Peyton Manning Jumps Ahead of Tom Brady (For Now) in NFL MVP Power Rankings

Peyton ManningIt looks like it’s becoming a two-, maybe three-horse race in the NFL MVP race, and the top contenders for the coveted award were at it again this week.

We mentioned last week that the race for the award may come down to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Both turned in solid efforts once again, and both did so in a winning effort. Don’t forget about Aaron Rodgers, either, who led a banged-up Packers team to victory, which put them back in first place.

There is still a lot of football to play this season, and things in the standings and MVP race can certainly change. However, let’s take a look at where things stand in the MVP race right now with this week’s NFL MVP power rankings.

1. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos quarterback

Peyton Manning has been absolutely dynamite in the second half of games this year, and that trend continued on Sunday against Tampa Bay. The Broncos quarterback carved up the lowly Bucs pass defense in the second half. Manning threw two more second-half touchdowns on the way to a 31-23 win. In fact, of Manning’s 29 touchdowns this season, 19 of them have come in the second half of games. The Broncos have won seven consecutive games, and 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions in those games. Manning also found Mitch Unrein in the first quarter for a touchdown. That’s rather mundane until you remember that Unrein is a defensive tackle. So yes, Manning makes everyone around him better — even defensive tackles. Critics of Manning will bemoan the schedule, and it’s true that Manning hasn’t played the stingiest of defenses, and they play in the AFC West. Whatever. Who have Brady and the Patriots beaten this season, especially in that gross AFC East division? The AFC is down this season, and both of these guys are taking advantage. So just stop it with the, “Who has Manning beat this year?” questions. All of that being said, Manning jumps ahead of Brady for the No. 1 spot, if not for just a week.

Week 13 performance: 27/38, 242 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT (Win)
Season: 104.6 rating, 68 completion percentage, 29 TD, 9 INT
Last week’s ranking: 2

2. Tom Brady — New England Patriots quarterback

Don’t you just love it when an NFL analyst says “X quarterback doesn’t like to get hit?” Well, yeah. Most human beings would prefer not to be blindsided by a 6-foot-2, 270-pound linebacker. Tom Brady is no different, and he showed that on Sunday. The Patriots quarterback was out of rhythm all afternoon against the Dolphins; his 60.0 percent completion rate was his lowest of the season. He missed some throws that he should have had, and he wasn’t his dominant self. Even so, he still put up respectable numbers, and the Patriots won. Just as impressively, Brady helped orchestrate a clock-killing fourth-quarter drive that culminated with a key score. Once again, Brady’s MVP chances will hinge upon the next two weeks with Houston and San Francisco coming to Foxboro.

Week 13 performance: 24/40, 238 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (Win)
Season: 102.6 rating, 64.8 completion percentage, 25 TD, 4 INT
Last week’s ranking: 1

3. Aaron Rodgers — Green Bay Packers quarterback

The Green Bay Packers played the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and the Pack won the game. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was a win. That’s pretty much been the case for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers so far this season. You really have to hand it to Rodgers for what he’s been able to do this season, especially given the Packers’ injury situation. Rodgers got Greg Jennings back Sunday; now it looks like he’ll be without Jordy Nelson next weekend. With offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga already, T.J. Lang went down on Sunday, making an already porous protection unit even worse. Through it all, though, Rodgers has the Packers back in first place in the NFC North. He’s not nearly as out-of-this-world as he was last year — the pick he threw on Sunday should have brought back flashbacks to his first year as starter — but he’s doing the most with little, especially in a very difficult division. If he turns it on down the stretch and helps the Pack hold on and win the North, we could be looking at a repeat MVP winner.

Week 13 performance: 27/35, 286 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, (Win)
Season: 105.0 rating, 67.4 completion percentage, 29 TD, 8 INT
Last week’s ranking: 3

4. Adrian Peterson — Minnesota Vikings running back

OK, so Adrian Peterson is back on the list this week, and while he probably won’t win MVP, he deserves even more recognition for what he continues to do. He’s supposed to be a shell of himself after knee surgery last year, isn’t he? No one told him that, and certainly nobody informed of that before Sunday’s game with the Packers. The freak feature back went off against Green Bay on Sunday for 210 yards on just 21 carries. Eighty of those yards came on another mesmerizing touchdown scamper, one of the lone highlights for the Vikes on the afternoon. He’s been by far the best running back in the league, and he continues to defy logic with what he does week in and week out. Even in an “off week” against Chicago two weeks ago, he was still able to rush for 108 yards on 18 carries. He’s a special football player, and he’s truly one of the most valuable players in this league — or any league for that matter.

Last week: 21 carries, 210 yards, 1 TD (Loss)
Season: 234 carries, 1,446 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 8 TD
Last week’s ranking: Unranked

5. J.J. Watt — Houston Texans defensive end

J.J. Watt was sick on Sunday. No, not like “Oh, dude, that’s so sick” or whatever, he was physically ill. No worries. All he did was record five solo tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss and two pass deflections. He also hit Titans quarterback Jake Locker on two other separate occasions. This man is just an absolute beast. We touched on him a few weeks ago saying that a drop-off in stats probably stemmed from more attention being paid to him on the offensive line. If that is the case, he’s done a spectacular job fighting through it. He’ll get his chance on the national stage again this week, and he could really make a statement. The Texans are on the road in New England on Monday night. We already talked about how Brady doesn’t like getting hit. Watt really likes to hit quarterbacks, and if he can satisfy that need on Monday night with another big game, the Texans will leave with a win and Watt will leave with an impressive notch on his belt.

Last week: Five tackles, one sack, two pass deflections
Season: 59 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 15 pass deflections
Last week’s ranking: 5

Most valuable notes: Matt Ryan might be the most unimpressive 11-1 quarterback in NFL history. He was just “eh” on Thursday night against the Saints, as the Falcons held on to beat New Orleans. … We might be a week away from having to insert Von Miller into this discussion after he added another sack (15.0 this season) and an interception return for a touchdown. … Andrew Luck led one helluva drive, and while he won’t win the MVP this season, he may get some consideration (at least that’s what the media keeps telling me). … Robert Griffin III looked human on Monday night — albeit in a winning effort against the division rival Giants.

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