Top 10 Candidates for NFL MVP
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons
At the halfway mark of the NFL season it is time to identify the front-runners for league Most Valuable Player. Who are the 10 MVP candidates leading the field right now?
With so many teams hovering around the .500 mark, this is one of the toughest years ever to come up with 10 worthy candidates. Some of them are obvious. Just look at the quarterbacks and you can find three or four. Others are hard to choose. Some players are having good years, despite their team's performance while others are because of it.
In any MVP voting players on winning teams get more votes than those who do not. Those with established credentials do also. The great Deacon Jones once said that he made All-Pro at the end of his career as much on reputation as production.
I hope to avoid this. I hope that my focus is on what has happened this season and not in years past. The easiest way to do this is become a coach watching film. Trust what I see on the screen and not statistics. If I think a player has had an MVP type season, then he should be on the list. If I don't think so then he should not. It's as simple as that.
This is simply a top 10 list of who I think should be in the running for MVP. There is far too much football left to choose one. Some may play better in the second half of the season. Some may play worse. Someone else may outplay them all. As with all things we will have to let it play out.
As for right now, here are the 10 men who I think lead the field for NFL MVP honors.
10. Ronde Barber Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is a vote for the old man. Barber is still playing at age 37. Not only that, but he is having a productive season.
The one time corner now safety has intercepted three passes with one return for a touchdown. Barber has also registered one sack.
Between his play on the field and leadership off of it, Barber is trying to help first year Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano turn things around. Tampa Bay's record is currently 3-4.
Others may not see the contributions that Barber is making, but I do.
9. Heath Miller Pittsburgh Steelers
Miller is having one of his best seasons with Pittsburgh. He may be second on the team in receptions behind Antonio Brown but one in every six that Miller catches is for a touchdown. Of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 14 touchdown passes, almost half have gone to Miller.
The Steelers lead the league in converting third downs to first and Miller is one of the biggest reasons why?
With all of Pittsburgh's inconsistent play this season the one person they have been able to count on is Miller.
8. Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts
This is not a misprint. If people could say that Peyton Manning was the MVP in 2011 and he never played a game why not give Luck some consideration? After all he has already led the Colts to two more wins than they had all of last season.
Rookies never win the MVP award. It is just unheard of. However, Luck has given Indianapolis a chance to win just about every game that he has played in. He led the Colts to victory over Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Luck has done all of this without his head coach Chuck Pagano who has missed most of the season due to leukemia.
If Luck can get Indianapolis into the playoffs I will certainly make a strong case for him as MVP.
7. Frank Gore San Francisco 49ers
Gore is the wheel that keeps the San Francisco offense going. He may not be the flashiest running back in the NFL, but besides Maurice-Jones Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars is the most consistent. Without him, the 49ers offense would be in big trouble.
Gore is playing with injured ribs at the moment. This did not stop him from touching the ball 17 times against the Arizona Cardinals.
As the season goes on, Gore will become more important to San Francisco. He must become healthy if they want to make a run at the Super Bowl.
That is how valuable Gore is.
6. Julius Peppers Chicago Bears
Still one of the best defensive ends in the game at age 32. Peppers has helped lead the Bears to a 6-1 record with 5 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
The Bears rank second in the league in points allowed per game. They are first in takeaway/giveaway at plus 12.
Peppers has as much to do with this as anyone.
5. Robert Griffin III Washington Redskins
Another rookie quarterback, Griffin III has been all that the Redskins hoped for and more. He is the best player on the team, period. It is a good thing, because Washington is not very good. With Griffin III they are 3-5. Without him, there is the possibility that they could be 0-8.
Griffin III has gotten it done on the ground and through the air. Going into Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers he was completing around 70% of his passes.
The Redskins gave up three number one draft picks to get Griffin III. If they can build a team around him it will be worth it as his play has already shown.
4. Peyton Manning Denver Broncos
This is a no-brainer. With fears surrounding his health after coming back from neck surgery, Manning has done everything that the Broncos hoped for. He has played the quarterback position almost as well as before the injury. Along the way, Manning has led Denver to a 4-3 record and first place in the AFC West.
Manning has become a coach on the field just as he was with the Indianapolis Colts. Though there have been some growing pains with the offense, Manning has thrown 17 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Three of the picks came in one game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Sure, the Broncos record is just a bit over .500, but this is no fault of Manning's.
He is back and almost at the top of his game.
This is remarkable after what Manning has been through.
3. Eli Manning New York Giants
You can't have one Manning without the other. Eli Manning has had every bit as good a season as Peyton if not better. A 6-2 record always trumps 4-3.
Unlike Peyton, Eli does not wow you with his stat line. All he does is come up with the big play when necessary and win games. The Giants have not been out of any game that they have played. The only blight on their record are two division losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants got one of them back by beating Dallas this past Sunday.
In three of New York's victories, Manning brought them from behind in the fourth quarter to win.
He may not have hall of fame statistics, but the Giants always have a chance to win when Manning is on the field.
2. Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons
You can not make an MVP candidate's list and leave the quarterback of an undefeated team off of it. Ryan and the Falcons are 7-0.
There is nothing else that needs to be said.
1. J.J. Watt Houston Texans
This man is having an unbelievable season. He is leading the league in sacks with 9 1/2. Watt also has two fumble recoveries. When he is not getting to the quarterback, Watt is sticking up a big paw and knocking passes down. He has 10 passes defensed which is unheard of for a defensive end.
I have always been biased towards defense, because the offense has all of the advantages. If I had to choose today, J.J. Watt would get my vote.