place AFC West
Last week: 4 TDs in a win at TB
Remaining Games: DEN
This is a bit of a Hail Mary, but I can see an argument for Rivers developing. His numbers are outstanding and if the Chargers were an 11 win team he’d be the unquestioned MVP. But they aren’t. On the other hand they could still be AFC West champions. If so, it would be almost entirely thanks to Rivers inspired play over the past few weeks. He’ll need a great performance in a do or die game against Denver in prime time next Sunday night. Sounds like the recipe for some last minute MVP votes to me. Who knows?
Others vaguely in the conversation: James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware (needs stats and a win), Chad Pennington (needs stats and a win), Matt Ryan (needs stats and a win), Ben Roethlisberger (needs the voters to get drunk and high before voting)
Projected Voting: Peyton Manning – 14 votes. Adrian Peterson – 9 votes. Michael Turner – 7 votes. DeAngelo Williams – 5 votes. Philip Rivers – 5 votes. James Harrison – 4 votes. DeMarcus Ware – 3 votes. Troy Polamalu – 1 vote. Eli Manning – 1 vote. Drew Brees – 1 vote.
I will be shocked if anyone other than Manning breaks the ten vote mark. The field is just too spread out. The running backs should steal votes from each other. The defensive players either play for the same team (the Steelers) or for a fading team (Dallas). I’ll also be surprised if defensive players snag as many as cumulative 15 votes. I just don’t see it. Don’t be surprised if Peyton Manning ends up running away with the award by garnering 20+ votes. I base this on recent media coverage of the race and the fact that no other strong contender has appeared.
Links: One actual MVP voter confirms my Rivers theory. Jesse Palmer likes #18. PFW rights a wrong. Dan Parr says the race is over. Mike Florio says AP fumbled away the award. Bob Sansevere likes Chad Pennington. Bob Sansevere is retarded. Chris Harry of the Orlando Sentinel says Manning. Jeff Duncan is a crazy homer. Bucky Brooks comes full circle. That is a good sign for #18’s chances. The D & C says Week 16 was the difference. USA Today likes Manning, but reminds us not to sleep on Harrison, Rivers or Pennington.
On a related note: DZ was set off by FO’s most recent Audibles at the Line column. (And not just because they gave the Colts such flimsy coverage). Their discussion of the 2008 MVP went like this:
Aaron Schatz: I’m starting to wonder if this game is going to cost Kurt Warner the MVP award. The guy can’t connect with anybody, and you can’t fully blame the weather considering that Matt Cassel is currently 14-of-24 with 268 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Doug Farrar: I think a defensive player should win it this year anyway, but it certainly won’t help his candidacy.
Ben Riley: I think Warner’s MVP candidacy was already going in the same direction as that other guy from Arizona — namely, down and hard. I think Adrian Peterson has the inside track at this point, with Peyton Manning annoyingly in the mix as well.
Who would you give the MVP to, Doug? Harrison? Reed? Haynesworth? Ware? Tuck?
Doug Farrar: My thought process is that most of the real individual value players are on defense this year. Drew Brees would be my choice on offense, and that ain’t gonna happen. Peyton’s starting to grow on me, though.
You could go one of two ways, really — best guy on the best defense, which is how Alan Page won it in 1971. In that case, Polamalu’s my man. Or, you can go with the biggest difference in his absence, in which case it’s probably Albert Haynesworth or Shaun Rogers. Rogers is kinda my underdog candidate — yes, the Browns have a bad defense, but he’s doing things that you shouldn’t be able to do with no help whatsoever.
I’d choose Polamalu, for the sheer “What The F**k?” factor. I’ve watched a lot of Steelers games this year, and in every game, he makes one or two plays that I have to rewind, just to make sure I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing.
Ben Riley: Yeah, Polamalu is defensible, although I (and Tony Dungy) would argue that he can only fly around like a madman because Harrison is busy making the quarterback run for his life.
Doug Farrar: One more addition to the MVP thought: Aaron, was it you that suggested that the Giants’ entire offensive line get the award? The Dallas game aside, I think it’s one hell of an idea.
Aaron Schatz: It was actually Mike Reiss who suggested it in the Boston Globe a couple weeks ago, if I remember correctly.
We are huge fans of Football Outsiders, but there is so much worth mocking in those few paragraphs. Schatz just now realized that Kurt Warner isn’t the MVP? Wow. Openly admitting you are annoyed by Manning’s candidacy? Okay, that’s not a surprise coming from these guys. Mentioning Shaun Rogers of the Browns? Holy cow. But what actually set DZ off was the suggestion that the award be given to an entire unit. Surely that’s against the rules, right? We did a little research and apparently it is well within the rules set forth by the Associated Press. With that insane, but perfectly legal concept in mind here is our alternate list of Most Valuable Player candidates:
1.) The entire defense, Pittsburgh Steelers
2.) Wes Welker and Randy Moss, WRs, New England Patriots
4.) Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, Offensive backfield, Atlanta Falcons
5.) Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, WRs, Arizona Cardinals