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NFL Offensive Player of the Year Ballot Through Week 14

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NFL Offensive Player of the Year Through Week 14

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Brace Hemmelgarn - USATODAY Sports

The NFL Offensive Player of the Year is an award that is getting harder and harder to hand out due to the offensive explosion in the league. Simple statistics used to be the best way to determine the winner of this award, but with the new rules, the record books are being rewritten on an annual basis. So does team success factor into the award? What about performance over preseason expectations? How do you determine if it’s the quarterback or the receiver responsible for big passing numbers? Or does the run set up the pass, and therefore gain value?

There is no clear cut answer. For me, I take a look at statistics and team success, in addition to the team around the player. Adrian Peterson won the award last season, but you’ll notice that he doesn’t rank among my top candidates this season. On the other hand, you’ll notice that a few dark horse candidates have made my top eight.

Statistics are nice, but this isn’t simply a fantasy football award. Things like completion percentage for quarterbacks or carries for running backs have value here, but not in the fantasy world. Playing for a winning team is nice, but if a player elevates what would be a three-win team to eight wins, isn’t that just as impressive as elevating a .500 team to a top seed?

There is no perfect formula, but here are eight players that have separated themselves from the pack this season and deserve consideration for this award. Defensive players rarely make noise in the MVP discussion, making it very possible that this list mirrors that of an MVP poll with three weeks to play.

Who ya got? Where’d I go wrong? My fantasy articles and NBA picks against the spread are published routinely and I’m always fielding questions @unSOPable23

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8. Phillip Rivers

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Chris Humphreys - USATODAY Sports

Admit it, like the rest of us, you thought Rivers was done after his woeful 2012 season where he threw 15 interceptions, fumbled 13 times and appeared incapable of throwing the ball more than 15 yards down the field. He has bounced back nicely as he leads the league in completion percentage (70.3 percent) and has his best touchdown-to-interception ratio since 2009. Rivers has played with more talented teams, but his accuracy has brought out the best of Danny Woodhead (864 total yards and eight touchdowns) and Keenan Allen (61 catches for 902 yards and five touchdowns).

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7. Nick Foles

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Jeffery G Pittenger - USATODAY Sports

It took a while to determine that he was the best quarterback on his team, but since that became clear, he has been one of the best signal-callers in the entire league. His nearly historic 20:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is as impressive as it gets, and while LeSean McCoy is the most talented player on this team, the Eagles wouldn’t have survived a 3-5 start without consistent quarterback play. How good has he been? Given his average yards per attempt, he would be on pace for 5,997 passing yards if he was attempting passes at the rate of Peyton Manning. Ignore the blizzard he played in last week, and Foles has a quarterback rating of at least 104 in six of his seven starts. He lacks the resume of these other elite QBs, but he is playing at as high a level as anyone and would rank higher on this list had he been the starter since Week 1.

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6. Jimmy Graham

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Crystal LoGiudice - USATODAY Sports

Brees may be the face of this team, but he would be in big trouble without his basketball-style tight end. Graham has a shot to break Rob Gronkowski’s record for TE touchdowns (17) and is delivering one of the all-time great seasons despite battling a nagging foot injury that severely limited his productivity for a two-week stretch. He ranks 11th in the league in targets and has as many plays of 20-plus yards as Alshon Jeffery. This is a-pass first offense that doesn’t rely on receiver production, an offensive game plan that simply wouldn’t work without an elite pass-catching tight end.

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5. Matt Forte

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Brad Mills - USATODAY Sports

Josh McCown has been outstanding, but this team wouldn’t have a chance at winning this division without the excellence of Forte. In addition to a career best pace of 1,321 rushing yards and nine rushing scores, he leads all running backs in receptions (65) and is a big reason why a receiver like Alshon Jeffery can’t be double-teamed. The Bears have a weak defense, so the ability to control the clock and consistently move the chains is vital.

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4. Josh Gordon

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Rick Osentoski - USATODAY Sports

I could state the obvious and tell you that Gordon has been historically good despite a revolving door at quarterback, but how about we dispel some myths about the field stretching playmaker instead?

Many people believe that Gordon is an excellent player after the catch, and while this is true, they tend to overlook his ability to run routes and make big plays down the field before he catches the ball. If we adjusted the rules and didn’t let Gordon run after the catch, he would still rank 22nd in the league in receiving yards.

It is said that Gordon is only a big play threat, but that’s not really the case. A higher percentage of Vernon Davis’ targets have resulted in 20-plus yard receptions, and a higher percentage of Rueben Randle’s receptions have resulted in 20-plus yards compared to Gordon's.

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3. Drew Brees

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Derick E Hingle - USATODAY Sports

Just another double-digit win, 4,000-plus yard season for the 34-year old superstar. One season after a seven-win campaign, Brees has his team in position to earn the no. 2 seed in the NFC and make another deep playoff run. The Saints rely as much on Brees as much as any team does a single player, and he continues to come through in a big way. He leads an explosive offense by getting his most talented players the ball in space, with his patience being his greatest strength.

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2. Jamaal Charles

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Geoff Burke - USATODAY Sports

Alex Smith is having a nice season, but make no mistake about it, this isn’t a double-digit win team without Charles carrying the mail. He is tied for the most rushing touchdowns (10) while ranking third in the league in rush yards (1,162) and fourth in rush attempts (238). He’s always been productive, but the “workhorse” label is as important as anything else. Charles has been Smith’s most consistent pass-catching option, a skill set that I believe should earn him MVP votes.

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1. Peyton Manning

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David Butler II - USATODAY Sports

His team is once again in prime position to obtain the no. 1 overall seed, and he is once again the primary reason. Manning leads the league in passing yards (by 415 yards) and passing touchdowns (by 12), proving that age is the least important number when it comes to dealing with this all-time great. Say what you will about cold-weather games, Manning is one of the best of all time, and you could argue that he is having his greatest season.