What was supposed to be the game of the year turned into a complete annihilation. Monday Night Football had the Houston Texans visiting Tom Brady and the New Patriots in Foxborough. When the night was over a statement had been made. New England wanted everyone to know that the road to the Super Bowl still goes through the Patriots. Brady was basically perfect and showed that the MVP discussion is not a two man race.
You have two of the greatest comeback stories in the history of the NFL. You have Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos, his first season with a new team. He spent his entire career with the Indianapolis Colts, but they decided to get younger and to take phenom Andrew Luck in the draft. Not to mention, Manning missed all of last year after having four neck surgeries. This season he has led his team to a ten and three record while throwing thirty touchdown passes against only ten interceptions. He has taken a team that last year snuck into a playoff spot to a team that is a certified Super Bowl contender. He ran the most popular player in the league out of town. The pressure was on all year to live up to a new contract, a new city, and the fact that the loved Tim Tebow was sacrificed to NFL hell (the Jets) so that Manning could lead Denver. This man has faced a lot of adversary this season and has passed with flying colors. Manning makes a legitimate point as to why he should be the MVP.
Then you have Adrian Peterson. He tore his ACL and MCL in week 16 and it looked bleak that he would be ready for the season. The usual recovery time for such an injury is nine months, yet Peterson did it in around seven and a half. The experts say it usually takes two years before you are back to being the player you were before the injury, but it took Peterson less than one. He went from injured star who may never be the same to putting a team on his back and fighting for a playoff spot with a team everyone thought would be in last place. This team plays in the same division as the Bears, Packers and Lions. They all have three of the better front sevens in the league. Twice a year Peterson goes up against Clay Matthews, BJ Raji, Julius Peppers, Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher two times a year each. The fact that Peterson has been so good for so long is astounding, the fact that he is doing it this year is unfathomable. He is excelling at a position that hasn't been great in a decade. It is a quarterback league. The league isn't what it was ten years ago with the Emmitt Smiths and Ladainian Tomlinsons roaming the league. Now we have Peterson who on four different occasions this year had more rushing yards than Christian Ponder had passing yards. They won two of those games. Defenses are putting seven to nine guys in the box just to try to stop this guy, and he still averages six yards per carry. Is there more you need to know about this team? They have an above average defense and a below average passing attack. Is there any question that without AP this team is 4-12?
We cannot forget Aaron Rodgers in this conversation. At different point of this year he has lost Cedric Benson, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. He is playing behind an offensive line that is in every sense of the word offensive. He corrals his team to still win the games when they need them. He is a half a game out of a first round bye and the team ahead of them (San Francisco) is going up against New England this weekend. Rodgers has a real shot to lead this team into the playoffs rolling again. After the slow start to the season in which they lost some big matchups the Packers have leaned on Rodgers maybe more than any team leans on their quarterback. He took that and lead his team to a division lead and perfect position for the future.
Then there is the dark horse candidate. Robert Griffin III has had one of the greatest rookie seasons in the history of the game. When have you ever heard of a quarterback who is leading the league in passer rating and having the most rushing yards of any other quarterback? It has never been done. Griffin has a better QB rating than Peyton and Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, basically every one besides Tom Brady (who he is tied with). This is coming from a rookie out of Baylor who seemed to be a sure thing out of nowhere. He is outplaying the guy they were calling the next Elway in Andrew Luck (who is still having a pretty darn good season). He has his team right in the thick of the playoff race when the world thought they still needed a couple years. He has rejuvenated the careers of the Shanahans (no small task). This player alone has changed the way we look at quarterback development. No longer do you have to sign a crappy veteran just to start a few games while your big time rookie waits to get ready. RGIII will make other teams change their philosophy. How much more valuable can you be when you are changing the way the entire league thinks? The Redskins lost half of their defense throughout the year. Griffin took this team on his back and carried them from the depths of the NFC right back into the playoff picture. He beat the Giants in dramatic fashion in front of a nationally televised audience. This guy is for real.
Then there is Brady. He is tied with RGIII for the best passer rating in the league. He is completing 64 percent of his passes even though it seems like Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd get periodic cases of the dropsies. He has spent almost the entire season without at least one of his tight ends. Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm a few weeks ago and Aaron Hernandez missed most of the first half of the season with an ankle injury. Tom Brady has been as good as ever. He has one touchdown in every seventeen attempts and one interception in every 124 attempts. Look at those numbers again. The difference in the two numbers is astonishing. Brady is one of the very best ever. He is playing at the highest level at the age of 35. He has scored 42 against the Texans, 59 against Indianapolis, 30 against Baltimore and 31 against Denver. He has played the five best teams in the AFC and has scored over thirty against all of them. The most valuable player plays his best games against the best teams.
For every great thing there is to say about each candidate, there is always a con to the pro. Tom Brady naysayers will talk about how he has a great running game which takes the pressure off of him. Manning's con is the fact that starting off the season he couldn't start hot and tried to make comebacks that no quarterback could come back from, including one game against Brady's Patriots. Rodgers biggest negative is that he lost big to playoff contenders San Francisco and the New York Giants, with games against the Colts and Seahawks in which he couldn't put the team away. Peterson's Vikings may not make the playoffs at all, which is always something the voters take into consideration. RGIII is a rookie and is taking the league by storm, but the fact that he is still not a lock for the playoffs or even Rookie of the Year is going to hold him down on the ballets.
What each of these five guys have done this year is nothing short of amazing. They all deserve recognition in their own light, but there can only be one winner. In my opinion, this year's MVP trophy has to go to Adrian Peterson. He has done the most with the least. He is the only guy on this list where I think his team goes from a possible playoff team to drafting top three without him. No matter what the case is, for once the voters cannot get this wrong. All five of these players are a fitting MVP and most people will not complain if it doesn't go their way. We still have three weeks remaining in the season, but I don't expect it to change much down the stretch. Barring injury these are the top five in MVP voting. Here is where I think the voting will put these five:
MVP Top Five:
1) Adrian Peterson
2) Tom Brady
3) Robert Griffin III
4) Peyton Manning
5) Aaron Rodgers.
I may be dead wrong with my top five. Your order may be extremely different, but as long as these are the five guys in the list you are right. One thing is for sure, this could be the closest MVP vote in history.