Power Ranking the Top 10 NFL MVP Candidates Heading into Week 14
The MVP Race
The NFL regular season is in its waning stage which means it's time for an annual discussion of who should be the league's MVP. Last season we saw Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson take home the hardware, and he was the first non-quarterback to win the award since LaDainian Tomlinson back in 2006.
In 1986, Lawrence Taylor took home the MVP award, and that was the most recent season in which the illustrious award was won by a defensive player. In the 26 years since 1986 the award has been claimed by 20 quarterbacks and eight running backs (there were two seasons where two players shared the award). No player at any other position has been able to call themselves the most valuable player in football.
Before we get going with this season's candidates I wanted to give one honorable mention to one player who is not in the discussion because of the position he plays and the team that he is on: J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
To say that Watt is the most dominant defender in football may still be underselling just how much of a force he is. Ever since Pro Football Focus started grading players back in 2008 no defensive end had ever finished a season with a grade higher than 46.5 before J.J. Watt finished 2012 with a grade of 101.6. This season Watt's at it again, and his current grade of 89.7 is by far and away the highest of any defensive player in football (Robert Quinn is second at 54.4). Watt is an absolute force at both rushing the pass and stopping the run, and there may not be a player in football who is better at their job than J.J. Watt.
Now that I got that out of the way, let's take a look at the top 10 MVP candidates heading into week 14 of the NFL season.
10. Nick Foles
Nick Foles, QB Philadelphia Eagles
Foles took over for Michael Vick in the first half of the Eagles' October 6 match-up against the New York Giants, and since then he has completed 63 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,742 yards, 18 touchdowns, zero interceptions and has helped the Eagles ascend to a first place tie atop the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles are 6-1 with Foles under center, and even though he has no shot at winning the award because he started the season as Vick’s backup there is no denying the young quarterback has been one of the most valuable players in football this season.
9. Tony Romo
Tony Romo, QB Dallas Cowboys
Romo has been at his best this season in the fourth quarter of close games. When the game is within seven points in the fourth quarter Romo has a 69.5 percent completion rate, has thrown six touchdowns compared to two interceptions and has a 110.3 quarterback rating. Romo has also been excellent when the Cowboys are playing from behind; he has a 66 percent completion rate to go along with 11 touchdowns and just one interception when his team is trailing, and he has led the Cowboys to victory with game-winning, fourth quarter drives three times this season.
8. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings
For the season, Peterson is first in the NFL with 261 rushing attempts, first with 1,208 yards, 6th with 4.6 yards per carry, first by a landslide in yards after contact with 801 (Marshawn Lynch is second with 592), second with 55 missed tackles and first with 10 rushing touchdowns.
There is no question that the Vikings stink, but I don't think people realize just how bad they would be if they didn't have Peterson. The Vikings have three wins this season, and here are All Day's stat lines from each of those three games: 23 rushes, 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers; 20 rushes for 75 yards and two touchdowns against the Washington Redskins; and 35 rushes for 211 yards against the Chicago Bears last week. Adrian Peterson is averaging 26 carries, 142 yards and 1.33 touchdowns in Minnesota's wins this season. He has literally carried his team to victory in all of their victories.
7. Drew Brees
Drew Brees, QB New Orleans Saints
Brees is third in the NFL with a 67.7 percent completion rate, third in passing yards with 3,794, second in touchdowns with 29 and fifth with a 104.9 passer rating. The Saints are 9-3 and will look to bounce back from a disappointing Monday night loss to the Seattle Seahawks when they take on the Carolina Panthers this weekend in a battle for first place in the NFC South.
6. Cam Newton
Cam Newton, QB Carolina Panthers
The Panthers started the season 1-3 and many people were beginning to wonder if Cam Newton had what it takes to be a legitimate superstar in the NFL. Since then, the Panthers have rattled off eight consecutive wins, Newton has quieted his critics, and in Week 14 Carolina battles the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South. Over the Panthers' eight game win streak, Newton has a 64 percent completion rate with 1,731 yards and a 13:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio to go along with 324 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
5. Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck's stats certainly don't scream MVP candidate, but when you watch the Colts play there is no denying that he is a special player who is able to elevate his teammates and will them to victory. The Colts are currently 8-4, have a commanding three game lead in the AFC South, and have impressive victories against the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos on their 2013 resume. Andrew Luck is leading a beaten and battered Colts team into the playoffs, and that's exactly what you'd expect from an MVP candidate.
4. Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson, WR Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are atop the NFC North, and they owe much of their success to the fact that Calvin Johnson may very well be the most dynamic wide receiver ever. Johnson leads all receivers with 1,299 yards and he also leads all receivers with 12 touchdowns. Johnson is averaging 18 yards per catch which is 4th in the NFL and 60 of his 72 catches have resulted in a first down. The man is a machine and is certainly an MVP candidate.
3. Tom Brady
Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
Given the circumstances, this has been one of the most impressive years of Tom Brady's distinguished career. Before the season even started, Brady had already lost Wes Welker (free agency), Brandon Lloyd (free agency), Danny Woodhead (free agency), Rob Gronkowski (injury) and Aaron Hernandez (accused of murder). And to make things even more difficult Shane Vereen went down with a broken hand in Week 1 and Stevan Ridley developed a fumbling problem. With all of the chaos surrounding New England the one constant has been Brady, and he's shown he's capable of leading the Patriots under any circumstance. The Patriots are currently 9-3 and are poised to make yet another deep postseason run. If they had anyone other than Brady at quarterback this likely would have been a lost season.
2. Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson, QB Seattle Seahawks
Wilson and the Seahawks are 11-1 and have certainly been the best team in the NFL through the first three-fourths of the season. Wilson is 7th among quarterbacks in completion percentage (64.9), 3rd in yards per attempt (8.8), 3rd in quarterback rating (108.5) and 3rd in rushing yards (456) to go along with a sparkling 22:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Wilson is yet to lose a game at home in his professional career, and in just his second year he is already one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL.
1. Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning, QB Denver Broncos
This has been the year of Peyton Manning. The Broncos quarterback is on pace to break every regular season passing record. Manning is on pace to finish the season with 5,500 passing yards (record is 5,476) with 55 touchdowns (record is 50), and his Broncos at 10-2 are the class of the AFC. Heading into Week 14 Manning is the clear-cut favorite to win this year's MVP award.
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