Although players like Arian Foster and Dwayne Bowe are having tremendous years, the race will most likely come down to Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Michael Vick. Here are the basic cases for each of these QBs.
1. Tom Brady
Brady has led the Patriots to a 9-2 record, tied for best in the NFL. In addition to his leadership, Brady has put up some pretty strong numbers. He's tied for the most touchdowns in the NFL with 23 and has only thrown four interceptions. He also leads the league with the best QB rating of 105.8.
2. Phillip Rivers
Rivers has put up gaudy numbers all season long. He's second in the league in passing yards and could still break Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 yards if he gets back on track against Oakland this weekend. Rivers has also tossed 23 TDs, he's thrown for 8.94 yards per attempt and has led the Chargers back into playoff contention with four straight wins.
3. Michael Vick
Arguably no player has been more exciting than Vick this season. He's made plays with his arm and his legs in a combo unlike anyone else in the NFL. He has the best touchdown to interception ratio in the league, throwing for 15 scores and only two picks, while chipping in six rushing TDs. Vick has injected energy into the offense while settling in as a more accurate passer than he's ever been in his career, with a 63.8 percent completion rate and 8.4 yards per attempt.
Clearly all three quarterbacks are having outstanding seasons, but like every superhero, each has his own weakness.
Vick has missed three games so far and played only partially in two others. Despite his consistent performances, his numbers don't pop out any more than the other guys, so it's hard to make a case for someone who plays less than a full season. Vick can only win if he absolutely dominates the last four weeks of the season. He should, however, be a shoo-in to win Comeback Player of the Year.
Rivers has thrown nine picks this season and his team has the worst record of these contenders. Even though the Chargers are righting the ship, their early struggles could hurt Rivers' chances. This is where the popularity contest comes in.
Brady has had stretches where he can't connect with receivers, posting a 58.3 percent completion rate in the first four games after Moss left. He also ranks just 12th in the NFL in passing yards. And even though Randy Moss is gone, Welker is still one of the best receivers in the game, and Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are all legitimate targets.
But no one has had to do more with less than Rivers. He's been rock solid all year, despite all the losses, special teams woes, departure of LaDanian Tomlinson, holdout of Vincent Jackson and injuries to Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd and Ryan Matthews. Plus, the Chargers' line doesn't compare to the Patriots, as Rivers has been sacked 25 times compared to Brady's 13, even though Rivers has one of the quickest releases of any QB.
At the season's end, Rivers looks like he'll be atop the NFL in nearly every passing category despite his supporting cast. But because the MVP race heavily favors winning teams, Brady has the advantage. Plus, Brady's reputation should go a long way in voters' minds.
Make no mistake about it, Brady deserves consideration, but his season so far falls just short of what Rivers has been able to accomplish. If the Chargers continue to win and the Patriots fall to the Jets making them a wild-card team, then Rivers could become MVP.
But the way it looks right now, Brady will probably be collecting his second MVP trophy.
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